Friday, January 18, 2008

New Year

In the last month I’ve been in four countries, seen almost all my family, celebrated 6 holidays, travelled half way around the world (twice) and started a new year. Crazy to think I’ve been back in Albania for two weeks already. There is something about this place that just seems to consume time. I would now say that I’m ‘readjusted’ to Albania…whatever that means.

Even though I’ve only been here about 10 months, after going home I have a small idea of what Peace Corps volunteers face once returning to America after a two year service. It was great to see family and friends, and much needed, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was out of place. It’s strange to feel that way at home. I’m sure it is only magnified with time. As a tangent I learned that America was somewhat boring. Not in a bad since, but in a way I’m just not used to. When things work, buses, phones, electricity, and you speak the language fluently I suppose there is just a lack of conflict that keeps you stimulated. But that’s neither here nor there.

Aside from the small amounts of hibernation, due to jet lag, I’ve been trying to find a routine and plan out what I can start doing come spring time, as most of my projects will start taking off then (I hope). The weather has been phenomenal; in the high 50’s or low 60’s all week with a bit of rain here and there.

One small last thing that some of you may be interested in know about is that I’ve started to plan the trip I plan to make after I finish here in Albania. My two best friends and I plan to travel for a couple months hitting quite extensively the Middle East and North Africa. We will start here in Albania and travel around the North side of the Black Sea, hitting Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. Then drop into the M.E. and hit Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Then cross into Africa hitting Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. Finally if it’s possible hop on a cargo ship somewhere either in Morocco or Portugal and take that across the Atlantic, stopping along the ports of call in Western Europe and the UK. Hopefully if all works out that will be the itinerary….let me know if any of you have any ideas of things to do along the way.

All the best.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Unlike the rest of my posts I will not lead this one off with an apology for being so tardy. After 8 months of this experience I have learned, and you I’m sure have too, that the excitement has worn off a touch. Things that once were strange seem normal. Quite a lot has happened since my last post so I suppose I’ll do my best to give a quick rundown.
In September I spent a couple days in Greece. I had a friend from school fly out to visit and we spent some time there. I have pictures and I’ll post them soon (I promise!) Since then I’ve been traveling all around Albania. I spent two weeks in the capital: one week to attend a Model UN conference, and another for a round table discussion with the AAM (Albania Association of Municipalities). Both events were lovely. The students participating in the Model UN conference were very impressive. I couldn’t imagine debating nuclear non-proliferation in Iran or Iraq at the age of 16, especially in a foreign language. The conference with AAM went well also. Volunteers working the municipalities around the country were invited to give suggestions about how the AAM could help provide trainings/funds/etc. Mostly we all benefited from it because it gave us a chance to hear what everyone has been doing in site.
Last week I spent a week in Pogradec, a city bordering Macedonia, for our mandatory language refresher. For the month preceding it I have been finding myself to be quite down. After a week of language training and socializing with friends I feel considerably better. Since the beginning of fall I’ve been transitioning in a way I couldn’t describe until now. Throughout the summer I mainly focused on passing the days. Now however I feel much more connected to the country and people than I ever have. I no longer desire as much contact with other volunteers, and feel like I need to integrate much deeper into my community. I’ve taken some time to really assess why I’m here and it has been a great chance to recharge my motivation.
Lately work has been quite slow. The bashkia still has no work for me, and they don’t appear to make an effort to utilize me whatsoever. I have taken it upon myself to seek out more work. The day before I left for Pogradec I introduced myself to an NGO named Auleda. They primarily work in local economic development. I think I’ll be helping them write projects, find grant money and work on implementing projects. I dropped off my CV with them yesterday and will meet tomorrow to see how we can collaborate.
I also met with the woman in charge of the tourism department at the University of Vlore. She told me that she would organize a group of her kids for me to help get projects conceived and completed. SIFE (students for International free enterprise) is also university group I plan to teach presentation skills to.
I have still been working closely with world vision and just recently 5 other volunteers and I have started the tourism committee. We have pretty lofty goals which will provide lots of work.
Nothing as of yet has really solidified but lots is on the horizon. I hope to see some of it come through and give me some more things to keep myself occupied.
I know this was a bit dry and brief but I hope it satisfies some curiosities about what I may be doing out here.
One thing I’ve noticed is that this experience has become much more intimate that I expected, one of the reasons I’ve posted less on here. If any of you have questions about what I’m doing or how I’m doing please send me an email. I would love to tell you individually what I’m experiencing. I’m a little apprehensive to post it on the internet for the world to see.
All the best!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Another overdue update!

