Elton Skendaj grew up under communist rule in Albania, where there was limited freedom of speech, resources, and access to information.
Despite growing up under repressive authoritarian rule, Elton's curiosity about the world never diminished. Today he is a professor of Peace Studies at Manchester University, researching and teaching students about peace and democracy in post-war societies.
In his conversation with Ahmed, he talks about growing up in Albania, his journey to the United States, and the challenges and perks of being bicultural.
p.s. since the recording of this episode, Dr. Skendaj has joined the faculty at Georgetown University
Albania has witnessed some dramatic social and political changes over the last two decade, however the resilience and resourcefulness of the people have seen the country pick itself up after the downfall of communism and is beginning to thrive. Mass tourism is yet to descend on this European beauty, meaning many of its heritage sites and traditions remain largely intact.
Albanians are resilient, patriotic, welcoming, and friendly. As a visitor, expect to be treated warmly - not just by locals but even by the authorities and the police. In true Albanian tradition, guests are considered to be royalty. If you are invited to visit an Albanian household - and the offer is always likely for any foreigner - you will find the red carpet rolled out for you. Even if you only intend to stay for coffee, expect treats like sweets, pastries, juices, snacks and, of course, Turkish coffee. Some hosts will even bring out a bowl of hot water to bathe the guest’s feet. Albania is not a nation of heavy drinkers by nature, but if patrons at a café believe your presence is worthy of a party, they will go all out to make it a memorable affair in your honor. If this happens, expect a late night with lots of raki and dancing - Albanians love to boogey and are usually delighted when an outsider joins in.