Friday, October 21, 2011

Thank you for the 36,000+ views!

This is the hardest post to write--the final chapter. So what happened? Did I go back to Albania? Do I think I made a difference? I'm not cruel enough to leave you hanging. Here's how it happened.

I was medically evacuated in June 2011 to Santa Barbara, CA. When I arrived in Cali, I had an appointment with the countries top orthopedic surgeon. He recommended we have an MRI. The MRI showed that I had lacerated not one but two tendons in my foot. I had surgery to reconnect the tendons a week later. The recovery process was long. I was on crutches for 2 months, in a boot for another few weeks and had an awkward walk for a month after that. In that period of time I received a tremendous amount of support from PCV's, staff, family and friends. I feel so blessed to have had your support during that time. 

The Peace Corps allots each volunteer who is medically evacuated 45 days to return to their service- no paperwork necessary. After the initial 45 day window a volunteer must reapply--it's not a difficult process, but during this time most volunteers run into the "I need a job" conundrum. Sadly, thats what happened to me. I wasn't getting better at the rate I had hoped- my foot was far from recovered and my bank account quickly depleting. At that I began to send out resumes. In one week I sent out over 50 applications. The next week I got a call from TOMS (The "One for One" company This was an amazing opportunity for me as TOMS is my dream company to work for. Needless to say I was stoked and confused. I struggled with the decision. On one hand I couldn't imagine not finishing out my PC service with the group of amazing individuals I started with, but conversely how could I say no to TOMS? Additionally there was the foot issue. At the time I received the call from TOMS, I had a "pimp walk" and there was no way that was going to fly on the rocky streets of Lezha. After many turmoiled hours and debate, I took the full-time, paid internship opportunity with TOMS. I miss Albania. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss my community. I miss the pace of life there. I miss my job. I miss the Albanian people. But do I think I made the right decision for me? Absolutely. I can say for the first time in a really long time that I am happy and healthy. But I am happy and healthy because of the experience, the people and my projects in Albania. I have a newfound respect for the luxuries I'm privy to in the United States. I appreciate my ability to go on a run at 8:00 PM without fearing my safety. I have earned a type of perspective that I cherish. One that keeps me centered and reminds me that it's not about the amount of money that we make, the clothes that we wear or even the iphone 4S. Life is  about people, experiences, laughter, knowledge and making a difference.

I will be forever grateful for this experience. I am a better soul for having met the people I've encountered on this journey. I am better sister, daughter, friend and citizen. If you are someone looking at this blog, in hopes of joining the Peace Corps, here is my advice to you:
      Know that sometimes you are going to look like an idiot, and thats ok. You will fail more than you succeed. In dark times you will wish with all your heart that you were back in the US eating a McDonalds burger (even if you despised the fast food joint while stateside). The successes you achieve during your service will change you forever. The kindness you receive from a total stranger will move you to tears. And you will never love and hate an experience more in your life. Do I recommend the PC? Hell yes. I have never met a person who regretted doing the PC-regardless of their experience- conversely I have met hundreds, yes hundreds of people who regretted not going into the PC. 

Albania, friends, PCVs I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for challenging me and allowing me to rise to the challenge.

Here is some press I received while in PC
UCLA Spotlight 
Photo PC

Here I am today- Me and my bro, at his wedding:

Thank you for reading and supporting me throughout my journey. Your views, comments and support kept me going through my darkest hours. 

I encourage you all to go do something that scares the living daylights out of you, as the thought of being a pcv did to me. It will be worth it, I promise. 


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

medical evacuation

I have ruptured a tendon in my foot, and am being medically evacuated to Santa Barbara CA (my home of record). I'm not entirely sure if I will be returning to Albania, but I hope with all my heart that I will. 

This experience has made me a better person. The people I have encountered on this journey are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. 

For Pcv's, pc staff and albanian have become my family abroad and I will never forget you.

I also want to thank my director and pc staff for having made this terrible week comfortable and full of support.

I feel blessed to have had this opportunity.

For all the pcv's who read my blog, promise me you'll work extra hard while i'm gone to pick up my slack ;) I'm cheering you on. Thank you for your continued support, it has allowed me to grow and succeed here. 


