A few notes worth reading. The purpose of this blog is to inform and update those at home about my life as a PCV. What I deem in my head as important, or noteworthy, I post. I rely on photos a lot of the time to tell my story – it is harder than I thought it would be to compose long narratives in English while being here. I blame it on my newfound habit (adopted at the DShP) of waiting. I once watched an insect on my Ethernet cord for a good half hour; the time here sure does fly. Instead of fumbling my way through updates, here are some links to follow:
This is an article written about what it’s like sometimes to be a female in this country. Along with my fellow female PCVs, I have learned all too well how to deal with the cat calls and the more disgusting “tssss” noise the men like to make with their teeth.
In the past few days, two protests have come to light in the news: One in Bosnia about unemployment and the politician’s inability to do anything and one in Kosova about the sub-par education system (both topics all too similar to the complaints I here in Albania). Just recently, there have been protests in Albania about the government’s crackdown on furgons. The government recently made it illegal for furgons to drive in certain regions of Albania, including some main routes and, since many people depend on these shuttling minivans as their only type of transportation in Albania, there have been protests about this hastily implemented law that included no backup transportation plan.
Lastly, here is an interesting photo journal I found and here and here are a few blogs from fellow PCVs in Albania that do a much better job at explaining life over here than I do.
Most nights when I take my solo xhiro around town, I see men and women enjoying their kafe at the bar and gathering their ingredients for that night’s dinner. Some nights I go out and hear or notice that a family is no longer out, and without mention of visiting family in Italy or other common reasons for absence I begin to wonder.
This interesting piece came out a while back, photo journaling a tradition that is still quite present in Albania. With increasing international attention as a hidden paradise and a top place to visit, Albania’s unique stories and traditions have come to attention too, like this article on the sworn virgins that I’ve shown before (whenever someone comments on my “un-ladylike” behavior, I typically respond with ‘jam burrnesh’ ‘I’m a strong female, leave me alone’, which is also the word they use for the sworn virgins).
There is always a push here to be modern, but there is still a large population of Albanians that cling to the old way of life; it’s the very reason why when I walk by the “parking lot” next to the biggest store in town, there is a brand new car parked next to a buggy and donkey, and why when walking down the road I pass three communist era homes before the construction on the new skyscraper (of six floors).
For other interesting tidbits on this place I call home, my fellow PCVs have done great work on identifying some. Learn more here, here and here.
As I put on my third layer and watch the rain come down I wonder where the summer went. My time in Albania has progressed enough to where I have things to do on a regular basis (things other than my own hobbies), which means I’m less inclined to count the days as they pass by.
This summer, as I’ve mentioned before, I worked with the public laboratory on a project to improve their safety and sanitation. Over the summer, during my work with the lab, I noticed a change in my attitude since being here. I noticed a change in the way I viewed Albania and it’s quirks. Everything here has become a little easier: understanding and communicating with people, knowing when and when not to check out, and knowing who and who not to work with.
There are days when I feel like I’ve accomplished enough in Albania and it’s time to go home or move on, but most days I feel like I’ve just begun my life here. I’ve found that balance, the half-and-half Albanian version of a balance between work-time and break-time, and am growing my network of Albanian friends and family every week.
I recently took a trip back to my ‘hometown’ of Librazhd to visit my host-family and see some friends. Even though Lezha is not that much bigger than Librazhd, I felt like it had shrunk a little; the same feeling you get when you return home after your first semester in college. My language has progressed enough so, when talking to Mama Xheni, I could express more of my humor and my genuine self instead of the usual smile and nod. That was a great feeling. And many more great feelings have come from my slow and steady integration into this culture. There are some things I will never understand, but I accept that and embrace my differences.
I forget what day it is, but I know it’s a school day and there will be a lesson to teach tomorrow. My summer with the lab has ended, and my school year with its many projects (both beginning and planning to begin) has begun. Before I know it, I’ll have to put on another layer.
Last night I got up after reading for a while under my fan to re-apply some anti-itch gel on my brutal mosquito bites before bed. Sporting my headlamp, the one “lamp” I have in Peace Corps, I crossed my room and headed to the bathroom only to be greeted by the spider, who normally lives behind my toilet, in mid-air furiously wrapping his fresh catch, which happened to be one of the longest centipedes I’ve seen in my house. I’m unfazed. And it’s moments like this that make me remember how long I’ve been here.
The air is so thick I can barely breathe, the sun beats down on me and my skin feels like it should be melting. I watch the heat waves rise as I walk to the furgon stop. As I hop in the furgon, getting the last (or so I thought) seat, I long for the small breezes that come seeping slowly through the open car door as we wait. We sit idly as the last passengers load their stuff in. With every shuffle of our growing mass of human-in-furgon, a new smell delightfully wafts up and I subtly place my sweaty handkerchief under my nose. No windows, it’s over 100F in the furgon and I cannot control the beads of sweat that start dripping from my forehead. I pop in my earbuds, and pray for a swift ride. Below is the soundtrack for smelly, stickyslippery, and very hot trips home (these might be repeats and older songs, but these are the times you want to hum along in your head):
It’s 5pm and I’m sitting on my roof, continually knocking off a gecko that wants to be my best friend. I’m outside because my room below is an easy-bake oven, easily 10F hotter than outside. I’m writing and watching as a pack of gjyshes in black apparel walk down my hill to join the nightly xhiro; I will never understand how they can wear long-sleeved wool clothing as I sit, stagnant, and sweat. Thank heavens I have my persimmon tree, with new blossoms, to give me shade.
Pretty consistently over the past month I’ve been traveling, both for pleasure and for work. I recently returned from my group’s Mid-Service Conference. It’s a little late; I’d say we have about 310 days to go, in counting. Every PC conference we have seems to leave me with a newfound motivation for my projects, and life, at site (not just because we have sing-alongs). Most likely this is due to the conversations among volunteers on their projects, progress, and successes in work and life. Here, more than ever before in my life, I’ve found the support of my coworkers and friends to be the most valuable. I returned to site feeling more refreshed than ever. After killing the critters that decided to move in (I no longer show mercy), I sat down and came up with my goals for the summer. Things are looking up.