Easier: It was easier than I’d imagined getting them to stretch themselves with some assignments that were really new for them. They were quite game and willing to take risks.
Hard: Overcoming the translation challenges was trickier than I’d anticipated. When a translator translated the speeches, the students had a hard time with the interruption. Rich and I are used to it but speakers not used to translation tend to look at the translator too much, wait too long, and lose steam in the gaps. For one speech, the translator stood with them and interrupted throughout. For the next one he sat and whispered loudly to the four English speakers, which proved too distracting to the speakers. For another, he gave a summary at the end of each speech. It was never perfect, but we made it work.
Harder: Students in Albania tend to be taught via rote memorization and regurgitation of content, and so meta-level thinking such as evaluating the logical flow or creativity level of a peer’s speech was new to them. Evaluation mostly consisted of stating the content they most liked from each other’s speeches. The requirement to sell each other an object as something different than the object itself was for the most part ignored—they enthusiastically sold the items as they were. Changing an item’s identity required a type of lateral thinking which they are not accustomed to doing.
We leave Albania with profound respect for the missionaries and nationals who are pouring themselves out to seek the welfare of this land. We met gifted nurses, teachers, and pastors. We leave sobered by the task that lies ahead for the church, entrepreneurs, and the government to build cultures and systems that will enable people to flourish. And we leave thankful for a chance to invest in a few of those people.