Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Record Room

I've been looking for usable statistics since day one here in Lushnje. I've gone to the Office of Statistics and they're all, "Why would we have any information?" (I'm not even exaggerating) and so in the end, I've gone directly to the source: doctors, local directors, nurses, etc.

But... I FOUND THE RECORDS ROOM YESTERDAY! *applause and cheers*

Too bad it looks like this:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Equity vs. Equality

Quick: who can explain the difference between equity and equality? The difference between these two almost-identical words is so often overlooked when considering certain cultural misconceptions: affirmative action is racist; or feminism is misandry. OBVIOUSLY, BOTH OF THOSE STATEMENTS ARE FALSE. False false false. (Seriously, if I hear another Hollywood starlet say something along the lines of, "Oh, I'm not a feminist; I don't hate men!" I'm going to pull a Britney circa 2007 and shave pull all my hair out.) Inspired by something I came across a while ago, I drew a little cartoon to explain the difference.

Three girls, three different heights.

They all want to see over the fence, but only the tallest girl is able to. Oh no!

Equality would be giving them all the exact same help - such as three identical stools. But as you can see, that doesn't help the shortest girl, and even the girl in the middle can't see much.

That is to say, equality focuses on equal input.

Equity, however, makes sure that each girl has the same view, even if it means the shortest girl gets the most resources (like the stepladder). 

Equity focuses on equal output.

With equity, all the girls have the same view. Yay! Success!

Now, I'm no artistic genius. (Not even close.) However, I think that explaining these misconceptions is the best way to move forward in a culture which revels in misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and confusion (present company not accepted, unfortunately).

This came up during our inaugural Barazia Gjinore committee meeting with the new members from group 17. "Barazia" could technically translate to either equity or equality (and Peace Corps Washington is very vague on differentiating the two, and continues to refer to this PC-wide committee by its old name, Gender and Development, in many cases) but we have decided to unilaterally use "equity" in our name. The gender gap here cannot be addressed simply by educating women - as ignoring men in the process is not only irresponsible, but potentially harmful - but they need a huge leg up. A head start. A step ladder.

Thanks to all y'all from whom I stole the party pics: Jon, Gene, and Erin!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

English is Hard

This has been floating around the internet for ages, but I recently came across it again and it made my head spin. ENGLISH IS SO DIFFICULT. I mean, isn't it strange that read rhymes with lead, and lead rhymes with read, but lead doesn't rhyme with read, and read doesn't rhyme with lead?


But seriously, try reading this out loud.

The English Lesson (author unknown)

We’ll begin with box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be pen?
The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.
And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
But I give a boot… would a pair be beet?
If one is a tooth, and a whole set is teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth?
If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?
Then one may be that, and three be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim.
So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.
I take it you already know
of tough, and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
on hiccough, through, slough and though.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it’s said like bed, not bead!
For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt)
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose –
Just look them up – and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful language: Why, man alive,
I’d learned to talk when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn't learned it at fifty-five.
I have so much respect for all those TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teachers who work so hard to try and convey the insanities and inanities of our language, and those students who work and study and somehow manage to speak English so beautifully. Te lumt!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mbrohu, Testohu!

The past few months, my office and I have been writing, planning, and preparing for a giant grant project that makes me SO EXCITED. We're calling it "Mbrohu, Testohu!" (Check Yourself, Protect Yourself) and it focuses on training nurses from surrounding villages in breast and cervical cancer prevention and detection. We're also trying to find ways to help empower nurses in their sites, increase community dialogue about health and prevention, and encourage new methods to reach out to women.

We're incredibly lucky to have the help of a specialist from the National Institute of Health, Dr. Lumturi Merkuri. In a country as small as Albania, I still find myself chuckling when I mention her name and everyone - everyone - in the health community knows exactly who she is. She's a fantastic crusader for women's health and has a new training session to work with nurses. As part of our grant, she is presenting her breast cancer training, and afterwards will (hopefully be able to) help us develop a cervical cancer detection training this fall.

