Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ksamil Travel Tips

I always start out every blog entry with an apology for not updating this more often. Its serioulsy been like a year. I'm alive, I've been busy, etc. This is not an apology. My life is generally pretty boring and I'm generally pretty lazy, so there you go. Instead of a life update, I figured tourist season is approaching quickly, so it might be a good idea to let everyone in on some tricks of the trade when it comes to visiting Ksamil.
When to Visit:
From May to September the weather is usually good enough for swimming. I would generally try to avoid August, the busiest time.
Getting to Ksamil:
Step 1-Get to Saranda
Step 2- From the main bus station in Saranda walk towards the Sea. The Ksamil bus stop is directly across from the synagogue ruins.
Step 3 - Wait for a Bus. The permanent bus schedule is 7, 9, 11, 1, 3, and 5. Busses leave Butrint on even hours last bus at 6. Ksamil is on the Saranda-Butrint route. There are usually more busses, one running every hour in the morning, but these can be a gamble. There are also random furgons at random times. If a bus/furgon says Qafe Bote or Konispol, it will also take you to Ksamil/Butrint.
***Notice step 3 is "wait for a bus" it is NOT "get a taxi." The tourist taxi price is 1,000 leke. The bus is 100 leke to Butrint and 80 to Ksamil. I guess if you want to get a taxi, its your prerogative, but you've been warned. If you really, really need a taxi walk down to the taxi stand across from the Hotel Butrinti in Saranda. The taxis there are generally cheaper, but no promises.
Before you get to Ksamil:
Go to the bank. Also, if you want, buy me presents. But, seriously, go to the bank. In theory we have a bank in Ksamil. As of now, the ATM has never worked. Not for one minute. So, bring money. You're going to love Ksamil so much that you're going to want to stay longer. That's just how it is. Plan ahead.

Once you're in Ksamil:
Where to Stay: If you're not staying with me, I reccomend you stay at Tani's Guest House. Its on Tani is pimp, plain and simple, and speaks fluent English. Tani's is located off of the third square. Its the last bus stop in Ksamil, at the Tirana Bank. From the bank, walk west and turn left on the dirt road between Bar Ledio and Hotel Joni.

Where to beach: The beaches all over Ksamil are great. I have my favorites, though. The Tre-Ishjut beach is my second home in the summer. To get there: get off at the Tirana Bank, walk west up the hill, past the post office. Turn right on the first paved road. Turn left on the last road, by the cultural center. Not the paved road, the dirt one. Continue west until you hit sand. Throughout Ksamil, beach chairs run 200 leke for the day and dolphin paddle boats 600 leke an hour. Other beach locations are on a need to know basis. If I run into you in Ksamil, you can ask. If you have a car and will take me with you, I'll tell.

Where to eat: All the beach-side cafes are good. My favorites are the Tre-Ishjut (don't miss the mussels in the shell...ah-maz-ing) Belinda restaurant, just north of the tre-ishjut and the restaurant just north of Belinda's, at the begining of the promenade. I can't remember its actual name, but the food is awesome. At night, Papi's at the Hotel Joni is a favorite and Pizzeria Xheni across from Hotel Joni is also good. I happen to not recommend the boat restaurant floating out next to one of the islands.

Where to drink: Tani's bar. See above directions to Tani's Guest House. There are two or three discos in Ksamil. That's not really my thing, so I stay away. If that is your thing, I recommend you stay in Saranda and go to the big discos there.

I think it goes without being said, but this is the internet, so I'll say it: These are just my opinions. I'm obviously biased and want to promote the businesses and business owners that have been good to me over the last two years. This is in no way a complete list of all the good things/places/etc in Ksamil. Just a few good natured suggestions.
See you this summer!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Its been awhile...

Hey guys. Its been awhile, huh? I have absolutely NO excuses for not updating this blog. I mean, I can think of a few...but I do generally feel guilty about the lack of amazing, exciting, dramatic, awe-inspiring stories posted of late (Ok, of ever). While I promise that none of the previously mentioned adjectives will apply to this update...I will let you in on what I've been up to for the last month or two.

May started with a little weekend adventure to eastern Albania. (If you have your atlas handy, Pogradec and Korca) I went on the Matura trip (translation: Senior trip) with the high school students. Traditionally, only seniors go on this trip, but since we only have, like, 15 seniors, the whole high school was invited. About 35 students, 3 teachers, 2 fiances (2 late 20's guys engaged to 2 of my 18 year old students. CREEPY. ) and one peace corps volunteer set off early one Saturday morning on quite the ambitious trip. We spent a total of 27 hours on the bus and 24 hours 'vacationing.' It was a disaster from my point of view, because...well, I'm American and like 'order' and 'plans,' but the kids had fun and I had fun hanging out with them.

