During Peace Corps Pre-service training, week 3

Well, the last time I wrote I was in DC. This will be the quickest review I can make of the last two-three weeks. There has been a lot of studying, adapting, some drinking, getting to know people, and enjoying the extreme beauty of Albania.

Studying- My general schedule is 8 am- 1 pm language classes. The afternoon I spend either playing volleyball, more studying, Facebook, hiking, or playing with the little girls in my neighborhood. This is really exhausting, I usually go to bed at like 10:30 pm. I may not always be doing labor intensive projects, but.. the extreme amount of time and concentration it takes to think about translation and act upon it is really.. exhausting.  I am finally able to post a blog because I’m visiting a volunteer and getting away from the structured lifestyle. Our life in PST is like junior high. We have to be home at dark, we go to bed early, we get up early, we go to school, we play, we study, we flirt like it’s jr high, we don’t have friends over whenever we want, we are constantly on a schedule that is given to us, etc etc. Thank god for this visit to see that it will get better. It will. It will. It will. It’s not like I’m leaving, quite the opposite. I’m just exhausted.
I fell in a hole and got my tennis shoes all gross so playing in my heels was the solution. This is my host sister Klea. Might as well put this up to make fun of myself.

I moved in with a family that speaks limited English, as most people do. So it’s intense, and it’s constant. Communication with my family is mainly looking at my notes, looking up words in the dictionary, and then showing them the words or at least it was at the beginning. It’s slowly getting better. Avash avash

Something to know about Albania, gender roles are not the same as the US. Imagine the 1950s but with internet… This is not even a terrible method of explaining. But women do the cooking, cleaning, caring for children, and also the farm labor. Men spend a lot of time hanging out at the bar and limited helping around the house, besides the gardening.. This is obviously not true for everyone, (everyone’s PC experience is different, 2579th time this has been repeated :)) but the overall concept. The important thing to understand is that in the US, everything became more individualistic whereas it had been previously very communal. So, as I’m used to going to the bars, doing what I want, being very independent, and la de da; this is not as easy. Perceptions of me reflect upon my family and also effects how successful I can be in my eventual site. So women do not go to the bar and misbehave like we do in Amerika.
Things are cheap cheap in Albania. The currency is in new lek, which has been in place since the late 60s but everyone speaks in old lek. So the conversion is, a 100 lek furgon ride (vans that are cheaper than taxis and faster than busses) will be communicated to you as 1000 lek. 1000 lek is old lek. Everyone supposedly* talks of money in old lek terminology, even though the new system has been in place for over 40 years. Don’t ask me why, I don’t understand it either.  100 new lek is $1, it’s quite simple. *Supposedly, but then again not always.
Jump roping with Eric and some local girls.

My family is Jakup (pronounced Yakup) a grammar teacher, Mandolina or Mandi a food engineer, 7 year old Klea (Clay-uh), and 2 year old Klifford (Kliffordi). But it’s really good. The food is delicious. See Facebook for a photo of a common dish, it’s rice mixed with spinach I believe with cheese and egg on top. The food isn’t quite like Amerika, of course, but it’s really good. Like the main things I eat are apples (pronounced mole), oranges (portokall), soup (jell),  feta cheese (dee-oth) , bread (book), cucumber (kastravetz), potato (patatoe), meat (mish), and egg (vetz). There’s your vocab lesson for this blog. Writing this in pronunciation in order for anyone that is reading to learn and visit me and because I haven’t figured out typing. The alphabet is longer than ours and I don’t know how to create the extra letters yet on word and also to insert the umlauts over letters quite yet. I have very little free time really.

FYI I’m not concerned with grammar in this blog at all. I’m trying to get a lot of information out as quickly as possible, as I do not have a lot of time. I went to an internet café and my host family has a computer that they use but I’d prefer to use my own and not bother them. So I’m finally able to put up this blog that I drafted forever ago.
Things to know if you visit, do not wave around the ok sign. This is offensive, it basically means fuck your mom. Unless you bring across your chest then it’s a good thing. I really do hope people visit. It’s beautiful, it’s cheap, it’s interesting, and when else are you going to know someone and get the chance to see it? You can make a whole trip of it and see Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Serbia, etc. Really think about it. But I can’t travel for 6 months and kind of not allowed visitors until then either. I know the wedding is come up in November so travel first and foremost for it but think about it in the year after, really. So really I’m thinking Spring-Fall next year.

Some of my favorite people. Kip and Maayan came from Shoshice to Librazhd where Sean and I are at.

Don’t come during the winter. It gets cold and there isn’t insulation in the homes. The way construction takes place: People earn some money and put on additions as they can afford it. So, something very common to see is partially finished structures, every where really. A lot of men go to Greece to work and send back money to their families. Due to Greece’s recent struggles this has been difficult as well. The unemployment rate is somewhere between, from guestimation and people telling me varying amounts maybe 20-40% of the population.

We find out on April 15th where our sites will be, which is lovely. Visiting Kate in Berat this weekend, she says that announcements of sites is a big deal. Like they make a big deal out of it and then everyone gets beers at Grameli’s, the main bar for volunteers in Elbasan. Then Saturday is a meet and greet with current volunteers. So I’m really excited, awesome birthday weekend!
I’ve decided to advocate for a really hard site placement that I heard about. Really, zero guarantees. It’s a location where there is tourism, an art gallery, and I’d be working in a bashkia. However, sometimes when a volunteer is placed in a community they mess it up everyone else. You can do this by rushing in like an American and thinking you’re going to change everything. When we enter our sites it will be beginning of June. Summer months are very slow to get work done. August, it seems, it’s almost nonexistent. You spend a lot of your time when you begin developing relationships. So the previous volunteer at this site.. kind of ruined it. She came in and ruined relationships and hence forth has returned to the US. But.. I dunno, I’m going to ask about it. Most of the times PC will step away from these situations for a while to let the storm calm. Why am I trying to get more work for myself? I dunno.
Dancing with a man while the rest of the group works on our map, which was really the best if I say so myself. No worries, I did work too. Drew the sketch of the sculpture in town, added the pretty trash flower, developed the photos, wrote the names of things, moral support, etc.

Love and miss you guys but truthfully, on my first day in Librazhd met a volunteer who was here on her 3rd year and likely going to stay. Says it’s hard to go back, people just don’t quite understand what she has been through. I think that will likely happen.. I’m not sure if I’ll come back, truthfully. I would love to be a life-r but, this is only after 2 weeks.

Also, in case you visit.. there is a lot of trash. It is everywhere. Still working on getting some inspiration and some examples that I wish to base some art projects off of. Thankfully I brought my scissors (Gershire) in order to make things, despite mother (mamma) fighting me about that. