It's Sunday at the "gas station café" and time to blog a bit. It's been an action-packed week, of course with the usual language training and regular Friday sector training, safety and security sessions, AND we did our Community Project and Language Simulation Stations (more on that later) AND our team cooked dinner for our village mate's 58th Bday. Needless to say, it's our one "relax" day and we are all very tired but completely filled with joy and gratitude that we made it through another week!
We remind ourselves we are here to help others and that at the end of the day, it's not about us, but how we can help this gorgeous, welcoming, culturally deep, and "developing" country. We have such a range of ages in our large group of 54 "trainees." (we get sworn in as volunteers in less than a month). The "yungins" definitely have the energy to both study those extra two hours a day AND enjoy beers AND play sports, etc. As one continues to evolve, it becomes about balance and being present to each moment. It's all good and such a wonderful experience to get to reflect on the different stages in life and see one's own life through the lens of someone experiencing things for the first time (this must be what it's like to have kids :-) - and I'm old enough to be the parent of many of in our group!
Quick review on this week, I was down for 2 days with the cold/flu that has been rampant in my village and among our group for weeks. My village mate, Mitesh was an angel and rode a bike to the pharmacy in the next town to get the meds prescribed by the PC Medical Office (great service by phone)! Everyone in my household was hacking and stuffy and it was an interesting feeling to realize that I had medicine and they did not (can't share nasal sprays :-)). Each day brings a new reminder of how much we have and what we don't think twice about (the access to medical services, how to limit the spread of germs <every one eats out of the same salad bowl with their own forks>, and the choice to rest versus having to work 12 hours on the farm...
Enough perspective... now for pure productivity... We did our Community Project this week. Our small group of 5 in Bishqem decided we wanted to keep it simple (the real goal was to both do something to have a cultural exchange along with exposure of what it takes to get something accomplished within the Albanian structures). We have a grade school right next to the health center (which houses our freezing language room). We arranged to do a small break out session with the 3rd/4th grade and teach them a song/s that would hopefully inspire them to learn more English.
We created posters and then led them in the standard "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song and dance. After several rounds of that, we led them in the Hokey Pokey. They were so cute and were in a big circle and we started off all holding hands. They laughed, participated with some initial hesitancy and high-fived us as we finished. We got great feedback and we felt we had success over all. Mostly, we were silly and got to feel the smiles of their darling faces. (I will provide photos later as my village mate, Jackie, took all the photos and video and I need to get it from her).
We also had our language Simulation Stations Day in Elbasan (the larger city). We had an assignment sheet and walked around the city in smaller groups of 7-8 and had to engage, speaking Shqip (Albanian). We met with kids at a music school and then a high school. We went to an open market and then the castle. We had specific questions we were encouraged to ask and then document. At the end of it all, we stood up as a group and presented our results or told the story of the conversations (which included the simple/difficult task of asking for directions - LOL - I barely understood the person I asked)! I had success at the market and was able to ask what the word for zucchini is in Shqip (kungull) and then ask for the price and then buy some!!! I may survive in this country on my own, yet!!!
Great news - the sun was shining this week and I think spring is really here! Things are blooming, the grass and fields sparkle and new life is seen everywhere in the village. Baby chicks are being born daily. And for my host family, the Mecja's, 2 baby goats were born. It brought tears to my eyes to see these 2 darling babies. Their hair is so soft and I was shocked at how big they seemed (unfortunately they were born during the day while I was at school). My host mom, Nyshi, delivered them with no help from a vet or anything! WOW! (her husband is in Greece working). My village mates came to look and touch these baby goats - it made all our daily challenges melt away!! I hope the video will attach and you will get to see a little of what I saw this week.
We also did short preso's (presentations/"preso" is a word I learned at Tellme and I just love using it!) for demonstrating and practicing our facilitation and training skills as we will all be doing this in our assignments. We were supposed to talk about something we could teach others and we only had 10 minutes. PC has a format and learning process they want us to follow, so we had guidelines to utilize. I did my "preso" on "Quick Tips for an Effective Group Meeting." I had a few short slides (PowerPoint meets Albania)!! What was super cool was the person right before me is a bit of a yogi and he taught us how to do "alternate nostril breathing" technique for stress reduction. This was perfect as where our group presented, the office was up the "fun" 4 flights of stairs... Great way to slow down heart rate and depleted lungs!!! (Note: my yoga teacher taught me this several years ago and we had practiced it last year at chant camp but I had forgotten about it). I think it could be useful in my first meeting with some high level Bashkia official!! :-)
This week ended on a high note with our dinner party for Megan's birthday. We shopped in Elbasan and cooked it at her host family's house. We made chili (Albanian style) and an "American salad, Debbie style)/lots of chopped items. We found avocados and it was so fantastic to have it in the salad. We played music, danced and spoke "Shqiplish!"- which is broken Shqip (Albanian) and English mixed in (which is how I speak mostly at this stage)!! Lots of fun was had by all and since it was next door to my house, there were no issues with staying out past dark. When I did get home the door was locked and I had a short moment of "oh, no" but Nyshi leaned over the balcony and told me "the door is open" (in Shqip, of course) and I said "no, it's not" - it turned out it was locked! We had a good laugh and soon I was back in my cozy "burrito" bed... AND WOO HOO - the first night without the orange sweatshirt and other layers!!! I guess spring, really is here! (I'm still a bit hesitant about sleeping without my "Darn Tough" socks but tonight I think I will give it a whirl)!!!
Okay, my precious circle... I must sign off and will load photos later. I hope you are all doing well. And thank you for sending the detailed notes and emails, they warm my heart and remind me of why I am doing this - for Albania, for all of us and as the next step in Debbie's life journey. And thank you to Ann, Maureen, Steph T, Patty, Sue Fialer for sending actual cards!!! I cried! It takes 3-4 weeks for mail to arrive FYI
We find out on Friday where our permanent site assignments will be... so much buzz is happening around it for many and on Friday, we were reminded (and coached) that we all signed a contract to serve wherever, under hardship, if necessary AND to not get caught up in "at the beach, in a city, with a BFF, or somewhere not cold LOL - COLD is not considered a hardship :-)) - It was really good for many to hear this and remember why they joined the Peace Corps. All along, I've said, I will go where asked. It will be exciting to hear and know where "home" will be soon. Keep you all posted.