We had our first training with 20 nurses about two weeks ago. Only four of the five invited health centers showed up (whomp whooooomp), but the nurses who attended were active participants and genuinely benefited from the materials. Now, they each must identify at least one women with an immediate need for a mammogram, in which way we can test their skills mastery (and we have budgeted for these women to receive free treatment).

There were some Peace Corps visitors at the training as well - thanks to Jill, Paulina, and Teresa for attending! It was so much fun to have you there.

We have another training this upcoming Tuesday for another 25 nurses from five other villages, which will conclude the training piece of part one. Then on to cervical cancer training curriculum development (say that five times fast...go!), hopefully with a gynecology specialist from the I.Sh.P. who works with Dr. Merkuri.

Fun fact: I actually had coffee with her when I was in Tirana this past Monday. I thought we were going to talk about the training and future plans, but she surprised me by chatting about where to travel in Albania, her teenage son, and my summer plans. And I had a wonderful time! I'm so looking forward to next Tuesday, and hopefully it will all go well!

Peace Corps lent us two breast models with small lumps to practice manual exams.

Alright, ladies, let's all practice!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All By Myseeeellllffffffff

...don't wanna be, all by myseeeellllfff.

If you know me at all, you know I don't like living alone. In fact, if we've spoken in the last year, you've probably had the privilege of hearing me complain about it ad nauseum. Lucky you.

Really, though, I hate it.

So here's a list of the great things I can do because I live alone, in the hopes that it might just force me to be a little bit more positive about this garbage-dump of a situation. (Name that movie!)

Because I live alone, I can...

...make dinner for myself at 10pm because I forgot to eat!

...leave my dishes on the stove to do in the morning!

...verbally abuse last-night-Mary for being a lazy slob and leaving nasty overnight dishes to do when I wake up!

...binge-read six books in one weekend because I have no social life! (Megan was out of town. Megan = social life.)

...binge-watch TV shows and only get off the couch when I need to pee or run out of food!

...spend countless hours zoned out on the internet looking at pictures of cats! (or taking a quiz to determine my patronus! or learning 1920s slang!)

...take four hour naps because no one's there to shame you awake! (After five years of living with a much more responsible roommate and BFF, I forgot how to respond to an alarm clock. Whoops.)

...record my Dad yelling at me to get out of bed to be the most obnoxious (but effective) alarm ever!

...not do dishes for a week!

...not mop my floors for a month!

...not fold my laundry for a year! (ok, that one's a bit of an exaggeration.)

...bake homemade bread and eat a whole loaf in one sitting!

...use up all the hot water in the deposit!

...make cookie dough and never bake it but slowly eat it over the course of a week, salmonella be damned!

...sing Disney princess songs in my best faux-opera voice without bothering anyone (except the neighbors)!

...sing Disney prince songs in my best faux-man voice without bothering anyone (except definitely the neighbors, who I'm sure wonder what on God's green earth is going on in my apartment most of the time)!

...start a million projects and never finish them!

(Like this post, which I thought I finished last week. But didn't. So I'm finally posting it now. #parforthecourse)

Monday, June 2, 2014


My blog surpassed 20,000 hits! 

The end of the most recent Game of Thrones episode? THIS:

"Don't leave me alone in this world."
#jk #yolo #crying

When my grant money doesn't come in on time because Peace Corps didn't tell me there was a problem with my paperwork..., of course:

When I see all the people I hate at the D.Sh.P. standing in the hallway while we're preparing our training, expecting (futilely) to be invited in with the coffee and cookies:

(Yes, Mother, I know "hate" is a strong word, but these are the unqualified idiots who only have a job because they are from the same village as the director and they literally do nothing all day - because they don't know what they hell they're supposed to be doing - yet expect us to stand up in respect as they pass the office. NOT GONNA DO IT.)