Friday, May 27, 2011

special olympics

I can't do this event justice. I'm discouraged by the thought of attempting to capture the magical awesomeness of this event. Part of me wants to post a pic and call it a day, but that wouldn't be fair to you. So i'll give it a go...

This year I worked with team Lezha from the Qendra Trëndafilat (center in Lezha). I have worked with these contestants and staff members, intermittently over this past year. Vodafone sponsors this event and little events year round, thus I have met many of the vodafone employees as well. I loved walking into the event and recognizing so many of the people there. It makes Albania feel like home. 

Anyhow the contestants played basketball, soccer, and participated in running and bowling. We had a big dance with the contestants the second night, which in all honesty, was the most fun I have had in a year. 

A group of Ambassadors including the American Ambassador, Arvizu stopped by the event for an hour to meet the volunteers and contestants.

The volunteers were both American PCV's and Albanian "Animators". It was impressive watching the Albanian volunteers who were new to working with special needs children. By the end they all looked like pros. One volunteer from shkodra, became a super volunteer in 3 days. He led cheers, games and was a morale boost for all.

This year was much more enjoyable for me because my language has progressed significantly. It was less stressful because I was able to communicate/ understand what was expected of the volunteers. It was definitely a tighter group of people this year, we all bonded over the course of the event. It was sad to say goodbye to such an amazing group. 

I've also come to the conclusion that volunteering is addicting. 

Overall this was an amazing event, I hope to partake in Special Olympics in America when i return. 

here are a few photos!

Volunteer Photo

My team! (FYI albanians don't smile in pics)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A kiss worthy moment

Saturday morning i woke up and scooted myself over to the shower. After a long, loofa-filled, suds-induced shower coma, i returned to reality. I wrapped myself up in a yellow towel and walked into my green room. I noticed my laundry had dried. I decided to pick up a few items. As i was straightening the drying rack, i felt as though i was not alone. I looked up and to my surprise, i found my land lady watching me through the window. She stared, laughed, winked and blew me a kiss. I laughed and walked into my bedroom. 
O albania how i'll miss you :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Listening to Boa Sorte featuring Ben Harper

I have days where I really love Albania, and yesterday was one of them.

But before I get to that I want to share about my teaching experience in Selenice. Nathan a TFL volunteer, who lives in Selenice, had asked Kristen (another health volunteer in Fier) and me to come down and teach a few health lessons as a part of his ‘health week’ at school.

I have a newfound respect for Nathan and TFL volunteers in general. Teaching everyday at a public school, in another language is VERY DIFFICULT work. That being said Nathan made it look easy.

We taught two lessons about Smoking and performed an experiment to demonstrate how much smoke stays in your lungs after having smoked one cigarette. It’s a very effective and visual demonstration for those of you looking for an activity to round out a health lesson (see this link for the how-to)

We also taught a hand-washing lesson to the third graders. My favorite thing about that lesson was when we had the students washing their hands. One boy was really lathering up with soap, and the girl behind him asked if he would hurry up. He asked her to wait and she said, ok respect. I thought it was adorable.

Between the lessons we hung out with the kids a recess. It was like we were the Beatles or something. Girls we’re giving us kisses, hugs and freshly planted schoolyard flowers. A little girl gave me her bracelet; I’m wearing it even now. It was a little overwhelming but quite wonderful. Albanian youth are so amazing and spirited.

It was the first time I had taught a health lesson, in shqip, without an Albanian counterpart. To my surprise it went really well! I feel more confident-of course there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that I am ready to fly solo, and there is no better feeling.   

Back to my really loving Albania… the people here are very hospitable and warm hearted. I recently had someone very close to me leave Albania.  I was visibly upset when I went to work, after having said goodbye. My counterparts took one look at me and decided coffee was necessary. They assured me that everything would be ok and gave me hugs.

After coffee I sat with a new acquaintance, a warm-hearted computer specialist. I stayed next to her like loyal golden retriever, not wanting to leave her side. She let me sit, and watch. She could sense that I needed company, and was obliged to be that for an hour.

