Friday, May 31, 2013

Week 8, Part I: Yes, This Is Out Of Order, Don't Hate Me

The Sunday of site announcement week, all of us Pajovian volunteers were invited to lunch at Dan’s house by his host mom, Luqi (loo-chee). Luqi is crazy. In a wonderful, loving, passionate kind of way. But still…insane. She has so much energy it’s terrifying.

But she’s also a single mother in Albania, supporting her parents, building a new house, working a job, and learning English on the side. So she’s also kind of a badass.

And she’s an excellent cook. For the first month that Dan lived there, she was insulted daily because he couldn't finish the ENORMOUS portions of food she would give him. When I say enormous, I mean enough food for a family of five…just for poor Dan.

So you can imagine the spread she had for us. It was beautiful. And it was DELICIOUS:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand I lost all my pictures, sorry

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Week 8, Part II: "OBVIOUSLY."

Week 8 was great. And scary and intimidating and challenging and entertaining and exhausting and exhilarating and awkward and restful and stressful and fun. We began our adventure early Monday morning: 5 Americans with big duffel bags and camping back packs trying to flag down a furgon.* We made it to Elbasan (in the rain. the only rainy day in a month. obviously.) and met up with the rest of Group 16 for our trip to Tirana.

There are two ways to get to Tirana from Elbasan. The first way is the long way, where you go around the mountain that separates the two cities and drive along the coast for a bit, which takes two and a half hours. The second way is over the mountain on a narrow, twisty road filled with blind spots, 100-foot drops, no guardrails, and sheep. Thanks to impeccable Balkans logic, our giant tour bus took the second route. Obviously.

After surviving that, we got off in the outskirts of the city and walked to the Peace Corps Country Office. The office has a library and I took a book and may or may not have cradled it like a baby for a few minutes an hour. (House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende.) We got a tour there, and then took a stroll around the city. The most important landmark being the restaurant run by American missionaries where you can get Heinz's ketchup, milk shakes, bacon cheeseburgers, and guacamole.

 We also got to see some major Tirana landmarks, such as the pyramid. It was built by Enver Hoxha to be his mausoleum forever, a la the pharaohs. (Enver Hoxha was the dictator here from the end of WWII until his death in the mid-1980s.) Of course, after the fall of communism a few years later, it was abandoned and turned into a giant graffiti display.

We also checked out one of the open bunkers downtown. Albania has THOUSANDS of bunkers, and I'm not even kidding. Enver was obviously paranoid.

Yes, I put my camera in the rifle prop and "aimed" it at unsuspecting passerby. I'm easily entertained.

A part of the Berlin Wall, right here in Albania.

And of course, no tour is complete without awkward family photos (complete with a CARAMEL LATTE OMG CIVILIZATION IT WAS EXPENSIVE DELICIOUS.)

After the tours, we hopped back on our bus and headed to Durres to meet our counterparts. Also stay in a resort on the Adriatik Sea. But that's another story.

*Random side note: I've been getting a lot of flak for my WI accent lately. Some people (AHEM, DAN) have the gall to say my accent is the strongest in the group (SAYS THE GUY FROM JERSEY WHO SAYS "WUAH-DUH" INSTEAD OF "WATER" LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE). Now I'm super self-conscious about saying words like "bags" and "flag" because I don't want to sound like a hick. And then I go and say something like "Dohn't goh, my bayg is in my hammOCK with the flayg," and I may as well have a wheel of cheese and a W stamped on my forehead.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

FAIL. Sorry peeps.

So, sorry I haven't blogged in a while. The narcissist in me is sure you're all DESPERATE for some updates from me, but the pragmatist in me keeps reminding the narcissist that it's a miracle anyone wants to read this at all.


This past week, this week, and the next are crazy busy. Last week was our counterpart conference and site visit, which I will tell in parts because so. much. happened. But for now, I leave you with this:

I get bored during Hub presentations. Like, so bored I draw dumb cartoons. 
As shame.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This is how I look when...Single Event Edition

I was just minding my business and someone told me Mito had some REAL WISCONSIN CHEESE.

Step 1: Freak out.


Step 3: Party in my stomaku. Celebrate.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Focus focus fo-CAKE! And other distractions in class.

Language classes are awesome and not-so-awesome at the same time. On one hand, we have the best teachers of the whole PST language team, here in Bishqem/Pajove. On the other hand, classes long. And every day. And in shqip. So sometimes...we have to entertain ourselves. EXHIBIT A:

We had to create a dialogue between two friends about one's trip. It went like so:

Becky: Hi! Welcome home!
Jafar: Thank you!
Becky: How was your vacation?
Jafar: My vacation was very bad.
Becky: Why? What happened?
Jafar: First, my sweetheart fell from the train and died.
Becky: How sad! What else?
Jafar: I ate some bad food and got a stomachache.
Becky: And then?
Jafar: I went to the doctor, who was very very beautiful. And now she is my wife.
Becky: Oh! (Becky is speechless)
Jafar: It is the best thing. My first girlfriend was ugly. My woman now is very beautiful.
Becky: Where was your wedding?
Jafar: Yesterday, in the church in the hospital. My wife works a lot.
Becky: How long did you stay at the hospital?
Jafar: We're going on our honey moon. We are going to travel by furgon. But, the furgon broke because it hit a donkey.
Becky: The end.

