Thursday, July 30, 2015

Homeward Bound

I made the decision a few weeks ago that I was leaving Burrel. I wasn't sure where I was going or when, I just knew that I was. I met with the country director and my manager yesterday in Tirana and they informed me that I was not going to be able to move to a new site. That left me with the only alternative, which was to resign. This was by no means an easy decision. I love the Peace Corps and had a vague idea that I would spend the rest of my life serving as a volunteer around the world. I always imagined that anyone unable to fulfill the mission of the Peace Corps must feel pretty bad. As a second-time-around volunteer I can tell you it is agonizing.

I do know that staying here and not giving 100% of myself would be wrong. Peace Corps is not about going to a job and coming home at the end of the day tired and unfulfilled. It is so much more than that and I would be cheating the people in Burrel and the American tax payers if I could not serve in the capacity I had pledged to serve.

I don't know what I am going to do when I get home, but I know this is the best thing I can do now. I also know for certain that life is just too short to be unhappy.

See you all soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Reason to Stay



Okay good people I’ve returned to Burrel in not-so-great spirits. Reason?  Bored silly. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am NEVER bored. I can always find something to keep me occupied. But boredom is not really the issue here…it is my reasons for being bored in the first place. I am totally uninterested in anything here. Burrel is sucking the life out of me folks. Flat-lined me dead. Seriously.
At this point in my service I am questioning my reason for even being here…seriously looking for that one reason to stay.
Okay. Let’s talk it out here. This town is like Novomoskovsk. When I served in PC in Ukraine I loved my service…wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything. But I was finished there. Done. I did lots of projects and met lots of lovely people…some of whom I am still in touch with…but I had finished. Or so I thought. I came to Burrel and it mirrors what I left behind.  I feel as though I served 2 years in Ukraine, went home for long holiday, and now I am back.
Ugh.  I was looking for a new experience. There is nothing new here…nothing. The people and culture are similar, the town is the same albeit smaller, and I am living in the same exact type of situation…in a Soviet bloc-style apartment house with 4 perfectly aligned buildings facing each other onto a shared yard. Screaming kids 24-7, noisy neighbors, cheap goods and sadly, lots of stray animals.
Worse still: 2 hours to the nearest hub, not being able to shop in peace and relatively anonymity, no train system to speak of and a lunatic landlady who thinks because my language skills are not good then I must be stupid.
It’s no secret to the folks I am serving with that I am unhappy with where I was placed. All of the folks in my service sector were told we would be placed in big cities. I was thrilled! There’s lots of great art things happening here. I would be able to seek out and explore new art and artists from a new culture!  Well. No. Everyone EXCEPT ME was sent to a big city.
I talked to one of the BIG guys in the front office about changing sites. He told me the policy is that no way they change people's sites here in Albania. I told him who did he think he was talking to? Of course, we are both RPCV’s (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers). I appealed to him from that standpoint and he agreed to take it into consideration. For the sake of my sanity, I do hope he was serious.
Anyway…I don’t want this PC experience to turn into a “job”. God forbid I go to work, come home, and that’s it. I can do that anywhere. And as for leaving my site…I may turn into one of those people who are never home. I will be leaving here every weekend looking for someplace to crash. Any volunteer, any place…every damn weekend. And I HATE traveling! (I’m okay once I arrive but it’s the getting there that is the worst).
Now, on the home front. What exactly would I do if I did go home? Probably the same thing I was doing before…looking for a job and TRUST ME no one is looking to hire somebody staring at her 57th birthday in a little over a month.
There is only one thing I am positive of now, and that is if I do go home, it will be not be because the ‘powers that be’ decide I need to stay here in Burrel but because I couldn’t find that one thing to keep me here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Back to Thanë

Yesterday I traveled back to Thanё to begin phase 3 of pre-service training. It was nice to be able to leave Burrel for the first time since I landed in the north. Barb and I left town at 8am and rode the bus for two hours into Tirana without incident. We weren't quite sure where we were headed but equipped with our trusty map and a bit of luggage we headed off with just a little bit of trepidation.
Getting off the bus we headed to a café for a cold drink then asked the waiter about getting a bus to the center because Barb]had an appointment. Just outside on the street we caught the right bus and got off at the right stop. Amazing for a couple of old gals with no clue as to where we were headed! We found the place, Barb did her thing, and then afterwards walked towards the Peace Corps office and on the way found a wonderful restaurant that served American fare! A taste of home is just what the doctor ordered and it was delicious! When eating “American” fare abroad you usually get anything but. However, this time is was spot-on. The gal that owns the place lived in Pennsylvania for over 16 years and knew how to make a burger and I must say it was great!
Afterwards we met up with a few of our PC colleagues for the next bus ride into Elbason…the city where our group trained. A short 45 minute AIR-CONDITIONED ride later (you read that right folks, air-conditioned) and we landed in the city and found our way to the beer joint where PCV’s like to hang out. I ran into a bunch of group 18’ers and there we talked about out new sites and jobs. It was pretty great to see everyone.
At about 4:30 I bid everyone goodbye and made my way to the next bus to get into the village where my host family lives. Thanё is about the size of a football field so I needed to pay attention to where I was going or else I’d blow right through it without a backward glance. I got to the house about 5pm amid a flurry of hugs and kisses and it felt great to be back for a visit. I wasn't really wanting to upset my life by packing up and moving back to the family at this point but at that moment I was really glad. I think a trip away from my site was just what I needed and I’m truly grateful. This family treats me like family and I am really lucky to have been placed here.