I have received many sympathetic calls, texts and messages. I feel blessed, and terribly sad.

People (PCV’s included) have been incredibly supportive of me throughout this journey. I want to say thank you to all of my friends, at home, in country, and abroad. I am so blessed and grateful to have you in my life.

I’ll be seeing you.

Oh and I changed my font...again ;)

Also i should mention that mayoral election took place this past week. There is a dispute as to which candidate won the Tirana election. Reports have differed, some cite Edi Rama as the winner (by 10 votes), while other sources have reported Basha by 56 votes. Currently there is a protest taking place at the Central Election Committee, at Congress Palace.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

'pergezime per vdekjen e armikut tuaj'

this literally means, congrats for your enemies death. i don't mean to make light out of a serious news headline -referring to osama bin laden's death-but the literal translation of this saying is a little funny :) any how i'm going to steer clear of putting any further opinion of that matter on my blog. i wanted to mention it because it has been the talk of the town, or world rather.
moving onto a less charged subject, i am dealing with an invasion of ants. it sounds silly but these ants are feisty little beings. every time i think i have them beat, they come tromping back in full force. laura had mentioned that ants HATE cinnamon. which sounds ridiculous, who could hate cinnamon? ;) but wanting to avoid using harmful chemicals i thought i would give it a go-- and ants truly DO hate cinnamon! i put a few sprinkles in the pathway of a lonely ant and the dude PEACED OUT the opposite direction. i was impressed. those of you dealing with ants, buy cinnamon!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

clean-up in torovicë

Laura and I helped out with a trash clean-up in a neighboring village this past week. A friend of ours, Agim, applied for the OA funding available for earth day.  agim organized a clean-up with a local 9-year school. in torovice. with the funding he bought trash bags, gloves, t-shirts and allocated funds for transporting the trash (since torovice has no trash bins/ system/ collection in place). the kids were awesome and very enthusiastic about helping. the most entertaining part of the clean-up was when we hired a furgon driver (to properly dispose of the trash). we FILLED this furgon full of dripping trash bags.! the furgon driver was a very sweet man and took the destruction of his furgon in stride. we looked for a good place to dispose of the trash. after 20 minutes we found empty bins on the side of the national road. the furgon had only two doors and a window. thus we ended up shoving bags through the window to hasten the process of transporting trash from car to bin (dumping trash in bins is frowned upon. . . who knew?). it took 3 huge trash bins and four people to get all of the bags out of the car. it was an epic excursion, one i wont forget! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

hike from progonat to himara

went on an awesome hike with 10 pcv'- most of whom are leaving soon. it was a bittersweet weekend. we hiked 13.36 mi the first day, starting outside of tepelena (progonat) and finished camping near a town called kuç.. The second day we hiked from kuç to himara, about 12 mi. shockingly enough, when i rounded that final mountain on our ascent, it was my first glance at the southern coastline. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING! The sea down south is much bluer than up north. additionally it has that ridiculously beautiful white sand/ rock beach, unlike the tan colored sand up north. Himara felt like a different nation, and sounded like one too, as they speak more greek than albanian. my study abroad in greece managed to come in handy, who knew?!. I stayed with Meredith (pcv) in himara for an extra night to soak up the sun and the gorgeous view.. after the other 'argonauts' left, we met mere's friend fred for a coffee. it was interesting to hear a southerners impression of the north. there are a lot of predjudices/ misconceptions about the northern folk in albania. albanians who have never seen/ lived in the north often ask me about the mentality of Northerners. they are always surprised when i say how wonderful and similar they are to people in the south.  i think the northerners are very, very kind people and although i loved the southern coast i'm very happy with my site. 
anyhow back to the hike, at one point we were walking down a river valley having to cross the river from side to side, when the banks disappeared. it was slightly comical seeing all of us undress our feet, tip-toe over slimy rocks in freezing water with a grin and bear it expression.--all of us VERY determined to get to the other side. seth (PCV) got creative in  his stubbornness (wheN he refused to take of his shoes like the rest of us) and made a makeshift bridge out of two large logs.
the campfire was more bon appetite than i had anticipated. people busted out pesto, bulgar wheat, tuna salad with almonds and apples.. . . . it was as surprising as it was delicious. 
today i'm back in site and spoke for an organization CAAP, that is encouraging volunteerism in albanian youth. laura and i spoke about our experience and what inspired us to join the peace corps. i reminded the group as well as myself that volunteering doesn't have to be a huge project, it can be a small act of kindness. i hope thats one point that stuck with them. this week we have a community clean up in a neighboring area (the clean up was made possible with an OA earth grant, from the fundraiser we threw in march). i'm looking forward to meeting new people and getting my hands dirty. 
till tomorrow., peace out. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

