Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Under the Orange Tree

There were other videos of this song...but none had quite the same spectacular train wreck of a music video.

As part of our language lessons at Language Refresher, we learned the song "Nën një portokalle," a classic Albanian folk song. The lyrics are as follows:

Nën një portokalle moj,
të ndala unë ty,
lulet e limonit moj,
të binin në sy.

Under the orange tree, girl
I stopped you,
the lemon flowers, girl,
fell in our eyes.

Ngrije kokën lart moj
se më dogji malli,
vinte gusha jote moj
aromë portokalli.

Lift up your head, girl
for which I have longed;
from your throat, girl,
comes the scent of the orange.

Rrinim ne të dy o moj
nën një portokalle,
përmbi kokat tona moj
lulet hidhnin valle.

We stay, just the two of us, girl
under the orange tree,
over our heads,
the flowers dance.

Ngrije kokën lart moj
se më dogji  malli
vinte gusha jote moj
aromë portokalli

Lift up your head, girl
for which I have longed;
from your throat, girl,

comes the scent of the orange.

My translation is certainly not the best - sue me, purists - but you get the drift. We not only sang along to it, but we circle danced to it, too. At the end of class, we joined hands and waltzed out of the classroom to lunch singing along to a shaky recording of an old folk song, singing our hearts out, shameless.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

You're Gonna Fall in a Hole, and Other Brushes with Disaster in Peace Corps Albania

The third night of Language Refresher was a culture fair that another volunteer, Erin, and I coordinated. Being responsible adults, we forgot to prepare anything until two days before the event. So I brought some home-made cookies in an attempt to bribe site trivia out of other group 16-ers for Jeopardy. Of course, I ate about 7 on my furgon drive to Elbasan, but that's just normal.

Before the event, a bunch of us went out for dinner. We went to a soufflaq (soo-flatch) place - it's a type of gyro, except with the fries in the pita, and tomato jelly instead of ketchup. (Surprisingly tasty.) On our way back, we were rushing through the sketchy streets of ghetto Elbasan to return in time for our culture event happened.

My worst fear.

(Ok, not totally worst, but definitely #3 fear.)

I fell in a hole.

Like, guys, I don't even walk on manhole covers back in the States due to this paranoid fear of falling in. 

(It's not paranoia if it actually happens.)

Not to mention, of all the PCVs to fall in a hole first, it's one of the two teetotalers. 

So anyway, I fall in this hole and hoist myself out and everyone's making sure I have my phone and my wallet and the use of my legs. Erin even snapped this picture (which does not do the hole any justice - it was at least four feet deep):

I started limping back with everyone (hanging onto my friend Dan for dear life) until they all insisted we get a cab. I was still saying, "No, it's fine, I'm ok, just a scratch," blah blah blah, but my manic adrenaline-induced babbling and my progressively worse limp convinced them else wise. 

We get back to the hotel, Dan helps me get to my room (at this point, the adrenaline's wearing off), I pull off my boots and holy Moses there's blood everywhere. But of course I'm still worried about getting to the culture fair and trying to get all the papers organized but I'm just dripping blood all over the floor and Dan's all STOP MOVING and Erin's all STOP WORRYING, I GOT THIS and I'm all OMG WHAT HAPPENED TO MY OREO CHOCOLATE I WAS EATING WHEN I FELL IN THE HOLE? 

And then I repeated for the next ten minutes straight "Oh my God, I fell in a godd*mn hole. I FELL IN A HOLE."

Health PCVs started showing up as they heard what happened, drawn to catastrophe and blood as moths to the flame, but Dan and Paul and Susan (two physicians) got me pulled together pretty quickly. Although my boots protected most of my leg, there was a gigantic small wound caused by the impact of my shin with the metal edge that definitely required stitches. So off I went (with Megan in tow, thanks Meg, you're the best site mate ever!) for a late-night visit to an Albanian ER.

We met up with the Peace Corps Medical Officer (who, as an Albanian doctor, speaks English and Shqip and so could translate what happened) at the ER of a brand new private hospital. I got four stitches and a three-day stay in Tirana because the PCMO didn't want me to walk on my leg.

