Ralph Shinogle joined the Peace Corps and took off for Albania as a soon-to-be volunteer. Several days later he found himself in a very toasty basement room—amidst energetic chatter (indecipherable) and swelling curiosity. This was his  new host family: his new mom and dad, his new brother, sister, and grandma. Over the next several months he would become a part of their family.

After these three months arranged around intensive training and with some Albanian under his belt, Mr. Shinogle found himself on the go again, this time a seven hour bus ride south to meet his new home of two years, Himara.

Himara is a petite community sandwiched between the Ceraunian Mountains and the Ionian Sea. The mountains in effect create an intense barrier, delineating the community as more of an island than a piece of a larger whole, geographically and culturally.

For this unique setting, was selected to work at the at the Municipality of Himara in the Office of Urban Planning and Development with other other architects and engineers.

As is especially typical in small communities, Peace Corps volunteers have two sets of responsibilities; directly, Mr. Shinogle worked in the Urban Planning Office as an architect. Indirectly, as a liaison of the United States, to integrate with the community. This happened quickly as Shinogle found himself filling ad hoc roles such as a photographer at a baptism, teaching English classes, or helping businesses with translation.

Upon further integration his office and community work often conjoined as Shinogle found himself leading an initiative to cleanup the abundant trash in the community while receiving a grant from USAID to further it. With the community's involvement he assembled an exhibition highlighting developmental problems facing Himara while taking steps to improve the library.

By the end of his two years, Shinogle found saying farewell to the many friendships he had built rather difficult. Doubtfully he will ever live again in a communist officer's apartment with a wood stove to fight the winter, or take a Saturday to visit a remote village and buy enough honey to make his back ache from carrying it home.