geeking out

recently i've become very interested in learning more about website design/ coding/ hosting etc. My sitemate laura referred me to adobe kuler. it helps you create complimentary color schemes.. if you're interested visit cool-er

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

testing fonts

i've been told that my font is hard to read, so i'm working on uploading/ importing a new font, if you're looking to learn how to do that take a look here blog font. 
i'm going to give you guys a few options and you can vote under comments

1. cathi pea 2 capps   3. orange you glad to see me 4. tahoma moma 5. arno are no pro.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

yikes a bee

its been too long. sorry friends. 

im going to start it off with a cute anecdote to piggyback off my facebook post. my site mate laura was leaving the office, and she told her coworkers that she was 'going to enjoy the sun'. her adorable female coworker stuck up her thumb and said 'like'. tehe

i had a friend -that i volunteered with in the states- come to visit for a week. it was cool being able to show him around my city. we saw quite a bit including: castles, memorials, hiking 'trails', beaches, villages, big cities, the capital, and met volunteers and locals alike.  being able to show him around demonstrate the amount of knowledge i've accumulated while being here.  it served as a great time to reflect upon my service thus far, and to look to the future. 

i've decided that there are a few major projects im going to take on. the most overwhelming being looking for funding for a public mammogram machine (either used/ new) for lezha. those of you that have been following since the beginning have noticed a trend of projects, all to do with breast cancer. it is something i had no intention of pursuing but life has a funny way of leading you to a path you hadn't planned on. to my surprise and delight, i'm very passionate about breast cancer. Or rather the education of and resources available for women with breast cancer in albania.

part of me believes that i can truly impact my community within my next year here. i spend a lot of time in transit from one place to another. in that intermediary time i daydream of putting on a huge dance performance for the community. somehow tying it in with a health cause...that would be pretty awesome i think...sorry im drifting.

i also ought to mention that local elections are in high gear in lezha. viktor tushaj, incumbent and part of  the LSI party is running against a former mayor this year. meaning the competition is stiff.  the main xhiro looks more like sunset blvd than a small city in albania-- due to the mass poster-ing of candidate slogans and pictures (WERE TALKING BIG BIG PICTURES). i cant comment on the political-ness of it all but i can say that the posters are a bit comical. men in suits against a historical, green background with an all-knowing smile. it's priceless.

i haven't spoken much about what a friend called 'the communist hangover' in albania. which is mainly the leftover mindset of the people due to their upbringing in a communist society. for instance one person decides to open a store selling x, y and z. suddenly on either side of said store are two more stores with the same products and pricing. there are many, many examples of the communist hangover. i thought i would introduce the concept and throw examples of them in every now and then, when the mood strikes. 

finally i pulled this quote from the article "what the muslim brothers want"  (in odes to the egypt crisis/ protests) that was in the herald tribune about a month ago.  ive been meanig to post about it so here it is--
As our nation heads toward liberty, we disagree with the claims that the only options in Egypt are a purely secular, liberal democracy or an authoritarian theocracy. secular liberal democracy of the american and european variety with its firm rejection of religion in public life is not the exclusive model for a legitimate democracy-- Essam El Errian
I thought it was good food for thought. i often see what albania could be from an american framework. it is important to remember that there is more than one path to gain legitimacy as a country and to function as a democracy. 
for me democracy lies on a continuum. each county considering their historical past can plop themselves down on the line varying from liberal to conservative interpretations of democracy. perhaps egypt will find itself on the line but its whereabouts are still under investigation.

