On the last day of school before the break holiday parties were thrown at school. Holiday parties in Albania celebrate both Christmas and the New Year. New Years is a much bigger holiday in Albania. I assume this is because its not religious. Holiday parties in Albanian classrooms aren't that different from what I remember in school. Its basically organized chaos. Dancing, singing, junk food, etc. The biggest difference was the presence of lit sparklers (yes. fireworks.) in the classroom. Those, I'm not going to lie, freaked me out.
Right: 6th class group picture with our school director.
After the class party, everyone gathered outside for an 'all school assembly." Where the director and the Mayor of Ksamil announced and handed out gifts to the two best students in each class.
After school, the teachers had a celebratory lunch in Saranda. It was a lot of fun and, in true Albanian fashion, a ton of food! There was also circle dancing at this party, but fortunately, no
Left: Lunch, Right: My counterpart and I
On Christmas eve, I attempted to go to Gjirokaster. I did eventually get there, but not until early, early Christmas morning! As I frequently write, most of the time the living is pretty easy in Albania. This notion goes out the window when traveling is concerned. I tried to leave Ksamil on the 1:45 bus, putting me in Saranda around 2:15, with plenty of time to catch the 2:30 bus to Gjirokaster. Of course, it being Christmas eve, the 1:45 bus didn't come. I finally caught a bus out of Ksamil at 2:30. This of course meant that I missed the 2:30 bus to Gjiro. What I didn't know is that the 2:30 bus is THE LAST BUS OUT OF SARANDA. I arrived at the empty bus station around 3. Fantastic. I could either go back to Ksamil and try again on Christmas or wait for the night bus to Tirana, which passes by Gjirokaster and leaves Saranda at 10.
I really didn't have anything to do at home, so I decided to wait it out. I went to the internet cafe, had dinner, sat in a cafe and read; my parents called. It wasn't so bad, but it really wasn't how I wanted to spend my Christmas eve.
The rest of my Christmas visit to Gjirokaster was fantastic, however. We cooked a gigantic meal and ate at Allan's office, which is pretty 'homey' for an office. We also had some visitors from the US, Courtney's Aunt and Uncle were in town. They're incidentally from Bainbridge and showed me some fun pictures of all the unexpected snow back in Seattle.
Cam, Allan, Chris, Courtney, Alexi, Stephie, Becca, Becky and I before Christmas dinner.
The day after Christmas, we visited the castle and played board games. Chris and Allan taught Becky and I how to play Risk.The prison at the top of Gjirokaster Castle and The view of Gjirokaster from the top of the castle.
I went back to Ksamil for New Years, which I spent with (ok, and stay with me, this is convoluted) my landlord's sister's family. Besnika, my landlord's sister is a teacher at my school and I give private lessons to her daughter, Klea. They've basically taken me in, kind of like a host family. On New Years eve we had a big dinner with baklava for dessert (yum!) and waited until midnight to shoot off fireworks. It was a really low-key new years, but fun.
So, I guess those were the big holiday events. School is back in session now and everything is back to normal. The next big event on my calendar is Katherine's (one of my Osiauri Cluster-mates from Georgia) tentative visit to Albania in February. When I transferred to Albania, she transferred to Romania, so she's in the neighborhood. Other than that, I'm just trying to stay warm!