Monday, January 31, 2011

some pics

Thanksgiving football game, marines vs peace corps (we won)!
The game was interrupted by hail! 

AIDS awareness day in Lezhe

Our first snow

Flooding off national road

house flooded

OA leadership hike/ cleanup 

 First snow continued 
Trash problems (taken on my ipod while walking in Lezhe)

Monday, January 24, 2011

protest turned violent

On January 21st, a protest led by the opposition socialist party (think edi rama) turned violent, culmintating in three deaths, injured policeman and a charged political climate. the official reason for the protest was linked to corruption being caught on tape by the Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta who later resigned after the tape was aired on television. this incident was the straw that broke berisha's back more than the predicating frustration (which is linked to a voting dispute, Berisha is accused of cheating by Rama and the socialist party). Although it is incredibly tragic that 3 lives were taken, it demonstrates that albanians are finally ready to fight back against corruption. after 97 (break down of government after failed pyramid schemes) it seemed as though the albanians were too afraid to 'rock the boat' and thus most blindly followed the party in power. i think it is a political awakening or reawakening, one that says, if you are upset with your government, let them know. by organizing demonstrations and speaking out against the injustices that occur in government one is pushing the government to do better and to correct for their mistakes. it is the foundation of democracy, one fueled by passion and the belief that our government is determined by what we demand from it. that every voice matters. that organizing individual concerns of the people in a protest or choir of frustration can be heard as a cry for change around the world. the bottom line being that the average people are the foundation of democracy and without the working man's compliance, the state cannot function. 

on a personal note, i saw the beginnings of the protest on TV. i knew even then that i was watching history in the making. to learn more about this incident, see Crisis Escalates in Albania 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

no presentation because someone, somewhere has the flu

woke up this morning, bright and early (gahhhhhhhh) in order to arrive at the hospital in time to deliver the presentation i've been working on for the past week. i roll up to the hospital, its empty...i saunter over to the kafe next door and spot one of my counterparts..

Me- Hey, morning, you ready for today?
CP- Oh Misses So and So didn't send you a message?
Me-Err no. what about? 
CP-She's sick, and many women are sick, so we're not going to do the presentation today.
Me-Well can we do it for some nurses?
CP-Everyone's sick
Me- Right, OK, Monday then?
CP- Kismet (means god willing/maybe/ with any luck)
Me- *defeated* ok.

after nearly a year of this, i find somedays i don't have the energy/desire to put up a fight, which in and of itself, is quite depressing. the good news is most days i do. i don't know, maybe its the weather? so blah today. if i were a weatherman i might read the forecast like so; today is doused with accents of gray, slight haze and depression. the suns out of the office until March 23, contact clouds and rain if you have an urgent matter. 

on the bright side of life i fell in love with a new song, entitled "When you say nothing at all" by Ronan Keating. It's a little bit country--not usually my style-- but you might enjoy it too!
OHH and I forgot to tell you all about the awesome english class i had with laura and our girls! we were reviewing prepositions (which turned into me reviewing prepositions in shqip) and it was a blast! I was hiding under tables, and hoping on chairs. if nothing else it served as some entertainment and a little cardio!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

wanted to plug a sweet company

"rise up coffee" company sends a package of free coffee to all interested peace corps volunteers! did i mention its organic coffee?! can you imagine a more symbiotic relationship? needless to say i've requested some delicious coffee aka my crack. boy do i miss american coffee. these tiny espresso cups don't do it for me.

any who if you want to learn more about them visit them at Rise Up

* I broke 4,200 views, did i mention how stellar YOU are? Because you are, truly.

Pic i took at my favorite breakfast place in SB, Jeannines  

Monday, January 17, 2011

today i joined the 21st century

I finally learned how to make a multiple choice powerpoint...i know i'm a little behind! it is so fun! Thursday is the official day for nutrition here in Albania, so I made a fun quiz full of foods (frequently ingested by Albanians) and calorie contents. 

My PP begins with something like this (yes, I'm really going to do a screenshot breakdown of my PP)...
And if you guess the wrong calorie content, it loops you to this slide...

But if you guess the correct amount (about 430 cals per slice of byrek, think cheese pie, with phyllo dough) it takes you here!

I know, I'm computer incompetent, and a dork, but how fun is that?!!!!

