Day Fourteen 28JUL16

My team was in charge of PT this morning. I must admit that I am afraid to lead PT, which is a strange feeling because it’s something that comes so naturally to me. The Army has a specific way in which you are supposed to warm up, and the cadets here are all about doing everything by the book. At the end of the workout this morning, the guy who led PT was grilled by a cadet for not doing the warm ups properly, and that he should practice before hand. That’s a bunch of BS if you ask me. Get the job done, do it professionally, if you mess up, do it better next time. We did card PT, which is where you assign a suit in the deck to a specific workout, and the number on the card dictates how many reps. For example, hearts= close grip push ups, diamonds=crunches, spades=wide grip push ups, clubs=leg lifts, jokers=two laps around the track. Therefore a 2 of diamonds would be two crunches (or you can multiply all the numbers by two to get more reps in); and you work your way through the deck. A good workout that exhausts the muscle group, and is pretty fun in my opinion. However, we got grilled for not having enough variety, how it’s a workout that most people consider to be a quick fix, and for not providing enough motivation. That really rubbed me the wrong way, and I lost a lot of respect for some of the cadets, for lack of tact and for relying on someone else to provide motivation. It’s PT, not Disney World, motivate yourself. Luckily, I was not in charge of the workout.

Sorry for the rant. We cleaned up and went to chow; upon returning to our rooms the laundry service came and we exchanged our clean clothes for our dirty. The laundry service comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and has become notorious for failing to bring any change for when we pay, miscalculating our bill, and charging us a higher unit price. But we don’t have many options, so we deal with it. It’s still pretty cheap compared to US prices, so we don’t have any grounds to complain.

Our English classes today were pretty laid back, we took it outside to a couple of benches and just talked for two hours. We managed to get some more research on our city for the brief. Most of the information about Skanderbeu from yesterday’s journal was derived from these two hours. We talked about some fun stuff, like different American beers, downloading pirated movies (legal in Albania), and Rocky Mountain Oysters. Somehow, whenever we start talking about Colorado, they always say “and they have the gay cowboys, right?” referencing Brokeback Mountain, which was not set in Colorado.

We met with Major General (two stars) Prenda, who runs the base at which we are stationed. We were expecting him to give a briefing on what he does to keep the base up and running, but he wanted to hear more from us and what we were doing. His English was very good, which is typical of their higher-ranking officers (due to the NATO partnership, English is a requirement for promotion, and the ability level increases with each iteration). Our cadets asked some questions that were probably ill-suited and not very tasteful, but he answered them all the same. One of them was “Some speculate that based on the upcoming election, America might not fulfill it’s NATO requirement, how would that affect Albania” (unsure as to whom s/he was citing) to which he replied “we would immediately invade them.” Just to clarify, that was a clear sarcastic comment. Other questions discussed how the Albanian judicial corruption had affected the military, which the Maj General was clearly not happy to answer.

After the briefing we had lunch, which upset my stomach and I wasn’t able to clear my plate. Sorry mom. Upon returning to our classes, we found the Albanians formed up receiving some kind of briefing from their Lieutenant Colonel. It did not look like a happy briefing. When the broke formation, our group headed towards us and told us that they were getting chewed out for giving us, the cadets, the idea that corruption was rampant throughout the Albanian army, based on our questions to the Maj General. To clarify, the Albanian Army has been one of the sole institutions that has by and large avoided the corruption in the country. I think that perhaps the LTC overstated the issue, but I can’t blame him for wanting his troops to send the correct message.

Our group went out for a coffee afterwards where we hammered down on their presentation of Colorado (they switched it from California earlier in the day), and got them a respectable amount of information. I think they’re going to do pretty well on Monday. They also asked me to explain baseball to them, which is a lot more difficult that one may think. After that, American football. To show more interest, I asked them some questions about soccer. On our way back to the compound, I asked them about their schooling system, as I have an reader on the blog who is interested in the topic.

One year of kindergarten is required for them to enter school. This grade is held at a different building that the rest of elementary school. Grades 1-4 are considered elementary, 5-9 are middle school, and 10-12 are highschool. K-12 is free in Albania, save for books and other expenses. After your last year of middle school, you elect whether you want to go to a science based high school, or a social based high school (history and social studies). In high school, the class remains in the same room for the whole day, while the teachers rotate around. During the younger years, one teacher will teach all of the subjects. Up until 2004, eligible citizens were required to serve one year in the military. However, if they elected to go to college, then they were exempt from this requirement.

