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!