Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tumblr-ing in Albanian

I am not the best at sharing actual information on Albania (that is, excluding what pertains to the blogging topic du jour). And I'm a member of the Language & Culture Committee! For shame, Mary.

Thankfully, the LCC just launched a new Tumblr about not only language and culture here in country, but history, religion, food, and music - so I can shift part of the responsibility of edumacating my friends and family onto the committee's capable shoulders! The blog will be updated often, with posts from volunteers all over Albania. I'll be contributing there about once a month (don't worry, they'll be short & sweet), but I'll also link it here (so you can gain ALL the knowledge!). You can also click on the "Albanian Language and Culture" link I have on the upper right hand corner below the blog title.

Since blog posts are super boring without photos, here's a recent one taken in Ardenice after a lovely lunch with Peace Corps staff from in-country and a few visitors here to discuss the future of the health program in Albania.

It totally looks like I chopped a chunk of hair off on my right side and now I'm having flashbacks to 2007 and my awesome mom 'do from Bye Bye Birdie.

Too bad I can't find any good photo evidence of that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

La Bella Italia

A trip to Italy, punctuated with hoity-toity quotes from Florence's own great son, Dante Alighieri.

Futbol and Drones and Flamethrowers, Oh My!

In what came as a surprise to no one, the Albania-Serbia soccer game, held in Belgrade last night, was discontinued midway through the game due to totally expected insanity. (I tried to find a video to embed from YouTube but literally every video had either "Exterminate the Albanians!" or "Die, Serbian scum!" as the tag line and that's not really my cup of tea. So here's the link to a video at ESPN Go.)

In efforts to prevent violence, Albanians were not allowed to attend the game (risking arrest if they attempted to access the stadium - though why any Albania would want to get past Serbian border control is beyond me), so some enterprising young shqiptar decided that a flag-flying drone would bring some Albanian spirit to the game. For reasons beyond my comprehension, they decided to attach the flag (showing a map of Albania plus the contested Kosovo region - which Serbia still claims to possess, despite its independence being recognized by, like, everyone) to said drone with insanely long string...long enough that a Serbian player was able to grab the flag and pull down the drone.

Off course, the mature response to this is to FIGHT. This immediately incendiary act led to actual incendiaries - as the fight continues, check out the flame thrower action occurring in the upper right hand corner. Fans started throwing garbage onto the field, before breaking past barriers to rush the field. The Albanian team quickly abandoned the fight and ran to the safety of their locker room, but not before a invigorating round of "ubi ubi ubi siptare" chants from the Serbian fans ("Kill kill kill the Albanians!" - charming, no?).

Officials waited over an hour for tempers to cool - because, you know, fifteen years has worked so well to calm ethnic hatred between the two countries since the civil war ended - but eventually declared it hopeless and cancelled the game, upsetting soccer brackets everywhere.

For hours last night, Lushnje was insane with men screaming, whistling, parading down the main street, honking their car horns, singing Kosovar pride songs (Kosovo is largely ethnically Albanian), chanting, running, and wreaking general havoc.

Honestly. Sports.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I am so...

...HOMESICK. I am so so so homesick. Between all these summer travel posts that I'm publishing so tardily (how's that for an awkward adverb?), I would be remiss if I let anyone think my life has evolved into some money-spending, fun-having, world-traveling joy-fest. Because let me tell you, it's not.

Not that it's bad. It's great - I'm in the Peace Corps, I have internet and running water, I'm healthy. And yes, I get to travel and see new places and meet new people and generally enjoy my life. But that's not enough for me, apparently.

I want to hang out at UW's Memorial Union under the giant oak tree and watch the sailing team take the boats out for a final spin. I want to walk in Devil's Lake State Park and collect vibrant red maple leaves that will eventually turn into autumn fairy dust at the bottom of my backpack. I want to wake up and go to the farmer's market and get coffee at the head of State Street to warm our hands in the early morning chill before we get some hot spicy cheese bread and sprinkled donuts.

I want I want I want.

I want to go for a bike ride around Lake Monona. I want to go to a Badger football game and sing Varsity and eat brats and do the wave in Camp Randall. I want to go to Blackhawk for church and meet my friends beforehand at the coffee station and stock up on caffeine before service.

I want I want I want.

I want to curl up with my little sister and talk about life and fall asleep scrunched together in her little twin bed. I want to go to the Quandt farm and hang out in the barn and harvest pumpkins. I want to watch Young Frankenstein with my dad and wheedle a shoulder rub out of it.

I just really, really want to hug my mom.

Peace Corps is hard. I still have six and a half months to go, and it's getting harder and harder to focus on the now - my future may not be Albania, but my present is, and it still deserves my best. Even if, today, my best is verbal-vomiting my feelings on the internet because for some reason it's easier than actually reaching out to those who love me, both here and at home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Valbona to Thethi - the Thethi Part

(This is Part III of our Accursed Mountain Summit Trek - check out Part I here and Part II here.)

We awoke our last day to crystal-clear blue skies and fluffy cumulus clouds dancing between the mountain peaks. Erin was able to convince us all to take the hike out to the Syri i Kalter - the "Blue Eye" - for which I am so grateful. As you'll see, it was spectacular.