“Building Bridges” at the Easter Seminar in Albania

This year’s Easter Seminar took place from the 7th till the 13th of April in Durrës, Albania – in a hotel that was situated a mere 5 metres away from the beach. Our member organisation CTarmA – the Aromanians/ Vlachs from Albania, spared neither costs nor troubles to make our stay as pleasant as possible.

Adventurous and loooooong arrivals

The day of arrival was as usual, a little stressful. Not just for the participants who had to be picked up from the airport in Tirana, but especially for the ORGA-Team. In the end it would most probably have been possible for our dear Vlachs from Albania to gather all the participants at this tiny airport with their eyes closed, but this was not tested in the end. Mostly because of security reasons: the risk was simply too high to collide with cars, cows, pedestrians or other kinds of possible and impossible road users.
At the end of the first day nearly all participants had arrived: except for some Austrians (9 altogether!), who were lost somewhere in the depths of the Balkans between Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro; partly for technical reasons, partly because of other problems. A little smelly but otherwise unharmed they arrived two days late in Durrës, where they were already eagerly awaited.

Having arrived at the hotel, the participants were finally able to enjoy the amazing view and ambiance of the hotel and its neighbourhood: a magnificent beachside and of course the sea. What else could you wish for? In dire need of some cooling down, some YEN-beach girls and boys immediately jumped into the (admittedly not very warm) water to enjoy the first swim of the year. Others were however not that enthusiastic about the cold water and jogged instead up and down the beach to show their sporty side – but were not that excited when they were greeted by a wild and barking pack of cute dogs.

No start without an official opening

On the very first day of the seminar, as usual, the official opening took place. All the present participants, the ORGA-Team and of course our YEN-board hit the road to the capital city of Albania towards the “Tirana International Hotel” to officially open this year’s Easter Seminar. Not just with speeches, but also with very interesting discussions about Vlach culture, rights, visibility, assimilation and their organisations. Some of the guest speakers were from the EU delegation to Albania and also a Human Rights NGO.

Workshops are great fun

The risk for sunburn would have been too darned high, had there been no workshops at this year’s Easter Seminar. Therefore a great number of trainers were ordered to Albania, to curb the limitless curiosity and enthusiasm of the large herd of participants. For the first time these YENies were not forced to choose between the various workshops because – what an amazing new idea – everyone had to take part in each workshop, so that no one felt disadvantaged or privileged (which of course extinguished every single spark of jealousy or other side-eying that could’ve started discord). Smart thinking!

One of these workshops was ‘Intercultural Learning’, where the participants had the task to create a flashlight, but discovered after mere seconds that they didn’t have enough parts. The objective was to share or trade, showing that minorities have less resources than majorities and therefore need each other to reach a certain goal.
In another workshop, ‘Advocacy’, the participants learned how to actually get to that goal through the way of politics. When in politics, one must of course know how to speak (some lesser optimistic folks would say sweet-talk) to the audience, so they will not only stay awake while one speaks, but even take their time to actually listen. In the workshop ‘Communicating’ and ‘Public Speaking’, our dear YENies learned how to do just that. They were taught what factors are important for communicating and how active listening works, but also that they would need some expertise, humour and enthusiasm in their talks if they wanted to keep the audience from wishing they were somewhere else. Somehow the magical trainers knew how to bring in a rope and a triangle to make the participants work even faster in fear of sunburn…

Ex Ex Exchange market

What would a YEN-event be without an Exchange Market?! No one would know the unofficial YEN anthem “Gas gas gas”, no one would own a lighter from the Burgenland-Croatian Dan Mladine Festival, hardly anyone would know what that famous green magic is all about, the cold potatoes would have been the only thing our stomach had to digest and our laptops would be much less colourful without all the diverse stickers from our members. Plus, YEN’s water consumption would be much smaller the days after.

Once again the Exchange Market offered a variety of culinary delicacies from all around Europe – nevertheless, a couple of Newbies had to leave a bit earlier in order to to be fit and ready for the excursion the next day. Because pictures are worth more than a thousand words, we have some impressions of this legendary evening:


Ex Ex Excursion

From time to time even the participants need some fresh air to have a rest from all those exertions they have to experience because of those big bad trainers. That’s why Monday was Excursion Day! All YENies, some a little later than others, hopped on the bus on the way to Berat – easily to be confused with Borat, but we have to assure you that this is a different thing entirely.
Berat is an old town situated in the heart of Albania, and is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage site. After arriving in this nice little town, most of the YENies first needed a little break and the groups had to organise themselves. But afterwards the guided tour through the city centre and the castle of Berat finally started, showing awe-struck participants narrow and old streets and alleys, but also a pleasantly cool old Albanian mosque. After that the participants begrudginglyhad to get physically active while making their way up to the castle. This day proved to be summerishly warm, which was quite unexpected after the participants had gone through some quite fresh and windy Albanian nights close to the sea.

After enjoying the beautiful view from the castle on the top of the hill and of course snapping some great pictures, the excursion continued on its way to a local winery. The participants got the chance to taste different wines from the beautiful region around Berat, far away from the concrete jungle of the capital. Equipped with small provisions for the home trip, the young people arrived back in the resort, where one or the other waiter kept having trouble giving them back exact change…

Time to say goooodbye…

Those people that weren’t completely exhausted after full days like these, had the chance to to show off their inner Elvis during the Rock Night or that their hips don’t lie at the Latin Night. For those that weren’t that much into dancing, one evening offered the possibility to enjoy a nice and cozy time at a bonfire on the beach, where one could simply lay back and listen to Aromanian songs and enjoy the atmosphere.
But in the end, this week was over faster than expected, and by that time everyone had already grown attached to the slightly lukewarm morning coffees at the beach. But then the sad time to say goodbye came upon us, to the dismay of many. But thankfully we didn’t just pack our smelly and smokey clothes, but also some sun, many memories and some spades of sand here and there. With this, we went on our merry way home, where for some of us, Easter already awaited us.

Many thanks to our organisers and supporters, for yet another amazing seminar in the history of YEN.

Facebook Album: click here