The next weekend I took a small group of students back east for Outdoor Ambassador Camp. We had a blast. Outdoor Ambassadors is our after-school environmental club. The camp was wonderful, we played games, did some rock climbing, a ropes course, trust falls...the whole shebang. My kids got to meet and make friends from all over the country, which was fantastic. Despite the stress of coordinating the travel and the parents and my grumpy school director (who, seriously, called while we were en route to inform us that he was calling the police on me for kidnapping! The situation was quickly resolved, btw. I'm still a free woman) OA camp was for sure a highlight of my service thus far.

I have been travelling non-stop it seems, and was up in Tirana the next weekend for what I thought would be a nice break. At least I was travelling without kids, you know? I was up for my mid-service doctor/dentist appt. (No cavities!) but had to cut my weekend short when I was informe that I was giving a presentation to the new trainees in Elbasan at the last minute. Although I was kind of bummed that I had to leave Tirana early, it was good to meet some of the new PC faces and share a bit of my 'expertise.'

That about flushes out May. This is getting long, so we'll save June for next time. Stay tuned for Meghan goes to Romania, alternatively titled: Meghan looses all her money and is sold into white slavery.

I'm only half joking.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'm not the only one who says Albania is amazing

Look look look!

I live on the third page, in a village between Saranda and Butrint. Do you need any more incentive to come visit?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Its finally happening. Finally. Finally. Finally. I finally feel like I’m actually starting to get things accomplished. Mind you, I didn’t say that I have actually accomplished anything…but I’m feeling that things are definitely on their way, which is more positive than I’ve felt about my work…well…ever.

I’ll save the details of my projects for when they’re actually on the road to completion, but suffice to say, things are looking up.

Otherwise, its been a busy few weeks for this volunteer. The week before last was teacher week and as such, classes were shortened every day so we could have an assembly of sorts all together. One day the kids performed songs, the next they recited poetry, and so on. The kids love performing, and like everything here; it was a competition, which they really enjoyed. March 7th was the official teachers’ day, which fell on a Saturday. So, Friday was a party day. (Because, really, what better way to honor your teachers than to terrorize them by being hyped up on candy and loud music?)

My ‘homeroom’ class is by default the 6th grade class because that is my counterpart’s homeroom class. I don’t usually have classes with them because of my relative incompetence when it comes to explaining things in Albanian and their incompetence when it comes to speaking English. (Ok, ok, they’re like 10, I guess they have an excuse.) Anyway, Friday was a horrible thunder-stormy day and my counterpart didn’t want to come to Ksamil, leaving me to helm the party alone. Thankfully, the glee of 10 year-olds around loud music and candy breaks down all language barriers. We had a wonderful time circle dancing and signing. They also showered me with presents per the teachers’ day tradition.

So, funny story: I caught one of the 6th class boys with a beer. How a 10 year old gets a hold of a beer, I don’t know. Why he would think it would be ok the bring it to school, I don’t know. But, even more alarming, why none of the other ADULTS cared, I seriously have no idea. I’ll give them credit, though. They pretended to care, for my benefit…as I was obviously distressed, but, no academy awards will be given out for their performances.

Moving on, after the 6th class party, I was forced to make an appearance at the high school party, held at the bar/café (all café’s in Albania also serve alcohol) next to the school. As a rule, I try to avoid all party situations with the high school kids because its hard enough for me to assert any kind of authority as it is. The last thing I need is to cavort with them on a social level. Anyway, I ended up at the bar, picture evidence is below:

Notice the smoking, the alcohol and the dancing. Its 10:30 in the morning. Let me repeat: 10:30 in the morning. In all fairness, I would not have been any more comfortable if it were 10:30 at night, but in some tiny way, I would have felt it more appropriate. I guess I’m just so American and puritan and, I don’t know, up-tight. But, there are just so many levels of inappropriate to be found in this situation…it boggles my mind.

I stayed at the high school party just long enough to say hi and have a coffee. Thankfully, I had to leave to catch the bus to Tirana.

After a looooong 8 hour bus ride to Tirana, I had a wonderful weekend at the Outdoor Ambassador training. It was great to get up to the city and see people. It also happened to be the Georgia volunteers’ ‘6 months in Albania’ anniversary. Everybody, with the exception of Aida and Joe, was in Tirana, so we decided to celebrate. We all dressed up, had a wonderful sushi dinner and went to the Sky Tower for a celebratory drink before meeting up with the other volunteers. Really, it was just a good opportunity for us to dress up. We clean up pretty well, no? Of course you can dress us up and bring us to the big city…but there’s still a little volunteer in us all…check out Allan’s shoes.

The sky tower is like the space needle of Tirana? I don’t know if that’s a good comparison, but it’s a bar at the top of a tall building that rotates. It was really pretty and a nice chance to reflect on how far we’ve come and how Albania has changed us. I’m not sure how much Albania we’ve changed…hopefully we can reflect on that in September.

I’m also a third done with my service. I’ve been in the PC for 9 months now. So much has happened that its hard to believe that just a year ago I hadn’t even gotten my invitation yet and was thinking about giving up on the whole PC thing. I have to say, that despite all the trials and tribulations, I’m really glad I didn’t. I signed up for an adventure…and well, I’ve had one.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picture redux

So, I don't have any new, interesting things to blog about, but I do have plenty of pictures. Starting with...drum roll...a rare picture of ALL the Georgia transfers...even Travis.

