Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This is How I Look When...Pjesa e Fundit? office asks for the twenty-seventh time if we could use just a teeny-tiny bit of money from the grant to make our office nicer, like just buy a gallon of paint, Meri, no one will notice:

..."Wait, the money goes when you go? We have to finish the grant before you leave?"
(note: we have discussed this literally ten times at least):

...when I see someone I know out in public and I don't want to stop and talk with them, like, at all:

...when I shake an old guy's hand and it lasts waaaaay too long: goes on and I have to make big girl decisions and I have no idea what I'm doing:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spaetzle & Singing Hills

Last summer I decided that taking an awful, expensive, giant, difficult test for fun was a good idea. So I registered for the MCAT and decided it was a great excuse to spend even more money that I don't have and be surrounded by people who are taller and blonder than I. Thankfully, Megan survived her holiday travels (the last three days of which were so awful I'm trying to get her to write about them and post them here so you can all commiserate with her), and off we went to Munich.

We arrived in the city at midnight, bedraggled and run-down versions of our normal selves. I hadn't left Albania for over six months, was surprisingly anxious about a test I swore up and down I couldn't care less about, and hadn't eaten in two days - so, basically, the perfect travel companion. I needed this vacation so bad. ("So bad" I have to butcher an adverb to express it adequately, for shame.)

We had a full day on Monday before my exam on Tuesday to revel in drinkable tap water, stores stocking pants in our size, and proper city waste management. We had pho and sushi for dinner (thanks for making me actually eat something, Meg!) and turned in for an early(-ish) night.

I left in the wee hours of the morning to get to my exam before sunrise. As unexpected was my previous anxiety, so too was my eerie calm as I attempted to pass the first test (trying - and failing, for a good ten minutes - to find my way into the testing center). I felt light as a bird, and about as focused as one, too. But the test was on Messerschmittstrasse, which is the name of the street to my house back home, so I took that for super mega good luck.

The test proctor asked me if I was related to those Quandts and I felt right at home (not only could she pronounce my last name, she recognized it! Not in Lushnje anymore!). (Also, not related to those Quandts.) After my exam, I scarfed down a cheesy pretzel and passed out for a nap until Megan got back from her day trip to Dachau. After our less-than-super-happy-fun Tuesday, we woke the next day for our walking tour bright and chipper and ready for some fun!

The weather didn't agree with us, though, so we spent most of the tour dashing from awning to door stoop to overhang trying to stay dry in the icy cold sleet pestering the city. 

Our tour guide, a sweet American-turned-German girl, told some awesome stories about the crazy history of this city. Most involved beer. For example, the cross of the spire of St. Peter's Church (gorgeous interior above) faces the wrong direction. The story goes that it fell down during a storm a few centuries ago, and none of the monks wanted to climb the steep roof to put it back. Where do you find someone willing to do something so stupidly dangerous? Why, a local beer hall of course! So they found a man foolhardy enough to attempt the mission and up he went, cross in one hand, beer stein in the other (sustenance for the climb, of course). Miraculously, he managed to replace the cross and raised his arms to cheer...and dropped his glass stein. It rolled down the steep, tiled roof and hit the cobblestones four stories below - and managed not to break. This being the Catholic church of the middle ages, they decided this was a miracle sent from the Lord and thus kept the revered cup in a special display case at the church, where it remains today.

Jewel-encrusted skeleton of St. Munditia, a "Holy Martyr of the Faith" - you can read all about these (and see better pictures of) bejeweled skeletons scattered across Europe here. 

New Town Hall

The famous Rathaus Glockenspiel, which has put on a show at least twice a day for over a century, depicts a wedding and jousting ceremony from the sixteenth century, as well as the cooper's dance dating (allegedly) from 1517.

We didn't take many pictures. The weather = gross. Also, we were having too much fun just going with the flow, instead of trying to document every. single. thing. 

The sun came out for a striking sunset, which made all the buildings of the Marienplatz glow in a way impossible for a camera to capture.

We spent a few days wandering around churches, museums, and beerhalls. Then, on a whim, we decided to take a cheap local train to my new favorite city in Europe, Salzburg. Yes it was beautiful. No, I did not sing "The Hills Are Alive" like I invented it the whole time I was there. Yes, I wanted to.

Mozart Square

Mozart's birthplace!

Behold: the Alps!

Behold: The Nonnberg Convent, home of Maria before meeting the Von Trapps!

Hohensalzburg fortress, started in 1077 (so, literally a thousand years old), one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Never been conquered and totally still habitable! (Unlike Skanderbeg's castles up north, which are nothing more than stones and grass...) 

After we returned to Munich, we had one last morning before departing for Tirana. What a great trip to finish off my international European adventures! As always, thanks to Megan for being an awesome travel buddy. Je e mrekullueshme, moj. <3

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Procrasti-blogging and Other Pursuits of Distraction

I'm taking the MCAT in 65 hours, so instead of taking another practice exam I'm going to "add another chapter" to my dad's favorite book, cuz that's how he described my blog and isn't that the sweetest darn thing you've ever heard?

