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

I wrote a grant and won some money and did some trainings (breast and cervical cancer prevention training for rural nurses) and bought some stuff (laptop and projector for my office)! Buuuut, still more work to do, including another training and site visits for monitoring and evaluation, not to mention free mammograms and paps for lots of ladies.

I taught a whole bunch of young ladies about periods and vulvas and tampons and babies, and had way too much fun making embarrassed fourteen-year-old girls say "vagina" because, for crying out loud, if you're in possession of one you might as well be able to say the proper name. (And we also had an awesome national camp and GLOW is the bomb diggety, basically.)

I got to travel all over Albania, saw some shume bukur (very beautiful) sights, hiked some awesome mountains, and spent time with truly marvelous people.

Butrint, in the far south - ancient Greek, Roman, and Venetian city

Hiking the Valbona-Thethi pass in the Albanian Alps


At this stage, I decided I wasn't feeling too well, so I took a nap. Then I woke up and puked twelve times and pulled a muscle in my back and it was literally 30 degrees in my bathroom and I was shivering so hard my knees were knocking together and it was so bad I starting laughing hysterically and then puked some more.

So, obviously, I forgot about this post. But now it's posted, aren't you glad?

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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

That time I got evicted. (Part I)

My brain, all this week.

Once upon a time, there lived a Peace Corps Volunteer named Mary in a pink apartment - an apartment which was, admittedly, a little too nice for Peace Corps' purposes - on a dusty street in a little city in Albania. Her landlady was crazy old woman named Lola who had let herself into the apartment when our PCV was out and then locked the door with a secret deadbolt key she had, simply because she found the house "too dirty." What the evil landlady didn't know was that it wasn't dirty, but dusty, because Mary was busy making gingerbread cookies and houses for the holiday season to give to friends and coworkers like a nice human being, and so there was flour everywhere. This fact did not stop her from calling Mary the equivalent of "slut" in front of the entire high school when she went to get the secret key so she could get back in her house.

Did Mary learn her lesson about the evil landlady? Did she immediately seek out new housing to get away from the insanity that was Lola? No, she did not. And that is where our story picks up today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Call me melodramatic, but in 2010 when our governor, He Who Must Not Be Named, was elected, I cried. And then I was among the over 100,000 protesters at the Madison capitol for weeks (some would say months) when things went sour. And THEN I voted in the recall election, but he managed to win that, too. I mean, WTF Wisconsin. There's a huge chunk of the population that don't like this guy, so let's vote him out.

Mary Burke ALL THE WAY. Plus she has a cool first name.

Yay for the democratic process!