As you can see, I'm working on a nutrition presentation! Labels of calorie contents on products are rare (only on packaged, imported goods). I think it is important for the people here to know how many calories they are consuming! It seems so easy/simple/innate but its not! As packaged goods and fast food become increasing available in Albania, the incidence rates of obesity will rise. It is, in my opinion, crucial to educate Albanians on nutrition content, so that they are aware of how many calories a burger and fries, or bag of chips contains. 

In addition women in Albanian society are judged fiercely on their weight and appearance. Most women do not know about calorie counting or the importance of exercising thus most women either eat, or they don't, with no middle ground. Meaning girls are stick thin and older women are (usually) overweight.  In their minds those are the two options, eating and being fat, or not eating and being skinny. That line of thinking encourages eating disorders which run rampant in this society. By educating people (esp women and girls) on calorie contents and the importance of keeping active we can lessen the incidence rates of ED's in Albania (although many will still exist, because there is a big genetic factor that contributes to ED), by controlling for some of the environmental factors.

To play into that, a super 'fun' aspect of Albanian culture is that people call each other fat all the time! Even if they aren't fat! Even if they put on a pound or simply bought a tighter fitting pair pants! Needless to say its a side of Albanian culture most volunteers are not particularly fond of!

****also this presentation is pre, being checked by a native speaker, so this may not be the correct way to state things!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I'm starting the new year with a bang! This week kickstarts the beginning of a big undertaking.  OA (OA website) Committee members (I'm training coordinator) are presenting in Tirana in attempts to create a University level club. The aim for OA is to educate the youth about environment in hopes of turning OA into an Albanian run Environmentally focused NGO. The creation of a University level club is one of the first steps in doing so, as we are currently working with High Schoolers in a plethora of cities around the nation.

While presenting, I learned something new in the world of  fun 'go green' things,  see below!

Edible jello cups! COOOLLLLLLL and environmentally friendly!

Edit, during these presentations, I received a round of applause for my shqip! Also Alex and I are planning an OA fundraiser on March 3rd, at one of the hottest clubs in tirana, "lollipop". We're expecting a huge turnout! I interned for SBE in LA (where heidi montag supposedly worked on mtv's 'the hills'), for event is interesting, to me at least,  how seemingly unrelated past experiences come into play during PC. Ah random musings.  I do apologize! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

world wise schools

is a cool program I take part in (wws), in which I keep in contact with a classroom back home. I communicate with a  Freshman, Geography class at Méndez Learning Center-School of Math & Science (High School). It has been something I have really enjoyed being part of! As the students ask some wonderful, insightful questions that break up the monotony of week. I thought I would post some of my replies, because YOU might learn a thing or two ;)
Hey everyone! 
Si jeni (how are you)? I LOVED receiving your letters! It made my month :) Thank you for all of your thoughtful and fun questions! The questions I decided to answer were the ones that were asked more than once. I apologize if I didn't get around to answering your specific question!