The rest of the day was free for us to spend how we chose, except for dinner. I worked on my journaling and then made a run through the markets to pick up snacks for the drive tomorrow, as well as a souvenir for a family member. I used my expert haggling techniques to save about $5. Our group stopped for some ice cream before heading in for the night.

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Day Thirteen 27JUL16

Today we did not have morning PT, which allowed me to sleep in. Very much appreciated. We loaded up the bus after chow and headed to what we though was an orphanage in downtown Tirana. Initially we drove to the wrong place, which was unsurprising in this culture. Upon arriving to the correct location, we discovered that this was a daycenter for Down syndrome children, but most of them were away on vaction. They had us clear up some of their gardens, paint their railings and a wall or two, put in some wood panel flooring, and paint a mural of our choice onto a wall outside. I was in the flooring group, thank God. I’ve never done that kind of flooring so we were lucky to have 3 people in our team who have regularly done that kind of work, so they directed the effort. It’s a really easy concept and we all picked it up quickly. One of the more difficult issues is that we didn’t have the necessary materials to do a good job, such as a chop saw or the adhesive for the panels. Additionally, none of the rooms here in Albania are truly square, the doors have not been squared, the doors don’t hang correctly, and the floors are not perfectly level. Typically when you do a professional job, you would lay down a layer of a quick drying “cement” material in order to perfectly level the floor, so as not to have gaps in the paneling. We did not have this luxury. We ended up doing a very good job considering we only had a hand saw, but they will need baseboard to cover the edges as well as a connector for where the floor slopes and creates a large gap in the paneling. We were not lucky enough to lay down a final panel and have it butt up perfectly to the wall, so we were forced to cut a 5 foot panel lengthwise with a handsaw. No easy feat. Additionally, because the door does not swing straight, it would have scraped the paneling, so we cut out a square and will have to come back on Monday to put a border around it. Kind of frustrating, but in the grand scheme it felt like we did a fairly decent job. Our mural team crushed their portion, one of our females sketched a picture of the Space Jam theme on to a wall. It looks awesome already, but they will come back with us on Monday and color in all of the characters. Unlike our work with the Peace Corps, I really felt like we made a discernable impact on the community. To end our service, the colonel ordered around 20 pizzas.

The second half of our day was spent in Kruje, the city that was famously defended by Skanderbeu three times against the Ottoman Empire. We toured the Skanderbeu museum, which is built inside the castle from which they were besieged. The castle is built into Mount Kruje, making it a clear stronghold against any outside forces. They have a couple of really magnificent murals and statues, but it was difficult to appreciate the museum because of the language barrier. Our tour through the museum was relatively short, and the curators seemed like they wanted us out very quickly. Maybe our loud American mannerisms ruined the vibe. I have noticed that we are much louder than any other group here. I promised a recap of Skanderbeu’s ventures yesterday, so here it is.

In the time of the Ottomans (who were Muslims), they took young Christian boys to train to be in their special forces, the Jannisaries. Gjergi was one of these boys. After many years serving the Ottomans, they ordered him to attack a region with which Albania was an ally. Never forgetting his roots, he sent a fake order from a general to himself telling him to retreat to Albania. Along with the forces from Hungary and Romania (headed by Vlad the Impaler, AKA Dracula), they fought the Ottoman Empire from three fronts. The Ottomans, being the supreme force in the land, attacked Gjergi at Kruje three times over the course of 25 years, each siege lasting several months. Each time they were unable to break his defense. Being a trained soldier from the Empire, he knew all of their tactics. He himself specialized in using small unit tactics in an attack and retreat fashion, also known as guerrilla warfare. The same style was described by Sun Tze in The Art of War, used by Attila the Hun, the American mountain men during the Revolutionary War, and most famously by Viriatus against the Romans. For his military excellence, the people gave Gjergj Kastrioti the title Skanderbeu, which is derived from Alexander the Great (Alexander to AleSKANDER to Skanderbeu). He is now described as a man of huge stature with a sword that took many men to stand up, who was so strong he could slash a cow in half. In reality he was a man of average to short stature, with a mind built for military strategy. He is fabled to have fed a horse full of grain, then pushed it off the castle wall so it exploded in front of the invading Ottomans, just to show how large their food storage was. He also tied torches to mountain goats heads at night, so as to trick the enemy into thinking that all the fires on the mountainside corresponded to soldiers campfires. He was finally defeated by the Ottomans, losing only 2 battles in 25 years; following his death Albania was occupied by the Ottomans for the next 500 years.

Following our museum tour, we perused the bazaar. This bazaar is one of the oldest markets in history, dating back 3000 years. However, it felt like a lot of the markets in China; all of them had relatively similar products and all of them claimed they were hand made. I managed to find a couple souvenirs for my family back home, but likely spent too much money. It was fun trying out different haggling techniques; when I took my trip to China five years ago, all of the white people were heavily overcharged, as they took advantage of our compassion and inexperience. This time I gave no quarter. For one of the items I was interested in, I asked for the price, then looked to a different item and haggled that one lower. Then I paired the two items together for a lower price. Turns out I didn’t have enough money for the both of them (unbeknownst to me, but it made for a great technique); so I elected to buy the original item at the paired cost.

Every shop owner pulled me into their store, and I gave them all due respect. It’s difficult coming from the Midwest, where we greet everyone we see. All of the New Yorkers had no problem avoiding eye contact with the shop owners, but I looked at most of them and said hello. This was of course followed by, “please, come inside, just have a look.” Following our shopping trip, we ate lunch at a restaurant positioned at the edge of the castle overlooking the city, aptly named Panorama. It was very delicious and we spent almost our entire daily budget (a goal of ours). Unlike the ride to the city, I stayed awake playing a card game on my phone. I was introduced to Spades, the premier game in the army. I was told that as an officer I may be offered a seat playing some of my enlisted troops; if this happens, I am under no circumstances able to lose that game. I figured I might want to get really good now.

Day Twelve 26Jul16

Early morning PT was a bit of a shock to the stomach, one of the first ab circuit days. It was painful, but in a good way. I should probably be doing more on my own to keep in shape.

Breakfast was it’s same old as always. Getting tiring, but it could be worse. However, I did notice that today was the first day in which they didn’t give us a hot dog like sausage, they gave us a literal hot dog. As in straight from Fenway.  I just want some pancakes and air conditioning.

Today we mixed up our groups for English lessons; so new cadets were paired together with a new group of Albanians. We had a really great group who was engaged and had English that was good, but still needed improvement. We spent the first short while introducing ourselves and playing a variation of two truths and a lie. They immediately guessed that I was not in fact married. The absence of a ring gave it away pretty quickly, not a whole lot of thinking went into that on my part. The second part of our day was spent discussing polyphonia, a traditional form of Albanian singing. Because I was the group leader, I watched the video the night before and was very confused. However, the Albanians easily cleared it up. The singing is most always performed by two main signers and several back up signers. The back ups are holding a note for the entire song, while the primary and secondary singers are doing a call and repeat song. This is how the Albanians pass down their sagas and legends, although it is dying out amongst the youth. They still have a festival for it every year in the autumn, but I’m not sure if it is popular. It has recently become protected, although I’m not entirely sure what that means. The video we watched had several of the singers give testimonies, and they all spoke about harmony and peace within the body. You cannot sing if you do not work, you need to be at peace with one another or else the music will not sound good, etc. In my opinion, it sounds pretty awful in the first place, but it might help if I could understand the words. One last note, they only sing after becoming sufficiently drunk.

My team also assembled a quick kind of summary about Albania; the idea was to create a six-panel brochure to give to soldiers deploying to the area. An “Everything You Need to Know About Albania” if you will. We compiled some of the values, beliefs, norms, behaviors, holidays, and taboos. The last of these got us into a debate that I didn’t really want to be arguing; it’s very much frowned upon to be homosexual in Albania. I myself don’t like or agree with it, but I don’t believe it’s my place to be telling other people how to live their lives. One of the Albanians did not let me leave it at that, going so far as to state that homosexuals know that they are wrong but can do nothing to change who they are. I don’t find myself to be a great debater as I’m usually very flexible and can understand why people may believe their views, which is not a quality I find in most people I end up debating. This often leads to others feeling more convicted in their views; one of the reasons I chose not to go into law.

Anyway, we also assigned them a 10-minute brief about one of the states from which we hail. They chose California (as did just about every group). They’re supposed to cover topics like political biases, geography, history, etc. Similarly, we were assigned to cover one of the Albanian cities. We chose Krujë, which should be pretty easy since their national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti, made his stand against the Ottoman Empire there. Pretty sure I covered him in one of the previous journals, but I’ll reiterate in tomorrow’s journal.

After the briefing we all hung out in the compound for most of the night and had chow. They did let us go out to go get haircuts, and that was an awesome experience. It was an old fashion looking barber shop, with young guys cutting the hair. They played some bumpin’ tunes, but didn’t speak a lick of English. Also, they only charged $2 for the cut. In America, we would have no doubt paid $25 easily, based on how good of a job they did. I literally pointed at one of the barber’s haircuts, and then to my head and he knew what to do. We also had a black man with us, and they did a great job on his hair as well. It took a while to get all of us through, especially since they wanted to take a bunch of pictures.

Day Eleven 25Jul16

Another day on the beach today, this time the eastern coast instead of a lake. We were originally supposed to spend the day at the beach with the Albanian NCO’s, but they received a holiday because their judicial reform vote passed. To reiterate on that, the court system in Albania is very corrupt and it is difficult to make any kind of police work feasible if the judges can be paid off. The people of Albania are angry, and their parliament voted on a reform to essentially clean sweep the courts. That vote was initially on Thursday, but it was pushed back for some political reason. The majority party in Albania is the Socialist Party, followed by the Democrats, then the Socialist Reformation Party, and the Republicans. These comprise only a fraction of all of the parties present in Albania, and do not necessarily stand for the same values as their American counterparts. Some of the NCO’s have commented that our two party system is much better, and I wholeheartedly disagree. Anyway, the vote finally passed and thus today was their day off. We will see if the vote actually comes to stop any of the corruption.

We drove for about an hour to the shore, and it was somewhat of an overcast day. They say those are the days when most people get sunburnt, so I made sure to apply a good amount of sunscreen. Compared to the beach we saw yesterday, I much preferred this one. It was a sandy, salt water beach; despite being a little cold it was a lot of fun. I swam out to a sandbar with a couple others and we tried to jump the waves for a while. Then we spotted numerous cadets on paddle boats with slides attached, and immediately we adopted naval warfare tactics. It cost 400 lek for an hour to rent one, which seemed more than reasonable (less than 4 dollars). By the time my group rented ours and got out there, most of the others were at the end of their hour, so we decided to paddle out for a ways. Before we knew it, we were probably a mile off shore. Once we discovered that the buoy we were aiming for was out of reach, we turned around and hauled back. Somehow we managed to time the tides just right so that we were always against the current. Made for a good workout, but we got back in time. We were lucky the colonel didn’t know the boat way out in the sea was us, as he is wont to worry about such things. After that I reapplied and laid out for a little while.

We loaded up the bus and headed for the city of Durres for lunch. It’s the main port of Albania, and also the location of their naval headquarters. We actually ran into one of the Chief Petty Officers that is in on e of our classes. Anyway, we ate at a seaside restaurant and got their daily special, sea bass. I don’t know a whole lot about fish, but apparently it’s pretty common. It tasted pretty fresh though. We were there for about two hours. I think that so far we have only gone to sit down restaurants, and for them it’s much more of an excursion than it is for us. We think “I’m hungry, lets go eat somewhere” and then we choose someplace where we can sit down. They think “tomorrow we are eating at restaurant X at 11:00” or “let’s go to Durres for lunch.” Theirs is likely the more civilized form of eating, whereas for us hunger is just something that slows us down.

We toured the rest of the downtown area following lunch, but because the colonel was leading us, it was less touring and more walking. Interesting, but it’s hot. They had an ancient amphitheater available to tour, but we decided against in the interest of time. Lunch really took a dent out of our schedule. We loaded up the bus and headed back to Tirana.

It was close to chow time when we returned, so we were given the five minute quick change drill, although most don’t adhere to that time frame, especially my room mate. He’s a great guy, just moves slowly sometimes. I don’t know if I’ve yet mentioned our living quarters, but we are residing in a military hotel supplied with beds, a refrigerator, a desk, a sink/mirror, a toilet, and a shower. The shower is kind of like the crane from the original toy story; only it decides who get’s hot water. The toilets here, and in many countries, are not designed to handle toilet paper and thus you are supposed to throw it away in a conveniently located trash can. However, you can get away with one or two sheets. They also don’t flush the same; they pour a bunch of water into the bowl, but it doesn’t have the same kind of suction finish. Not as effective in my opinion.