EXHIBIT B: spontaneous class breaks for Albanian lipstick demonstrations. It's hard to tell, but we're all wearing Jill's bright neon pink lipstick. And the Albanian in the middle is our long-suffering teacher, Besa. The things she puts up with...

EXHIBIT C: when bored, doodle.

Let's draw pictures of drug addicts...and name them after fellow PCTs! (We were learning, I promise. We then had to describe our drug addicts in shqip.)

Sorry Amber, because I don't know what I did to you. And Josh, because you look like a hobo.

My crazy neighbor, Suzi, who says "artiste!" whenever she sees me.

It took me FOREVER to figure out how to draw donkey ears...

...and as soon as I did, I drew one with roller skates. Because, obviously.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I'm smelling roses...

So, remember these pretty roses from the neighbor girls? Well, I killed them... make some perfume! Because I only shower every three days! And I'm already almost out of what good-smelling stuff I brought from home! And roses smell so lovely!

Thanks to my gluttony on my birthday, I had two glass jars to work with (peanut butter and nutella). I made one jar in front of my host sister, and another one when she was out to give to her for her birthday. (VERY HARD, believe me. The chick never leaves the house, and there is ALWAYS someone watching me when I'm home. Because they care about me, but still.) 

There's no access to (or money for) fancy bases, so I used some homemade olive oil, stuck some petals in the jars...and now we wait. For like 4 weeks. That's an awful long time to see whether or not I made something magical, or just moldy. Both are equally likely.

DON'T WORRY, MOM. I won't forget to peel off the ugly label before I give it to her. I'm classier than 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Practicum, Part II

For our second part of practicum, we hosted a Health Fair in Pajovë. We had tables for BMI calculations, diabetes testing, blood pressure, dental hygiene, and nutrition. It wasn't a failure, but it wasn't a success...let's just say we learned a lot. A LOT.

We had mostly teenage boys show up out of curiosity...and hardly any women.

Dan in the zone taking blood pressures. The nurses just up and left.

Setting up the BMI station

The two doctors from the Health Center. At this point I'm saying something along the lines of "please do something while you're here! Don't just stand around!" 

Welcome table!

And of course, the smoking dentist. At the dental hygiene table. At a health fair. SMOKING.

The next day we went to Bishqem to help out at their health fair (they came to ours, too). They had theirs during the weekly market, so actually got a lot more people - especially women - to attend.

Dr. Susan, taking BMIs like a boss.

Dr. Paul, doctoring like a doctor.

The Bishqem market


They walked around hand-in-hand for a good half hour. Obviously it was adorable. Obviously I took a creepy picture while pretending to look at other photos. OBVIOUSLY the older one noticed.

In the end, we all learned a ton about the rural health systems here (and the different types of people we might run into), attitudes of men vs. women vs. kids, etc., and how our language skills are grossly inadequate for the job we want to do. Yikes.

Did I mention we only have four weeks left of PST (pre-service training) at this point?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Çfarë, Jafar?

The shqip word for "what" is çfarë (chfar). It's one syllable, but when we Americans use it like "WHAT?!" it comes out as chuh-FAR?! As the Disney generation, we all pronounce it with this image in our heads:

And believe me, there have been many, many Jafar moments here in Albania. Let me list a few:

1. Our two language teachers love to cook. One of them told us she was going to make her favorite food for us as a post-Practicum celebration. She made us sheep's head. 


Not gonna lie, it was pretty tasty. The brain was weird though, and Amber's good friend in vet school was all, "DON'T EAT THAT IT'S GONNA GIVE YOU PRIONS AND YOU'RE GONNA DIE." But we all tried it anyway...even the group vegetarians.

One chef, our teacher Ornela. Our other teacher, Besa, made the dish on the table - tavë kosi, a traditional Elbasan dish made with boiled chicken and broth, kos (yogurt), eggs, and flour. Um, yum?...

Darina (with camera) and Zyri (with fork) are our two Peace Corps health educator coordinators.

Paul's "third eye"

Vegetarian Jill

2. I bought myself some (very expensive) nutella for my birthday BECAUSE I WANTED TO, PEOPLE, DON'T JUDGE. And then my host family ate the whole thing. When I found the empty glass jar, I was all,


3. At our health fairs in Pajovë and Bishqem, we had a smoking dentist and a doctor who sat down to take blood pressures of people standing up. Um, excuse me!?

4. We're in a third world country, right? No running water in schools, child beggars, five people to one motorcycle, the like. And then we found out our local bakery has ice cream, air conditioning, and wifi.

Ice cream and air conditioning and wifi.

sing it with me: ice cream and air conditioning and wifi, oh my! JUH-FAR?!?