Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've been busy and a bit merzite lately, which is certainly not the most productive emotional combination. The busy part: I finished my grant proposal (yay!), met all the new volunteers in Elbasan with my fellow gender equity committee members (fun!), and then had some of those new volunteers visit Megan and I this weekend for volunteer visit (and they are AWESOME)...not to mention actually working. Merzite: Moza was fired (and then tentatively, maybe, perhaps, hopefully, rehired?) for political reasons. Also other stupid reasons that I'm not going to blog about, but suffice it to say that they were total utter BS and infuriating and ridiculous. She kept begging me to talk to the director for her, but I thought that would do more harm than good in the long run...and she wouldn't talk to me for over a week. My reasoning was (and still is) that my talking to the director could be seen as a threat - I'm an American and what I say goes! - and he would be even more determined to keep her out due to her ability to "involve the Americans" and the public eye.

(Sucks to suck. The "public eye" got an earful from him recently in a secret expose on abuses of power in D.Sh.P. Lushnje. WHOOPS. Now we're all just waiting with bated breath to see if there's a transition of power.)

But here's a itty bitty photo dump of projects I've been doing with my counterparts recently:

Hand washing activity at the kindergarten!

Lena and the director of a village school demonstrating their superior RBFs.
(That would be resting bitch face, Dad.)

Lena's favorite past time - ordering students around in public. Actually, though, the first aid club did a demonstration of their skills in the park and they did a great job! Except for the fact that they were basically trying to out-perform their friends and the kids crowded around until there was no way for passerbyers (passerbyes? passerbies? idk.) to see what was going on.

Lena organized a breast and cervical cancer presentation with a nurse in one of the villages (Karbunar e vogel). We had 17 women show up...and three reporters, because anything worth doing is worth filming.

Pointing out our video to the reporters after our presentation. Lena loves the spotlight. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Just south of Lushnje is the city of Fier, which is kind of like the capital of our "state" and yes, there are plenty of jokes about the volunteers who live in "Fier/fear." Outside of the city is the ancient Greek city of Apollonia. It was a huge, bustling university city until an earthquake in the 3rd century AD changed the course of the nearby river, plaguing the city with a swamp of mosquitoes and destroying the local harbor trade. It's one of the few very well preserved and presented ancient cites in Albania, and it's estimated that there's an additional 80% of the city underground, waiting to be discovered.

A few weeks ago, some volunteers organized a trek out there and invited Megan and I along. It was a stunning day with awesome people.

Step 1. Pretend pose with a map because you're too awkward to smile at the camera.

Step 2. Pretend to be eaten by a dismembered lion head.

Step 3. Marvel at how lucky you are to have such great friends even though you are a world-class weirdo.

Step 4. Drink a coffee at the top of a hill and watch a shepherd herd sheep because Albania.

All photos stolen from Megan's Facebook. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Grand European AdventureTime Part VII FINALLY

Seeing as April is staring us in the face (umm...what. how.), I felt it apropos to take it upon myself to finish that epic adventure that was the holidays.

Yes. I still haven't finished blogging about the holidays. Sorry.

We left off here, as our trip in Prague came to a close. Next stop: Tirana! Unfortunately, Em couldn't get on the same flight as Danielle, Kate, Meg, and I, so she ended up in Athens for the night. That's an entirely different story - involving a greedy cab driver, a grand tour of the Grecian countryside in the night time, and a sunrise on the Mediterranean. But I headed back to pick up Em, and after spending the night in Tirana (traveling after daylight just doesn't happen in this country), we FINALLY landed in Lushnje.

Hey everyone, we made it to Lushnje in one piece!
Also, that's Emily's hand on the left. I'm not a weirdo holding two hand up like life's a rollercoaster.

We spent the next seven days sleeping, talking, eating, cooking, exploring, visiting, taking pictures, snuggling, watching movies, reading, napping, and just generally doing the wonderful and weird things only sisters can do together. It was so fun to see Lushnje through Em's eyes!

"Don't take a picture of me, take a picture of him!"
"Not me! Not me!"

Yum. Chai malli (mountain tea).

Emily had to get a thousand pictures with all the ladies at Lena's favorite coffee stop. 

We also went to the museum here in town (which is actually really cool!) and the guide was all, "Look at this 15th century Turkish sword! Wanna hold it?" UM, YES. (The historian in me cried a bit when I realized that nothing was protected and I could literally pocket ancient greek pots or weaponry from centuries past...)

Part of a mural in the museum painted by the current Prime Minister, Edi Rama.

Moza's office!

Main office!

Emily's flight left at 4am on the 13th, so we spent the day in Tirana on the 12th before taking the bus to airport at 5 pm. (We're cheap and we figured, why waste money on a hotel room and a taxi just to get a few hours of sleep, which would waste the precious little time we had left?) Tirana doesn't have a lot of "sights" to see, so it didn't take us long to cover the big ones:

The city recently put together this little corner showcasing some relics from communism, including part of an old factory, a bunker (above), and a piece of the Berlin Wall (below). 

And of course, no trip to Tirana would be complete without a trek up the pyramid! When Enver Hoxha died, his daughter and son in law built this mausoleum to his "greatness" to be remembered forever...

It's now an abandoned hazard and a fantastic cultural icon. The graffiti is ever-changing, and students are always climbing up the walls to get a birds-eye view of the city.

Emily Anne, I love you. Spending those three weeks with you in Vienna, Prague, and Albania made me so incredibly happy, and I will absolutely treasure that time forever. #ewgrosssappysisterlove

Miss you!

And that, my friends, concludes the marvelous grand European adventure 2013/2014.
(Just in time for Easter)
(I need to work on my timing)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Birthday Megan!!

It's my super special site mate's birthday today! Gezuar ditelindjen, Megi, edhe nje qind! 

I LUCKED out with Ms. Megan Bowman. 

She's smart.
She's funny.
She's pretty.
She's kind...
...and totally badass.

First day out on our own in Albania!

New Year's Eve 2014 in Prague

Overlooking Lushnje, last summer

She puts up with and partakes in my harebrained ideas...even though she seems to draw the line at a dramatic musical reenactment of Let It Go with a comforter for a cape and dramatic hair flipping.

Not that I've ever done that. Or that there's a video of it.


Vienna. "Man Punching Horse"

Kulmak, last summer

And we're a lot alike in so many weird ways: 

M. Elizabeth
little sisters named Emily
childhood obsession with Nancy Drew
and so many other things that it's kinda strange.

 Hey, remember that time we shared a sleeping bag on a mountain?

Or that time that we volunteered to play the awkward awesome male parts of a student-written soap opera?

And that time we took truly inexplicable Christmas photos?

(and showcased our Twin Peaks gang sign?)

How about that time we got locked out of our hostel in Budapest for half an hour at 2am Christmas morning?

Dude, Meg. You rock.
 I love that you're my sitemate. You da bomb.

(And you have that Albanian photo pose down to a SCIENCE.)

Happiest of happy birthdays
gezuar ditelindjen edhe nje qind
shume urime
feliz cumpleanos
joyeux anniversaire
...and all the rest cuz you're the best!