my good friend and fellow volunteer, john and i had an interesting discussion the other day. he said something that is simplistic yet is resonated with me. he mentioned that most people want the same things, but we disagree on how to get there. in this case perhaps the MB, america, and the world want a democratic/peaceful solution for Egypt, but we may disagree on how to get there.

all of this serves as a good reminder that although i believe in the american system and framework, it may not be entirely applicable to albania. thus i need to be more flexible in the options and ideas i bring to work....

random musings. 
happy tuesday!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

oh and thank you mother nature, jesus and allah

spring couldn't have come at a more welcomed time! 
merry spring!

call to prayer

one thing thats pretty awesome about living in albania is that islam and christianity live together in harmony (minus a few hot spots, like shkoder). thus i hear church bells and the call to prayer simultaneously in lezhe. when i first heard the call to prayer, 5 years ago in turkey, it freaked me out a bit. the heap of voices beginning to sing abruptly, echoing each other, at one time...thats not something that happens everyday! i am happy to report that these days, i very much enjoy the call to prayer. in fact at times i find it calming. the other day i noticed that one of the regular muezzin in librazhd got swapped out for a newbie and boy does he have a beautiful voice; which made the whole experience even more pleasant.
albanians are very proud of their religious harmony--albania has never endured a religious war. i predict that there is only a matter of time before tensions are exacerbated between religious sects. 
during communism ones identity was strongly defined by your family and town, not your religion. perhaps thats why the blood feuds exist(ed)? with a religious rebirth (aka post communist albania) a persons identity becomes strongly linked to their religion. as people start to define themselves by where they worship, tensions between islams and christians will heighten.
this is purely a prediction! i hope that religious harmony continues to exist in albania but centuries of religious warfare have swayed my prediction. who knows maybe albanian is and will continue to be the anomaly.
on a side note, my when i first came to lezhe, my coworker would call me mitz, mitz, mitz...i had no idea what they we're saying! about a month in i realized that they we're calling me miss america. today i got called miss america by every nurse in the public health sector. haha. i thought it was pretty amusing :)

sorry im pulling a mitch hedberg transitions for you!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

chick flicks and quiche

as a peace corps volunteer i do two things more than i should--cook and watch movies. this is largely due to the fact that during the winter i'm expected to be in my house by 5pm, which leaves some serious time on my hands. sure i play sudoku, do p90x and read but movies and baking help fill my nights. so this post is in a way related to pc and in most ways not. 
first off i'm always trying to find cheap, good recipes that feed lots of people. quiche has quickly become my go-to dish. here is a great recipe for a quiche crust. if you're looking for something with a little less calories go crustless, use egg whites instead of whole eggs and skimp on the cheese. one of my favorites so far is this recipe from smitten kitchen.
secondly last night i was watching the film "prime" with seth (pcv, group 12) and he commented on what a 'chick flick' it was. first off i resent that name and all that it stands for i.e. women have poor taste and movies that appeal to women are automatically poorly constructed, cheesy and not suited for men. but that argument aside i brought up that the movie was in fact directed and written by a man. granted many producers who are men, see the monetary incentive in producing a 'chick flick' and don't relate to the content, BUT i think in this case Ben Younger (the director/writer) was writing material he could relate to. Younger is jewish and so is the lead male character, played by bryan Greenberg. Greenbergs character is a young 23 year-old, and although I'm not sure of the exact age Younger was when we wrote "Prime" he was at the very oldest 32 years- old. 
i looked into it, how many chick flicks are directed/written by men and here's a tasting of what i found--Ridely Scott produced "Thelma and Louise" as well as "In her shoes" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was based on a novella by Truman Capote. My point being, if men are producing cheesy crap why aren't they called sappy director flicks? women may enjoy these films but so do men...just not as openly.
lastly one of my favorite directors is nancy meyers, i think she gives an old hollywood feel to her movies. you may know a few of her works "it's complicated" "father of the bride" "the holiday" "somethings got to give" "what women want" "the parent trap" and yea they might all be considered chick flicks but at least they're the good ones! 
really whats happening is men are directing/ producing/ writing the clicheed chick flicks, while real 'chicks' are writing and directing the cool-er, more relatable, realistic, somewhat sappy stories. 
in the end who is responsible for this title? MEN. They profit from, and enjoy chick flicks but use women as the scapegoats for their existence. my apologies to my readers who are guys, its not a dig at you, just the overall concept!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

traveling with Charley and Abbey

Listening to Abbey Road

I'm reading "travels with charley" and i found this excerpt entertaining:

