Our first official Outdoor Ambassadors camp took place in Erseke (slightly south of Korce and near the Macedonian and Greek borders) this last weekend! Such a blast!
I’m so proud to have gotten together with such wonderful kids from all around Shqiperia. Having so many interested and engaged Albanian children lifted my spirits and has given me more hope for Albania’s brighter future.
The camp consisted of several small PCV-lead OA groups that having been forming over the last year. Many of them were also English students, since it is easier to start a club of any theme if the kids can also learn and practice speaking English. We’re really hoping to get a solid group of kids formed in Gjirokastёr, and though we have tried several times it has not yet worked out. After school activities here consist almost solely of private courses— kids who want to learn anything or even pass class must pay private teachers and work with them after the regular school day ends.
So, needless to say, band, sports, journalism, hobbies, debate, etc. do not exist here, and quite frankly kids find extracurricular activities to impede on their free time (ie coffee-time). They do not take well.
But we’re really hoping to find a few kids with an interest in the environment, nature, and excursions, and maybe if we can lead weekly meetings throughout the summer we’ll be ready to bring some kids to the next Big Camp in August!
OK, so back to the camp: this place was built and is run by a missionary man and his family who moved from Chicago to Albania something like 15 years ago. The facilities are fabulous! Its not terrible large, but has enough space to comfortably fit the 50 + students we brought, and they are soon expanding the sleeping quarters. Outside the main facility exists an outdoor dining area surrounded by a volleyball court (which doubled as a Frisbee field for us), rock climbing walls, a ropes-course gym—complete with zip-lining!!--, and an enormous bonfire/trampoline pit.
Climbing Wall Fun!
The students were kept busy throughout the weekend with outdoor activities, games, sports, project planning sessions, trust- and team-building exercises, and a grand hike out of town (almost) to a waterfall.
"Team Building" They had to reorganize themselves in alphabetical order without falling off the bench, shume per te qeshir!
My favorite game: "Train Wreck", could also be called "Scrambled Eggs" I think.
To their great disappointment we didn't have time to make it all the way to the steep falls, but we got pretty darn close and had a great time hiking and jumping across the rivers. Albania really does have some breathtaking scenery; I recall being struck on the stroll back through the fields at dusk just how much like 'Old World Italy' it can appear here. You know when the light strikes just right and you get a fuzzy sense of just how postcard-esque the landscape is? Truly beautiful.
Ugh. Such a great time.
So, after the camp Meghan and I escorted her campers, a group of really great young djem [boys], back to the south through the windy, lush mountains via furgon. We were a little nervous for awhile because the buses went on pushim, and we absolutely had to get back that night in order for her to get her boys in school on Monday. Everything worked out in the end and we made the return trip safely and on time for them to catch another bus out to Sarande and then by taxi or furgon back to the village.
Peace Corps Volunteers/ Camp Leaders, what a team!