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  • 1. THE PEACE CORPS WELCOMES YOU TO ALBANIA A P E A C E C O R P S P U B L I C ATI O N FOR NEW VOLUNTEERS August 2009
  • 2. Congratulations on your invitation to become a Peace Corps Volunteer inAlbania. Serving as a Volunteer will be one of the most challengingexperiences of your life and will be as rewarding as you make it. PeaceCorps arrived in Albania in March 2003 to re-open Peace Corps/Albania,and the first group of Volunteers arrived in September 2003 to begintraining. Yours is still among the initial groups of Volunteers that arehelping to rebuild a quality Peace Corps program in a country struggling tothrow off the legacy of an authoritarian and isolationist regime and toreconcile old and strong cultural traditions with modern Europe. Neither ofthose struggles is easy and you will be challenged by the consequencesevery day in Albania. If you come with an open mind, a warm heart, lots ofpatience and flexibility, and a good sense of humor, you will do well.The Peace Corps assigns all Volunteers to locations outside of the capitalcity of Tirana. The country’s greatest needs are in rural areas, and the PeaceCorps works in towns and villages throughout most of the districts. Beingplaced outside of Tirana means that your ability to learn and use theAlbanian language and adapt to local cultures and lifestyles will be criticalto your success and satisfaction. You will have to make major adjustments inyour lifestyle to be accepted and be effective in Albania since the socialcustoms are quite conservative by American standards. Women, especially,must be very circumspect in their behavior; their adjustments andrestrictions are very challenging.Housing is scarce in Albania and your continual safety and security isparamount. To integrate these realities into a site that combines meaningfulwork opportunities and risk mitigation, you will live with an Albanianfamily throughout pre-service training. After training, while you may liveindependently, you also have the option to be hosted by one or moreAlbanian families at your permanent work site. Peace Corps/Albania makessite assignments by matching your skills and knowledge with the needs of aparticular organization and community, not on the basis of your personalpreferences. Therefore, you may be placed anywhere in Albania.In order to help to ensure your safety and security and as well as to maintaina collaborative Peace Corps team effort, you must inform the out of sitecontact at the Peace Corps Albania office here whenever you leave your site. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 1
  • 3. While you will have the opportunity to help Albanians stretch scarceresources to make differences in their lives, your own living and workingsituations may be very challenging. Your role as a good representative forthe Peace Corps and the American people means that you will always be onduty in Albania.Please think about all of these things carefully before you accept ourinvitation to Albania. You should be sure that being a Volunteer in a countryof stark contrasts and tremendous challenges is right for you at this point inyour life.When you arrive in Albania, you will begin 10 weeks of intensive training infive areas: language, community/cross cultural skills, technical skills, health,and safety and security. You will spend most of the training period as part ofa small group of trainees who live in the same small town. Your group willget together with the other groups of trainees at a central site for one or twodays a week. We believe that pre-service training provides a strongfoundation for service and require your full participation in the program.The entire Peace Corps Albania team looks forward to working with you infurther developing a high quality, safe and secure Peace Corps program inthis historically-rich part of the world. The Albanian people are eager tohave you come and share in this vision to build a better future with the threegoals of Peace Corps that have stood the test of time for the past 48 years.Let’s continue to build upon that history by renewing our commitment to thePeace Corps in promoting friendship, peace, progress and a brighter futurefor Albania and the global community.Hill Denham, Country DirectorMay 2009 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 2
  • 4. CONTENTSContents ......................................................................................... 3Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers ......................... 5Peace Corps/Albania History and Programs ............................ 6 History of the Peace Corps in Albania........................................ 6 Peace Corps Programming in Albania........................................ 6Country Overview: Albania at a Glance ................................. 10 History....................................................................................... 10 Government............................................................................... 11 Economy ................................................................................... 12 People and Culture.................................................................... 12 Environment.............................................................................. 13Resources for Further Information........................................... 14 General Information About Albania ......................................... 14 Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees ........... 15 Online Articles/Current News Sites About Albania ................. 16 International Development Sites About Albania ...................... 17 Recommended Books ............................................................... 18Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle............................... 21 Communications ....................................................................... 21 Housing and Site Location........................................................ 23 Living Allowance and Money Management............................. 24 Food and Diet............................................................................ 24 Transportation ........................................................................... 25 Geography and Climate ............................................................ 25 Social Activities ........................................................................ 26 Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ...................................... 26 Personal Safety.......................................................................... 27 Rewards and Frustrations.......................................................... 28Peace Corps Training ................................................................. 29Your Health and Safety in Albania ........................................... 33 Health Issues in Albania ........................................................... 33 Helping You Stay Healthy ........................................................ 33 Maintaining Your Health .......................................................... 34 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 3
  • 5. Women’s Health Information ................................................... 35 Your Peace Corps Medical Kit ................................................. 35 Medical Kit Contents ................................................................ 35 Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist.................................. 36 Safety and Security—Our Partnership...................................... 38 Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk ................................ 39 Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime .............................. 40 Support from Staff .................................................................... 41 Crime Data for Albania............................................................. 42 Volunteer Safety Support in Albania........................................ 43Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues.......................................... 44 Overview of Diversity in Albania............................................. 45 What Might a Volunteer Face? ................................................. 46 Volunteer Comments ................................................................ 46Frequently Asked Questions ...................................................... 55Welcome Letters from Albania Volunteers.............................. 61Packing List ................................................................................. 72Pre Departure Checklist............................................................. 76 Family ....................................................................................... 76 Passport/Travel ......................................................................... 76 Medical/Health.......................................................................... 76 Insurance ................................................................................... 77 Personal Papers ......................................................................... 77 Voting ....................................................................................... 77 Personal Effects ........................................................................ 77 Financial Management.............................................................. 77Contacting Peace Corps Headquarters..................................... 79 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 4
  • 6. CORE EXPECTATIONS FOR PEACE CORPSVOLUNTEERSIn working toward fulfilling the Peace Corps Mission of promotingworld peace and friendship, as a trainee and Volunteer, you are expectedto: 1. Prepare your personal and professional life to make a commitment to serve abroad for a full term of 27 months 2. Commit to improving the quality of life of the people with whom you live and work; and, in doing so, share your skills, adapt them, and learn new skills as needed 3. Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service 4. Recognize that your successful and sustainable development work is based on the local trust and confidence you build by living in, and respectfully integrating yourself into, your host community and culture 5. Recognize that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your personal conduct and professional performance 6. Engage with host country partners in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning, and respect 7. Work within the rules and regulations of the Peace Corps and the local and national laws of the country where you serve 8. Exercise judgment and personal responsibility to protect your health, safety, and well-being and that of others 9. Recognize that you will be perceived, in your host country and community, as a representative of the people, cultures, values, and traditions of the United States of America 10. Represent responsively the people, cultures, values, and traditions of your host country and community to people in the United States both during and following your service PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 5
  • 7. PEACE CORPS/ALBANIAHISTORY AND PROGRAMSHistory of the Peace Corps in AlbaniaAlbania began the transition to a democratic, open-market nation later thanthe other Balkan states did. Former Communist leader Enver Hoxha headedan isolationist and authoritarian regime from 1944 until his death in 1985,and it was not until March 1991 that Albania and the United Statesreestablished diplomatic relations (after a 35-year break). The Albaniangovernment invited the Peace Corps into Albania, and the first group of 21Volunteers arrived in June 1992 to begin teaching English at secondaryschools and universities. The Peace Corps program was expanded with asmall business development project, whose first group of 12 Volunteersarrived in April 1993. The program was expanded again in 1995 with theaddition of 15 Volunteers for an agro-forestry project. A group of newVolunteers was scheduled to arrive in February 1997, but a breakdown incivil order and public safety precipitated by the collapse of fraudulentpyramid savings schemes led to the evacuation of all Peace CorpsVolunteers and U.S. staff in March 1997 and the closure of the post. At thetime of the evacuation, 73 Volunteers were serving in the three Peace Corpsprojects.In March 2003, Peace Corps returned to Albania after a six-year absence.Thirty-two Volunteers arrived in Albania in September 2003 to train for acommunity development project and another 29 arrived in March 2004 totrain for English education and health education projects. Those first twogroups established the three projects that are now operating. The largestgroup ever of 40 Volunteers arrived in March 2006.Peace Corps Programming in AlbaniaDuring the Peace Corps’ first five years in Albania (1992—1997), staff andVolunteers regularly assessed conditions to identify challenges andsuccesses and made adjustments in the overall program to better meetAlbania’s needs. The program was still in its formative stage when the postclosed in 1997. The TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) projecthad added a teacher-training component, and Volunteers also developed PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 6
  • 8. materials, helped establish school and community libraries, and served aslinguistic and cultural resources for teachers and students. In addition,Volunteers introduced their students to a variety of social and environmentalissues and helped enhance their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.The first small business Volunteers were assigned to regional businessassociations, where they provided assistance in business development,planning, and credit. The second group of small business Volunteers beganworking with branch offices of the Rural Commercial Bank to advise andtrain branch credit departments and support a World Bank restructuringeffort. The project diversified again in 1995 when Volunteers were assignedto a savings bank, a business school, and a business association to helpdevelop the institutional capability of organizations providing assistance tosmall businesses. In response to emerging needs of the fledgling Albanianeconomy, the project diversified once again to move into chambers ofcommerce, organizational development centers, and micro-creditinstitutions. Additionally, the project provided basic financial and businessservices and training to small-scale entrepreneurs and farmers, and educatedthe Albanian public about market economies.Volunteers helped initiate the first on-the-ground forestry developmentprogram as part of the village-based agro-forestry project. The project was acooperative effort between the Albanian government and the U.S. Agencyfor International Development. Volunteers worked with the GeneralDirectorate of Forestry staff to help Albanian farmers manage forest andgrassland resources. Though the goal was to provide farm forestry extensionservices, many farmers saw the directorate staff as forestry police. When thepost closed in 1997, the Peace Corps was reexamining the project’s initialassumptions and making adjustments to focus more on the development offorestry communities.In April 2002, the Peace Corps conducted an assessment for reopening itsprogram in Albania. The assessment team identified continuing needs forsupport in English education, small business development, communitydevelopment, and natural resource management. In addition, the assessmentteam identified pressing needs in municipal development and healtheducation. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 7
  • 9. Public confidence in politics and most public institutions is very low.Exceptions include a few communities whose mayors believe thatpragmatism in addressing local issues should take precedence over politicalaffiliation. In this way, local government and community development arefocal points for the development of responsible civil society in Albania.The assessment team recommended that the Peace Corps return to Albaniawith a municipal development project to help improve the organizationaland management capacities of municipal government staff and villageleaders. The project would facilitate the development of collaborativeactivities with community organizations, businesses, and citizens groups,and provide assistance to all segments of a community in project design andmanagement.Albania also needs substantial support in public health and health education.Public services and the health infrastructure are in very poor condition, anddoctors and nurses are cut off from new developments in medicine.Albania’s infant mortality rate is the highest in Europe, and the country hashad to tackle new problems for which it has little experience, including drugabuse and sexually-transmitted infections (STI’s). The assessment teamidentified opportunities for Volunteers to work with local clinics, schools,and community groups to provide education on maternal and child health,water and sanitation, drug awareness, and other local health issues. The teamrecommended that Volunteers help to develop health education programsand materials and to deliver those programs primarily at the communitylevel.The Volunteers who arrived in September 2003 to initiate the municipaldevelopment project worked with local governments, business developmentorganizations and civil society development organizations. The Peace Corpssoon broadened the municipal development project into a community andorganizational development project. Current Volunteers work with localgovernments and other organizations to strengthen their internal capacity tomeet their responsibilities and to address such issues as tourismdevelopment, strategic planning, and communication among localgovernments and community members. Other Volunteers work to strengthennongovernmental organizations (NGOs), support the develoment of PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 8
  • 10. community-based organizations in rural communities and promote businessdevelopment through training, technical assistance, and networking.Volunteers currently serving in the English education project teach primarilyin high schools in towns throughout Albania. They bring native-speakingability into the classroom to enhance the language skills of both teachers andstudents. In high schools they peer-teach with existing English teachers and,when appropriate, teach on their own. Volunteers also work in theircommunities to identify and implement projects that address the needs andissues faced by youth and children. The group that arrived in March 2006included the first English educators to be placed at the university level and atsecondary schools for foreign languages, since the Peace Corps reopened in2003. We have some placements in the Directorates of Education and have arenewed focus on teacher training.The current health education project is linked to the Albanian health systemthrough the district level (there are 36 districts in Albania), directorates ofPublic Health, and at the rural health center level. With Albaniancounterparts from Health Education and Promotion Units, schools andlocally-based organizations, Volunteers work with their colleagues toidentify priority health education issues. They help to design and to delivercampaigns and training to address those issues often using a calendar ofhealth education priorities released by the Institute of Public Health.Volunteers foster links with schools and formal and informal communitygroups to implement campaigns and training, and identify other appropriatevenues for promoting health education activities.To respond to changes in the institutional environment and in localcommunities, Peace Corps/Albania continues to refine project structures andVolunteer roles based partly on the experiences of current Volunteers and onlinkages and interactions with project partners. Projects strive to moveVolunteers into smaller towns and villages to serve the communities thatreceive less outside attention, and where Volunteers can have the greatestimpact. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 9