I enjoyed hearing about your cultures, communities and celebrations. It seems as though a lot of you celebrate Cino de Mayo! Last year I celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Albania with a few volunteers by making yummy mexican food! I was asked if I made tamales, and although I think they are delicious, I have not attempted to make them (as I have heard they are very labor intensive). I was wondering if you all could send me a family recipe for tamales? I would love to try to make them for Cinco de Mayo this year...TRY being the operative word here :)
From your letters I learned, that some of you have a tradition similar to the leke coin in the byrek, but in your culture it's a cake called !La Rosca!  (roscón de reyes),  in which you find a small, plastic baby in your cake! It seems as though you and Albanians have traditions with similar roots! The main difference being that if you find the baby you have to throw a party, while if you find a leke you simply have good luck for year! I'm not sure which one I would prefer to find, but the cake sounds more appetizing than Byrek!
I was asked to explain how Albanians celebrate birthdays. This is a great example of a cultural difference between the US and Albania. In the states your friends and family take you out for your birthday, but in Albania the birthday person has to pay for their friends! Usually they will take their close friends out for coffee and sometimes throw a party at their house or restaurant. One similarity is that in Albania they also eat cake to celebrate the birthday girl/boy. 
Another question I received a few times was "what sports are popular in Albania?". Soccer (known here as football) is VERY popular! My town (Lezhe) has a team called Beslidhja as well as a soccer stadium! I haven't been to a game yet, because the culture doesn't approve of women going to games, but hopefully that aspect of Albanian culture will change with exposure to neighboring countries (Albania is a Post-Communist society that was isolated for 50 years--without outside influence--thus they are just now being exposed to other cultures). I was also asked if I like sports and the answer is I enjoy watching live sports (I cheered in high school), but other than dancing I'm very uncoordinated! What sports or hobbies do you have?
I was asked about the Leke (the currency in Albania) and the exchange rate from Dollar to Leke, 100 dollars is 1,0561.3 leke.
Many of you inquired about my origin, I'm Italian and Welsh (Wales)! I visited Italy earlier this year, it was really great getting back to my roots, so to speak. Have you all traveled to your country of origin? If so, I would love to hear about that experience! In addition, I was wondering what you all want to be when you grow up/ what college you would like to go to? What languages do you speak?
Another question I received was about learning Shqip and if I found it difficult to learn. The answer is YES it was and is a very difficult language to learn. The best way to learn is to practice! I practice all day everyday with my coworkers, shopkeepers and friends. Slowly but surely I'm starting to get the hang of it! Somedays I feel fluent, others I feel like I'm playing charades! Learning another language is a process and like anything worth doing, it takes a lot of hard work, but in the end it pays off! The days I have a successful discussion about a project or cultural differences, it makes me feel accomplished and like all the time I dedicate to learning the language is worth it!
I was thinking that I could post a youtube video in order to teach you all the Albanian circle dance. Would you all like that? On a similar note I was asked by Tahiry if I knew "the shuffle" (a dance). The answer was no, I promptly youtubed it and FELL IN LOVE with the move! I am currently learning! Thanks for exposing me to something new :) 
I thought I would teach you all a few seasonal words- snow is borë (sounds like boar), celebration- festim, merry christmas Gezuar Krishtlindjet, hot chocolate-kakao.
Per usual I have attached a few pictures to answer more of your questions, after all a picture is worth 1,000 words! The first picture is from inside of a furgon (a small bus, I was asked how I travel in Albania, usually by bus, furgon or foot), a picture of some animals found in lezhe, a picture of the Colosseum in Italy and a picture of the leke. Enjoy!
I look forward to hearing from you all!
KLM (shqip acronym for have a good day),
Furgon Ride

Also I ran across an interesting story today--for your daily dose of travel/inspiration click here

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

first ex-soviet state is accepted into the EU

Estonia starts off the new year right (or does it?) as it becomes the first former Soviet Union state to be accepted into the EU. After Greece's grand entry into the EU --i.e. bear tackling the worth of the Euro, due to their economic crisis-- my guess is the EU is regretting their 2004 agreement with Estonia. Only time will tell wether this addition to the family is a positive or  the "titanic" (see article link below) to their economic situation.
Having studied abroad in Turkey and currently living in Albania, I know what a vital, and sought after political step it is for European Nations to be accepted into the EU. It is seen as a step in legitimizing a country and with that title comes an increase in tourists, business and foreign investors. While studying abroad in Turkey (in 2007), the Turkish people spoke often and excitedly about how close they were to being accepted into the EU. This was demonstrated by hanging EU flags high and citing Greece's entrance into the EU as proof that they were next! I thought then as I do now, that that was a step that would not happen for years (and the need for them to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide would be a necessary step in their journey to acceptance). As I heard hopeful sentiments of being a part of the EU in the 'next few years' in Turkey, I now hear the same conversations in Albania. Turkey is, unlike Albania, formally recognized as a candidate for the EU, which means that Albanians are even more romantic than the Turks. 
There are many steps that Albania needs to take in order to become a serious contender in EU consideration. One positive stepping stone would be to implement their laws. On paper Albania looks impressive, yet laws are often disregarded and rarely enforced. For instance there are "no smoking" signs everywhere yet ALL bars, restaurants and hospitals are submerged in smoke. It is illegal to forgo seatbelt, but I can count the number of people I've seen wearing a seatbelt. The list goes on and on, but if I were Sali Berisha or Bamir Topi and I wanted a decent shot at becoming part of the EU, I would start practicing what I preach. 

To read more about Estonia's new beginnings, or impending doom, click here: New Precedent