Tuesday, November 30, 2010

problem solving

at its best.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

happy thanksgiving!

Happy thanksgiving!!! i saw this and thought it was funny, maybe because i'm a vegetarian?? I miss you all and hope you have a wonderful day with family, friends and good food! I'll be thinking of you!

I'm going to tirana tomorrow to spend the holiday with new pc staff and pcvs. then off to burrell for another turkey day celebration with other volunteers! it will be themed, i think im going to go as Pocahontas, so look for pics!

miss and love you all!

edit: a pic from our turkey day

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

here is an example of why

you have to be on your toes at all times in albania. in america if you are going to serve on a panel in front of a large audience, television crew with the mayor and the head of vodafone albania, you would not only KNOW that that was going to occur, but you would have a speech prepared...this may not make sense so ill elaborate a bit...
here is a timeline of events a la '24' (tv show):
Friday, 3PM  i receive a text asking me if i would attend a meeting on monday for special olympics (an event i partook in over the summer)
Friday, 4PM i agree to come to the MEETING
Saturday-Sunday at a leadership/ environmental conference in Elbasan
Monday, 6AM wake up and take furgon to Tirana
9AM barely make bus to lezhe
1045 drop off oversized backpack to local pharmacist because i don't have time to go back to my house (meaning also no time to shower, change or brush teeth)
11 arrive at meeting.
1101, i realize that 'holy crap this is a huge community presentation'
1105, im asked to say a few words in shqip about my experience
1106 mayor, and camera crews enter conference room.
1107 i notice a table in the front of the room complete with standing name plaques of panel participants
1108 im beckoned up to the front of the room--im currently furiously writing my speech trying to remember the past tense for enjoyed in albanian
1109 i realize that MY NAME IS ONE OF THE NAMES ON THE PANEL TABLE...what??!!!...IM A PANEL MEMBER?!!!!!!
1110 mayor makes eloquent speech
1111 heart thumping, i stand up and start speaking (with a video camera and crew in my face, i don't think they've figured out the zoom function yet). i say something about being a volunteer, living in lezhe and that it was one of my best volunteering experiences not only in  albania but in my lifetime....blah blah blah say something in english, then sit down. 
1135, i walk out of the building and a few tears escape my lids. not because i had done badly or that i was even sad, but simply because public speaking is a fear of mine, but public speaking in shqip is my worst nightmare.  

so yea things work a little differently here! but it was good practice and i have learned an important lesson: never attend a meeting without proper grooming, you may end up on TV!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holy moly

119 views in one day!! That's a new record! Thank you all for checking in:o)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