  • 11. COUNTRY OVERVIEW:ALBANIA AT A GLANCEHistoryAlbanians are descendants of the ancient Illyrians, and their history can betraced back to the Bronze Age in about 2000 B.C. Their name comes fromthe Albanoi tribe of Illyrians, and their language forms its own branch of theIndo-European language phylum, a group also containing the Slavic, Celtic,Germanic and Romance languages. The history of Albania is one ofoccupation, including periods of administration or rule by Alexander theGreat, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire—the latter beginning in the 14th century and continuing until 1912. Themodern borders of Albania were drawn by the European powers during theFirst Balkan War in 1912, and excluded about half the former Albanianlands and 3 million Albanians. Albania had a brief period of independencefrom 1912 until 1939, after which it was occupied by the Italians. It wasduring this period that Ahmet Bey Zogu declared himself King Zog I.During World War II, the Germans replaced the Italians and a resistancemovement began in the south under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. Hoxhaand his supporters took over the country in the aftermath of the war andestablished a socialist republic. Foreigners were expelled and their assetsnationalized, churches and mosques were closed, and agriculture andindustry were collectivized. Hoxha was a doctrinaire Stalinist who brokeaway from Marshal Tito and Yugoslavia in 1948; from the Soviet Union in1960, when Nikita Khrushchev abandoned Stalinism; and from China in1978, when China established diplomatic relations with the United States.All outside economic assistance ended in 1978. From that time until hisdeath in 1985, Hoxha made Albania one of the most isolated and repressedcountries in the world. At one point, Hoxha had 700,000 reinforced-concretebunkers built throughout the country to defend against a multifront attack,each equal in cost to a two-bedroom apartment. Albania was the last countryin Central and Eastern Europe to be caught up in the collapse ofcommunism, introducing its first cautious reforms in 1990. Even after his PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 10
  • 12. death in 1985, Hoxha’s successors in the Communist Party continued togovern the country until elections in March 1992.The period from an election victory by the opposition Democratic Party in1992 to the current day has been challenging and often tumultuous. TheDemocratic Party’s Sali Berisha governed the country from April 1992 untilmid-July 1997, when the Socialist Party’s Fatos Nano formed a newgovernment. Manic investment in a number of pyramid schemes marked theperiod from February 1996 to February 1997. When the pyramid schemesbegan to fail in late 1996, demonstrations erupted and soon turned violent.With increasing concerns about safety and security, the Peace Corpsevacuated its 73 Volunteers in March 1997 and closed the post shortlythereafter. With the help of Greek and Italian peacekeeping forces, thegovernment reestablished order and eventually led a successful effort to passa new constitution in 1998. During the spring and summer of 1999, Albaniasheltered more than 450,000 Kosovar Albanians who had fled Kosovo toavoid the actions of the Milosevic regime and the dangers of the NATOaction against it. With Kosovo declaring its independence in 2008 there isrenewed hope that the northern areas will be safer for travel and a PeaceCorps presence.Local elections in October 2000 and October 2003 and parliamentaryelections in June 2001 and July 2005 were conducted in a peacefulatmosphere and were judged to represent some progress toward meetingdemocratic standards. The elections of 2007 saw more democraticparticiaption. National elections will take place in June of 2009 and there ishope for a smooth process. Albania was accepted into NATO in 2009 andhas her eye on joining the European Union in the next several years. Both ofthese actions will bring recognition and stability to Albania.GovernmentUnder the 1998 constitution, Albania became a republic with a multipartyparliament, the unicameral Kuvendi Popullore. The parliament has 140members; 100 are elected by majority voting and 40 by proportional results.The Kuvendi Popullore elects the president, a largely ceremonial office withlimited executive powers. The majority party in the national elections PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 11
  • 13. chooses the prime minister. There is universal suffrage for citizens 18 yearsof age and older. The first local governments in Albania were formed in1992. Though they had political autonomy, these local governments did nothave substantial administrative and fiscal authority. Though a 2000 law ondecentralization transferred many responsibilities from national governmentto local governments and these entities have slowly become responsible forproviding most public services to their citizens.EconomyRecent efforts to stabilize the Albanian economy are showing some successat the macroeconomic level. The gross domestic product (GDP) beganincreasing in 1998, and inflation and the budget deficit showed little increaseafter 1999. The local currency, the lek, has stabilized. Foreign aid providesthe largest share of financing for public investment, but continued deep andpervasive corruption retards direct foreign as well as domestic investment.Approximately 50 percent of Albania’s GDP and employment derives fromagriculture, but limited access to key supplies and limited links to othereconomic sectors preclude a productive agriculture sector. Urban migrationhas continued at an accelerated rate, particularly among the young.While economic growth is visible in some areas, it has not had a substantialimpact on the life of most Albanians. Albanian families, particularly insmaller towns and villages, remain poor, with low incomes and inadequateliving space. Funds sent from Albanians working abroad to their families arethe main source of income at the local level. With the downturn of the globaleconomic situation it is likely that these remittances will drop.Unemployment remains high because of a lack of large-scale investments, ashortage of skilled labor, a large informal market, a lack of coordinated statepolicies on employment, inefficient market institutions, and a low level ofcredit. Tirana has seen a rapid growth in supermarkets, shopping malls andimported goods.People and CultureThe population of Albania is estimated at 3.5 million, with as many as800,000 living in Tirana, the capital. There are only a few cities withpopulations greater than 75,000, and most people continue to live in smalltowns and rural villages. The population for the most part is ethnically PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 12
  • 14. homogenous. Southern Albania has a small ethnic Greek minority. Othersmall ethnic groups include Macedonians, Roma, Montenegrins, and Vlachs.More than 2 million ethnic Albanians live in Kosovo and the western portionof Macedonia.From 1967 to 1990, Albania banned all religious practices and was the onlyofficially atheist state in the world. Traditionally, Albania has been about 70percent Muslim, 20 percent Albanian Orthodox (predominantly in thesouth), and 10 percent Catholic (predominantly in the north), although thelabels are more cultural than religious. A small percentage of Albanianevangelical Christians live in larger towns and regional centers.Albania has preserved many of its cultural traditions and customs.Traditional dress can seen in many rural areas, especially among the oldergeneration. Younger Albanians have adopted Western fashions for the mostpart. Indigenous Albanian music in the north recounts heroic epics andballads on the themes of honor and vengeance. Polyphony is a southernAlbanian tradition that dates from Illyrian times. Outside of the largest cities,Albania is socially conservative and women live under many restrictions.In Albania, the family has a significance not often seen in Western cultures.It includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Families, usually led bya patriarch, rely on the active participation of all members to help supplybasic commodities and foodstuffs. Albanians identify with and support theirfamilies, first and foremost.EnvironmentAlbania has a narrow coastal plain and a mostly mountainous interior that isabout 36 percent forested. The country generally has hot, dry summers andcool, wet winters, with some variation resulting from its broken mountainrelief. Summers along the coast are moderated by sea breezes. About 40percent of the rain falls during the winter months, when the higher elevationsare very cold with deep snow. A few large lakes stretch along the country’sborders with Montenegro in the north and Macedonia and Greece in thesoutheast. The Ionian coast from Vlore to Saranda offers some of the mostbeautiful scenery in the country. Albania has six national forests, 24 naturereserves, and 2,000 natural monuments, which receive protection mainly on PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 13
  • 15. paper. All parks are under threat from human activities such as hunting andwoodcutting. Nearly all raw sewage flows into rivers untreated and there isvery poor management of solid wastes, so environmental pollution is amajor concern.RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATIONFollowing is a list of websites for additional information about the PeaceCorps and Albania and to connect you to returned Volunteers and otherinvitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all theselinks are active and current, we cannot guarantee it. If you do not haveaccess to the Internet, visit your local library. Libraries offer free Internetusage and often let you print information to take home.A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may findbulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinionsabout the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including commentsby those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps.These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, andwe hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service inthe same way.General Information About Albaniahttp://www.countrywatch.com/On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Tirana to how toconvert from the dollar to the lek Just click on Albania and go from there.http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinationsVisit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in theworld.http://www.state.gov/The State Department’s website issues background notes periodically aboutcountries around the world. Find Albania and learn more about its social PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 14
  • 16. and political history. You can also check on conditions that may affect yoursafety in the site’s international travel section.http://www.politicsresources.net/This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.http://geography.about.com/library/maps/blindex.htmThis online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, andeach country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library ofCongress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and politicalbackground.http://www.cyberschoolbus.un.org/infonation3/menu/advanced.aspThis United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information formember states of the U.Nhttp://www.worldinformation.com/This site provides an additional source of current and historical informationabout countries around the world.Connect With Returned Volunteersand Other Inviteeshttp://peacecorpsconnect.org/This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returnedVolunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the“friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of formerVolunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groupswho frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 15
  • 17. http://www.webring.com/hub?ring=rpcvThis site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring.Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about theirservice.http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthlyonline publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corpsservice.Online Articles/Current News Sites About Albaniahttp://www.president.alThis news site is about the Albanian President in both English and Albanian(Shqip).http://www.balkanweb.comThis site covers different countries in the Balkan region, including Albania,in both English and Albanian.www.onlinenewspapers.com/albania.htmThis website provides links to online newspapers covering Albania.www.oneworld.netThis link provides links to news about Albania and the region.http://reenic.utexas.edu/countries/albania.htmlThis is the site of the Center for Russian, East European and EurasianStudies at the University of Texas-Austin and contains a great deal of ofinformation about Albania and links. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 16
  • 18. www.shqiperia.comThis site contains information on Albanian culture, art, current events, news,history, trading, food, and an extensive photo album with pictures from allover Albania. This site is in Albanian.http://www.albanian.com/information/countries/albania/index.htmlThis site contains information about Albania and useful links.http://www.escapeartist.com/albania/albania.htmlThis site has links to other sites, both in and out of Albania.http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g294445-Albania-Vacations.htmlThis site is primarily for travelers, but some interesting information in the“Albanian Forums” section.International Development Sites About Albaniawww.usaid.gov/regions/europe_eurasia/countries/al/index.htmlInformation about the work of the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment in Albania.www.undp.org.alThe United Nations Development Programme in Albania.www.ebrd.comEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Developmentwww.rec.orgRegional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 17
  • 19. www.soros.orgThe Open Society Institute is a private operating and grantmakingfoundation that serves as the hub of the Soros Foundation’s network, a groupof autonomous foundations and organizations in more than 50 countries.www.unesco.orgUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizationwww.iom.intInternational Organization for Migrationwww.worldbank.orgWorld BankRecommended Books 1. Biberaj, Elez. Albania in Transition: the Rocky Road to Democracy (Nations of the World Series). Boulder. Colorado: Westwood Press, 1998 (hardback), 1999 (paperback). 2. Biberaj, Elez. Albania: A Socialist Maverick. Boulder: Westwood Press, 1990. 3. Carver, Robert. The Accursed Mountains. London: Harper Collins Publishers, Ltd., 2000 (paperback). 4. Durham, Edith. High Albania: A Victorian Traveller’s Balkan Odyssey. London: Phoenix Press, 2000 (paperback). 5. Fonesca, Isabel, Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey. New York: Vintage Books, 1996 (paperback). 6. Glenny, Misha. The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. New York: Penguin, 2000 (paperback). PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 18
  • 20. 7. Gloyer, Gillian. Albania, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide, 2006.8. Jones, Lloyd. Biografi: An Albanian Quest. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.9. Kadare, Ismail. Albanian Spring. London: Saqi Books, 2001 (paperback).10. Kaplan, Robert. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History. New York: Vintage Books, 1994 (paperback).11. Karklins, Rasma. The System Made Me Do It: Corruption in Post- Communist Societies. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2005.12. Olsen, Neil and Rhodri Jones. Albania. (Oxfam Country Profile Series). London: Oxfam Publishing, 2000 (paperback).13. Pettifer, James. Blue Guide: Albania and Kosovo. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 (paperback).14. Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie.and Bernd Jurgen Fischer. Albanian Identities: Myth and History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002 (paperback).15. Vickers, Miranda. The Albanians: A Modern History (revised edition). London: I. B. Tauris, 2001 (paperback).16. Vickers, Miranda, and Pettifer, James. Albania: From Anarchy to Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 2000 (paperback).17. West, Rebecca. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia. New York: Penguin Books, 1995 (paperback)18. Wilkes, John. The Illyrians (People of Europe Series). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995 (paperback).Books About the History of the Peace Corps1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corpsand the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, 2000. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 19
  • 21. 2. Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. NotreDame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.3. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver.Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.Books on the Volunteer Experience1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place.Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.2. Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace CorpsExperience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.3. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heartof an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.4. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York,N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.5. Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out ofthe Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.6. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle,Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint). PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 20
