When I arrived in Albania on Friday 11 November it was raining a lot, a lot! = (
But I was lucky to find Santos who welcomed me in his home In Lezhe. The first evening, we took a coffee with Santos friends in a bar in town. Sonald, one of his friends speaks very good English.
Previously I had spent few days under the rain and in the cold, finding a warm place, chatting and laughing was good really good for my body and my minde! So much, that I stayed three days at Santos home, the weather was not getting better.
Then I was then welcomed by Sonald parents, still in Lezhe.
In talking with young Albanians I realized that they knew the history of their country very well. They said: “Albania is the oldest country in Europe”, “Ottomans have converted us to Islam”, “Our parents have known communism”, “Corruption is everywhere”, ” There is no work “… They are attached to their country and they are aware that this story is not finished. I also felt a great pride in being Albanian and a joy of living that goes beyond the current political and economic situation.
In order for you to understand this story a little bit better I will summarize it. If you want a full version “Go google! ” and if you want to understand it ” Go Albania! “.
The earliest traces of human presence are around 100,000 BC in the Middle Palaeolithic. Greater traces date of 10,000 years BC showing pastoral and agricultural civilizations mastering the weaving, the pottery and then from 5 000 BC the bronze work. This population named Illyriens grew rapidly and occupied a larger territory than present-day Albania. They underwent many dominations until the Turkish invasion at the end of the ninth century. The national hero Skanderberg countered this offensive between 1448 and 1478, but the Ottoman Empire finally win. The Ottomans converted many Albanian families to Islam during these 200 years of war and 500 years of domination. In 1912 independence was declared after the Turks lost control of the mountainous regions and the birth of a nationalistic feeling. During the First World War, Albania was occupied by France, Italy and . Between the two World Wars there were a lot of political uncertainty, Albania came closer to Italy and finaly occupied it during the Second World War in addition to the German forces. Many Stalinist communist movements were organized, the dictator Enver Hoxha was proclaimed in 1946, the dictatorship continued until the student revolution in 1991. Since the country has been fighting corruption and organized crime, which explains that the economy is still very low. The minimum salary today is 100 € / month, the unemployment rate is 17% and Albania was declared candidate to European union in 2014.
Sonald, 20 years old and beautiful projects in mind!
Sonald, studies English at the university and intends to continue with a training in business. But in parallel it has a dream, that of cultivating medicinal plants on the grounds of his parents. He deeply loves his country, nature and therefore will not use any fertilizer or pesticide to produce high quality plants. What a great idea !! In contrast, its competitors harvest plants in the wild without worrying about their impact and the quality of the product.
Sonald has his feet on the ground !!
He is helped by his sister who takes care of the financial side, he got partners and plans to open two points of sale in May 2017! He will start by selling Oregano that he will plant in the spring.
I am amazed and I would have liked to follow his project a little bit longer. But Sonald explained me that because of the Albanian context link to the high corruption it’s necessary to protect his idea! So pity, it is not possible to support the development of his project in a collaborative way (brainstorming, team project, co-working, crowfounding …). It is not yet possible to communicate on his project, but as soon as he starts, we will support him thoroughly, he has a lot of potential! =)
Thanks to Sonald parents! “A food cooler, bread, water and we go to the beach arms in our arms!”
Pashke and Pashko do not speak English, but we shared a lot of things. And yes the communication does not pass only by the word, but also by the gestures, the intonation of voices and the expressions of the face!
They have a university diploma nd look at their country with a critical eye. They are both 57 years old, the mother is still working and the father takes care of the animals, the garden and the house. Their life is basic, despite 16 years of university and thirty years of work experience the mother only earns 400 euros as financial manager … There is no heating in the house, just an extra radiator in the Kitchen, the water is not drinkable, the power supply is very bad … They told me however that they had a good standard of living, do you know that in the countryside many families do not arrive to eat well ? Are we in europe !!!?
They are however happy with what they have and know how to appreciate the little things of everyday life. “The Albanian life is difficult but together we are happy! “
They prepared me wonderful meals, we were picking mandarins fruits in the garden everytime, we took care of chickens and chicks … The dad brought me twice to cycle around the lagoon and up to the sea. He spoke to me about his country with so much love, always with a smile on his face! Thanks to him it was beautiful!
One evening I ask them existential questions (thanks Google translation!); Are you happy? Do you love yourself as much as at the beginning? Do you have moments of relaxation? How do you have holidays? (The answer is the quote a little higher about a cooler) What is most important in your life? What do you wish for your children? It was a very intense evening, we looked into the bottom of our eyes and we laughed a lot!
The language barrier has pushed us to express most important things, to express it with all our body and not just by long speeches that can focus on details.
Sorry I prefer to keep the content of our exchange for me but I wish you to spend such beautiful moments with your loved ones as with inccons! =)
Since my departure from France I’m reading the book “Bouddha mode d’emploi pour une révolution intérieur” by Jack Kornflied. During these two week with my favorite Albanian family, I deliberately slowed down the rhythm of my days! We all tend to be get a lot of projects in mind, to be in action and to move towards the future. But the present moment? These are the symptoms of our consumer society that drives us to work to buy more! On a personal scale this can cause an illness, a loss of sense, a lack of confidence, physical symptoms and depressions.
Buddhist psychology explains that pain is inevitable but that suffering is only the result of our emotional response. To reduce our suffering we must let go! “They invaded Tibet, destroyed our temples, burned our sacred texts, ruined our communities and took away our freedom. They took so many things. Why should I let them also take the peace of my mind? “Response of the Dalai Lama to a journalist about Chinese Communists.
Put yourself in a peaceful place, think about the things that make you suffer, accept with compassion that you are angry, sad or afraid. Think about the reason of these feelings and ask yourself: “Would not it be time to drop all this? “. To finish repeat “let go, let go.”.
I tried to practice this during the week, my Albanian family helped me a lot to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. I haven’t had a revelation! =) But feeling a little more in the present moment without judgment, does good! I think that to succeed in an ambitious, difficult, innovative project, it is not necessary to have courage but to let go, to take things with philosophy and without attaching to them!
Let us return to the present moment! I spent a two warm weeks filled with simplicity! Thanks to the whole family!
Winter in the Balkans
I had planned to reach Istanbul by bike before the winter, but it is already too cold and it rains quite often. So I spent the two last weeks looking for accomodations and projects to follow in Albania, Greece and Istanbul. My idea is to stay a month at one place and travel between my accommodations either by bus or by bike if the weather is nice. So I’m temporarily stop biking to privilege more intimate encounters in some places.
No more bike, but lots of projects!
I already miss my bike and I feel that I have to find projects to stay acctive. I am looking for artisans, social and / or ecological entrepreneurs, associations, co-working, workshops, 3D printers … I hope to acquire many experiences during the next four months and to share with you extraordinary projects! I already have some tracks, like a guy who makes bamboo bikes in Thessaloniki in Greece …