On a chance I asked, "How soon you going to Florida?"
      "Nex' week," she said listlessly. Then something stirred in that aching void. "Say, how do you know I'm going?"
      "Read your mind, I guess."
      She looked at my beard. "You with a show?"
      "Then how do you mean read my mind?"
      "Maybe I guessed. Like it down there?"
      "Oh, sure! I go every year. Lots of waitress jobs in the winter."
      "What do you do down there, I mean for fun?"
      "Oh, nothing. Just fool around."
      "Do you fish or swim?"
      "Not much. I just fool around. I don't like that sand, makes me itch."
      "Make good money?"
      "It's a cheap crowd."
      "They rather spen' it on booze."
      "Than what?"
      "Than tips. Just the same here with the summer people. Cheap."
      Strange how one person can saturate a room with vitality, with excitement. Then there are others, and this dame was one of them, who can drain off energy and joy, can suck pleasure dry and get no sustenance from it. Such people spread a grayness in the air about them. I'd been driving a long time, and perhaps my energy was low and my resistance down. She got me.

Maybe i find it hilarious because i often deal with the 'we're too poor to create change' mentality, and every now and then i have a conversation with someone and instead of arguing back, i experience one of those 'she got me' moments.

I like the book so far, its worth a read if you're feeling like an adventure. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Facebook in Albania

In a country where the vast majority of people have no idea how to use the Internet, Excel, or PowerPoint, nearly everyone (including my host family, landlord and my least favorite shopkeeper) has an account, if not two! How is it that in developing nation that could benefit immensely from having computer proficiency, facebook is all that really matters? I recently read the Sept 20, 2010 New Yorker (give me a break I’m in Albania) which houses a very interesting look into Mark Zuckerberg’s (the creator of facebook) private life and professional vision. He would like facebook to act as a:

Platform meaning that outside developers could start creating applications that would run inside the site…Zuckerberg imagines Facebook as, eventually- a layer underneath almost every electronic device. You’ll turn on our TV and you’ll see that fourteen of your Facebook friends are watching “Entourage”.

Aside from being a little freaky and perhaps an eventuality, it seems as though Zuckerberg is well on his way of making his vision a reality. If my 50 year-old Albanian Host-Aunt knows how to use facebook, and not Google, well then maybe developing nations are more at risk/ the perfect audience for such a platform. Americans are preoccupied with privacy settings, hoping to mask their secrets and obsessed with sharing information only to a select few. Conversely poorer nations are not entirely aware of what can be seen, making them more willing to share information. Perhaps Zuckerbergs future lies in developing nations, where privacy settings are listed in English (because most Albanian facebook account pages are in English, even though Shqip is a language choice, they are confused on how to change language settings) and thus people share their most private information, unbeknownst to them. Which in fact is the overarching goal and vision for Zuckerberg as he has stated he would like “to make the world a more open place” and the success of facebook relies on it. I mean isn’t that what makes facebook so interesting? Getting a glimpse into the mind of your crush, or new acquaintance.

One moment concerning facebook and my sitemate was particularly intriguing, and downright bizarre. My sitemate Laura took a photo of a local shopkeeper, and posted it on facebook (in a private photo album in which only friends can view). A few days later the woman came running up to us urging Laura to take down the picture. When we asked how she had seen the photo she said her son (who Laura is not friends with, nor does she have friends in common) saw the photo, which begs the question how much can other people see? Is privacy something we’re really privy to if we decide to put our most intimate thoughts up on the web? Perhaps by merely having a facebook account we must accept that information will be shared with some unintentionally and that it is our personal responsibility to mind what we put online. If you don’t want everyone to see something then don’t post it!