  • 22. LIVING CONDITIONS ANDVOLUNTEER LIFESTYLEAs a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, you will have to adapt to conditionsthat may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced andmodify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basicpractices—talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping—may takesignificantly different forms in the Albanian context. You will need to learnto live on far less money than you are now used to, give up most of yourprivacy, and adapt to different ways of socializing. You may not be able togo out of your house much after dark or have an opportunity for datingwithin your community. Women will have many more restrictions than men.You will come to Albania to assist people in their efforts to improve theirlives, which will be difficult. It will be up to you to adjust to Albanianlifestyle and work practices—Albania is what it is and it won’t adjust to you.If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with adeep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new andpotentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.CommunicationsMailInternational mail to and from Albania is generally reliable. Both letters andpackages have been opened in transit and valuable items taken; if they arecarefully secured, however, this isn’t an issue. Packages are usually held bypost office officials until you pay a small customs fee. Letters and packagesfrom the United States can take two to three weeks to arrive, while packagescan take anywhere from 2 weeks to 1.5 months. Despite these issues, it isimportant to keep in touch with family and friends and share yourexperiences.Before you leave for Albania, the Peace Corps will send you a mailingaddress that you can use for letter mail during your first 2.5 months in thecountry—the period of pre-service training. Once you have been sworn in asa Volunteer and move to your site, you will have your own address for mail. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 21
  • 23. Packages cannot be received at the Peace Corps/Albania office address atany time during your service.TelephonesLocal telephone service is generally poor, and the installation of new phonesand repairs can be extremely slow and expensive. Telephone linessometimes disconnect in mid-conversation. Although it is expensive andoften time-consuming to place international calls, direct dialing is availablein many sites and from all cell phones. Cellular phone service is widelyavailable, and most of the country is now covered by various providers.Many Albanians make sacrifices in order to have cellular phones, which arerather expensive. Do not expect to use phones in Albania like you do inAmerica: conversations are short and texts used as a substitute. Calls fromfamily and friends to a cellular phone in Albania may be the best way foryou to keep in contact. Additionally, using the internet to call is often thebest alternative. Albania uses the standard European GSM cellular system,so most U.S. cellular phones will not work in the country. If, however, youhave a SIM card phone in America, it is worth it to have it unlocked by yourcarrier for international use.Currently as part of Peace Corps/Albania’s overall safety and securityprogram, Peace Corps gives each trainee a cellular phone within a few daysof arriving in the country, as well as a monthly allowance for phone time foremergency calls for health or safety and security. Trainees keep the phonesafter they become Volunteers and use them throughout their service. Thesephones can receive international calls at no charge to the trainee orVolunteer. You will need to keep your cell phone charged, on and with youat all times.Computer, Internet, and E-mail AccessInternet access in Albania is growing rapidly. Smaller towns got hooked upin 2009. There is also no guarantee that the Internet will be available in yourassigned town or agency. If you already own a laptop, we advise you tobring it for personal and professional use and to insure it. Volunteers alsofind that a USB flash drive and/or an external hard drive are very usefultools for managing email and sharing documents. Make sure that you have PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 22
  • 24. recently-updated anti-virus software on your computer before departure, asmost computers in Albania are infected with viruses that can be very hard toremove. The Peace Corps does not provide computer support (software,hardware, Internet access, repairs), nor will it replace damaged or stolencomputers. Insurance is readily available through a homeowner’s policy orthrough personal property insurance, and the Peace Corps will provide youwith an application for such insurance before you leave for Albania. Internetaccess in Albania has reached most larger towns and some Internet cafeshave sprung up in unexpected places. But you may have to walk across townor ride a bus for an hour or more to find an Internet cafe where you can readand send e-mail messages. In addition, while connection speeds and servicesvary in Internet cafes, it will most likely be much slower than you are usedto, service may go out unexpectedly, and the internet is usually not availablewhen there is no electricity. You won’t have the access to the Internet thatyou may be used to and Internet use can be expensive, so you will have toaccept this and adjust. Internet access during PST is limited.Housing and Site LocationBefore you complete pre-service training, you will be assigned to a site inAlbania where a workable match can be made between your skills andknowledge and the needs of a local organization and the community. Sitesmay be located anywhere in Albania outside of Tirana, and many are insmaller towns in the more rural areas—which are the areas of greatest need.The Peace Corps is striving to serve more of the northern areas of Albania.Due to the potential isolation in winter, the agency will consider assigningmarried couples or multiple Volunteers from different projects to thesenorthern towns and villages. Housing can be scarce in Albania, especially inrural areas, and you may need to live with an Albanian family for your entiretime in the country, though this is unlikely. For sure, you will live with afamily as part of language and cross-cultural training during pre-servicetraining. The Peace Corps will assign you to a training family, and yourassigned organization will help find housing at your site. This housing willhave to meet a set of Peace Corps standards. You may choose to live with asecond host family after training and the staff will work with that family toensure that the family understands its role and can meet your basic needs forfood and lodging. Independent housing must meet Peace Corps’ safety and PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 23
  • 25. security criteria as well as cost limitations. A Peace Corps staff membermust check and approve any new housing situation before you move.Living Allowance and Money ManagementThe Peace Corps will provide you with a monthly living allowance inAlbanian lek, the local currency. The living allowance amount is based onreviews of local statistics about living costs, as well as surveys of Volunteersalready in Albania. It is to be used to pay your host family for room andboard (if you choose that option), for food, for recreation and entertainment,for a very limited amount of replacement clothing, for local transportation,and for reading materials and other incidentals. In general, the Peace Corpsexpects you to live within the modest standards that most Albanians do.In some cases, you will find that your living allowance is less than theincome on which your Albanian colleagues live. Many Albanians receivemoney from family members living and working abroad, helping them toafford extra luxuries. It can be challenging to explain to colleagues that youare a Volunteer and are in Albania to serve while living on limited means,but this is part of the essence of the Volunteer experience. We discourageyou from using personal money to supplement your living allowance.Albania is mainly a cash economy; there are no personal checks written forpayment and limited use of credit cards and traveler’s checks. There are anincreasing number of ATM machines in Albania that enable access to localbanks, as well as certain accounts in U.S. banks. There will be an ATM inor near the town you are placed in. It is advisable to bring some cash inEuros or dollars for vacation travel. Traveler’s checks and credit cards arealso an option for vacation travel outside of Albania.Food and DietThe availability of some vegetables and fruits in Albania is seasonal, butprices for locally-grown produce are low. Imported produce is usuallyavailable year-round at higher prices. Local produce in summer is wonderfulin Albania. Salt, sugar, rice, flour, eggs, cooking oil, pasta, long-life milk,and other basic items are readily available and are of good quality. Freshmeat presents a problem, as inspections and refrigeration are minimal.During pre-service training you will learn how to find and cook local foods.In the winter in some areas, only potatoes, cabbages, leeks, onions, oranges, PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 24
  • 26. carrots, apples, bananas and rice or pasta may be readily available.Vegetarians will have to be tactful, as many Albanian families will not knowwhat it means to be a vegetarian and will want to serve you meat as anhonored guest. Albanians do not use many spices in their cooking, so youmay want to bring a supply of your favorite spices and recipes as well ascollect them throughout your travels to neighboring cities and othercountries.TransportationTravel in Albania is an adventure, often a very slow one. Buses may becrowded and unreliable, and roads in poor condition are made moredangerous by the chaotic mix of vehicular, pedestrian, and animal traffic.Train service is limited to a few areas and is very poor. Most travel is by busand mini-bus, but some private cars and vans operate as taxi services amongtowns and villages. There were virtually no private cars in Albania prior to1992, and Albanian drivers are learning as they go. You will have to takedelays and detours into account when planning your trips and travel with atrusted companion when possible to help ensure your safety. The difficultiesof travel are a good incentive for you to stay at your site and become part ofthe local community. Traffic accidents are one of the highest probable riskshere. To mitigate that risk, Peace Corps/Albania has a transportation policythat you will need to learn and follow.Geography and ClimateAlbania is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, acrossthe Adriatic and Ionian seas from Italy. It is bordered by Montenegro andKosovo to the north, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the southeast andsouth. It is a small, mountainous country with a narrow coastal plain. Theclimate is Mediterranean in much of Albania, with four distinct seasons,though the rugged and broken mountains help to create microclimates.Summers tend to be quite hot and dry; and winters, very damp and cold inall parts of the country, including coastal areas. Winters can be very severein the higher elevations, with snow on the ground throughout the winter.Layering your clothing is the best way to deal with the variable weather. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 25
  • 27. Social ActivitiesIn the summer, the major source of entertainment in most towns is a dailypromenade of both men and women up and down the main street where theysocialize with friends and acquaintances. In winter, entertainment comesprimarily from visiting the homes of friends and acquaintances and you willrarely find people outside once the sun goes down. Most other socialactivities revolve around the family. The first modern movie theaters did notappear in Tirana until late 1999. While Tirana has several interestingmuseums, many provincial museums were damaged during the civil unrestin 1997. There are interesting historical and archaeological sites throughoutAlbania. You will most likely depend on your Albanian family and friendsand your own creativity for most of your social activities.Public socialization between the sexes is uncommon in Albania outside ofTirana and a few of the larger cities. When men and women are seensocializing together, the assumption is that they are married, engaged, or partof the same family. Male Volunteers will be freer to socialize in pubs andcafes than female Volunteers, particularly after dark. In many smaller towns,female Volunteers may patronize cafes only during the day or only withwomen friends. Female Volunteers who smoke or consume alcohol in publicmay compromise their reputations and those of their host families, as well astheir own safety. Ultimately, how you interact with your community is achoice; many female Volunteers do not feel confined by these conventionswhile others still do.All Volunteers should expect that opportunities for dating are limited, andthat any dating that they do will be publicly scrutinized. All actions ofindividuals—Albanians and Volunteers alike—reflect on that individual’sfamily. Just as Volunteers are embraced and protected by host families asfamily members, their actions and public behaviors are also considered toreflect on the honor and respect of the family, as would those of any familymember. Volunteers must accept and conform to this reality to successfullyintegrate into the local culture.Professionalism, Dress, and BehaviorOne of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer isfitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 26
  • 28. acting as a professional, all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do.You will be working in a professional capacity and will be expected to dressand behave accordingly. Stylish business casual is acceptable in mostsituations. Albanian fashion is influenced by Italian television programmingand Spanish soap operas, and looking good matters. Albanians dress in theirfashionable best in public even if the clothes are worn. A foreigner whowears ragged or unkempt clothing is likely to be considered an affront.Although you must dress professionally for work, away from the office youcan wear shorts and t-shirts or casual clothing at your home. There isusually no air conditioning or central heating at your place of business or inyour own house so it important to layer even when dressing.Body piercings and tattoos are not common in professional settings. PeaceCorps/Albania requires Volunteers to remove facial piercings (with theexception of earrings in women) through pre-service training and during thefirst four months of service. We also ask that you cover tattoos as much aspossible during PST and when you get to your site. These practices allowVolunteers to establish a professional rapport with colleagues andcounterparts. We also ask that facial piercings be removed and tattoos becovered during official Peace Corps trainings (including Staging in the U.S.)and other events where host country speakers, officials and counterparts arepresent.Personal SafetyMore detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety iscontained in the “Health Care and Safety” chapter, but it is an importantissue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook,becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living andtraveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limitedunderstanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-offare some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteersexperience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Pettythefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical andsexual assault do occur, although most Albania Volunteers complete theirtwo years of service without incident. The Peace Corps has establishedprocedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhanceyour safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 27
  • 29. training, will be provided once you arrive in Albania. Using these tools, youare expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.Each staff member at the Peace Corps is committed to providing Volunteerswith the support they need to successfully meet the challenges they will faceto have a safe, healthy, and productive service. We encourage Volunteersand families to look at our safety and security information on the PeaceCorps website at www.peacecorps.gov/safety.Information on these pages gives messages on Volunteer health andVolunteer safety. A video message from the Director is on this page, as wellas a section titled “Safety and Security in Depth.” This page lists topicsranging from the risks of serving as a Volunteer to posts’ safety supportsystems to emergency planning and communications.Rewards and FrustrationsThe Peace Corps experience is sometimes described as a series of emotionalpeaks and valleys that occur as you adapt to a new culture and environment.The potential for being productive and satisfied with your service is high,but so is the probability of being frustrated. Your organization may notalways provide the support you want, or it may not be sure about what itwants you to do. Living with a family in close quarters may be quitechallenging. The pace of life and work may be different from what youexpect, and many people will be hesitant about changing age-old practices.You will not be able to leave your site without informing Peace Corps inadvance.In addition, you will have a high degree of responsibility andindependence—perhaps more than in any other job you have had. You willbe in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and yourcolleagues with little support or guidance from supervisors. You may workfor lengthy periods without seeing any visible impact and without receivingany supportive feedback. Development is a slow process, and you mustpossess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working towardlong-term goals without seeing immediate results. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 28
  • 30. You will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness toapproach and overcome these difficulties. Albanians are a hospitable,friendly, and warm people, and Peace Corps staff members, your Albanianfamily, your co-workers, members of your community, and fellowVolunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as moments ofsuccess. The peaks are well worth the difficult valleys and you are likely toleave Albania feeling that you have gained much more than you gave duringyour service. If you make the commitment to integrate into your communityand work hard, you will be a successful and satisfied Volunteer. You willalso have contributed to the overall mission of the Peace Corps to promoteworld peace and friendship.PEACE CORPS TRAININGPre-Service TrainingPre-service training is the first event within a competency-based trainingprogram that continues throughout your 27 months of service in Albania.Pre-service training ensures that Volunteers are equipped with theknowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively perform their jobs. Onaverage, nine of 10 trainees are sworn in as Volunteers.Pre-service training is conducted in Albania and directed by the Peace Corpswith participation from representatives of Albanian organizations, formerVolunteers, and/or training contractors. The length of pre-service trainingvaries, usually ranging from 8-12 weeks, depending on the competenciesrequired for the assignment. Albanian measures achievement of learning anddetermines if trainees have successfully achieved competencies, includinglanguage standards, for swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.Throughout service, Volunteers strive to achieve performance competencies.Initially, pre-service training affords the opportunity for trainees to developand test their own resources. As a trainee, you will play an active role inself-education. You will be asked to decide how best to set and meetobjectives and to find alternative solutions. You will be asked to prepare foran experience in which you will often have to take the initiative and acceptresponsibility for decisions. The success of your learning will be enhanced PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 29
