Neither is destiny or desire or matters of the heart. But I find answers are what people want.
When I moved back to the U.S. in 2005 I found myself doing one of two things:
1. Hiding out wondering how on earth I would ever adapt to being an American again.
2. Talking non-stop about my travels, especially a little country called Albania.
I love saying “Albania” and then waiting for the reaction.
Albania, (especially in 2000when I first moved there) is not exactly a well known place. It’s about the size of Delaware and it’s been hidden treasure since forever. When I first heard about Albania was during the Kosovo Crisis. The campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was initiated by Serbian forces and hundreds of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
In August of 2000 I landed in the capital city of Tirana with my dream of volunteering in an orphanage. Upon arriving I moved into the state-run orphanage and over the next few months I observed kids, ages 5-18, raising themselves. I had always wanted to see what really goes on in orphanages and I wanted to learn what the long term affects were. What I would find out is that you can’t understand these issues at a safe distance. You have to see the good, the bad and the ugly.
I had to get my heart broken.
And I know I barely scratched the surface. It’s not easy to get the stories, the details, the truth out of anyone. The kids are like walled cities – they aren’t letting anyone in because then no one can hurt them again. The Albanians don’t want to talk about the situation, it’s considered “shameful” in the culture. The non-profit organizations don’t have a clue because they huddle in board rooms and discuss finances more than kids. (I know there are some that mean well, but it’s just the nature of the beast.)
I can tell you this though, there are millions of children around the world who raise themselves, and what’s worse than the lack they live in, is the pain in their hearts. That haunting cloud that hovers. That one unanswered question that overshadows their lives, why did my parents abandon me? It’s prevalent. The feeling of rejection is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
And for the last 11 years I’ve been inspired by these children.
I’ve been determined to go back.
I’ve been set on finding a way to contribute.
And for 11 years I’ve been asked what was so great about Albania. I’ve been asked why I want to go back. I never really felt I had an answer that would make sense to someone that hadn’t been there but today the answer came to me…
I left Albania, but Albania never left me.
Hungry for More, A. Monika
p.s. If there are typos, spelling or grammar mistakes in this post don’t worry about. Those are the kinds of things I’ve worried about for FAR too long. It’s time to just get it out and who cares if it’s not perfect, it’s from the heart!