Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Site Visit: Himarë

The coastal road to Himarë is long and very curvy. It took my counterpart and I about 4 1/2 hrs to go from Vlorë to Himarë, but that also included a coffee break for the driver at about the halfway point. The road provided me an amazing view of Albania's Ionian Coast or should I say "The Albanian Riviera."

Himarë is a small beach town that is located right on the Ionian Sea. The beach and the water are absolutely beautiful. The water is bright blue and extremely clear. There is a small "boardwalk" that runs alongside of the beach which has a lot of nice cafes and bars. If I haven't already explained that Albania has quite the coffee culture, let me explain now. Everyday there are about 4 or 5 coffee breaks during the workday. From what I have observed, Albanians spend almost as much time drinking coffee as they do working. In most European countries, iced coffee does not exsist and is completely unheard of, but in Himarë it is a different story. This is because Himarë is close to Greece and it is always pretty warm there.

Himarë is considered to be one of the oldest towns in the world. It has been controled by the Greeks, Italians, Turks, Ottomans, and, of course, the Albanians. Because so many groups hav had Himarë included in their empires at one time or another the culture in Himarë is very eclectic and includes traditions from all of the groups that were once in control of Himarë. Not only does Himarë have an eclectic culture due to it's history, but its location also contributes to the life style and language spoken in Himarë.

Himarë is located in the far south of Albania, very close to Greece. Many inhabitants of Himarë are from Greece or have family that are from or living in Greece. Because of this towns strong connection with Greece, it is quite common for people to speak Greek in this area of Albania. From what I experienced on my vist was that many people do speak Greek, but they also speak a dialect of Albanian. The Albanian that they speak is mostly Albanian with Greek words and phrases thrown in here and there. It looks like I will be learning quite a bit of Greek over the next two years.

The town is beautiful, the people and community in Himarë are very welcoming, and the students/school I will be working with all seem very motivated and interested in learning English. My visit to Himarë was pretty positive, but I am still a little nervous about moving to a new area without knowing anyone. It is a bit intimidating to move to a brand new site, open it yourself, and really don't know what all is expected of you. It is exciting and nerveracking all at the same time. I think things will be great once I settle in and get comfortable speaking Albanian/Greek with the community members. Wish me luck!

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