  • 31. by your own effort to take responsibility for your learning and throughsharing experiences with others.Peace Corps training is founded on adult learning methods and oftenincludes experiential “hands-on” applications such as conducting aparticipatory community needs assessment and facilitating groups.Successful training results in competence in various technical, linguistic,cross-cultural, health, and safety and security areas. Integrating into thecommunity is usually one of the core competencies Volunteers strive toachieve both in pre-service training and during the first several months ofservice. Successful sustainable development work is based on the local trustand confidence Volunteers build by living in, and respectfully integratinginto, the Albanian community and culture. Trainees are prepared for thisthrough a “home-stay” experience, which often requires trainees to live withhost families during pre-service training. Integration into the community notonly facilitates good working relationships, but it fosters language learningand cross-cultural acceptance and trust, which help ensure your health,safety, and security.Woven into the competencies, the ability to communicate in the host countrylanguage is critical to being an effective Peace Corps Volunteer. So basic isthis precept that it is spelled out in the Peace Corps Act: No person shall beassigned to duty as a Volunteer under this act in any foreign country or areaunless at the time of such assignment he (or she) possesses such reasonableproficiency as his (or her) assignment requires in speaking the language ofthe country or area to which he (or she) is assigned.Qualifying for ServiceThe pre-service training experience provides an opportunity not only for thePeace Corps to assess a trainee’s competence, but for trainees to re-evaluatetheir commitment to serve for 27 months to improve the quality of life of thepeople with whom Volunteers live and work and, in doing so, develop newknowledge, skills, and attitudes while adapting existing ones.Peace Corps Albania’s competencies are designed to be accomplishedthroughout the Volunteer’s 27 months of learning. A trainee may not be able PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 30
  • 32. to complete all learning objectives for a competency during pre-servicetraining; however, he or she must show adequate progress toward achievingthe competencies in order to become a Volunteer 1 .Albania’s competencies include the following: 1. Thrive as a member of an Albanian Community 2. Apply Peace Corps Approach to Development 1. Work effectively as a Volunteer and empower others 2. Keep Healthy and Safe 3. (TEFL Volunteer core competency) Transfer English language teaching skills and knowledge to local teachers and students 4. (CD Volunteer core competency) Develop host organization’s capacity to address local needs. 5. (Health Education Volunteer core competency) Transfer health related skills and information to local teachers, students and community membersEvaluation of your performance throughout service is a continual process, asVolunteers are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for personalconduct and professional performance. Successful completion of pre-servicetraining is characterized by achievement of a set of learning objectives todetermine competence. Failure to meet any of the selection standards by thecompletion of training may be grounds for a withdrawal of selection anddisqualification from Peace Corps service.Progress in one’s own learning is a dialogue between you and the trainingstaff. All of the training staff—including the training manager, and thelanguage, technical, medical, safety and security, and cross-culturaltrainers—will work with you toward the highest possible competencies byproviding you with feedback on learning objective performance throughouttraining. After reviewing and observing your performance, the countrydirector is responsible for making the final decision on whether you havequalified to serve as a Volunteer in the host country.1 Peace Corps manual section 201.305.4. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 31
  • 33. Upon successful completion of training, trainees who qualify for PeaceCorps service are required by law to swear or affirm an oath of loyalty to theUnited States; it cannot be waived under any circumstances. The text of theoath is provided below. If you have any questions about the wording ormeaning of the oath, consult a staff member during training.I, (your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defendthe Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies,domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely, and without any mentalreservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfullydischarge my duties in the Peace Corps (so help me God).Ongoing LearningYou are expected to improve your knowledge and skills in the areas oftechnical, language, cross-cultural, diversity, health, and safety throughoutyour service as a Volunteer. Training staff provide learning objectivesduring the 27-month continuum to help guide Volunteers throughout service.The manner in which you do this may be formal, through tutoring orworkshops organized by the host government or in-country staff, orinformally, through conversations and reading. Your learning will continueafter you become a Volunteer, formally and through in-service trainingopportunities, specialized language or technical workshops, and a close-of-service workshop to help you evaluate your service and prepare for yourreturn to the United States.Formal opportunities for ongoing learning in Albania include the following: 1. Language Refresher training 2. Project Design and Management workshops 3. Technical in-service training events 4. Mid-service conferences 5. Close of Service conferenceThe number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the Peace Corps training system isthat learning events are competency-based, designed, implemented, andevaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff and Volunteers. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 32
  • 34. YOUR HEALTH CARE ANDSAFETY IN ALBANIAThe Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safetyof each Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive,rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Albaniamaintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care ofVolunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such astesting and basic treatment, are also available in Albania at local hospitals. Ifyou become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.Health Issues in AlbaniaGood health results from good health maintenance. Major health problemsamong Volunteers in Albania are rare and often the result of Volunteers nottaking preventive measures to stay healthy. Health problems in Albania aresimilar to those that exist in the United States: colds, flu, diarrhea, skininfections, headaches, minor injuries, dental problems, STIs, adjustmentproblems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent orcompounded by life in Albania because of exposure to unfamiliar stresses.Helping You Stay HealthyThe Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations,medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Albania,you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receivea medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first aid needs.The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical suppliesthrough the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your ownsupply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies yourequire, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Pleasebring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since theymay not be available here and it may take several months for shipments toarrive. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 33
  • 35. You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If youdevelop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officerin Albania will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington,D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Albania, youmay be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.Maintaining Your HealthAs a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your ownhealth. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of seriousillness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremelyimportant in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to thestandards of the United States.Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable ifproper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include foodpoisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms,tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specificstandards for water and food preparation in Albania during pre-servicetraining.Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV andother sexually transmitted diseases. You are taking risks if you choose to besexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex.Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyoneelse, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You willreceive more information from the medical officer about this importantissue.Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control toprevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decideon the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptivemethods are available without charge from the medical officer.It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office orother designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let themedical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 34
  • 36. Women’s Health InformationPregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer healthconditions that require medical attention but also have programmaticramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medicalrisk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remainsin-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and workin Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical andprogrammatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on thelocal market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Albania will provide them.If you require a specific product, please bring a three-month supply withyou.Your Peace Corps Medical KitThe Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit that containsbasic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur duringservice. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.Medical Kit ContentsAce bandagesAdhesive tapeAmerican Red Cross First Aid & Safety HandbookAntacid tablets (Tums)Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)Band-AidsButterfly closuresCalamine lotionCepacol lozengesCondomsDental flossDiphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 35
  • 37. Iodine tablets (for water purification)Lip balm (Chapstick)Oral rehydration saltsOral thermometer (Fahrenheit)Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)ScissorsSterile gauze padsTetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)Tinactin (antifungal cream)TweezersBefore You Leave: A Medical ChecklistIf there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you mustimmediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose newillnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and mayjeopardize your eligibility to serve.If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical examis more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to findout whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corpsdental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment orrepair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sendsrequested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’soffice to obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corpsservice, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corpswill provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment,either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Albania.You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 36
  • 38. Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-countermedication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Althoughthe Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it willorder refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can takeseveral months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. ThePeace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such asSt. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by yourphysician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if youare questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescriptiondrugs.If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If apair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information yourdoctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during yourexamination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lensesduring your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection orother eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate waterand sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The PeaceCorps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unlessan ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medicalcondition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has givenapproval.If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a healthcondition that may restrict your future participation in health care plans, youmay wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needsbefore your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until youcomplete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health care benefits described in the Peace Corps VolunteerHandbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan ineffect during your service if you think age or pre-existing conditions mightprevent you from re-enrolling in your current plan when you return home. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 37
  • 39. Safety and Security—Our PartnershipServing as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks.Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understandingof the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthyAmerican are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Propertytheft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexualassault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years ofservice without serious personal safety problems.Beyond knowing that Peace Corps approaches safety and security as apartnership with you, it might be helpful to see how this partnership works.The Peace Corps has policies, procedures, and training in place to promoteyour safety. We depend on you to follow those policies and to put intopractice what you have learned. An example of how this works in practice—in this case to help manage the risk of burglary—is: Peace Corps assesses the security environment where you will live and work Peace Corps inspects the house where you will live according to established security criteria Peace Corp provides you with resources to take measures such as installing new locks Peace Corps ensures you are welcomed by host country authorities in your new community Peace Corps responds to security concerns that you raise You lock your doors and windows You adopt a lifestyle appropriate to the community where you live You get to know neighbors You decide if purchasing personal articles insurance is appropriate for you You don’t change residences before being authorized by Peace Corps You communicate concerns that you have to Peace Corps staff. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 38
  • 40. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and VolunteerLifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety that allinclude important safety and security information to help you understandthis partnership. The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers thetools they need to function in the safest way possible, because working tomaximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Notonly do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for theunexpected, but we teach you to identify, reduce, and manage the risks youmay encounter.Factors that Contribute to Volunteer RiskThere are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of whichare within the Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime thatVolunteers experience is theft. Thefts often occur when Volunteers are awayfrom their sites, in crowded locations (such as markets or on publictransportation), and when leaving items unattended. Before you depart forAlbania there are several measures you can take to reduce your risk:• Leave valuable obbjects in the U.S.• Leave copies of important documents and account numbers in the U.S. with someone you trust.• Purchase a hidden money pouch or "dummy" wallet as a decoy• Purchase personal articles insuranceAfter you arrive in Albania, you will receive more detailed informationabout common crimes, factors that contribute to Volunteer risk, and localstrategies to reduce that risk. For example, Volunteers in Albania learn to:• Choose safe routes and times for travel, and travel with someone trusted by the community whenever possible• Make sure one’s personal appearance is respectful of local customs• Avoid high-crime areas• Know the local language to get help in an emergency PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 39
  • 41. • Make friends with local people who are respected in the community• Limit alcohol consumptionAs you can see from this list, you have to be willing to work hard and adaptyour lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target for crime. As withanywhere in the world, crime does exist in Albania. You can reduce yourrisk by avoiding situations that place you at risk and by taking precautions.Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in large cities; peopleknow each other and generally are less likely to steal from their neighbors.Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets.Volunteers tend to attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at theirsites, but they are more likely to receive negative attention in highlypopulated centers, and away from their support network —friends andcolleagues—who look out for them. While whistles and exclamations maybe fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dressconservatively, abide by local cultural norms, and respond according to thetraining you will receive.Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for CrimeYou must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for yourown safety. You can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home issecure, and develop relationships in your community that will make you anunlikely victim of crime. While the factors that contribute to your risk inAlbania may be different, in many ways you can better assure your safety bydoing what you would do if you moved to a new city anywhere: Be cautious,check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know wherethe more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You canreduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community,learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corpspolicies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Albania willrequire that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.Volunteers always attract a lot of attention, but usually receive far morenegative attention in larger towns, where they are anonymous, than insmaller towns, where family, friends, and colleagues look out for them. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 40
