The Boy from Sarandë

I had just spent a hot August-day exploring the ancient ruins of Butrint, one of two World Heritage sites in Albania. Waiting for the ferry to Corfu, I ambled about the streets of the port city Sarandë. Soon, I was accosted by a large, unruly group of local teenagers, asking for money. They were so many, I started to feel uncomfortable. So when the group spotted a more promising prospect, I took the opportunity to sneak away around a corner.

That’s when I met this boy. Sadly, my Albanian was limited to a minimum repertoire of c’kemi, faleminderit, and nuk kuptoj (hello, thank you and I don’t understand, respectively), so we had no common language. Instead, we communicated through drawings in the flower bed and facial expressions. For a long time, we sat on this ledge.

After taking this photo, I offered him a few lekë and a packet of Juicy Fruit. He happily accepted the gum, but to my surprise he declined the money. When I had to return to the main thoroughfare to catch the ferry, he walked ahead and peeked around the corner before smilingly giving me the all-clear.

This was in 1992. He must be a young man now, about 30. Occasionally, I wonder how his life in the new Europe is. You just don’t hear that much from Albania.

I had just spent a hot August-day exploring the ancient ruins of Butrint in southern Albania. Waiting for the ferry to Corfu, I ambled about the streets of the port city Sarandë. Soon, I was accosted by a large, unruly group of local teenagers, asking for money. They were so many, I started to feel uncomfortable. So when the group spotted a more promising prospect, I took the opportunity to sneak away around a corner.

That’s when I met this boy. Sadly, my Albanian was limited to a minimum repertoire of c’kemi, faleminderit, and nuk kuptoj (hello, thank you and I don’t understand, respectively), so we had no common language. Instead, we communicated through drawings in the flower bed and facial expressions. For a long time, we sat on this ledge.

After taking this photo, I offered him a few lekë and a packet of Juicy Fruit. He happily accepted the gum, but to my surprise he declined the money. When I had to return to the main thoroughfare to catch the ferry, he walked ahead and peeked around the corner before smilingly giving me the all-clear.

This was in 1992. He must be a young man now, about 30. Occasionally, I wonder how his life in the new Europe is. You just don’t hear that much from Albania.

14 Responses to “The Boy from Sarandë”

  1. Barbara Weibel 28 August 2010 1810 #

    As I always say, it’s the people we meet that make our travels memorable. It would be fun to go back and try to find him and meet the man he has grown into.

  2. Dave and Deb 29 August 2010 0452 #

    Who Knows, maybe he will see this and get in touch:-)

  3. The people you meet on your travels are ultimately what defines a place and a moment…

  4. Trans-Americas Journey 30 August 2010 0014 #

    What a lovely walk down memory lane! One of the best things about travel are these moments with strangers who stay with us forever.

  5. Kim A. 30 August 2010 2253 #

    Love this story – and the boy with the watermelon.

  6. Anne-Sophie 30 August 2010 2300 #

    Thanks for the nice comments, everyone :)

  7. Lauren Quinn 3 September 2010 1855 #

    Funny how haunting the seemingly smallest interactions can be…

  8. lara dunston 4 September 2010 0017 #

    Hi Anne-Sophie! I’ve just realised I didn’t leave a comment before, I’m so sorry. I remember visiting too! Please forgive me, it’s been a busy month.

    Anyway, just letting you know that judging is underway for the August Grantourismo Comp. We should be announcing the winners later today and posting the September contest details as well on the site http://grantourismotravels.com/ Thanks again for your entry and best of luck!

  9. Tina 23 September 2010 1652 #

    Sweet little story, this.

  10. Richie 9 November 2010 0518 #

    cool. i could use suggestions from bloggers like your self to have my sites right. good info, well developed.

  11. saranda 21 June 2011 1441 #

    hello, the boy in the picture is doing well, he is still in albania. if you want more info let me know

  12. detjon vuria 24 June 2011 1002 #

    i am the boys from saranda in the photos my name is detjon vuria i am 27 yars i livin saranda please kontact

  13. Jonida 25 June 2011 1411 #

    Hi Barbara,my name is Jonida and i was really surprised reading this story because i am the wife of the boy in the picture,he is doing well and he has a little girl.His name is Detjon Vuria and he is 28 years old.If you want to contact him you can find him on Facebook.Respects.

  14. Anne-Sophie Redisch
    Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 June 2011 2101 #

    Hi Detjon and Jonida,

    What fun hearing from you – I’ll send you an e-mail now.

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