During my excursion around the Mediterranean and parts of Europe, I discovered a lot of cultures that were unlike my own. Though many interested me, the event that truly stuck was the day my family and I went to Sarandë, Albania. Translated to Saranda, I primarily traveled around the beaches and the town. Since this was a cruise for my family, we arrived at the port around eleven in the morning of May twenty-third and left around two in the afternoon. It was a place that truly tested my comfortability around a new culture, however, the reason for going on this excursion was to learn about the different cultures and how they are affected by the world around them.
Prior to going on the trip, my father explained in small detail about each place with pictures to follow. I was astounded by the beautiful landscape of Sarandë along with the incredible structures and houses. The nightlife of Sarandë was a huge place for tourists, and a lot of young people were shown in the images. I learned that many people traveled to this area to visit the Lëkurësi castle, along with the ruins that are outside the city. The population, however, I had learned was very different from that of American culture. There was a significant gap between the upper class and the lower class, and there was no in between. The photographs I had seen and the documents I had read prior explained that the area I was visiting was high into sex trafficking and prostitution. It wasn't until I arrived where I fully experienced why these articles that sounded like they were exaggerating the issue were surprisingly understating the epidemic.
While touring the city, I soon learned that Albania had only left communism twenty-eight years prior. I realized that when communism had fallen, the economy had fully collapsed and has since struggled to improve. Sex trafficking and prostitution were the main sources of income from lower class families while the people in the upper class maintained their businesses. The main income for a lot of other people are the tourists that travel to visit the castle and the ruins previously mentioned. Not only was the economy suffering, but the largest amount of people homeless are refugees from the Middle East, many of which are from Syria. A lot of refugees put themselves into sex trafficking or make a living off of begging when tourists or others pass them by. It was the beggars where I noticed that the belief of Albanian people having an economic crisis was based on the fall of communism. I noticed the difference of class primarily of the way people were dressed. Many men directing construction were wearing suits while only ten feet away from them, a family of beggars was hardly wearing clothes. Many children who appeared to be refugees were naked laying in their mother's laps. A huge example of the difference was one moment a man with expensive watches was trying to sell one to me, and the next moment a naked young girl was asking me for money. I grew uncomfortable with the fact that a child was not wearing anything to cover herself. I wanted to help her, but at that time I had been instructed by the ship's crew not to carry any money on me. In another instance, a young girl who had been sitting on half a wall had seen my brother carrying bottled water and pointed at his drink. It was a hot day out, and I noticed that the girl had then pointed at her mouth. It was then where my brother realized she was not asking for money, and he had proceeded to give her the entire bottle. The moment had been very moving for me, because her survival was at stake, and we had been leisurely walking around with something that determined whether this young girl would die of dehydration or not. In another case, I felt most uncomfortable when a man with an amputated arm approached my family as we were leaving to go back to the cruise ship. His body had been covered by a shirt, but when he approached us he raised his singular arm and showed us where his arm had once been. He then proceeded to ask for money and followed us for quite some time. It shocked me how little health benefits he had, and how difficult it probably was for him to get a job with only a singular arm. My belief was that since the area was primarily based on tourism and architecture, he would probably struggle in both. At the end of the day, my thoughts about Albania had flipped primarily because the entire experience had upset me and changed my entire aspect of all developing countries and how different they are from America.
When researching about Albania before leaving for this trip, I had believed all the beautiful pictures I had seen on the Internet. Now, I learned not to trust the Internet as well when trying to discover a certain area. A key aspect I feel I have learned from the most was the difference between survival in America and in Albania. America's poverty is a lot different than Albania because while America has resources for the homeless, those in Albania have no shelter. While touring around the city of Sarandë, I noticed a group of children playing soccer together. While they were hardly clothed, they seemed to be smiling and laughing. As my family left to return to the port, these children seemed to be trying to make the most out of their terrible circumstances. Their childhood was different than the childhoods of Americans, but they still seemed to be making the most out of their unfortunate conditions. This made me feel that on a professional level, children can be going through very similar issues as the children that I saw playing soccer together. Families struggle no matter where they are in the world, and it is important to keep in mind the hardships they face. With this, although they can be struggling, it is best to keep in mind that these children had a form of intelligence that some people may be blind to. The young girl spoken about knew the bottle of water was something she needed, and her way of communicating with someone who was English speaking was through pointing. The children knew how to get money from people passing by, and were intelligent enough to figure out how. Though I will never be able to compare to the challenges these people face on a daily basis, I feel I must be grateful for the things I have such as food, clean water, and a home.