Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Assignment Part2

SO, as explained in the last post, I’ll be heading to a small town a short bus hop from Tirana. Although the town is small, the school district is actually 50,000 strong. My job, as I explained it, will be primarily to train teachers and provide on-going professional development in the way of seminars and workshops.

There are other aspects of the job that sound really interesting. Some are easy-peasy while other sound down-right daunting. Under the heading of easy-peasy would be helping the schools with the implementation of camps and clubs and exploring the notion of “Schools as Community Centers”. (This is a new initiative of the Ministry of Education and Sport). Since my experience lies in the very heart of this idea (remember my turning the libraries in Novomoskovsk into a community centers?) I am super excited to tackle this. Also under easy-peasy will be helping teachers to improve their English. (English Club for English teachers? Yeah, a good idea last time but not many attendees. However, what we did was pretty great and I can improve on this previous model). There will be challenges, of course, but at least I can draw heavily on my previous Peace Corps experience. The not-so-easy-peasy jobs will be organizing professional development seminars and conferences for the entire region. As well my host organization’s desire to establish a teacher-trainer network in order to support all the English teachers in the region. Yuh. Lots of cool challenges on the road ahead and I am super excited to get started.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Assignment: Burrel, Albania

Today our training group received their site assignments. As far as I could tell, no one was disappointed, save for one, but that seems to be the case everywhere in the world.  I am slated to be living in a small town 90 km north of Tirana, the capital city. According to the information the Peace Corps has given me, there is either a population of 12,000 or 19,000. The town itself has a Facebook page and says it boasts about 10,000. Not big by any standards but big enough….and small enough that I can get to know people on a more personal level. I’ll be working out of the district’s educational office. My main job will be to provide training and development for English teachers. It appears as if I will provide training for not only the teachers who work in the town, but also for the surrounding villages. In all the entire school district has 55 English teachers. There are lots of other opportunities for community development in the area as well and I can’t wait to get started.
I don’t know much about the town, but one of my colleagues visited there not too long ago and said it was really nice. It is a mountainous region and quite cold according to my host mom. I will also have site-mates…something I didn’t have when I served in Ukraine. It will be nice to have Peace Corps friends in my town. I looked up the town on-line and found out Albania’s one and only king was born there. Also of note, the town was home to the most feared communist prisons in all of Albania!
All and all a good day with lots of excitement for everyone. The best news was that my friend Sue is going to be posted in Tirana…less than an hour by bus so we can do some girl stuff once and a while.
Sue and I on top of the castle in Elbason. (My first good selfie!)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Child Safety?

What I know about children can just about fit into a small thimble, so believe me when I tell you I am no expert. What I DO know about kids I have learned through news stories in America, with their safety being of the utmost importance. I know there are laws governing parents about child safety seats in cars and advice about staying away from purchasing used cribs and things of this nature.  There are thousands of safety-related stories (some pretty horrific) in America and other western countries.
What I have observed in Albania would curl the toes of American parents everywhere. Tots running about with lollipops in their mouths, playing with butane lighters, and running silly through the house with sharp knives and garden sheers. As well, this same tot has been observed running and up and down rough concrete stairs with no railing where one little misstep would send the tot plummeting down to the first floor. I’ve also observed two tots in the front seat of a car playing rough and tumble (sans seat belts) while another volunteer spied a tot sitting in the driver’s lap steering the car.
Do you suppose perhaps we worry too much about our kids?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Training Days

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged but as usual I can’t seem to find either the time or the internet. I’ve decided to do what I did back in training in Ukraine…write it out in word and then post it when I can to the internet. I sometimes pick up the net from the bar across the street but it’s in and out and not a strong connection.
So far I’ve been here close to 2 weeks and everything is amazing. Nothing like my first PST (pre-service training) experience in Ukraine where I was very stressed out all the time. It’s different here as people do things a bit slower and they often tend to “stop and drink the coffee”.  Of course “going for coffee” means a lot more. You can spend an hour or more over one small tea or espresso just catching up on the latest gossip and news and no one throws you out. Unfortunately coffee bars don’t sell food so if you want to eat, you need to pack a little something in your bag.
I spend 3 days a week in my tiny village of Thane doing language training and things of that nature. The other 3 days I go to the nearby city of Elbason where we meet with the whole group of trainees for language, safety and security, medical, cultural and other such trainings. I’ve met quite a few great folks here and have bonded with several.
For those of you who aren’t aware, I was put on medical hold while I was in staging and orientation for Peace Corps in Philadelphia. I came down with Shingles and had to watch my fellow trainees leave for the airport without me. I went home for 2 weeks, recovered, repacked and got on the plane for Albania and here I am…better late than never! I’ve been busy catching up with everything but it’s no sweat. I’ve already had a lot of the training from my first tour so it’s all good. I’m just trying to catch up with the language as I am still a week behind. That I can only take in small doses.
My host family are wonderful people. They treat me like family and it’s nice to be with them. I am older than everyone. The parents are 32 and 42, 2 daughters 7 and 13, and a little boy 16 months.. The older daughter speaks very good English (self-taught!) so it’s made my life much easier. I LOVE my host mom. I call her Mama Oli and she cracks up because, of course, I am old enough to be HER mom!
I have a volunteer across the street from me which is nice because we ride the bus into town together. There are a total of 8 volunteers in our village, which is about the size of a football field. Ya, seriously.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the pictures!

The house where I am staying

Host Sister Vesa
Host Sister Zoica
Host Mom Oli (Gladiola) with Host Brother Rajan