We were confined to the compound for the evening, which wasn’t bad considering most of us were beat from the multiple beach days. Sometimes life is rough.

Day Ten 24Jul16

Woke up relatively late and caught the very tail end of breakfast. My extra sleep time meant I was already running behind. Unfortunately, the food had really messed with my digestive system, coupled with the ongoing dehydration meant that I was really struggling in the bathroom. I wasn’t able to resolve my issue and it made me almost late for the bus. Today we headed to a beach resort for some swimming, but all I could think about on the bus was finding a bathroom. It made me really irritable towards the bus driver, who missed the turn, made a three point turn on a highway (in a charter bus), and then lead us down a gravel road. This kind of driving is pretty typical, but my mood was already somewhat spoiled and it made me think of them as lazy and incoherent, which isn’t fair. Finally we made it and I was able to use the restroom, which improved my mood considerably.

I applied some of our provided SPF 35 sunscreen (roughly two layers), and then swam around for about 20 minutes. The water there is extremely clear, but the bottom is filled with large slippery rocks, which made anything other than jumping off the pier difficult. After that I found a nice chair and caught some sun. By that I mean I applied three more layers of sun screen, moved the chair under an umbrella, placed another shade over my head, covered my face with a towel, and took a 2 hour nap, during which I continually applied sunscreen. Somehow managed to still get a shade burnt, even on my face.

My team went inside to eat at 1:00 PM (the other teams went in an hour prior, and thirty minutes prior). They didn’t clear the table until 1:30, and the waiter didn’t come and ask for our drinks until 1:55. Needless to say we were all getting impatient, me especially. I pride myself on being very good at patiently waiting, but I do not have the capacity for a lot of tolerance. It made me very cynical and critical. Most of us ordered spaghetti, knowing that it only takes 10 minutes to cook. 40 minutes later we were served, and I’m reasonably certain we were all finished within 10 minutes. 1SG made sure we all got ice cream for our struggle. Once we were all finished we boarded the bus and began the long trek back to Tirana.

We arrived 30 minutes prior to dinner being served, so that meant a 25 minute nap. Dinner would have been better if we weren’t all super tired and demotivated from a long day in the sun and in a bus. Afterwards we headed back to the MOD to catch up on the last couple days of journaling and storyboards. Not sure if I’ve mentioned the storyboards. At the conclusion of this trip we are required to submit pictures with captions to describe our experience, and so each day we take turns being the Public Affairs Officer (PAO), taking pictures and compiling them into a powerpoint.

To conclude this long journaling session, I’m still dehydrated (but no longer dangerously so), I’m tired, tomorrow is another day at the beach, and I’m hoping I can manage my pale skin and not die. I also hope that my mood picks up over the next few days, as I’ve been somewhat of a curmudgeon.

Day Nine 23Jul16

I slept in this morning and skipped breakfast, as I was the only one to completely finish the family sized pizza the night before. Many last minute uniform changes were made as we prepared to go help out the Peace Corps at the Down syndrome hospital. Unfortunately, I managed to forget a non-collared shirt and my gloves so I was hoping the Peace Corps could cover me. We arrived to find Peace Corps volunteers and many children that appeared to be some of the most uncharacteristic Down syndrome patients I had ever seen. Turns out we were not helping at a Down syndrome hospital, which explains the high level of functioning. This kind of “flying by the seat of your pants” has become pretty typical in Albania.

We split up into teams to paint a mural, pick up garbage off of a soccer field, and pull weeds. They brought latex gloves with them, so I was able to snag a pair. The field we were cleaning was hopeless from the start. There wasn’t a whole lot of trash on the field, a manageable amount; however, nothing about that plot of land said soccer field. What it needed was a riding lawn mower and a water tank of Round Up. Nonetheless, we still pulled weeds and picked up trash. I brought my speaker with me, but Pandora doesn’t work in Albania, so we had to listen to all of the songs on my phone, which is comprised of the most eclectic group of pre-2010 songs there is. Very nostalgic.

By the time we rotated to the mural it was mostly done. They had drawn all of the lines, and given us a diagram that showed which region was which color. Much appreciated as there were scantily few artists among us. Afterwards we walked to a park and they served us individual pizzas, which would have been great if I wouldn’t have still had pizza in my digestive tract. It was also at this time that I began to run out of water and noticed myself dehydrating.

