[In front of the Ministry]
This week I started work at the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism! The first day mostly consisted of the three of us being introduced to the various directors and being placed in the offices that we will be working in. I'm working in the office of European Integration. Albania is trying really hard to join the European Union and recently their hopes have been towards gaining candidate status which they haven't reached. However, in June Albania might get candidate status so everyone is waiting on that decision. Each Ministry has an office of EI to try and reach the goal of integration. My office handles communication with EU reps in the field of tourism and they write the progress reports for the Ministry. My duties so far consist of reading law and documents on how the Ministry is set up and what they can and cannot do in the field of tourism. They first want me to get an understanding of how things work so I have also been sitting in on meetings. At one of the meetings, to my surprise, where other American students! A group of students from Harvard are here in Albania as consultants for the Ministries and the Prime Minister. The highlight of my internship so far has been on Friday my office was invited to a conference held by the University of Tirana and the Ministry of European Integration on trying to make Albanian laws match up with EU laws.
[Hotel where the conference was held]
It was a very cool experience because the Prime Minister of Albania was there! He walked right by me and I was a little starstruck for a second. He gave a speech on how Albania has been trying hard to reach candidate status and how they deserve it for all they've done and how the EU also needs Albania. After that the conference started and it was very similar to academic conferences in the US. People presented their papers to the audience -- I decided to attend the room about Public Law. Everyone read their papers in Albania and it was a little difficult for me to follow because they used law lingo and some words that I have never heard of before, but I think it was a very good learning experience for me to practice my Albanian by listening to advanced Albanian. I also had a very good time because it gave me a glimpse into the academic life of Albania and what the standards are and that was fascinating to me.
[The PM is the one who is left of the camera]
This week I bought groceries for the first time on my own and like in many other countries, people buy fresh foods like veggies and fruits off of street vendors and they go shopping for groceries probably every other day. This concept is not so new to me because my grandparents did that all the time when I would visit them here, but I've never had to do it on my own. It was a little intimidating to buy them on my own because I am not so confident in my Albanian and I think I'll make mistakes when speaking. When I speak in Spanish (the other language I know) I'm not embarrassed at all because I know I'm still learning it and I'm a student of Spanish whereas Albanian is my native language and I am more embarrassed to make mistakes in that because people will say, "wow you're Albanian and you don't know your own language, how sad". However, when I explain that I left Albania when I was four and have lived in the US for almost 17 years they are impressed I can even speak it. In general people are very nice about the mistakes I make when I speak Albanian after they find out how long I've been gone. Anyways, the salad I made from the groceries I bought was delicious. We also have a little bakery downstairs where they make fresh bread and this traditional Balkan/Turkish food called byrek -- which is a pie filled with different ingredients, my favorite is spinach. One byrek is about 600 Lek which is American 60 cents.
[Delicious snacks that I'm gonna miss so much when I leave]
We've also been exploring our neighborhood and trying different cafes and fast food places to eventually find our favorite ones. Now I leave you with this gem of a photo...