A surprising twist of events led us to organize Gjirokastёr’s second-annual Kros Masiv last month. Last years’ election gave way to new parties in ministry positions, which in Albania means that whichever offices switched over would now fire all the former employees and hire friends and family members from their party. By that, I mean all the way down the line to teachers, nurses, everyone with a state job. It’s a convoluted, corrupt, and unproductive part of Albania’s democracy, but I imagine this sort of thing happens around the world. Very frustrating.
Gjithёsesi! Several directors around the city switched over, including the Director of Education, who was formerly a gym teacher. He had a vision to recreate last year’s ‘fun run’ we organized (in which no one showed up) and wanted help from Greg, our friend and co-organizer Hajri, and me. Luckily all the work was done, with some minor photoshop tweaking of dates, we reprinted the posters and began promoting, forced to sit through another interview on local television. I’m nervous to speak in Shqip in front of people, especially recorded on television for my whole city! This was the third time Greg and I gave a public speech together (in Shqip). We tried to pretend we weren’t nervous as hell.
Organizers! Chris, Greg, Hajri, edhe une
The actual run was a smashing success! Every school was closed for the day so that the kids could participate, and some schools were even bused in from the villages. Runners started out along the national road followed the main road to the center of town, around the big Christmas tree. Outside the pharmacies a stage was set up with performers; circle-dancing ensued around the roundabout. I’ve never seen so many people out in the center at once, it was so fun!
Circle dancing in center of town.
Dancing on stage
I’m really happy to see this minor shift of public awareness embracing physical fitness. Usually exercising, especially in public, is viewed as turp, or shameful. In general, people don’t like to do anything strenuous, and only really fat people would logically need to. My first summer here I trained for the marathon and am still known throughout the south as the girl who runs, it’s so bizarre. This winter I started hiking from the lower stadium all the way up to the top of the mountain, which is similar to an elliptical machine, for 25-30 minutes. People used to gape at me open-mouthed, crazy girl! She’s sweating! Surely she’ll catch a cold and die! (My landlady absolutely throws a fit when I come home sweaty, insisting that I jump immediately into the shower before infection sets in)
Sponsored by the Olympic Committee
However, I’ve noticed more and more groups of people out walking through the fields, hiking to the top of the mountain, and even running around the lake! Probably this has nothing to do with me, I just happened to live here while some wider awareness occurs. I’m simply the town’s cheerleader for physical activities. But in any case, it’s been fun to be part of the change.
View from the cafe perballe