current volunteers were

asked to give advice to the incoming group! here is what i came up with (i figured i would post it in case there are pcv-ers looking at my blog who are not going to albania): I was one of those people who never read the “Advice from Volunteers” section of the "Welcome Book" before coming to Albania. I remember sitting at staging in Philadelphia with eight other trainees, as a discussion of packed items commenced. One girl began with “obviously you brought a sleeping bag right? And you did weigh your luggage before you left? Seasonings? Or seeds to plant herbs? At the VERY LEAST you have an external hard drive? NO EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE”?!With every utterance of baggage contents I felt less and less prepared to take on the two years abroad. Trying to defend my ill prepared self, I mumbled, “It would have been nice to have a G13 facebook group”. The table fell silent for a moment. Then one by one I began hearing “You didn’t join the facebook group”?!
I shrugged and sputtered something like “oh I must have missed it”. I walked away from that conversation feeling absolutely deflated, thinking I should just cash in my ticket and take a small vacation. But I didn’t give up and when I arrived in Albania, I realized that yes, a sleeping bag is very necessary and that a hard drive would have been divine, but you get one sent or adopt one from a volunteer and life goes on. My best advice is to enjoy the time you have with your family, friends and good food (food is rather bland over here). Chances are if you’ve come this far in the application process you are going to do great things!  I can say without a doubt that the most important tools you possess cannot be found in that 100-pound, gorilla suitcase of yours.
Now that I’ve gotten my philosophical cheesiness out of the way, I’ll give-way to those type A-ers out there. You know who you are. Probably skimming this paragraph, looking for a checklist of items to bring while thinking “but really what do I bring to Albania”?
Here is a quick list I’ve compiled- durable shoes (my shoes came here to die), a sleeping bag that packs down, a smaller backpack for weekend trips, a flash light, tide to go pen/tide packets for host family life, pictures of family. If you like planners buy one (they are hard to find out here), winter jacket, cards (UNO), head lamp (power outages), lotion (expensive), pocketknife, duct tape, ipod touch (by no means necessary but its great for checking an email on the go/ taking photos/videos/ stores music etc). Plenty of socks (wool and exercise), underwear, magnets -I hate a naked fridge, travel towel, camera, jump rope, resistance band, workout videos (I use to make fun of them too), new running shoes, flip-flops for shower time/ summer, hair dryers for the winter (girls, or guys with flowing locks), warm sweats and lots of layers. If you have a Mac computer, and plan on doing presentations with projectors get a ‘mini display port to vga adapter’. I also bought an 'on the go charger' that has all attachments one could yearn for and if you own something you want to charge and the attachment doesn’t come with it, the company will send it for free. There are also discounts available to you (on backpacks etc) as a PCV, do research and ask around! 
Girls-bring those blazers, pencil skirts, scarves, nice slacks, cute flats, one pair of heels etc. Women dress to impress here. You might think I’m crazy for the first three months but when you get to your permanent site and go to an office everyday you will see what I mean.
Plug adapters for albania are two-pronged; if you have a choice between thicker two-prongs and thinner two-prongs, go for the latter.
One of my daily annoyances is that I deal with change all day everyday. My first wallet here was more bill than coin friendly. It’s a little thing, but if you have a change pouch in your wallet you will be better off.
One last thing, I remember being extremely nervous about living with a host family. I was literally shaking while walking up to greet my host mom. I had planned on introducing myself in Albanian; instead I blanked, laughed nervously and stared inquisitively while saying “Jennifer”. Can you say awkward? Excuse me stranger, I’m just going to put my fifty pounds worth of luggage in this room… and yup I’ll be here for the next three months!! I’m not going to lie, the first Sunday of host family stay was the longest day of my life.  But it gets easier and one day you wake up and are able to say “I’m hungry.  Me going to school now. Cold”. A few weeks after that you’ll walk in the house and think “hey guys I’m home, what’s for dinner”? My host family has become just plain family. They illustrated the feelings were mutual when I was invited to all aspects of my host brother’s three-day wedding—I even helped dress the bride!  When I need support and family time, I go visit them. They are wonderful people and with any luck you will have a similar experience!

Paç Fat (good luck)!

No this isn't me, stole it from a blog. tehe.

Eeek. I’m sorry I’ve neglected you!

 But I HAVE an excuse…sly nudge of foot…I’m busy! I have a few new projects up and running that I’d like to tell you about…
Today we are having another breast cancer information session, fully equipped with a translated self-breast exam video! This presentation- unlike last month- is geared towards the Roma community (minority population in Albania). Bardha (the oncologist I worked with for the BC walk) and I are teaming up with Laura and her counterpart to make things happen! I’ll let you know how it goes.
Later today I have a meeting with World Vision (an NGO in Lezhe) to launch a new project. Next week we will be visiting a local high school, asking a group of students to create and distribute a survey gauging current problems with their school. Questions will hopefully include, what change in infrastructure/resources would you like to see if you had a grant to do so (think new library, school yard, heat etc)? We will then select a smaller group of students to collect and analyze the questionnaire data. From there the students will learn how to write a project proposal/ grant for the desired project. We will help them create a project cycle timeline in addition to researching and applying for funding sources ( these include NGO's in Lezhe, local business and banks). The project will conclude with the implementation of the proposed project. I think this project perfectly exemplifies the saying "BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE"! I am super stoked about this project and cannot wait to hear the ideas the students come up with, as I am continually impressed with the youth of this country.
Yesterday I had a meeting with the Mayor and Special Olympics staff. We are going to have events and activities for the Special Olympics contestants (from Lezhe) leading up to the actual event in June. Having been a volunteer for Special Olympics this past summer, I’m looking forward to offering suggestions on how to improve the event, as well as working with team Lezhe! *As a side note during this meeting an employee from the Bashkia (think city hall) went on this 30-minute diatribe about the importance of preserving the pure Albanian language (after a Special Olympics representative used a Turkish word). He began spewing examples of Turkish words that have infiltrated the Albanian language. I piped in and offered the Turkish saying “avash, avash” which means slowly, slowly, or with time and the people sitting next to me were shocked. They stared suspiciously and said, “you understand”? HAHA. Point 1 for Jen, woot.
Lastly on Friday, Laura and I are taking three high school students to an Outdoor Ambassadors leadership conference in Elbasan (we are both OA shadow committee members). I’m really looking forward to getting to know our girls better! Not to mention it is an incredible opportunity for them. We are hoping this fuels our official kick-off to our local Outdoor Ambassador club (OA).

