Albania is still recovering from 40 years of communism, and the government is really trying hard to become like the rest of the EU and the US. Sadly, without proper checks and balances in place yet, the government is still corrupt and lack the trust needed for good governing. Paying and accepting bribes are a common practice here in Albania. When we went to the customs area (Dogana) to retrieve our items, it took three days of jumping through hoops and running around town in order to avoid paying a bribe to receive our stuff. We were sent to various places and agencies throughout the city to get documents signed, copied, notarized, and translated only to return to the office with these things in hand to find out we need more.
This three-day escapade became quite exhausting and was really unnecessary. There were times I wanted to pull out my hair (what little left there is) and pull out the hair of others. When we finally did receive our stuff there was great relief and a sense of accomplishment. I was later told that much of this bureaucracy could have been avoided were I to have paid a simple bribe of 5000 leke ($50 USD) or more and be done with it. As a result of choosing not to pay the bribe, we were put through the ringer. It would have been so much easier to just pay the bribe. But this lesson taught me to be patient, practice self-control, and keep on persevering, because I knew eventually I would receive our stuff. After all, it is just "stuff" right? No. It is also our memories, our livelihood, and what little left we have of our home away from home.
I am reminded of Peter's words about perseverance and self-control and how it correlates to our faith and love.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)