We walked back to the hotel area and were then cut loose until dinner time. We did more exploring of the area, and checked out the bazaar, but during the day time it’s a much slower experience. We found a nice café and settled down there for a while. About an hour prior to dinner, a couple of us went exploring for a nice restaurant, and one of the locals steered us to the “best restaurant in Korçë.” We ended up bringing the rest of our team there for dinner, and it was delicious. One of the staples is Korçë meatballs, which are meatballs, made of liver or veal. We also had salad, veal, beef, pork, beans, and bread. One of the best meals so far.

Once again we were cut loose to explore the area. The downtown area, which was dead an hour ago, was very much alive. We stopped back at the hotel for a little bit, then went up to an observation deck just outside the hotel. It cost money to go up, and then they told us we were required to purchase something at their café. Reasonably certain we have been getting scammed like this all over the place, as I don’t think anyone else was told about this “requirement.” So instead of buying anything, we headed right back down and toured more of the area. Ended the night by playing cards in one of the guys rooms. I had to switch out of the king sized bed and into the smaller twin bed because the king was too soft and it hurt my back.

Day Eight 22Jul16

 

No PT this morning, so we all slept in. Much needed and appreciated. Chow was at it’s usual time, and our bus shoved off at 0830. Today we were traveling to the city of Korçë, which is about a 3 hour drive southeast of Tirana. The main reason it took so long was due to the mountainous geography. I don’t believe that Albania has the infrastructure to blast tunnels and roads through mountains; instead they create switchbacks up every single peak. In America, there would definitely be some sort of highway carved through all of them, which could have shaved our travel time to a little over an hour.

Before we got too far, we stopped at the Albanian Special Forces base and received a briefing on some of their training. We also witness a demonstration of some of their tactics, and got to shoot two of their weapon systems. From the briefing, it sounded like these guys were pretty up to snuff. However, they do not have any fixed wing aircraft in their military, which makes things like airborne training difficult. Their demonstration was good, but it was mainly things that our regular infantry can do. One of our guys noticed that on all of their deployments, they were stationed at a base pulling security mostly, and made the comment that perhaps they are more of a JV team when it comes to special forces. I think it’s almost unfair to say that, especially as America has one of the best in the world. It’s impressive that as little as Albania is, and how recent a NATO partner as they are, that they even have a special forces unit. NATO sets restrictions as to how your military has to operate in order to maintain membership, like the type of ammunition you use and the languages you are able to speak. This means that Albania had to switch all of that before joining, which is no small feat.

Their main weapon, can’t remember the name, was fun to shoot. It has a shorter recoil spring, so you feel more of the kick and hear more of the bang. It’s also a surprisingly light weapon. Their sidearm is very similar to our Berettas, except it has a revolving bolt. None of us could figure out why that is necessary. Both felt comfortable, and I think I preferred the Albanians sidearm. They also fed us a really good meal and then we proceeded to Korçë.

We arrived in Korçë close to dinner time, so we immediately set out for food. The city is beautiful. All of the NCO’s we’ve talked to have told us that as soon as we got there we would instantly trade Tirana for Korçë, and they were right. It’s much cleaner, the streets are cobbled, and it looks more like Italy than anything else we’ve seen. A cadet made the comment that Albania might be to Italy what Mexico is to the US. The people still stare, there are many stray dogs, and the food is still dirt cheap, but it felt like a different world. The night life was incredible.

We ate dinner at a small pizzeria, and pretty sure we gave the owner early onset atherosclerosis. No one is at his restaurant except for 11 Americans who have each, individually, ordered a family sized pizza. To his credit, the pizzas came out relatively quickly, for a European restaurant. Most dinners here take 2-3 hours, and the food cooks incredible slowly. Also, the waiters are not nearly attentive (either that or no one expects anyone to order more than one Coke). We were able to explore the area afterwards in our 4-man teams, and it was really awesome. Lights, music, and stores everywhere. Also, at the end of the street our hotel was on was a big orthodox church, which was quite the sight.

We returned to our hotel later in the evening. It’s difficult to describe this hotel, because as Albanian standards go, this may have been a 4 star hotel. However, the carpeting was not finished to the edges of the walkway, some of the windows were mildew, there was construction scaffolding outside most of the widows, our shower was missing part of the door, and the TV had 3 channels. That being said, there was a king sized bed in our shared room (as well as a twin), a very nice bathtub, a refrigerator with drinks and snacks, and a continental breakfast.