Word. Well I have to go work now, sigh. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 12, 2010

pa vize (without visa)

This week marks a historic victory for Albania.-citizens can travel anywhere in Europe without a visa! This may seem like 'no biggie' to those of us born and bread in the US. We take the ability to travel anywhere, anytime--with few exceptions and monetary constraints--as a birth given right. For Albanians this was not the case for nearly a century, having been a closed communist society, followed by a democratic society with a plethora of travel restrictions. in order to study, live, work or travel abroad, they had to endure a stringent application process. if one had the opportunity to study abroad, he or she would have to apply months in advance, fill out paperwork (more than i did applying for college), pay fees, visit the ministry in tirana, notarize documents and battle through red tape and hoops.  my friend fatjon (pronounce fat-e-on...not fat-john, although that would be cool) was accepted into a prestigious international relations program in Spain. He jumped the hoops, applied on time, and was still denied the proper visa when it came time for him to move. Luckily he was able to rectify the situation (for a pretty penny) but others were not so lucky. thus this feat is truly a momentous occasion for Shqiperia.

the opportunity to travel the world and see cultures, religions, infrastructure and governmental institutions different from their own may inspire Albanians to make some changes at home (i.e. trash problems, womans rights etc). i know from personal experience that being away from home both confounds and confirms my own ideals and beliefs. i know i will be a greater contributer to society (in america) once i return from my volunteer experience abroad. in my opinion, this a monumental step forward for Albania.

tonight there will be a celebration in tirana, i will not be able to attend (i'm going to visit my host family). if i get my hands on some pictures i will post them!

here is a better written article on the visa liberalization if you're so inclined visa visa

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

i decided to make a video

from yesterdays grammar scavenger hunt. the filming is horrible (i was more concentrated on teaching than shooting) and the overall product is "wonderfully cheesy" as laura put it. but what is life without cheese? without cheese there would be no burritos. without burritos there would be no good mexican food. without good mexican food there would be no california, or mexico. eeekk who could survive in such a world?! 

For your daily dose of bad camera angles and cheese put that mouse HERE
NOTE: due to another project in lezhe most of our students are notably absent.

health (primary assignment) activities

I was asked to describe some of the health activities i have run thus far--here is a quick list!

Activity One (pst)-Began the lesson on Drunk Driving with a pre-test (to see how much the students knew at the beg. of the lesson). Delivered powerpoint on the dangers of drunk driving, later we had the students come up and put on a pair of sunglasses that were covered in vaseline. we asked the students to juggle three balloons. the objective of this activity was to simulate drunk driving...and it was pretty entertaining.We ended with a post-test.
Activity two (pst)- with kindergardeners we talked about germs and the ways in which you can get germs. we showed the transfer of germs threw hand shaking/ high fives (amiee drew a great picture of a germ and taped it to our hands) i initiated the chain reaction, i displayed my germ infested hand, then shook brea's hand who then showed her germ-y hand, who then shook amiee's hand etc. after that we put vaseline on all of the students hands, and coffee (germs) on four of the students hands. we had the children shake each other's hands until all of the kids had germs/coffee. then we brought in our water filter and soap and had all of the kids wash their hands for thirty seconds.
Activity three- sun exposure (my site is located near the beach), power point followed by activity in which i had made different sun accessories (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc) and a picture of a woman. i read aloud scenarios--jane is going to the beach, what should she bring, and had the participants place different items on the model. afterwards we discussed which items would be necessary in order to protect oneself from sun damage. 
Activity four- breast cancer, march to create awareness, powerpoint, had oncologist speak about breast cancer and how to perform a self-breast exam. had breast models in different stages of cancer (different sized lumps) so that the woman could practice doing a self exam on the models and recognize what a lump feels like. 
Activity five-done with high school girls, talking about mental health, showed a clip of mean girls and proceeded to talk about self esteem and ways in which you can cope with different situations

Here are some pics of the aforementioned activities

one woman at the sun exposure activity decided to be the model for our accessories! 

 drunk driving- balloons-girl pictured is wearing vaseline glasses, very disorienting
  hand wash activity 
teaching dance
 germ activity, playing catch-demonstrating different ways to spread germs
Breast Model 

Monday, November 8, 2010

my current facebook status

spent four hours last night without power--assuming it was a citywide power outage-- I read by flashlight and ate sprinkles. Around 9 PM I got real hungry so I walked outside and realized my landlords house (five feet away) had power...fml.

sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself :)

weekly english class

Above is a pic of me and a few of my students

I'm not sure if  I've mentioned that Laura and I teach a weekly english class to ten high school students. It has quickly become something i look forward to each week. The students are really awesome and I think they enjoy our creative ways of teaching (creative thinking is routinely discouraged in Albanian schools). As the weeks go by, I can see the students being more comfortable with one another and they have begun to let loose--being silly and allowing themselves to be creative while learning english. I thought I would share some of the activities that have been successful with our group for all of you TFL-ers/teachers out there!

