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Tirana

Episode 4 of 5

Joanna Robertson on how after the fall of communism in their country Albanians tried to buy dreams of wealth, only for them to be ruined by pyramid schemes.

Joanna Robertson is a journalist and mother who has lived in five foreign countries, where she has observed that local shopping habits tell you a lot about the place. In these Essays, she argues that when people go shopping, they don't just purchase goods, they also buy into something else. Joanna Robertson takes us shopping and explores these ulterior motives and what they reveal about the residents of five cities: Rome, New York, Berlin, Tirana and Joanna's current home, Paris.

In Tirana, after the fall of Communism, people dream of buying luxuries and achieving the kind of wealth they've seen on Italian TV. They buy and sell what they can, and are inventive about ways to make money, particularly in the main square. Someone takes their bathroom scales and charges customers ten lek a go to weigh themselves. Whole families come and see it as a treat. But when virtually the entire nation tries to finance its dreams of wealth through pyramid schemes, the dreams turn into nightmares. In the town of Gramsh, virtually all that remains for sale - are guns.

Producer: Arlene Gregorius.

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15 minutes

Music Played

  • Pauline Oliveros

    Greetings

Photo of food store in Rome's Trastevere area by Felix Semyonov

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