  • 42. While gestures and exclamations from strangers may be fairly common onthe street, these behaviors can be reduced if you dress appropriately, avoideye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Even if you do all ofthese things, however, you may receive unwanted attention and harassmentregularly throughout the duration of your service.Carry valuables close to your body or under your clothing. Undergarmentmoney pouches, the kind that hang around your neck and stay hidden, workwell. Do not keep money or valuables in outside pockets of backpacks, incoat pockets, or in fanny packs. Keep track of your belongings at all times.Be wary of overly friendly strangers, particularly near bus stations. Avoidplaces that make you uncomfortable and make inquiries before you wanderoff alone. Women need to take extra precautions; it is not advisable for themto walk alone after dark. Finally, be very careful in drinking alcohol. Themost common factors in injuries and security incidents involving Volunteersworldwide are alcohol consumption and being out late at night.Support from StaffIf a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staffis prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures inplace to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. Thefirst priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure theVolunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuringthe safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff members provide support byreassessing the Volunteer’s worksite and housing arrangements and makingany adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident maynecessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assistVolunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against theperpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers reportincidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also topreserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in theprocess that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, thisoption may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not beenpreserved at the time of the incident. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 41
  • 43. Crime Data for AlbaniaThe country-specific data chart below shows the average annual rates of themajor types of crimes reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees inAlbania compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean and Asia programs asa whole. It can be understood as an approximation of the number of reportedincidents per 100 Volunteers in a year.The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime eventsrelative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as aratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is ameasure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically validway to compare crime data across countries. 1 2 Incidence Rates and Average Number of Reported Incidents in PC/Albania and EMA Region, 2003-2007³ (5)(149) 12.0 10.9 Events by Number and Rate² 10.0 (2) (37) 8.0 7.3 7.1 ALBANIA 6.0 EMA 4.0 3.3 (<1) (29) (<1) (32) (0)(19) (0) (5) (<1) (15) 1.6 1.5 2.0 1.2 1.4 0.9 (0) (2) 0.4 0.8 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 y lt lt lt ry e t m ef ar au au au ap be is Th gl ss ss ss R al ob ur nd .A .A A R B x. Va gg ys Se Ph A er er th th O OFew Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of serious crimes and crimes thatdo occur overseas are investigated and prosecuted by local authoritiesthrough the local courts system. If you are the victim of a crime, you willdecide if you wish to pursue prosecution. If you decide to prosecute, PeaceCorps will be there to assist you. One of our tasks is to ensure you are fullyinformed of your options and understand how the local legal process works. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 42
  • 44. Peace Corps will help you ensure your rights are protected to the fullestextent possible under the laws of the country.If you are the victim of a serious crime, you will learn how to get to a safelocation as quickly as possible and contact your Peace Corps office. It’simportant that you notify Peace Corps as soon as you can so Peace Corpscan provide you with the help you need.Volunteer Safety Support in AlbaniaThe Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you staysafe during your service and includes the following: information sharing,Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan,and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Albania’s in-country safety program is outlined below.The Peace Corps/Albania office will keep you informed of any issues thatmay impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updateswill be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from thecountry director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will becontacted through the emergency communication network. An importantcomponent of the capacity of the Peace Corps to keep you informed is yourbuy-in to the partnership concept with the Peace Corps staff. It is expectedthat you will do your part in ensuring that Peace Corps staff members arekept apprised of your movements in-country so that they are capable ofinforming you.Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and securityissues in Albania. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturallyappropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reducesrisk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offeredthroughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural aspects,health, and other components of training. You will be expected tosuccessfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas,including safety and security, as a condition of service.Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing forVolunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 43
  • 45. host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for aVolunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles insupporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’sarrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing andworksites. Site selection is based, in part, on any relevant site history; accessto medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability ofcommunications, transportation, and markets; different housing options andliving arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.You will also learn about Peace Corps/Albania’s detailed emergency actionplan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or anatural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submita site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to yourhouse. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers inAlbania at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or thePeace Corps decides to evacuate.Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs ofVolunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any securityincident to the Peace Corps office. The Peace Corps has establishedprotocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely andappropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data totrack trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.DIVERSITY ANDCROSS-CULTURAL ISSUESIn fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, thePeace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness isreflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving intoday’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race,ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected andwelcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to helpdispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establishthat each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our manydifferences. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 44
  • 46. Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poseschallenges. In Albania, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural contextvery different from their own. Certain personal perspectives orcharacteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quiteuncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Albania.Outside of Tirana, residents of rural communities have had relatively littledirect exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What peopleview as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, suchas the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes.The people of Albania are justly known for their generous hospitality toforeigners; however, members of the community in which you will live maydisplay a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.To ease the transition and adapt to life in Albania, you may need to makesome temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourselfas an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees andVolunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to themin the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care;and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You willneed to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these andother limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivitydiscussions during pre-service training and will be on call to providesupport, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.Overview of Diversity in AlbaniaThe Peace Corps staff in Albania recognizes the adjustment issues that comewith diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. Duringpre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity andcoping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteersfrom a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexualorientations, and hope you will become part of a diverse group of Americanswho take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness ofAmerican culture. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 45
  • 47. What Might a Volunteer Face?Possible Issues for Female VolunteersGender stereotypes are much more evident and accepted in Albania than inthe United States. By tradition, women are expected to cook and to lookafter the needs of their husbands and children even if they work outside thehome. Albanian women lead much more restrictive lives than Americanwomen do. Women do not go out alone at night, and jogging or walkingalone for exercise is uncommon. Outside of downtown Tirana and in thelarger city centers, women almost never smoke or drink alcohol in public.Young women are sometimes verbally harassed by groups of men in thestreets, and looking foreign or walking alone on the street will heighten thelikelihood that harassment will occur. Your adjustment to Albanian customswill be difficult and frustrating at times, but you must modify your behaviorto avoid compromising yourself and your host family.Volunteer Comments “Albania is a small country, with only about 3 million people. Expect to live in a fishbowl for the next two years, especially if you’re assigned to a small town or village. People will know your business even if you don’t even know them. Building good relationships within your community is key during your first few months at your site. Your community can either help and protect you or shun and “gossip” about you. If you’re a woman, don’t expect to stay out late and hang out at coffee shops and bars, like the men do. Unless you’re in bigger towns, women usually stay at home. In the villages, you’ll find yourself the only woman having a cup of coffee. Sometimes, locals even frown upon you drinking alcohol or playing billiards, especially in small villages in northern Albania. Playing billiards and going out for coffee seem to be main activity after work in Albania. If you go to a soccer game, be prepared to be the only woman there.” —Anna Gutierrez “Where do I begin? It’s safe in Albania, but keep an eye out. Live with a good level of caution. Caution allows you to think through a plan, but fear will paralyze you. I felt safe and trusted my host family, but had experiences on the furgon (mini-buses) and on the buses with men who were unsavory. You PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 46
  • 48. will have to learn to handle yourself—stuff happens. Know your boundaries,use your voice, keep your cool. If the Albanian language deserts you in amoment of shock, shout in English. Your strong voice will let people knowyou are none-too-pleased. Albanian men don’t expect a woman to get angry ordefend herself, so you’ll have the element of surprise on your side. And you’llget to tell a great story later! Do report such incidents to the authorities at thePeace Corps. They keep tabs on such things. I had three inoculations, I like tocall them, and then never again. Many Albanians haven’t had enoughexperiences with foreigners to know how to treat them. I had one experiencewith a man in a business suit, so it can happen with anyone. But try to avoidjudging people—the men I worked with, the county judge, the mayor of myvillage, schoolteachers, and my host family and extended family were alltrustworthy. Take it easy at first, get to know people, let life come to you, anddon’t try to make it all happen at once.And to you male Volunteers, please keep an eye out for women’s safety—companions help. Ladies, let the men be a buffer at times. It works to keep thebother to a minimum. Group support kept us all safe.”—Brynne Sissom“I was a Volunteer in Korca, teaching English at the foreign language school.As a female, I had to tolerate daily harassment by men, including remarks,facial gestures, and being pinched, grabbed, and followed, among otherthings. Being young, single, and American can bring more harassment. Theharassment was so relentless that, had I not met my future husband, I mighthave left.I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to Albania. Although manymen on the streets harassed me, I did meet some amazing men as well. I amstill in contact with my host family and my students, and although I am nolonger married, my husband was an Albanian. My advice to a female going toAlbania is to develop a strong relationship with your host family. It will serveas protection in the community. Also keep in mind the amazing power ofelderly women in Albania. Most of the men who behaved horribly wereterribly afraid of, and respectful to, their own mothers.”—Melanie Bekiri PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 47
  • 49. “Living as a woman in Albania was probably one of the biggest adjustments Ihad to make. I had to stop thinking, “Hey, I’m an American woman, and Ihave the right to [fill in the blank] without [fill in the blank] happening to mewherever I go!” Number one, you aren’t in the U.S. anymore, and the oldrules no longer apply. That means that you have to make sacrifices, ask forhelp even when you don’t think you need it (or want it), and takeresponsibility for your own safety. It means learning the culture, knowingwhat’s acceptable, and being very careful about when to make exceptions.Some of the latter ‘fill in the blanks’ might include being grabbed on a bus,being followed down the street, or having men yell nasty things at you or,worse, whisper them while making sounds with their mouths. You learn toignore all these things, to never make eye contact with strangers on the street,to not talk to men you don’t know, to always get an escort after dark, when tobe friendly and when your smile could be misconstrued as an invitation, howto make friends, and even, possibly, date and become romantically involved.Some American Volunteers, both men and women, have become romanticallyinvolved with, and later even married Albanians.”—Melanie WilsonAlbania is a safe place. But being a female you have to deal with a few thingsthat male volunteers do not face. Honestly, I don’t get harrassed very oftenand but I think that a lot of that has to do with living where I do (a small cityon the coast) and the fact that I look enough like an Albanian (I have darkhair) that people don’t realize I’m a foreigner right away. When I am withfriends who are of another ethnicity, they get a lot more harrasment. Thatbeing said, I have had several situations where I felt uncomfortable. I got outof these situations by yelling at the men very loudly (in Shqip and in English)and they went away. The other problem is the constant invitations to coffeethat I get from men of all ages. I have a policy of not accepting theseinvitations because accepting usually means that I want to becomeromantically involved with them. In America, it is very common to have malefriends and colleagues, but it is rare that female volunteers develop closefriendships with men, especially single men. Although there are some PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 48
  • 50. amazing men in my town, all of my Albanian friends are female which takes some getting used to. Finally, being 29 and not married, I get a lot of concern about what is wrong with me and what I am doing to make sure I get married very soon. Most of it is well intentioned, but it leads to my Albanian friends wanting to set me up. It can get a little old to constantly talk about my singleness. -- Denise GreenPossible Issues for Volunteers of ColorThere are very few people of color in Albania, and many Albanians havenever met anyone of color. Some older Albanians may have met Chinesetechnicians and workers in the 1960s and 1970s, when Albania was alignedwith China. They may have unpleasant memories from that period. Althoughthere are currently foreigners from a variety of countries and races in Tirana,there are very few people of color in the smaller towns and ruralcommunities. Many Albanians will not know what to make of a person ofcolor who calls her/himself an American. If you are of African, Hispanic, orAsian descent, you will probably be the only such person in your communityand might be the only such person within the group of Volunteers inAlbania. There may be no role models for you among the Peace Corps staff.You may encounter varying degrees of harassment in your day-to-day lifebecause of ignorance, stereotyped cultural perceptions, or Albania’shistorical involvement with certain countries. You may be evaluated as lessprofessionally competent than a white Volunteer. You may be stared at,pointed to, and commented on. You may hear comments that would beconsidered completely inappropriate in the United States. Children andteenage boys can be particularly insensitive and hurl comments or evenrocks. In those situations, your greatest support will be your host family andlocal counterparts—people with whom you have established strongrelationships—who consider you a friend. They will introduce you to othersin the community and intervene with children and others who may botheryou. You will have to learn to live with a constant level of attention thatyou’ve never had to face before. It can be very difficult. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 49
