Soka Gakkai in Tirana

Yesterday, I hosted the first-ever Buddhist meeting held in Tirana. There were eight of us – two Albanian Buddhists who learned about Buddhism from friends or relatives in Italy, an Italian man and his wife who live in Macedonia, a Japanese woman studying in Montenegro, the sister of one of the Albanians, an Albanian guy whom we’re teaching about the practice, and myself. We discussed our experiences in encountering Buddhism, and it was actually affecting to hear the two Albanians talk about how long they’d waited for this day. One of them has practiced alone, in a small village outside the city of Vlorë, for 11 years. Coincidentally, 24 August is the anniversary that the President of the SGI, Daisaku Ikeda, began to practice Buddhism, so the day had a particular significance.

Encounters and updates

First off, I promise to have the photos from our Croatia trip up in the next week or so – assuming I don’t fly off to London for a “dental evacuation.” We get one such trip out of country for dental problems that cannot be fixed in-country, and the dentists I’ve seen here still haven’t been able to solve the tooth sensitivity I’ve been having since April. In particular, one of my teeth hurts whenever I put pressure on it. I’ve had an old filling replaced twice, but the problem won’t go away; the next step may be to seek help from what is presumably a better-trained, better-equipped dentist someplace else.

In general, I have to wonder about dental care in Albania. There seems to be a dental clinic on every other corner; and while some of them are shiny and full of clean equipment, a few look to be little more than a barber’s chair and a drill. Moreover, tooth care among the aged is not good; I’ve had a few conversations with old men who are nearly unintelligible since they have all of three teeth in their heads (or they’re a bit drunk, or both).

Today Abby and I walked Cooper in the park, and as we made our way we began seeing dogs that we knew, and they began to follow us; and after Abby left, some other dogs recognized Cooper and me, and joined the pack. At one point, Cooper and I were in the woods, surrounded by 13 relatively large dogs. It was thrilling, and not necessarily in a good way – I’d seen how they can turn on one another without apparent notice – so I kept my eyes open.

The photography continues. I’ve begun taking photos of rehearsals for a young film director whom I met; he’s staging his first play and wants to document the process. I borrowed a friend’s digital camera for the first session, and as much as I love film, I have to say that for high-volume shooting, digital is fantastic, so I’ve ordered my own (a Nikon D300). Still, I’m trying to master film, and to learn to shoot according to the “sunny 16” rule without looking at the light meter, so I’m going to be burning through a lot of rolls over the next few months.