Here are a few pictures from my last trip to Butrint. (By trip I mean, 10 minute jaunt, of course, haha) I really, really need to get on posting something meaningful...or at the very least a little bit informative about Butrint. It is, by far, my favorite thing about Albania.

The font in the middle of the currently covered mosaic. YES. THE mosaic. The largest intact Roman mosaic after the Haiga Sofia in Istanbul.

Katherine, Becky and I (and our gracious guide) at the Bektashi center in Vlore.

View of Vlore from the Bektashi center.

Monument posing in Vlore...Travis is taking these pictures. I swear he was there.
That's it for now. Its sunny and almost warm today. I plan to sun myself and hand wash laundry. This is the PC after all.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick update: spring has not sprung. Its colder than ever.

That is all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spring has Sprung?

It’s the beginning of February and it looks like the weather is finally starting to get better. I’m so glad I’m reasonably far south and I’m not looking at a Chicago marathon winter. Chicago marathon winters are ok in Chicago…but with my heating situation as it is (that is to say non-existent) not fun here.

I guess I can consider this spring, so let me say, spring weather here is weird. It rains everyday, usually all night and a little bit during the day. Last night we had a crazy thunderstorm. Perhaps the loudest thunder I have ever heard…and that includes the time Blackstone Hall was actually struck by lightning the summer after sophomore year. My umbrella was owned by the wind and is out of commission. I left it with Courtney in Gjirokaster, as she is collecting them to make re-useable shopping bags with the Gjirokaster women’s group (amazing project, huh? Something easily done in the US too…) I can’t seem to find another (ie I haven’t looked), so I’m using a Seattle umbrella (a hood) for the time being.

Second semester has started off with…not a bang. I was planning on starting my after school clubs this week, but the Gods of logistics apparently aren’t on my side. Now, the logical place to hold an after school English club is, of course, at school, right? I asked about this when I first arrived in Ksamil, in, say, October. My director assured me that it would be no problem and the issue was put to rest. I decided not to start up anything new because I was still in a needs assessment phase (using PACA tools…hey!....cue eye rolling from my PCV readership) and there were so many breaks between November and the end of the year, that it just seemed like a better idea to wait. So, 2009 rolls around, we’re back at school and I inquire about my activities. Its at this point I’m told that, in fact, the school must be locked up promptly at 1:15 everyday, in effect putting the kabash on my activities. Of course.

Have no fear, though, me being the resourceful PCV that I am decided that the cultural center would be just fine. I mean, what is a cultural center for if not to, you know, spread culture, like, maybe, the English language to the youth? My counterpart told me this would not work, as the cultural center is private and you must pay to use it. I figured that my clout as an American, a poor, moneyless volunteer and someone trying to donate my time to the community would supersede anyone’s need for rent. I mean, who asks a volunteer for rent?

I’ll tell you who: the Ksamil Cultural Center.

I would write up the hilarious story of me trying to explain in horrible Shqip what exactly I wanted to do and how I totally couldn’t pay for it, but you’re all getting tired of my stories of incompetence by now, right? And, besides, the story is pretty self-explanatory. I’m the least articulate Shqip speaker in the whole world. Let’s also not forget that the owner of the cultural center is, I believe, a seriously famous Albanian classical musician.

So, yeah, here I am with no after school club. I’m working on it. My senior study group will commence as planned, just in a café instead of a place of learning.

In other important news, Friday was my dear counterpart’s last day at school. Her doctor has put her on bed-rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. This is much sooner than expected. Well, much sooner than I expected. I’m getting a new counterpart from Saranda on Monday.

Its funny, I feel like nothing ever goes on here, but here I am with this ridiculously long blog post about all the interesting developments in the last few weeks. Perhaps the most exciting is the site development that has been taking place in Saranda. If you’ve been following along, you’ve no doubt heard (read?) about my longing for a PCV in Saranda. I’m pretty sure everyone at the PC office in Tirana has also heard (been forced to listen at length?) about this. The good news is that I think it will happen! The TEFL project manager was down here a few days ago scouting things out and there have been some other murmurs of site development in Saranda from the other sectors. Of course nothing is definite…the biggest challenge is finding housing that is suitable and under the PC budget cap…but, its looking good.

If you’re a G12 reading this blog, pray you get placed in Saranda. Seriously.

I also just found out that BJ, who lived with me in Osiauri Cluster in Georgia, will be joining fellow G8’s Adam and Raino here in Albania. Now, every member of Osiauri cluster has been placed in a new country! Katherine in Romania, Alyssa in Paraguay, Michael in Micronesia and BJ and I here! Now, Gomi cluster and Osiauri cluster are going to have to fight it out for Albanian prominence. I absolutely cannot wait until March!