Activity one- boggle, don't know what that is? click here. it was a fun way to expand vocabulary and to see what words our students already know. It also presented an opportunity to differentiate between words that sound similar/ have similar meanings.
Activity two- Rihanna is veryyy popular here, so I took one of her songs with a positive message, and had them take a look at the lyrics. We discussed the overall message and the use of imagery and metaphors to express the feelings of the artist. After we listened to the song ( I took one of those youtube videos that have the song and lyrics). The students enjoyed the song more so, when they understood what the artist was trying to convey.
Activity three- Playing store--we had students go up in pairs (one playing the store keeper and the other the customer) to act out a store transaction, including greetings, questions of merchandise, pricing, bargaining, availability etc. One student would inevitably 'buy' a product (stapler, books, sunscreen etc) and the next group would go up and act out the same scenario. This activity was facilitated in order to create a real-life situation they might find themselves in if they were to live in the states ( a lot of the students aspire to working and studying abroad), as well as expansion of vocabulary.
Name games- good first day activity, my name is jumping jen, while i jump, or happy henry while he smiles. Tying an adjective or verb that starts with the first letter of your name Jen starts with J so does the verb jump,  and an action that goes with the verb, physically jumping. Have everyone introduce themselves in this fashion, then have all of the students go around and say each others name/word/action. Its a great way to learn names, repetition equals success in the terms of long term potentiation. 
Activity five- We have a problem with students and the copying of ideas, so we tried this-- We assigned all of the students to come into class with one word they really liked in english (something that sounds funny--jello, juggle). When they came in we wrote all of the words  they came up with on the board, and had the group break up into groups of two. Then we had them make up a story using all of the words on the board. When you have words like monkey, baby and flower, stories are bound to be creative!
Activity Six- Plot graph/ dramatic structure  dénouement we demonstrated this idea using a local legend, Rozafa. Laura wrote the different events of the story and had the students place them in order and relating to the rising action, climax, denouement etc. It was a great way for the students to practice their english (in retelling a story they know well in english) and story telling abilities.

Im on a serious caffeine high and cant concentrate any longer! So if you like these ideas and want to hear more, let me know in the comments section! This week we are going to try a grammar scavenger hunt! I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

a lil inspiration

here is the song i did for the talent show

i hope you guys like it as much as i do--music to my ears

Monday, November 1, 2010


and climbing. THANK YOU!!!

waiting for a download

my ma just sent me a new ipod touch--i lost my ipod in italy--and im waiting for the new version of itunes to load in a kafe. i thought i would give you guys a quick update!
I went to Elbasan for language refresher (exactly what it sounds like).  Alana and I were chosen out of the health sector to present a session on sector specific vocabulary. We decided to do a dialogue/ session  based on Breast Cancer/words surrounding the topic (as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month). We delivered this session twice, the second class went much better than the first. We came up with an activity on the spot in which we placed the new vocabulary words on the back of each pcv. After which we directed them to ask questions in shqip to one another in order to figure out which vocabulary word/phrase they were. It was pretty entertaining considering some phrases included sores, armpit, self-breast exam, etc. After the session my language teacher approached me and said that she was very proud. It made me feel really good to know that we had done well and that my language skills are progressing...somedays it feels otherwise!
I also did a dance for the talent show, to James Morrison's version of "Man in the Mirror". It was fun to share something that is so much a part of me with the other volunteers. Peace Corps is hard in that you get to know people in Albania without having any context for who they were/are at home. It was cool to be able to share my passion with everyone. Afterwards people came up and gave me a lot of encouraging sentiments. I heard "you were in your element" a few times. And that is exactly how i feel when i dance. I am so happy and at home when i perform. It gave me a new push to start dance classes in Lezhe (an idea I have been toying with for a few months now).
So overall the conference went really well and we finished out by going to Berat for Halloween. It was a lot of fun. I dressed up as an Albanian bride--the wedding culture here is huge. So here are some photos! Hope you like it! 
and thank you to my ma for the halloween cards/ stickers/ ipod/ wonderful package! hugs!

 Kate Proposing
I think you guys can get this joke on your own...