How embarrassing to have let another month pass without an update….don’t think this stems from being overworked because that is far from the truth. The month of August in Albania is notorious for having no work. Even most of July is slow, mainly because…. “it is almost August”.
Things here are about as slow as they probably could be. I have been doing the grind through each day and somehow they do pass. I’ve spent the last two weeks away from my actual job and have felt the busiest since I’ve arrived in Albania. For the last two weeks I have led a training with 3 other PCVs. The training was a 4 day TOT (training of teachers). The teachers were college aged kids who would be camp counselors for a camp sponsored by world vision. We taught them life skills, how to teach life skills, and mainly how to be a camp counselor; a tough thing to do as I have never been one. The camp started off well, but I felt it started getting sloppy the last two days. To my surprise the kids were all full of praise at the end of the training. They had said that they had never had anything like it and were really happy they were all there. It was really gratifying to be a part of it and perhaps was the first really rewarding thing I’ve done since my arrival.
Next week I will partake in the camps with the kids I trained and the sponsored kids from around this region. I think we will mostly play games on the beach (which I’m good at) and do some swimming (also pretty good at that).
The weather has finally waned. After about a month and a half of almost constant 100 degree weather, clouds and cool air were welcomed as a blessing. Perhaps this is what makes summer so difficult.
Last weekend three PCV were in town from Macedonia. It was interesting to talk to those from another Balkan country. They all had 4 months left of service and it was pretty obvious they were ready to go home. Makes me wonder how I will be at that stage of my service. Next week will be my 5 month mark. Since I stepped of the plane from the states my perception of time has been screwed. Days, months, minutes, weeks, hours just all blend together and before I know it another month has passed. Some days the 2 year commitment is daunting, and others it seems like nothing. I’ve definitely learned that Peace Corps is a day to day struggle. Some days are amazingly rewarding while others drag seem to test every ounce of motivation and will I have.
I look forward to the fall weather and work. All in all I am doing well…not as busy as I’d like to be buy finding work where it is. I pass the time and think often of home. I look forward to the time I can spend with friends while still cherishing my time alone. I have found a delicate balance I feel and am doing well.
I wish you all the best and hope my late posts haven’t turned you off from checking my blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Since the end of my first week in post time could not have passed more quickly. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in these past 3 weeks (since my last post) is how to pass a day when you have nothing to do. Everyday I’ve learned to make an event about the smallest of tasks; today for example, posting on my blog.
In the most recent news I spent the 4th of July weekend in the capital. The embassy hosts a 4th of July party where they serve hot dogs, hamburgers, apple pie, etc. It was a delight to see all the other volunteers. It was the first time since swearing in.
The Saturday before last I was forced to find a new housing situation due to complications in the home. I was very stressed at first because I had only 4 days, it is in the middle of the tourist season and I had a limited budget. Peace Corps came down to help me though and by Wednesday I was moved into my own apartment. The apartment is not very large, but it has all the space I need. It is very new so all the appliances and furniture are nice. On top of all that it is on the 7th floor across the street from the beach. It has an amazing view of the sea and gives me yet another reason to be hated among other Peace Corps volunteers.
Work is going well. Very slow now, I don’t have much to do at my main post, but I spend the afternoons at the organization World Vision helping them with sponsorship paperwork. They have internet and air conditioning there and it’s a good place to power through the hot afternoons.
This last week I’ve been spending most of my free time outfitting my apartment. While it has a lot of furniture it lacks the necessities. This is the first time I’ve lived alone and I must say I’m a big fan. I’ve never before been excited to get home and clean. Amazing what having a place for yourself will do to some people.
Tomorrow a couple of my friends plan to come to Vlore for my birthday weekend. More will come Friday as well. It will be the first time I have visitors in my new apartment and I expect it will not be the last before the summer is over.
Aside from the chaos of the last three weeks things have been great. I’ve learned to slow myself down to match the pace of what is around me and it has helped in ways I can’t describe. Every time I post I say I can’t believe I’ve been here as long as I have, but it is the dead honest truth. I was so lucky to talk to my brother yesterday. He was the first person from the states I’ve spoken to in 4 months. That as the first time I’ve realized how long I’ve been here.
I plan to take pictures of my place once I feel I can call it home. I will post pictures of it shortly thereafter. I hope things back in the states are going well. I miss you all and much from America. You are all in my thoughts daily.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Week 1

Another late update and again I offer my apologies. The last month I have been focused on finishing training and getting moved in and accustomed to my site. The last two weeks of training were constant sessions that really required nothing but my presence. These two weeks were both fun and numbing. I found myself often with my friends, but also wary about the coming transition which has been mentioned to be the most difficult of all a volunteers service.

Swearing in was anticlimactic and nothing really set in until a few days into site. I moved in to my permanent site a week ago and this has been the longest week I have experienced since I left the states. I was hoping that freshness of the city would help pass the time, I was wrong. The time has started to take a toll on me and I feel as though I’m going through my first “down” moment here.

The difference is not necessarily the lack of friends to visit with but all throughout training every day we were kept busy with something. I never noticed the passing of time until I came to site. Also, things have really started to sink in. The two years has come into perspective and being completely alone for a long period of time is not something I’m completely comfortable with yet.

However, in contrast I think I have one of the best site placements. I was lucky enough to be a walk away from some of the nicest beaches in the country and in a city large enough to keep me occupied when there is nothing else to do. I couldn’t be happier that I brought my guitar now that I have this free time on my hands.

Work now is going a little slow because of elections and other various issues that steal attention away from things that I can help contribute. Because of the absence of work in my main post I have sought it out elsewhere. I plan to help an NGO here in town with camps they sponsor for underprivileged children by being a camp counselor.

With more free time I hope to be able to update this blog more often, I know I have heard from you that check it often to see if I have updated and I hope that I will be able to do a better job at keeping up in the future.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pictures from our field day are on their way...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Group Community Project

All 40 of the volunteers are split into groups of about 5 or 6 and live in different villages. Each group was required to design and implement a community project. It serves as more of a practice on how to build relationships, plan and work with Albanians, and assess resources available. Our group decided that sense we had classes in the high school everyday, but had little opportunity to speak with the students that we should include them into our project. Also, one of the volunteers' host father is the director of the hospital. So naturally we wanted to utilize that resource. We were "planning" on having the director of the hospital come to the school and speak for 10-15 minutes about being healthy/exercise/pollution etc. then follow it up with a field day which would include several American games. ( the egg toss, 3-legged race, and the bat spin relay.)

We thought we had communicated that we wanted 12 students from each grade to participate in the competition, but unfortunately instead of having around 50 students show up we had around 300. There were far too many people for the director to speak and it was very difficult to keep them all out of the way when we wanted to have the games. However, I'm not sure the kids have ever had an event like that planned for them because everyone wanted to be in it and I think everyone had a great time. It was definitely nice to finally interact with the kids who had been so curious about us for so long.