May 16, 2012- Day 1 (From the United States to Albania)

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After three planes, four airports, and twenty-four hours of travel we finally made it to Tirana, Albania. The airport was surprisingly modern and spacious and right away I found the people to be very nice and welcoming. The very first person we met gushed about how much he and every other Albanian loved the United States. It was very sweet and refreshing to hear a foreigner speak highly of the US. Our first day consisted of getting settled in the Tirana Backpackers Hostel and then having a walking tour of Tirana’s center, The Blloku. This is the area, under the communist regime, occupied by the government officials. Anyone who was not in the government could not enter, not even their security personnel. Our guide, Tomar Luzati, is a good friend of Lori’s and was extremely knowledgeable about anything and everything regarding Albania. We saw a statue of the nation hero, Skanderbeg, a man who helped Albanians fight against the Turks. He was ultimately defeated, but Hoxha manipulated his legend to make him seem successful to gain patriotic support from the people. Skanderbeg’s real name was Gjergj Kastrioti, and was one of many men captured as a young boy and trained by the Ottomans to lead their army. As a commander in the Ottoman army, he deserted and led Albanian revolts against the Turks, ultimately he was defeated but his legend lives on and he is still hailed as a national hero. We ended our tour across the street from Enver Hoxha’s house, now a restaurant, and met up with the Public Health students. We had a wonderful dinner at Wine Spirit. Cady and I sat next to Erind Murati who has been to the US three times and hopes to go back some day. When we got back to the hostel, Lori abandoned us, after our millionth time telling her it was fine ☺, in favor of her apartment.

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