Thus, a review of 2014:
Remember when I wanted to read 75 books this year? Oops, read 95. I did Goodreads "Book Challenge" and they're like, naw, 75 ain't good enuff do more do more you lazy bum. So I did. I didn't hit all the books on this list, but I did pretty well:

1. A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking (50% done) (although after this book it's hard to believe in something as simple as numbers.)
2. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
3. The Brother Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
4. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
5. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
6. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
7. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
8. Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather 
9. Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
10. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
11. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
12. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
13. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
14. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
15. The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou 
17. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
18. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (2% done...)
19. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
20. On the Road - Jack Kerouac la la la I don't see you why did I even put you on the list....
21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
22. Oryx & Crake - Margaret Atwood
23. The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir (50% done...I can't rush this book, it's definitely one to savor!)
24. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
25. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (halfway done!)
26. Slaughterhouse-5 - Kurt Vonnegut
27. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
28. The Stranger - Albert Camus
29. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
30. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
31. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
32. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
33. Middlemarch - George Eliot
34. A Book of Memories - Peter Nadas
35. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
36. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
37. War & Peace - Leo Tolstoy
38. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse
39. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
40. The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
41. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
42. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
43. The View From Castle Rock - Alice Munro. (Basically, anything by Alice Munro.)
44. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
In 2013, I hit up five new countries. In 2014, I only hit two (oh, poor me, right?): Rhodes, Greece in April and Venice & Florence, Italy in July:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Have you ever wondered what happens when you combine one giant American plus two small Albanians plus lots of flour in a ten-square-foot kitchen? Or what happens when a houseful of 13 guests and God knows how much food are faced with a crisis of no water and no gas? Or how long I can possibly sleep during a post-holiday nap? Or maybe you've never wondered about any of those things in which case I recommend you stop reading because you're about to get super bored.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ideas of the Day

Good Ideas of the day:

1. Three cookies for breakfast.
2. Finally remembering to listen to Adele Dazeem Idina Menzel's Christmas album.
3. Finding a use for my landlord's copy of Mein Kampf: as a doorstop.

Bad Ideas of the day:

1. Wearing a turtleneck because it's December. But also 70 degrees outside.
2. Initiating conversations with multiple people on Facebook, Skype, and text. All at the same time. SO MUCH COMMUNICATION.
3. Drinking an instant pumpkin spice latte at 8pm because I was bored. (No sleep tonight! I'm gonna sleep tonight!)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

That time I had a major public meltdown.

Like, a toddler tantrum, making-a-scene-in-the-cereal-aisle kind of meltdown.

That's an exaggeration. 

There are literally* no good gifs of the Wicked Witch of the West melting. What else is the internet for? Why do you let me down now, internet, today of all days?

Monday, November 17, 2014

That time I got evicted. (Part II)

Enough is enough, decided our knight errant, and so Rudi arrived on the scene on Thursday to "liquidate the entirety" of the apartment according to Lola's petulant wishes. There was a whole list of demands awaiting us when we arrived at the pink apartment, including:

1. Paint the walls (because you ruined them)
2. Put the couch covers in the washing machine (because they're so dirty)
3. Buy a new doorknob (omg enough with the goddam doorknob)
4. Fix everything you damaged (uh, what?)
5. etc., etc., and so forth with illogical and unreasonable sweeping statements of nonsense.

In an almighty furor, Rudi wrote a venomous note back to Lola and got into a fight with Lola's messenger, the hair stylist downstairs. (Because obviously Lola wasn't on hand to actually talk with the Peace Corps rep face to face, which would be just too logical.) And Lena came with her son and took everything left in the apartment, including the stuff Mary just couldn't care less about like a dented ladle and empty peanut butter jars from America and three burned-out candles. They worked shpejt shpejt (quickly quickly) because again, Lola claimed to be returning in a few hours and they all wanted to get the hell out of that situation. But Rudi held onto the key, which Mary would return as soon as Lola returned her rent for half the month of November.

(Might I remind you all that it is now THURSDAY and still Lola hasn't moved her "terminally ill" husband to Lushnje. She gave me FIVE HOURS to get out, and a full EIGHTY-THREE hours later she still hasn't brought him back. I'm sure he's sick, and I really want to feel compassion for her - I do - but honestly, at this point I'm pretty sure she's either majorly exaggerating or TOTALLY MAKING THIS UP for her own convenience.)

Friday was World Diabetes Day, so Mary went back to work for some semblance of normalcy and took part in an activity with the office providing free diabetes blood sugar testing and blood pressure taking in the park. Also, she had an adventure with her washing machine, who is a little persnickety and took a bit to warm up to her. Friday also provided a slight hiatus from the evil (former) landlady, hallelujah praise the Lord.

Six calls from Lola. Six calls from Lola ignored by the fed-up Peace Corps volunteer. One hilarious text message from Lola:

"E lexova letren.Me ty
nuk me lidhi bujaria dhe
ligjesia,por bashkveprimi
reciprok.Laj dritat,ujin,
demet materiale qe me
ke shkaketuar.Marrja e
celesit eshte qesharake.
Ne dhjetor vjen vllai nga
Amerika qe esht i zoti
shtepis.Ai eshte qytetar
amerikan i nderuar.Cdo
gje e ka bler me djersen
e ballit .5vjet qe ka sjell
fondacioni ka dhene
parat qe i takonin vellajt
tim. Ai me tha do
ballafaqohem un me
Merin dhe me Rudin.

Which I understand to mean, basically:

"I read your note. Our agreement was not out of generosity nor was it legally mandated, but out of a simple agreement. Fix the energy and water bills and the materials you damaged. Taking the key is foolish. In December, my brother is coming from America. He owns the apartment. He is an honored American citizen. Everything which you bought with the sweat of your brow over the past half year (five years?) was money that belongs to my brother. He said we will face Mary and Rudi. Lola"

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. I paid the water and energy bills up through October. It is literally not possible to pay the first ten days of November separately at this time. The energy and water places wouldn't let me, so I basically did all I could there. Also, I didn't damage a single thing. Also, what is an "honored American citizen" and is that supposed to be a threat? Because if so that's hilarious. Also I just switched from third to first person, sorry. Also my brain hurts.

And here is where our story concludes for the time being. It has been a week of inexplicable insanity, stress, confusion, and exhaustion. Moral of the story: stay away from crazy people. They have a funny way of trying to ruin your life.

Albania. Always interesting.