Sunday, July 6, 2014

Let it Glow, Let it GLOW!

Last week, Megan and I put on Lushnje's first GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp with 22 girls! SO. MUCH. FUN. Two PCVs in Romania started GLOW a few years back, and now it's spread to most other Peace Corps countries. Albania's first GLOW was last year (here's the link to that post) but by the end of this summer, there will have been almost a dozen.

GLOW is absolutely everything I love about Peace Corps. I literally want to do nothing but travel around Albania for the next 10 months (only ten months left!?) doing GLOW camps every week. It's part Young Life camp, part group therapy, part classroom, and part insanity, with generous dash of general hilarity. Megan started out organizing some camp rules written by the girls, including the classics like Respect Others, Make New Friends, and some not-so-classic ones, such as Don't Bring a Hobo Home.

I started off the day with a presentation on self esteem, and the girls did an activity where they wrote down qualities in themselves they were proud of on petals and glued them to a center with their name on it (cue the "awwwwww"), after which we had them present them to each other.

We talked about how self esteem comes from within (like the flower activity), but it doesn't hurt to have a supportive friend or two! We all decorated envelopes with our names on them so we could write encouragements and compliments to each other. The first day was a little slow, but quickly the girls started gathering around the envelope table to write notes first thing in the morning, during break, and right before they left!

No summer camp is complete without a few rounds of the Human Knot. It's so much fun join the girls in these games, not just because they're a blast, but because none of them have ever played a game like it! 


Erin gave an awesome presentation on Successful Women, working from a poster that her Albanian counterpart had made (yay sustainability!) for her GLOW camp (which Meg and I attended and I'll post about later).

What makes a successful woman? The girls picked a role model and had to present about who they chose and why. One tricky part of this dialogue is the word "bukur," or beautiful. In Albanian, they use the word to compliment anything - Oh, Metallica is so beautiful! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I loved it, it was so beautiful! - and so trying to differentiate between "beautiful" as physical description and "beautiful" meaning kind, or good, was difficult. Every girl wrote down that they admired their chosen role model because she is beautiful. 

So basically every presentation had this conversation:

"So, does a woman need to look perfect to be successful?"
"So what are some other, more important characteristics of your successful woman?"
"Well, she is very beautiful."

We had some awesome examples, though, and the girls, after a bit of prodding, ventured beyond "beautiful" and "lovely" and came up with "helpful" and "strong" and "confident." Success! Another success: the green girl on the left (above) represents Megan and me. Cue another "awwwwwwwww!"

Day Two started off with a bang as we dove right into health and hygiene. In three groups, the girls learned about wound care, period care, and skin & body care, made posters, and presented what they learned to the other girls. I ran around like a maniacal bumblebee, fact-checking and encouraging and saying things like, "No, I promise saying the word 'vagina' will not make you spontaneously vomit."

"See, before, the girl has black greasy hair, zits all over the place, black teeth, and no likes on Facebook. After she showered and brushed her teeth, she has blonde hair and white teeth and perfect skin and 38,000 likes on Facebook. So take a shower."

Thank goodness for Dr. Kaltra to (create and) mend red-marker-wounds!

Then we played that crazy game all us 90s kids learned in gym - crossing the river, with limited "step stones" (which were actually the photoshopped covers of magazine, thus a subtle anti-glamour message for 14-year-old girls jumping on all those computer-edited faces).

Too easy? Let's make weird blindfolds!

Megan led an activity about dreams and the girls (and us) made vision boards. They got super creative: a crazy looking lady meant "I want to die happy" and pictures of cookies meant "I want to have a sweet life." I think it's time for another "awwwwwwwwwww!"

Meg and I both topped ours with cookie hearts, and no one was surprised.

Our third day started off with an even bigger bang, by which I mean the chorus of eighteen jaws hitting the floor when I explained the opening activity. Two words: play-do. vulvas.

I think Kaltrina's (the cutie in the pink sleeveless top) face pretty much sums it up: nope. not doing it. But after we passed out the play-do (an unfortunate shade of nude because we couldn't find any dye...oops) and the girls started playing with it, I made one as a model and we put the giant vulva poster on the table and they all got to work.

I've tactfully refrained from posting the giant 2'x3' multi-colored vulva poster here, as I think most of you have seen enough of that.

And now none of them will ever forget how many holes they have and where they are. 
Mission Accomplished.

Megan then led her super awesome session of Attaining Goals (or, as they all translated it, Realizing Dreams). What is a goal? Who can help you? When? Where? And most important, Why? This sort of guided critical thinking isn't taught in schools here, where usually a teacher stands at the front of the class and reads the lesson to students and that's it. (I know I'm being unfair by generalizing, but this is by far the most common method of teaching.) All the girls wrote out a plan for a goal they had - med school in the UK, design school in Germany - and also wrote about a goal they'd already accomplished - passing the English exam, graduating first in their class.

Two volunteers, Paulina and Lucy, were able to come at the very end with two Peace Corps staff, Mira and Cale, so they could meet the girls and see how GLOW Lushnje was coming along. Meg and I like to think we blew their socks off. ;)

Our final day was a hike/picnic/scavenger hunt out in the hills behind town, aka Megan's and my new favorite spot. The girls definitely got creative about some things:

"There's only one cloud in the sky! Can it count for a cloud that looks like an animal?"
"Well, what animal does it look like?"
"A cloud."
"But actually, we were just kidding, it looks like a crocodile hiding under the water!"

"MEGAN! We found some nuts!"
"You did? Where?"

So. Many. Turtles.

We stopped at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the rolling farmland and olive groves, where we made friendship bracelets out of old T-shirts, ate a snack, talked about what we learned, and played some games. Human knot included, of course.

So. Many. Bracelets.

We had so much fun at this camp. It was fun, rewarding, challenging, enlightening, powerful, entertaining, exhausting, and simply the best week I've had in Albania. Thanks to (in alphabetical order, because we love you all equally!) Ada, Belisa, Dorisa, Elda, Elgi, Eneida, Eriselda, Helga, Ina, Ingrid, Kaltra, Kaltrina, Klea, Kristi, Mediana, Megi, Ornela, Rea, Sindi, and Tea! And of course to Victory School, for letting us use your amazing facilities!

Group pic, without Megan :(, but just pretend she's next to me!