May 17, 2012- Day 2 (Fanatics)


May 17, 2012

We had our first class today. We talked about identity and ethnicity. Identity is a social/group concept that cannot exist without the group. A person cannot have an identity by themselves because people are divided and grouped by common traits and ideals that they share with others thus giving them their identities. The unfortunate side effect of identity, is that they ALWAYS exclude something: short OR tall, male OR female, old OR young, and these exclusions can lead to conflict and violence between the included and the excluded.

After our class we went to the ARCT (Albanian Rehabilitation Center for Trauma and Torture Victims). We met with the Executive Director of the center, Adrian Kati, and he shared his life story with us (he told us about his family’s exile and his father and uncle’s executions) and shared a little about what they do at the center. Their goal is “PREVENTING TORTURE AND PROMOTING A SOCIAL CHANGE” -ARCT Webpage
They do this by:

  • Advocating and lobbying for legislative changes that help to improve the conditions in places of detention and reduce the risk of torture and ill-treatment.
  • Providing monitoring, documentation of torture and ill-treatment, focusing both on legal and medical aspects; watch dog activities, education, and individual representation to the most vulnerable people deprived of their liberty.
  • Empowering hundreds of existing and new torture victims every year by informing them of their legal rights through visits, expertise, as well as by developing and distributing information in print.
  • And much more… (

After the ARCT visit we went to visit with a representative from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), Fiorentina, she spoke with us about what their Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights does. They “promote democratic elections, respect for human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and the rule of law” in their 56 participating states. (
After our meeting we spent another hour and a half just talking with each other, clearing up unfamiliar terms and organizations and being quietly outraged for the people who Fiorentina told us about. During this extra talk, people periodically poked their heads in the door, looked around, and left without saying anything. I thought it was rather strange, maybe some Albanian custom of checking-in, and tried valiantly to ignore them. Finally, Fiorentina came back in and informed us that there was a meeting scheduled to start in like five minutes in the room in which we were currently overstaying our welcome, and that had been the reason people kept looking in.
So we left, and decided to walk back instead of taking a taxi. Right outside the hotel our meeting was in we encountered some very boisterous fellows decked out in blue and white. They were chanting something and waving their arms about in a uniform fashion so I wasn’t too worried that they were up to no good. They turned out to be very excited football (soccer) fans who were pumping themselves up for the big game later. Fearlessly, Lori walked up to one of them and asked him what all the hubbub was about and somehow finagled our way into a group photo with them. It was a supremely awesome experience with them chanting all around us and jumping up and down. Little did I know that this was not to be an isolated event, and that we would have many more impromptu, fun experiences.
Our walk ended at Efendy’s, a turkish restaurant owned by one of Lori’s good friends. There we had a wonderful dinner of some unrecognizable but delicious foods. After, and sort of during, dinner we met with some more students in Albania. It was a forum organized with the National Democratic Institute- Albania, and was designed to bridge the gap between American and Albanian students and to form a connection between them. I spoke to many wonderful people and there were lots of laughs and good times were had by all.

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