So, it’s onward to Phase 3 on Monday and where ever life takes me after that.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Memorization and Pasteurization (This and That)

I haven't been writing much and in my defense I have to say it's because there is really nothing to write about. Burrel gets smaller by the minute and I can't wait until the travel ban is lifted. Travel ban you ask? Yes. Peace Corps around the world insists on keeping all the PCV's in their host sites for the first 3 months. I have to say I am counting the days now. In the meantime, it's just a lot of quiet revelry on my part. Schools are closed and my job is on hold until September so I fill my days as best as I can.
FREEEEEEDDDOOOMMMMMM!!!!!
 I have a language tutor 3 times a week but I am also studying and memorizing daily on my own. (Sure wish my brain was younger). Today I prepped and fried some eggplants for Eggplant Parmesan which I'll bake in the morning when the weather is cooler. I also decided to start buying fresh milk in the marketplace. Yup, that's straight from the cow, folks. It's delicious! I boiled that batch up and sampled the cream on top and oh is it a treat!
Yo, gimmee some skin...
I try not to leave the house without my camera because you just never know what will pop up.
One day this week I was walking down the street and just happened to notice an alleyway that intrigued me. Don't know why but here it is...


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Deja' Vu

Ever get the feeling that you have been there or done that before? So, what do you call it when it's true?
 Myronivka, Ukraine (Peace Corps I)


Burrel, Albania (Peace Corps II)



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Am I Getting Boring?

I began writing this blog, along with my other blog, years ago and have kept up with it pretty regularly. For some reason lately I have had no desire to write because I don't feel like there is anything worth writing about. If this mean what I THINK it means, then horror of all horrors....I am getting boring! Yes, you heard it here first...my LIFE is getting BORING.
For those of who know me, you know that my life has always been anything BUT boring. There is always something percolating. Up, downs, and always sideways, a normal life for me has always been on the sillier side of "you won't believe this but...". The one remedy I can think of is to simply sit down and write and see what pops up. Oh, and photos...I got plenty of those. I am going to string a few of those together to make up a mini-film about what life is like in Burrel so stay tuned for that.
What have I been doing since I last wrote? Hmm. I need to consult my notes. I met 4 high school English teachers here in town and 1 out in a tiny village about 20 miles from here. I visited them while they were teaching classes and I observed their teaching methods. It was interesting and I learned a lot. All are willing to work with me in the new semester so that means I will be putting together some trainings for next year. This coming week I am meeting 6 more teachers and although classes are pretty much done, I will be meeting them for coffee to get to know them a bit. So far so good as far as the job goes.
I moved into my apartment a few days after coming here and am all settled in. It's a nice place and I have pretty much everything I need here, which is a big change from my last PC apartment. I even have a washing machine!!! Woo hoo! And a microwave!! Double score!! It's all good in the hood here. Take a look at my new place.
video
So Barb and I have been spending lots of time together. Everyday we get together to study Shqip (Albanian). We also have a tutor that we see 3 times a week for an hour each lesson. I think it has been really helpful so far. My language has been improving, albeit slowly. There is another PCV in my town. Gene is a health volunteer. He's a pretty cool guy and does a lot with the youth here. Yesterday the 3 of us ate lunch together. Speaking of foodstuffs....
I have been having a really tough time finding the things I enjoy. In particular, tea. Albania is a coffee culture and there is a coffee bar every 5 feet. Sometimes they occupy the same building! But try to find some tea...it's been a huge challenge. I really need to get some decent tea..the loose-leaf kind so I can move forward with my next tea bag project. Luckily I got me a tea connection in Rehoboth, Massachusetts (Thanks Manette!!!) who is willing to ship me some.
Now, a little about the food. I'm having a hard time finding food I like as well. Chicken, although abundant here, is not something I can just go and buy at the grocery store. I have to go see the chicken people and pick out a bird. I'm sure they would be kind enough to kill it for me but can you imagine me plucking and cleaning it?  Ugh. Just the thought puts me off. I've been to the butchers and have yet to see pork. All I have ever seen are dead cows hanging on hooks. I am sure that I will one day figure out how to order up some cow. Mind you, the language barrier is bad enough but even in English I don't know the exact words for asking for a certain cut of beef. Here they just cut off a slab and hand it over. What the hell can I do with that? What if I end up with the cheek or something? Or the tail? Or a leg?
So, it looks like meat is off the menu for a while. I guess I'll stick with cheese and eggs...and nuts. Although REALLY expensive, I can always eat more nuts.
Enough for now. Signing off with a "bon appetite" to all you meat-eaters in America.