Up until a year ago, it was a country with promise. Recently released from the constraints of communism and years of oppression, Albania looked toward a growing future with capitalism. Teenagers embraced the music of Michael Jackson and Madonna, while the leaders welcomed the teaching of English, western business and agriculture.
For a country that boasted an average income of $120(1) a year, hard work and the acceptance of the influences of their wealthier neighboring nations obviously looked to be able to open doors to more comfortable living. But so did the prospect of a high-risk pyramid scheme that many Albanians put all of their savings into.
With the failure of the investments, some of which Albanians had bet on with their houses, Albania is now in decay. Civil war has broken out while citizens blame the government for encouraging the investments, and then not being able to pay what is deserved. Many have responded with a violent rebellion.
Relatively unknown to Americans before, reports of violence fill the media almost everyday now in mediums ranging from CNN to local newspapers. Although most Americans view the news as remote, some see it as the destruction of what was once a home.
Melissa Stookey was a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania. Suela Kapollari is an Albanian exchange student living in Wyoming now. Here are excerpts of their experiences.