Sunday, April 12, 2015

End of Week 4!!!

Sitting in our favorite "gas station, café, bar and supermarket" - using wifi ("Wee-fee in Shqip/Albanian")... We try to get here at least 1-2x per week, have a boronce tea or bodin (bottle) of uje (water).  I, of course, am emailing you all (now trying to become savvy on blog posting) downloading some mindless TV programs to clear my brain for a few moments, and soaking up some local culture...

Our usual "language and then COD (Community and Organizational Development) training was shortened because of our site visits to existing volunteers.  I'm still reveling in the beautiful castle I walked up to and all around... I was incorrect in telling you that it was 15th Century - parts of it were but it was originally build 400BC!!! It has tunnels as a way to get down to the city to secretly get provisions when they were under siege and running out of water and food! It was a great way to get in some culture and exercise.  When we were at the very top, we could hear a Muslim chant from way down below.

This shortened week we had some people come to speak with us again. This time it was a Director from the Ministry of Urban Development. He gave us an overview of the history of "urbanism" and now what's called Urban Development.  He talked about all the challenges with property ownership (there was none during communism/45 years) and now all the housing that was built with no standards, lack of ownership rights, etc.  There are some big challenges ahead and minimal revenue generated by almost zero % property taxes and non-payment (still a lot to learn about that).  He also talked about all the tourism initiatives on the radar and all the planning, fund development, execution and follow-up that is targeted for the next 5 years.  Many PC volunteers will be assigned to some of these initiatives.  Not surprising, a lot of the focus is on the coastal/beach cities along with some historical sites. Two existing PC volunteers also presented and shared their challenges in the tourism space and advice on how to make an impact (even to showing people how to use basic Google). Often the volunteers become IT and power point trainers and even build mobile apps (I can't wait to see what new techie skill I develop while here! LOL)

I got my first Albanian cold (I'm almost the last person to catch it in our village and PC group).  Interestingly, not as bad as at home (phew)!  And I'm convinced all the oxygen sessions in the hyperbaric chamber definitely boosted my immune system :-)

I bought my first bottle of wine this week (and my host sister was home from university and made pizza that was divine).  It was a Syrah-Cab Sav from Macedonia and cost just under $5!!! The wild thing is that here they keep the open bottle of wine (with cork in) in the cupboard for weeks (hence why I thought it would be good to get a fresh bottle).  And we only drink a small glass or two (probably less that 1 CA glass!)!  We still have beer occasionally when we are in wifi, etc - it's mild and drinkable.  I still can't believe I'm having a glass of beer or two... MY how things change.

Crazy as it might sound, I've settled into the routine of 2 showers a week, the damp, damp cold and eating last night's leftover salad with my breakie of boiled egg, cucumber, tomato and fresh goat cheese... The evening meals are mostly Gjelle (stew/soup) with meat probably 2x per week. I get my salate gjeshille (green salad) every night!!! - that makes me so happy.  When I was in Kuchove, Kelsey made me a green drink one morning with her juicer - I can see one in my future, some day!

I hope you are all well... let me know your questions and I will do my best to answer them. In 2 weeks - we find out our permanent site assignments.  And then we have swearing in on May 11th.  We are all buzzing with potential excitement about where we will be serving for the next 2 years.

Pray for warm weather - we are ready!!!

PS - in the photos below - that was my bed in Kuchove (actually very comfy)! And that is a quintessential Albanian couple sightseeing at the castle...
I hope the uploaded video allows you to hear the Muslim chant in the background (listen in a quiet space)  - let me know if it worked - I'm still so new to all these tools!  (My blog consultant, Jo, is encouraging me to play around with everything and I'm being patient and "getting it!" - I'm so grateful she helped me get started!)


  1. Debbie, so great to see your blog and hear about your experience! It ALMOST has me thinking of being one of those 60 year olds that does PC later in inspiring! (but definitely not cool that you are keeping your brain healthy by stretching it so far and learning a new language and MORE!) Your eagerness and great attitude is going to get you far in navigating the challenges you will face in the next two years. So glad that you have a nice family to help ease you into the culture. Questions: What motivated them to house a PC volunteer? My husband said that any Muslim countries are a little scary for Westerners right you feel any hostility toward Americans there (either overt or otherwise)? You have a laptop but no Internet connection until you go to the cafes, right? That must be SOOO strange to not have ubiquitous that part of the advancement that Albania wants to make...expanding connectivity among their citizens? You asked for questions...I HAVE them! Hugs!