Three days in the capital city, holla! Three days of rain and not really being able to walk...a little less holla.

But now, I'm all good, stitches are out, and although the physical wound is better, my pride still stings worse than anything at the thought of the fact that I fell in a hole.


The Time of Love Returned Into the Time of Mourning

A few weeks ago, Group 16 had its language refresher in Elbasan. It was kind of surreal to be back in the city of our training last spring, taking language classes again with our teachers, and seeing (almost) all of us again. (Almost, because a few volunteers have returned home. But we seriously miss you guys!!)

Of course, the highlights of the week were not the actual training. The second night was our talent show, and I have to say, we are hilarious. I mean, some people are geniuses. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard here! I was lucky to be included with a group of gals to do a skit written by some 10th grade Albanian kids in one volunteer's English class. Ivy had her students write soap operas and I must say, those kids are hilarious, too.

Megan and I lucked out and played the two male characters. I was Humberto, who fell in love with Marta (Kate, below), whom I met in an elevator, and then married, whereupon I promptly died. Megan played Andrew, who got drunk, tried to jump off a rock into the sea, tried to find a girlfriend at a wedding, and then also died.

These Albanian kids are watching way too many telenovelas.

I'm including some of the more poignant memorable lines, because while these kids' grasp of English is pretty incredible, sometimes it's also incredibly hilarious.

"What you say me!? I don't to remind the past."

"Why you batter me if you like my kiss?"

"Who is this man that does not like my daughter? Everyone!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Panaire Shendetsore - Health Fair!

Sorry the photos are kind of crappy - they were taken on a cell phone.

Remember this? On the 31st, we got a fax from the National Institute of Health at the D.Sh.P. about a two-week long mandatory health fair...starting the next day. The next day. On one hand, this is great: it's a former Peace Corps tradition that the national level has claimed as their own - yay sustainability! On the other hand, they scheduled it to start the next day. I can't even explain to you my incredulity. And the director called us in and made a huge speech of how amazing it has to be and OMG WHY HAVEN'T YOU GIVEN ME A PLAN ABOUT IT YET and dude, we just heard about it from you calm down.

All in all, it went really well. Some sites had one giant health fair in one day, covering a myriad of topics with doctors, nurses, and specialists involved. For some reason, my counterparts here in Lushnje were inspired to do a two-week long event. 

(Probably something to do with impressing the new director. Speaking of whom, he's here! So now I hope I can get some projects off the ground with the new guy's approval. The Prime Minister appointed all the new directors across the country and put really young folks in those positions to shake things up - namely, to usher out the old communist sensibilities which still dictate the levels of power here. Holy digression Batman.)

We covered hypertension, breastfeeding, breast cancer, child nutrition, autism, STIs and HIV/AIDS, first aid, road safety, family planning, thalassemia (a locally common genetic blood disorder), and diabetes. We set up at one corner of the park, by the Bashkia, and all the old men playing dominoes LOVED getting their blood pressure taken. I was also really excited to see that we were able to get test strips to do blood sugar testing, too.

The thing about getting gloves, needles, and test strips for the diabetes day is that we, as an office, have no money. So I have a sneaky suspicion that the money for those came out of someone's pocket. I usually don't hear about these things until long after, because none of them want me to offer to chip in. ("You're a volunteer! You don't get paid!" Yet I still make more per month than the majority of them - hellooooooooo, secret internal guilt trip...)

I actually enjoyed myself. Except for two rainy days, we had beautiful warm weather, talked to hundreds of people, raised awareness for a number of health issues faced by Lushnje-ites, spread education and resources in the community, and successfully brought the importance of prevention (in terms of health) into the frontline of the news* for two weeks. Yay for being healthy!

*Because, yes, of course, the news cameras were there, like, every day. Once is fine, twice is ok, every day? GO AWAY. We want civilians under the tent and getting information, not cameras filling the place up with nothing to film but the bemused faces of passerby.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In Which I Denounce My Hiatus and Resume Bloggity-Blogging

Apologies for disappearing for a...month. Oops.

November was a bi-atch. I'll tell you all about it (you know, cuz now I'm blogging again).