We've been in Tirana since Saturday afternoon. All in all it's about what I expected as an experience. Spent most of the time in "visits" with family. Really enjoyed having coffee with Soni's two doctor friends. Ilir's Physic's professor was nice too, though I'm afraid our discussions of how to address problems in the country weren't really as happy as they could have been.
Albanian hospitality is way more effusive than Persian (with which I grew up). Persians give you some nuts, some dates, and that weak tea you can drink all day. In that set-up you can visit dozens of families a day, bouncing from house to house and never getting full. In contrast, every Albanian family is trying to feed you when you visit. Soni's mom wants to prepare 3 (I suspect 4) huge meals every day. So much for not putting on weight this trip :) .
Drivers here are remarkably arrogant. They will run lights, force pedestrians to jump back to avoid getting struck, and generally seem to feel that having a 'big car' means that they should have the right to do anything at all... To put that in perspective, it's remarkably like the situation in Forest Hill (in Toronto), where SUV drivers feel that they are a species above simple safety or rules of the road. It seems selfish idiots are a world-wide problem.
The air pollution is bad downtown (where we are). We're told the level of carbon monoxide in the air is about 20 times that in Milan and while I don't know if that's accurately measured across the whole city, or just at a single point (only the single point was mentioned), I would guess at least 10 times. I was to the point of throwing up walking down the road. It's going to start killing people at some point.
I'm not sure how the little presentation on the Laptop on Thursday is going to go. I'm told that concern for global issues, such as climate change, lack of primary-school education in the third world, pollution, resource exhaustion, etceteras is pretty minimal. Showing the laptop to a few individuals here has met with almost no interest. I'm not sure if that's just that I can't properly describe what it represents in the language, or whether people are just caught up in their own issues.
Can't hurt to try, though. Maybe one or two groups at the university will be interested in working on the project. Maybe they will produce something that makes the world a better place for everyone.
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