  • 51. Volunteer Comment “If you look Asian in any way, men and boys will unfortunately shout ‘Kinez(e),’ ‘Kina,’ (and other variants thereof) and perhaps make martial arts noises at you on an almost daily basis. There is no way to avoid this unless you hide in your room, which is not the recommended course of action. You’ll need to develop other coping strategies instead. The best strategy, in my experience, is to try and ignore all verbal harassment to the extent that you are able. Provided that you’ve enough willpower, ignorance usually works quite well, because the majority of words or noises hurled in your direction are, in the end, nothing but a lot of hot air. You might feel insulted or offended, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever feel physically threatened. Use your common sense (e.g., don’t take solitary walks at three in the morning) and you’ll probably be fine and safe. That said, you will likely not be able to ignore other things, like persistent questions about your origin and similar inquiries. In most cases, Albanians are merely curious about you, hence the inquisitiveness. While this can get tiring, it can also be turned to your advantage. It sometimes helps to think of these questions less as harassment and more as an opportunity to demonstrate the multicultural nature of the United States.” - Emily Young, Group 11 “Serving as a volunteer of ethnicity will lend to a unique experience that comes with a different set of both challenges and rewards. Though all volunteers experience varying degrees of the “fishbowl effect” (where your daily life includes constant stares and pointing), simply being a volunteer of color will attract more attention than a white volunteer. If your looks deviate in any way from Albanians’ idea of what an American looks like, you will frequently be asked about your country of origin, whether it be China or Ireland. Albanians are very frank in their social interactions, and it can be tough to adapt to, coming from the more sensitive cultural norms of America. You’ll need to understand that racism does not exist any more so in Albania than it PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 50
  • 52. does in other countries, and that mere curiosity is often at the root of comments or questions related to your race. You will learn what kinds of racial references are culturally acceptable, and what kinds are not. And with time, you will develop personal coping strategies to deal with unwanted attention. Ignoring harassment can sometimes be difficult because you may feel like you are indirectly condoning such behavior, but oftentimes, harassment is used solely to draw out a negative reaction. In small communities especially, harassment usually decreases over time as you build stronger ties within your community. On the flipside, you will tend to get more harassment when you travel around in Albania because you will be just another nameless face. For your own sanity, it is important to take satisfaction in small feats, such as being referred to as the American who works at the health center. Finally, the more people you get to know, the more interested they become in your personality and reputation as a “good girl/boy” rather than in the color of your skin.” -- Patricia Hong, Group 11Possible Issues for Senior VolunteersRespect comes with age in Albania. Younger Volunteers may have to workharder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. There aresituations that senior Volunteers will find challenging, however. Youngercounterparts at your assigned organization may feel that the Peace Corps letthem down by not assigning them a younger and presumably more energetic,eager Volunteer. It may take some time for them to see that age has nothingto do with energy or eagerness. Older people in Albania generally are lessactive than older people in the United States, and your Albanian friends mayassume that you would rather stay home than socialize. You may also feelisolated within the Peace Corps community because most Volunteers arelikely to be in their 20s.Volunteer Comment “I went in at 75 years old! Perfect health. So aside from being a little slow in running across the square in the insane traffic, I made out pretty well. And my colleagues were great to me. My host family was wonderful—welcoming, eager to exchange cultures, and so kind! I found learning Shqip (Albanian language) a challenge, although the teachers were fine. But one learned to PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 51
  • 53. speak in the environment—while shopping, teaching, and socializing. My students (16- and 17-year-old foreign language students in Shkoder) delighted me, spoke pretty good English, and loved me as an American who was truly interested in their world and problems. Being a Volunteer in Albania will be one of the greatest experiences of your life, whether you get pneumonia three times, as I did, are 75 years old, or can’t run as fast as everyone else. You will learn so much, you can give a lot, and life will never look quite the same afterward!” —Phyllis Jones TwichellPossible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual VolunteersAlbania has a homophobic culture, and many Albanians view homosexualityas immoral. The gay and lesbian community in Albania is deeplyunderground. Being sensible and extremely cautious about revealing one’ssexual orientation in one’s home, workplace, and community is advisable.Dress and mannerisms considered acceptable in the United States, such asparticular hairstyles or earrings on men, may be viewed with suspicion ordisdain in your community. You may serve for two years without meetinganother homosexual or bisexual Volunteer or Albanian, and there may belittle emotional support for your sexual orientation among your Albanianfriends.Volunteer Comments “It is a very difficult situation. Homosexuality is totally taboo in Albania, and an openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual Volunteer could have a lot of trouble. This could be an issue even in Tirana.” —Jerry McQuade “If you are anything other than straight, the first obvious piece of advice is to remain closeted, if not with other Volunteers or Peace Corps staff, then certainly within your communities and with other Albanians in general. It’s not just about you; much rides on your discretion—security, community integration, your host family’s reputation. While you might feel you are compromising your personal integrity by staying in the closet, it’s far better to play safe than be sorry. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 52
  • 54. Albania is still homophobic, despite certain outward appearances to the contrary. A negligible sense of personal space extends to other facets of daily life, and ‘personal’ information is no exception. Thus it is that host family members or even perfect strangers will inquire about your relationship status, marital plans, and other items of that nature. I advise preparing appropriate responses for all potential questions and situations before you set foot in- country. Sacrificing complete honesty is an unfortunate place to find yourself in, but if it’s what you need to do in order to be an effective Volunteer, then so be it. —Peace Corps/Albania VolunteerPossible Religious Issues for VolunteersAlbanians’ religion generally varies by location. Some areas of the countryhave more Muslims, some have more Albanian Orthodox people, and somehave more Roman Catholics. Though Albania is sometimes characterized as70 percent Muslim, this refers more to heritage than to religious beliefs andpractices. Most Albanians identify with one of the three religions because offamily history, but tend to be non-practicing members. All religions arefairly well-tolerated in Albania, and practicing your religion is not likely tobe an issue. The Peace Corps forbids Volunteers from proselytizing orparticipating in other religious activities that could impair their effectivenessas Volunteers.Possible Issues for Volunteers With DisabilitiesAs part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of MedicalServices determined you were physically and emotionally capable, with orwithout reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteerservice in Albania without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself orinterruption of service. The Peace Corps/Albania staff will work withdisabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them intraining, housing, jobsites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely andeffectively.As a disabled Volunteer in Albania, you will face a special set of challenges.People with disabilities are often kept out of public view in Albania, andthere is very little infrastructure to accommodate those with disabilities. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 53
  • 55. There are no ramps in public places, and roads and sidewalks are uneven orotherwise in poor condition. Traffic throughout the country is chaoticPossible Issues for Married VolunteersMarried couples in different sectors may be required to live separatelyduring their pre-service training. If you do live separately, it will be a matterof logistical necessity based on the design of the training program. It is notintended to unfairly burden married couples. Reasonable efforts will bemade to accommodate proximity and visitation concerns. All marriedcouples will live together following pre-service training, when they move totheir permanent sites as Volunteers.Married couples may face challenges stemming from traditional Albaniangender roles. A married female Volunteer may find herself the object ofgossip among older Albanian women, who may wonder whether she istaking proper care of her husband, can cook and preserve enough vegetablesfor the winter, or spends too much time with other men. While the wife maybe expected to do all the domestic chores, the husband may be expected toassume an overtly dominant role in the household. In addition, theindependence exercised by each member of an American couple may beperceived as immoral behavior. On the other hand, Albanians value marriageand married volunteers find a lot of support for the decision from theAlbanian community. Still, married couples are serving effectively inAlbania without having to make unreasonable compromises.Volunteer Comments “Being a married Volunteer is a great advantage. As you adapt to the different culture, it is a great comfort to have your partner there to share successes as well as fears and frustrations. It is such a relief to have someone around to speak with in English. But perhaps more importantly, you gain a lot of respect in Albanian society by being married. You are taken more seriously. Children in Albania are spoiled rotten. They are pampered, given complete freedom, rarely reprimanded, but also rarely listened to. Like it or not, until you are married you are considered a child. Even the words in Albanian are boy and girl before marriage and woman and man after marriage. Those words tell the PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 54
  • 56. whole story of the attitude. The best advice I can give to younger Volunteers is to act older than your age and show a lot of respect to gain respect.” —Judy Green “As a married person, I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be here with my wife for so many reasons. We will share this experience for the rest of our lives. We support one another when we need it. We act as a sounding board for one another, and on and on. If you are considering serving together, I heartily recommend it. “If you are married, there may be an adjustment period regarding how much time you spend together. My wife and I spend much more time together in Albania than we did in the U.S. In fact here, I think we are generally seen as a unit, not so much as individuals. While that has been great, we have had to figure out ways to create space and alone time for ourselves. One more benefit as a married person: Albanians respect your privacy! You may hear complaints from single Volunteers that they have a hard time convincing Albanians that they like to be alone sometimes. We don’t have to worry about that. If we are in our room, we are left alone.”—Ted FeenyFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSHow much luggage am I allowed to bring to Albania?Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges fortransport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its ownsize and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage thatexceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces ofluggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches(length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no morethan 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds [or 100 forcountries with cold weather] total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds forany one bag. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 55
  • 57. Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives,radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, ormotorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materialsor liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosolcontainers. This is an important safety precaution.What is the electric current in Albania?The electric current is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Electrical outlets use round, two-pronged plugs that are standard in Europe, so most American appliances(e.g., hair dryers and CD players) will require transformers and plugadapters. It is best to buy these before leaving the United States. However,European-made electronics are becoming more widely available in Albaniaat somewhat reasonable prices, so if you do not already own an Americanitem, you may want to wait until you get to Albania and buy one that doesnot need a transformer or plug adapter. Check out the website of WalkaboutTravel Gear (www.walkabouttravelgear.com) for helpful products (converterplugs, small surge protectors, etc.) and tips on dealing with differences inelectric current. More expensive electronics like laptops and mp3 playersshould be purchased in the US. Electricity can be very unreliable and ofpoor quality. Some areas of Albania have experienced outages lasting aslong as 18 hours per day during the winter and summer months.How much money should I bring?Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in theircommunity. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly livingallowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish tobring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cardsand traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extramoney, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.When can I take vacation and have people visit me?Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excludingtraining). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months ofservice, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with anauthorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit youafter pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as theirstay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 56
  • 58. encouraged and may require permission from your country director. ThePeace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travelassistance.Will my belongings be covered by insurance?The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects;Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personalbelongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance beforeyou leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company;additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and weencourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or takevaluable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensiveappliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places,satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.Do I need an international driver’s license?Volunteers in Albania do not need an international driver’s license becausethey are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles.Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses andminibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, aVolunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur onlywith prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, theVolunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license willfacilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.What should I bring as gifts for Albanianfriends and my host family?This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some giftsuggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendarsof American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will notmelt or spoil; or photos to give away.Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and howisolated will I be?Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they havecompleted pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunityto assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 57
  • 59. in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. Iffeasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your sitepreferences, including geographical location, distance from otherVolunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factorsinfluence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannotguarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteerslive in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour fromanother Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from thecapital. There is at least one Volunteer based in each of the regional capitalsand about five to eight Volunteers in the capital city.How can my family contact me in an emergency?The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handlingemergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Beforeleaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of SpecialServices immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness ordeath of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for theOffice of Special Services is 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, theSpecial Services duty officer can be reached at the above number. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your countrydesk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.Can I call home from Albania?Yes, but you will need to pay for all personal calls from your livingallowance, and their cost can be substantial. All Volunteers have access to aphone in their communities, but it may be in a post office some distanceaway. Some host families may have a phone in their home that you may useto make local calls and receive local or international calls. Telephone servicein Albania is generally poor, and it is best not to expect to make calls easily.Cellular service is one bright spot as prices drop and coverage increases.Volunteers receive a cellphone during training that can be used to call homeif they wish to pay the fees. While the Peace Corps provides funds for phonetime each month for safety and security purposes, it will not be enough tocall home. You can receive calls on your cellphone at no charge, however.It is advisable to get comfortable with Skype and making phone calls fromyour computer and/or a computer in the middle of an internet café. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 58