Anyhow that was just a thought I had this morning. …perhaps that is of some interest to you!

The article is called “The Face of Facebook” by Jose Antonio Vargas and is def. worth the read!

And could word recognize the word ‘facebook’ already?! All of these red squiggly lines are making me dizzy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ohrid, Macedonia

i hopped on the other side of the border this past weekend for a quick getaway as i have been working too much lately. it was beautiful! i noticed two major differences between albania and macedonia, first cars STOP at crosswalks and secondly people don't smoke inside establishments! my hair smelled like my shampoo for the first time in a year! i met some cool macedonian pcv's and locals. it was a welcome change and a wonderful time. i visited sveti naum/ st naum church and met the infamous peacocks. i also visited a new underwater archeological find-- these reconstructed houses that sat over the water. it was so picturesque and i was sad to leave. not to mention they have wine that comes out of a gas pump! enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

craving albanian food, weird.

Maybe its the time of year? A little sentimental perhaps. The new volunteers are coming in less than a week! which means they will all be meeting their host families for the first time! that was a seriously nerve-wracking moment for me. i remember our first dinner, which consisted of what you see above. byrek (spinach pie, in the first few pics that is my host mom rolling out the dough for the entree) yogurt (communal), salad (communal), and bread. I was seriously disturbed by the communal kos (yogurt) first. i mean its not exactly sanitary to all be slopping yogurt in our mouths, germ sharing and all but you get use to it. i remember being very freaked out that i was only given a spoon--which ended up being a courtesy because albanians use their hands to eat for most meals (minus the kos, that would be crossing the line).

anyhow it was my host dad, mom, brother and sister all sitting around staring at me, and me staring at the food wondering how i was to approach the meal. should i go native? use my hands? be polite and not eat too much? say the one word i know how to say, thank you? i decided the last choice was my best bet and dug in. 

those of you who know me personally know that i have a knack for finding hair and cooked spiders in my food here.  im not the biggest fan of albanian cuisine but tonight IM CRAVING byrek. i think im going to have make an albanian style meal, finishing off with apples (minus the skins of course).... 

have i not touched on host mothers in albanians being able to cut and peel EVERY type of fruit and vegetable in their bare hands, with nothing but a dull, slightly-serrated butter knife? it is truly amazing. my host mom once handed me a tomato, onion, apple and knife, looked at me, i looked at her waiting for a cutting board, but to no avail. i tried to peel an apple for about ten minutes before she walked over with this confused, unenthused look on her face, yanked the apple out of my grip, peeled, quartered and sliced that baby in 10 seconds flat. it was amazing. i felt stupid, but that sums up how i felt for my first 10 weeks in-country.

well thats all for now. can't wait to meet the new volunteers! i'm giving a presentation week 2 of their training, so get ready to be entertained!

Monday, February 28, 2011

my sunday nights

I had a lovely sunday. i hiked up to the castle with some girls in the morning, cleaned, baked homemade cinnamon roles with Laura and Susan, had a sugar high for about an hour and proceeded to clean my house, do some laundry and rearrange my furniture. sunday night came around and i decided to make a fire in my wood stove. it was my most successful fire to date. unfortunately i enjoy watching fire, thus i opened the wood stove flap to observe the orange flame and before i knew it, my house was partly-cloudy. i had to open up some windows around 9pm to clear out the smoke. oops.

anyhow i pulled up my favorite armchair right next to the stove, red a book while drinking some çai (tea) with a bit of milk. it was a wonderful, wonderful evening. i'm definitely adjusting to the pace of life here.

the photos are mostly from last night, one from a brilliant moment on a train, in which i needed a cup to drink out of, so i hollowed out the orange i had in my bag and used it as a cup. the last picture was taken in shkoder. it depicts the water level during the flood that happened in december. 

thats all for now!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

help out those who help us

as you may have read, i'm planning a fundraiser for this wednesday in tirana. a former pcv, tausha, hooked me up with "Tirana Backpacker Hostel". they have agreed to let pcv's stay for a reduced rate of 500 leke on wed night, which is half their going rate! if you are planning on visiting tirana check them out here best hostel ever

this is the invite i designed