  • 60. Should I bring a cellular phone with me?Not unless it is a European GSM (global system mobile) phone that acceptsSIM (subscriber identity module) cards. Though the most common U.S.cellphones will not work in Albania, there are GSM/SIM card phones in theU.S. that will (usually called tri-bands). Contact your service provider tolearn if you have one of these phones and how it can be unlocked forinternational use.Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring mycomputer?Internet access is becoming readily available and at a fast pace. ManyVolunteers have internet access in their homes; you should not expect this,however, as the majority do not. But, most Volunteers at least have aninternet café in their town. During pre-service training, though, you will livein small villages and likely only have access 1-2 times a week when youtravel to a larger city. If you cannot get internet directly to your computer,then you can use it at a café and transport documents using a USB. Oninternet café computers, viruses are a given. Make sure your computer hasvirus protection ahead of time (AVG has a recommended free version).If you already have a laptop and do not bring it with you, you will probablywish you had. If you do bring a computer, you are responsible for insuringand maintaining it. Powering your laptop may be challenge. Mostcommunities have electricity only on a schedule and power outages arecommon throughout the country.Are there other technology issues I should think about?Giving advice about technology is difficult, but the followingrecommendations are based on the observations and experiences ofVolunteers who have spent some time in Albania. Electronics are relativelyeasy to obtain in Albania, and just about anything can be purchased. It willbe more expensive due to the value added tax of 20%, however, as luggagespace is relatively limited, this may be worth the cost. Be aware also thattechnology draws attention while in public and with host families, especiallywith children. Be prepared to deal with host families wanting to sortthrough and use your electronic devices. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 59
  • 61. If you use a laptop, you should bring a laptop. If you do not derive personalsatisfaction from using a computer, do not waste the space. You do notNEED one to live in Albania. In fact, many Albanians do not have them,though more and more are purchasing them. They are quite useful forwatching movies, televisions shows, and other forms of entertainment.Internet is becoming quite readily available and can be obtained, in home, inmany cities in Albania. If you buy a computer for use in Albania, it wouldprobably be best to avoid purchasing an expensive computer; however, thisis really something that is best left to your personal discretion. Albania is arough place for electronic equipment. Power surges, bumpy rides, and otherunforeseen events can create a less than ideal environment for your PC.USB Flash “thumb” drives are quite useful. They are not very expensive inAlbania and can be purchased.External USB hard drive. These are useful for storing pictures anddocuments. Like most electronics, these can be obtained here, but are a bitmore expensive. If you anticipate requiring a large amount of storage, itwould probably be best to purchase these before coming.Digital camera with enough memory to hold many pictures (more than 1GB). This is better than a film camera if you have a laptop. E-mailingpictures to family is a treat for them and you, and developing film isexpensive and often with poor quality. If you need, there are places to printdigital photos in many locations. Bring as many batteries as you think youmight use.MP3 Player. These are great for bringing the music you love withoutcarrying all of the discs. They are good for long rides on buses, for going tosleep and the language materials are available as MP3 files--you willcertainly get a lot of use out of it. You can also use an MP3 player for extrastorage and backup of your electronic files.Surge protector. There are power spikes when the electricity goes on and offand the circuits in many buildings may be old and unreliable. Shoppingonline will save time and money, but ensure it is compatible with European220 Volt / 50Hz two-prong plug. “EuroSurge” is one high-quality modelwhich includes ports for phone lines. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 60
  • 62. Radio. Shortwave broadcasts by the BBC have been discontinued in theBalkan area. If you think you might use a radio, bring one.Battery charger If you bring a large amount of electronic equipment thatuses batteries, get rechargeable batteries and bring a charger. The batteriespurchased here are hit or miss.Voltage Converter. Albania uses the European two-prong plug (220 Volt /50Hz). You will need a standard 210-240 to 120 Volt converter in order touse any of your US appliances. Laptops and some other electronicequipment are compatible with both voltages, but other things like CDplayers often are not. Be sure to check your equipment. It is recommendedthat you purchase the best quality converter that you can find, given thepower problems here. You may also want to get one with a 2-prong plugextender, as most of the wall outlets are recessed. These items are readilyavailable here, so dont worry if you cant find them in the US.It would be wise to take advantage of the personal articles insurance offeredwith your invitation materials to cover your electronics in case of loss ortheft.WELCOME LETTERS FROMALBANIA VOLUNTEERSThe letters included here should give you a sense of both the challenges andthe rewards of serving in Albania. Keep in mind that serving as a PeaceCorps Volunteer is a unique, individual experience and that what someoneelse thought or experienced may not be at all relevant to your experience.From current and former Volunteers who have served since 2003:As a female volunteer in my 40s, I find everyday life in my small city easy andenjoyable. I love going to the pazar (market) on Sundays to see what’s fresh andwatch people sell their produce, cheeses and meats. People here in the northeastare easygoing, polite and are eager to converse with any foreigner. They starein a way that makes me think my hair turned green overnight, but I have toremember that all foreigners are a novelty to them and they are simply curiousabout us. Granted, some things are different, and as a single woman you can PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 61
  • 63. expect to have to limit some of the activities you take for granted in the U.S. Forexample, most people do not exercise for enjoyment; if they do, it is not done ina public place for all to see (this assumes you are not playing on a football orvolleyball team). But football stadiums are located in many towns and joggingor doing exercises there is normal and acceptable.As far as fashion goes, anything goes! We have always been encouraged todress on the conservative side and in general I think that’s not a bad idea. Smartbusiness clothes will always work. Long skirts are not necessary—in fact theyare almost wrong! I shortened one of mine and plan to give the other one away.Fashions are changing quickly here and with all the used clothing storesaround, you can find anything from almost any era.People are part of families in Albania. Even if a woman is single, she has to gohome to her parents and siblings to help out. She is generally not available as afriend after work hours unless you visit her at her house. This makes for muchalone time – which can be okay, but sometimes lonely. One way to remedy thesituation is to be outgoing by accepting invitations to others’ homes or sittingaround in the park with women and their children. They all are curious aboutyou anyway and are probably dying to get to know you.My city is far enough away from the super highway to discourage constanttravel, but when I have traveled, I have always felt secure about my personalsafety regarding men. The safety of the trip itself is a whole other matter (roadconditions, speed, other drivers). There have been a number of purse and walletthefts on public transportation – mostly in the Tiranë area, I assume.All in all, life in Albania for volunteers in a good one. It can be full of surprisesone day and very predictable the next. I have been here a year and feel I have somuch more to learn about the people and how I can be effective among them.There is so much more I could do to integrate – it’s a matter of comfort level.—Brenda WolseyCongratulations on your invitation to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in the little-known, but exciting country of Albania! It will be a choice you will not regret. Iencourage you to find out as much as you can about the country now. Eventhough there isn’t much information out there, it can be found. Gathering PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 62
  • 64. information beforehand will help you make the decision about coming toAlbania. It isn’t for everybody. It will also be beneficial to know as much as youcan before you get here, even though you will learn a lot during training.I won’t get into what to bring and what not to bring, as everybody prefersdifferent things. What was important to me to bring may not be important to you.Remember this: pack only what is important to you and what you absolutelyneed, and then if you have room, pack the extras. If not, you can always havethem mailed to you later on. You can find almost everything you will need inAlbania if you look hard enough.Some of the things you will need in Albania are not material things but mentaltraits. You will definitely need to learn to be patient, even more so than youalready think you are. Things do move slowly and Albanians won’t be rushedjust because the Americans like things done in a hurry. You will need to beflexible, because things will change on you at the very last minute on a regularbasis. You will need to be open to trying out new things and to people askingyou very personal questions about yourself and your family. Albanians don’t dothis to be rude, but because they are very curious and want to know everythingabout you. They are very friendly in this way, sometimes too friendly, but theymean well. You will be asked if you can help them with a visa—which youcan’t—or whether you know another American they have met before—which youprobably won’t.Most importantly, you will need a sense of humor. The only way you will surviveyour adventure here is if you are able to laugh off the hard times and even laughat yourself when you make mistakes. I learned this very fast as I used to confusethe words byrek (pie) with brekë (underwear) and the words fle (sleep) and flas(talk). That last combination used to get me a lot of laughs and stares. I stillsometimes go into the post office and ask for a pulë (chicken), when what I meanto say is pullë (stamp).Albanians are, by nature, kind and hospitable people, but they are also verycautious. If you treat them with the same respect and kindness they show you,you will leave here with many friendships that will last forever. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 63
  • 65. I have had many fantastic experiences as a Volunteer, though I’ve mademistakes with the culture and language. But now I can just laugh them off, sincethey were a learning experience. Once I came home to my training host familyand asked my host father if I could break off a few branches from a tree. Iwanted to use them with my training group as trash pokers for a trash-cleaningproject at a nearby school. With only about four weeks of language lessons, Imay not have been clear about what I was trying to say, because the next thing Iknew, my host father and his two oldest sons went outside and came back with a15-foot tree they had cut down and started cutting it into small pieces for me.After they had cut the pieces, they proceeded to peel off the bark and whittlelittle sharp points on them. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that about half thepieces would be too big to use, but I was very grateful and embarrassed thatthey would go to all that trouble for me. Albanians are very kind like that. Theyhad only known me for a month, but were willing to go out in the rain and cutdown a tree for me. Wow! (We did find a use for the big pieces: we taught somelocal kids how to play baseball!)The families you live with during training and at your site will be an invaluableresource. They will be your teachers of the culture and language and an integralpart of your introduction to your new community. You will have wonderful timeswith them and learn a lot.While personal space is not a well-known concept in Albania, your Albanianfamily will respect your space, as long as you respect them. Remember they aretrying to help you in your transition to Albania and are just as curious andperhaps as scared as you are. You will have days when nothing is going rightand it is a struggle to make it through the day. These days are limited and yournew-found Albanian friends and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers will be a greatsource of encouragement. Use them!Albania is a very beautiful country with a lot to offer, but has many ironies thatwill both surprise and humor you. There are ancient Roman cities, beautifulmountain ranges, sandy beaches along the coast, and 700,000 ugly concretebunkers that are now part of the Albanian landscape. I like to walk, mainly tothe nearby mountains or to one of the 200-plus small villages in my region toexplore and meet new people. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 64
  • 66. Though Albania might not be one of the toughest countries for Peace Corps asfar as living, infrastructure, and environment go, the infrastructure is prettybad, and it is probably one of the toughest to serve in mentally. Albanians are avery stubborn, but kind people, who acknowledge that they need to change, butundertake very little change themselves. After 50 years of isolation, severalyears of war, playing host to Kosovo refugees and then a series of transitionalgovernments, Albanians are looking forward to the future, but have no idea ofwhat to expect. Albanians will say that they wish their country were cleaner, andthen throw trash on the ground in front of you while standing five feet from atrash can.You will see old men going to market riding on a cart pulled by a donkey or aherder taking his sheep to pasture for the day traveling down the road alongwith Mercedes Benzes driven by 16-year-old kids. You will see Albanians fightover who is going to buy the round of coffee or raki, despite living in one of thepoorest countries in Europe. Hospitality is important to Albanians and they willinsist on paying for you, the foreign guest. You should not refuse too much, as itis their tradition to pay for the guest.I have had the time of my life here in Albania. Things have not been easy, but Iwould never trade this experience for anything. I have had experiences andmade friendships that will last me a lifetime. When you have Albanians asfriends, they are your friends for life, even if you never see them again.Think carefully before you decide to come here. I promise you that you won’tregret it if you come.—Robbie HammerGaining the trust of your colleagues is of utmost importance in Albania. I foundthat at the beginning of my placement, some of my colleagues felt threatened byme. The first month was a struggle of gaining acceptance. I gained theiracceptance by getting them to talk about their work and by identifying with theirideas and frustrations. Albanians dont like to be told how to do things or havethe impression that you think that you know better. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 65
  • 67. On the other hand, there is great respect for ideas. So the most fruitfulconversations tend to be brainstorming sessions where the ping-pong of ideasflows and it is possible for all members to “own” the ideas and adopt them astheir own. However, follow-through on ideas can be weak. There is an attitudehere that once the idea is in place, the implementation will work itself out. Ivefound a frustrating lack of understanding as to how long it takes to develop anidea and to implement a project well. I’ve found myself in situations where finalproducts are expected in an unreasonable amount of time, with no tolerance fordelay. It is essential to develop a detailed implementation timetable withdeadlines and responsibilities clearly spelled out. The first reaction will be,“Why so long?” Just ignore it and make sure everyone knows what to do bywhen, and follow up on seeing that deadlines are met. There is a tendency to doeverything at the last moment, and the results often appear hurried. That’s whenthe blame game can start.Albanians are very intelligent people, very enthusiastic, and full of life. Onceyou gain acceptance, it’s a pleasure to be included in the community. They areextremely communicative with well-developed conversational and storytellingskills. They also have well-developed senses of humor. Learn to participate inthe banter. It is your ticket to becoming a part of what goes on around you.Humor can be off-color. It is not considered an insult to women to tellsuggestive jokes in the workplace; in fact, most jokes are off-color. Womenlaugh. Women also tell these jokes. And the atmosphere is friendly. Self-righteousness has no place here and will quickly alienate you from yourcolleagues.Albanians are also very direct. They will tell you in complete innocence that youare too fat or too thin or too tired looking. In the same vein, they will offeradvice: eat more, go on a diet, get more sleep. You must learn to take these“intrusions” for what they are—a culturally honest way of showing concern. Donot be insulted!Albanians respect their elders and the knowledge that comes with age andexperience. Being an older, experienced Volunteer is a real advantage here.There is a certain formality in relationships that will need to be respected untilyou know someone really well. Everyone should be acknowledged, and anapology is expected if you are concentrating or distracted by something and PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 66
  • 68. don’t notice. This can be frustrating at work because people enter and exitrooms constantly during work hours. For instance, someone may need to use theonly copy machine and it happens to be in your room, or to use the computeryou are working on for something urgent, or to talk to one of the colleagues whoshares your room, or even to talk to you. For all of these interruptions, you arerequired to greet and be greeted. Everything comes to a halt for theseformalities, even if it’s a good friend. There is no culture of not interrupting. Ioften come back to work after hours when no one else is around, or work athome, to get some peace and quiet.I am finding my posting in Albania fascinating. It is a completely Europeanenvironment with a long and complex history of Western culture so there isfamiliarity on a certain level. I have found after just five months at my site that Iam already considering a third year since many of the projects we are gettingoff the ground will probably require an extra year to see through to fruition.—Judy GreenIf I had to put my impression of serving in the Peace Corps in Albania in a fewwords, they would be, “Is this really the Peace Corps?” That may be because Iwork in a program where Volunteers are in a professional setting with localengineers, urban planners and even politicians (and dressing in businesscasual). When I enlisted, I envisioned I would be digging fishponds in CentralAmerica. I have been assigned to work with a national park in southern Albania.As a landscape architect, I have had national parks as clients, but I had neverworked for a national park. Not only is it a good change of pace for me, but it isan excellent opportunity for professional development with an internationalslant. My resume will not skip a beat from my two years of service and I willhave had the chance to travel in Europe as well.Albania is one big paradox. It has the history and culture of an ancientcivilization, but it lacks the sophistication of Europe. There are no such thingsas credit cards, shower curtains, or electricity. But things are changing fast.Albania is also one of the few places left in the world where they actually likeAmericans (we helped with Kosovo and they don’t forget those kinds of thingshere). The mountains and the southern coast are dramatic and beautiful; theroads are terrible; the apartment flats from the socialist period are very ugly; PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 67
  • 69. and in the town of Lac, where I lived for three months during training, therewere pigs on the sidewalk in front of the Internet café—a land of contrasts.—Gary WimberlyIf you are interested in getting a handle on the history of the Balkans and thementality of the Albanian people, I recommend two books: Accursed Mountainsby Robert Carver; and Balkan Ghosts, by Robert Kaplan. Accursed Mountainsis specifically about a trip to Albania in the summer of 1996. Carver’s insightsinto the Albanian mentality may help speed your acclimation process. Theauthor’s observations are generally right on, if not occasionally embellishedfor the sake of the novel. Balkan Ghosts has helped me better understand theregion and why there has been such tumult for so long.My personal reactions to a number of things:Food: has been better than I expected—you will eat pretty well here. Salt andolive oil (plenty of each) are the condiments of choice. Vegetables and fruit aregenerally abundant. Vegetarians will have fun trying to explain their aversion tomeat, but their choices will be respected.Landscape: the country can be absolutely beautiful at times and shockingly uglyat others. There is more urban decay than I expected, but 50 years oftotalitarian rule and lack of money can do that. There is a lot of trash. Beprepared to see piles of trash placed in some surprisingly prominent places—inthe center of small towns for example. Though city locations will vary, there is asameness to them in terms of buildings and houses. You will quickly learn thatAlbanians build their homes in stages, so when you see metal bars sticking upfrom the roofs of so many houses, it’s because they plan to build another floor ifand when they have money to do so.People: the people are generally extremely generous with food, time, lodging,whatever they have. Americans are almost universally liked and appreciated (atleast the first time you meet—the rest is up to you!).Work: I think that for many of us the work (or lack of it) has been the mostchallenging aspect of our service. Depending on what you will be doing, beprepared to put aside your Western notions of initiative, planning, productivity,and collaboration. Planning for the future is still a new concept. Albanians weretold what to do by the central government for 50 years, so the idea of takinginitiative and working on something without being told to do so is still new.Generally, people here adhere to a hierarchical style of management. The boss PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 68
  • 70. is the boss, he or she tells me what to do, and I do it. I generally do not do morethan I am told to. Working together and collaborating on ideas are secondnature to Americans, but still new here. You may have to work hard at gettingdifferent groups to see the benefit of sharing ideas and working together.There can sometimes be a disconnect between the organization that hasrequested a Peace Corps Volunteer and the people you ultimately work with.Your colleagues may need some time to get used to the idea of working with youwithout feeling threatened by your presence. Depending on your job, beprepared to look outside your prescribed role to find fulfillment. Ultimately, youwill have to work harder to find a sense of accomplishment.Like anybody, I am occasionally frustrated by what goes on here, but I amusually buoyed by the fact that our presence in Albania is received so positively.—Ted FeenyI didn’t really know what to expect when I first got off the plane in Rinas.Albania is a country full of contradictions. It’s a country you’ll love one minuteand hate the next. But what will make your experience worthwhile are thewonderful people you will meet and places you will visit.Albanians are some of the most curious, generous, and hospitable people I’veever met. Strangers will strike up conversations with you if you just smile or say“hi” to them. They enjoy talking to foreigners and even love you when youspeak in Shqip (Albanian language). They’ll invite you to their homes even ifthey’ve just met you. But Albanians also like to ask the most personal questions,usually without intending to. Albanians are blunt. They’ll tell you if you’re fat orskinny to your face without thinking that they’re offending you. Be prepared toanswer questions about how much money you have or are making as aVolunteer. Albanians are kind and generous. Even if they’re poor, they willbring you their best food and drinks (homemade wine or raki). Albanians takepride in what they serve you. Don’t be surprised if random people start givingyou gifts like sweets, fruits, and socks, or invite you for coffee when you first getto your site. Sometimes they’ll want something in return (like ask you to tutortheir kids in English or help them get a U.S. visa), but most of the time they’rejust kind. When you live with your host family, they’ll expect you to be part of PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 69
  • 71. the family, paying them visits and calling them on occasion after you move toyour permanent site or apartment.Albania is a beautiful country. Expect to find old castles on mountains, uniquelandscapes, and gorgeous valleys. At the same time, be prepared to find dumpsof trash and rivers turned into sewage canals. Take the time to travel around thecountry. But expect to find crazy furgon (mini-bus) drivers. They can fit theirvehicles into the smallest possible area and stop in the middle of the road to talkto a fellow driver. You’ll wonder who gave them their driver’s license.If you think Albania has Mediterranean, warm-type weather, think again. Inwinter, it can get real cold in Albania, especially up in the mountains. It can getso cold that you can see your breath in your room and you’ll dread putting oncold clothes. There’s no central heating in most Albanian homes. Even if youhave an electric or gas heater, you’re lucky if there’s power 24/7 or you don’tsmell gas in your room. Bring a sleeping bag! I wouldn’t have survived this pastwinter without it.Life in Albania is slow. Be prepared to sometimes be bored at home and atwork. Bring lots of music and books to keep your mind busy. If you’re used toworking with computers and lots of paper, lower your expectations. Work inAlbania is not about doing paperwork, but about maintaining relationships,usually built through cups of coffee. Don’t expect to be told what to do. The jobdescription they give you in the beginning doesn’t mean anything—you can be astrategic planner one day, IT helpdesk the next, and English translator the third.Your job and experience here will be what you make of it.—Anna GutierrezWorking with Albanians can be exceedingly difficult. It takes a lot of patienceand tolerance. They tend to be suspicious and jealous of each other, and there isa tendency to criticize and find fault. Albanians have refused to work on aproject because it wasn’t their idea. Some have gotten angry at me for sharingand trying to find partners for ideas we were working on together.There is an anecdote I’ve heard several times from Albanians. They tell it in ajoking manner, but they admit it has a ring of truth. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 70
  • 72. The Albanian king decided he would grant some of his subjects anything they desired. The first Albanian peasant approached the king. “What is your desire my loyal subject?” the King asked. “The only request I have is that you give me a cow that I might provide my family with milk.” The king was a little taken aback by such a simple request but granted the peasant his wish. The peasant took his cow home and proudly showed it to his neighbor. The next day the peasant’s neighbor went to the king to have his request granted. The king asked his loyal subject what he wished. This peasant replied, “Your lordship, I don’t want anything except that I want you to take the cow away from my neighbor.”I find myself always breaking some sort of cultural practice. I have beenaccused of trying to accomplish too much and trying to give too much assistanceto certain people. In this culture it is easier to do nothing than try something andrisk failure. There is also an underlying belief that if you can’t do a projectperfectly, it is better not to do it at all. When I ask Albanians how things aregoing to get better in their country, they almost always say that outsiders aregoing to have to come in and make things better. They do not feel connected totheir government and don’t understand why America supports and works withtheir government. They feel the government is surely corrupt. Yet they feelpowerless to hold their leaders responsible.—Mike BenjaminThe first thing I’d like to say about you moving to Albania is that you will besafe here. For some reason, many people think of Albania and think it isdangerous here. There is crime here, but the crime consists of very high levelcrime that you won’t be involved in and low level petty theft, which most oftenhappens in the capital. I have lived in a number of cities and towns in the USand feel safer here than I did in any of them. The only exception is the drivershere. For some reason drivers here think they are more important than anypedestrian and drive with the thought that it is the pedestrian’s job to get out ofthe way. As far as the Kanun-related bloodfeuds, they do exist and arepervasive across the north of Albania. I live in the south, and I know nothing ofthem here. Volunteers who are in the north say how they know people whosefamilies are involved in them and it is heartbreaking to see, as often menNEVER leave their house in their entire lives from fear of being killed in thestreet due to being involved in a blood feud. There are entire towns where only PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 71
  • 73. women are outside due to them. You will not be placed anywhere wherebloodfeuds are pervasive like this, and as a foreigner, you are exempt from themas long as you do not align yourself with one family against another.An additional note on safety is that 99% of Albanians LOVE Americans-almostunconditionally. There are historic reasons for this, as president Wilson is seenas helping make sure that Albania was kept as a sovereign country rather thanbeing eaten up by its neighbors, and of course the US’s lead role in the Kosovosituation. They do have a generally negative view of what is going on politicallynow with the US, but less so even than many Americans. The pro-Americansentiment takes on surreal dimensions, a great example of which was during theelections that took place this summer. During almost every event for each of theparties you could see three flags waving in the crowd: the Albanian flag, thepolitical party’s flag, and the American flag (which believe it or not was not onfire!). It was really weird, but nice to know that most Albanians are generallypositive toward us, unlike much of the world......I must say that I and most volunteers love it here. There are minor culturaldifferences here, and I have gotten (mostly) used to those differences quickly.It’s a great place, people befriend you so quickly here and there are so manypeople who are so excited to talk to you. When I am on long bus rides, and wehave a coffee break, other passengers often fight with one another about who isgoing to sit and hang out with me and buy me a coffee, and this is descriptive ofmy interactions with Albanians in general. If you have any doubts aboutcoming, get rid of them, it’s a wonderful experience here.- Chris CudebecPACKING LISTThis list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Albania and is based ontheir experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list,bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list!You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those itemsthat make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You canalways have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 72
  • 74. mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember,you can get almost everything you need in AlbaniaGeneral Clothing • Slacks and jeans • Shirts for summer and fall • Long sleeved warm shirts, turtlenecks, and sweaters for winter • Shorts and T-shirts for relaxing in hot weather • Long underwear • Both light and heavy socks • Warm hats, scarves and gloves • Sweats or heavy pajamas • Heavy winter coat • All-weather coat/hoodie/light coat • Bathing suit • BeltFor Women • Dresses, breezy clothing for summer • Underpants and bras; your size and quality may be hard to find • Several pairs of pantyhose and tights • AccessoriesFor Men • Collared shirts for work (it is better to dress up than to dress down) • Underwear, if you wear boxers bring lots of them because you can’t find them in Albania. • A few ties • At least one jacket or suit for special occasions • Beard trimmer, hair clippers PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 73
  • 75. Shoes • At least one pair of good-quality sandals that are good for walking • Dress shoes for work that are good for walking • Sturdy, thick-soled walking shoes or sneakers-better if water proof • Flip flops/slides to wear in Albanian households • Warm, insulated, sturdy and waterproof winter bootsPersonal Hygiene and Toiletry Items • Any favorite nonprescription medical supplies (those provided by the Peace Corps may not be your favorite brands – example: Nyquil or Zicam) • A supply of feminine hygiene products (or alternative menstrual cup) to last throughout pre-service training (tampons can be purchased in Tirana; OBs can be found in pharmacies in larger cities) • Contact lens solutions (not supplied by the Peace Corps and not readily available outside of Tirana) • Small supply of cosmetics or cremes (the quality in Albania varies); hair care items of certain brands may be difficult to find – if you are particular about this, pack enough until you can get more shipped • Quick drying towel • Hand sanitizer/wet wipesKitchen • A pairs of strong rubber gloves—you will probably do laundry by hand, and dishwater may be freezing • Sturdy water bottle for travel-like Nalgene • A few favorite cooking tools or utensils; (measuring cups/spoons, good chopping knife- though, these can be sent later) • Basic cookbook or use electronic versions (There are many electronic versions passed among PCVs) • Packaged mixes for your favorite sauces, salad dressings, and soups PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 74
  • 76. • Your favorite spices (Mexican, Chinese and Indian can be hard to find); vanilla, baking powder and brown sugar are hard to find • Ziplock bagsMiscellaneous • Tough but flexible luggage (the roller/backpack combos work especially well) • Backpack-waterproof suggested • Money pouch • Camera • Sunglasses • A pocketknife (e.g., Swiss Army or Leatherman type) or tool kit • Duct tape • Good flashlight (you may want to consider solar or rechargable batteries with charger); headlamp • Alarm clock run on batteries • Watch • Compact sleeping bag • Sewing kit • Books (there is a PC Library, but additions are a common courtesy) • Small photo album with pictures of your friends and family • Laptop with an adapter to charge ipod/computer/batteries; surge protector; flash drive; external hard drive • Tent (If you intend on camping) • Small radio or ipod • Recording device for language classes • Umbrella or poncho – good quality umbrellas do not exist here • Games, movies • Desk supplies (pens, marker, colored pencils, crayons, notebook, scissors, index cards) these supplies can be found in Albania in lesser qualities PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 75
  • 77. • Small exercise equipment • Small gifts for host familyPRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLISTThe following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepareto live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevantto everyone, and the list does not include everything you should makearrangements for.Family• Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (24-hour telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470).• Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.Passport/Travel• Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.• Verify that your luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.• Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)Medical/Health• Complete any needed dental and medical work.• If you wear glasses, bring two pairs. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 76
  • 78. • Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.Insurance• Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage.• Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have pre- existing conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)• Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.Personal Papers• Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.Voting• Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.)• Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.• Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.Personal Effects• Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.Financial Management• Keep a bank account in your name in the U.S. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 77
  • 79. • Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.• Execute a Power of Attorney for the management of your property and business.• Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.• Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 78
  • 80. CONTACTING PEACE CORPSHEADQUARTERSThis list of numbers will help connect you with the appropriateoffice at Peace Corps headquarters to answer various questions.You can use the toll-free number and extension or dial directlyusing the local numbers provided. Be sure to leave the toll-freenumber and extensions with your family so they can contactyou in the event of an emergency. Peace Corps Headquarters Toll-free Number: 800.424.8580, Press 2, then Ext. # (see below) Peace Corps’ Mailing Address: Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters 1111 20th Street, NW Washington, DC 20526 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 79
  • 81. For Questions Staff Toll Free Direct NumberAbout: ExtensionResponding to an Office of ext 1840 202-692-1840Invitiation PlacementCountry and Country Desk ext 1184 202-692-1184Program OfficerInformationLoan Financial ext 1170 202-692-1170Readjustments, OperationsTax Re-adjustments,Withdrawls,Power of AttorneyStaging andReporting to Office of Staging ext 1865 202-692-1865StagingInstructions (Youwill receivecomprehensiveinformation (hoteland flightarrangements)three to five weeksprior to departure;this information isnot availableearlier).Family Office of Special ext 1470 202-692-1470Emergencies (to Services (24 hourget information to line)a Volunteeroverseas in anemergency)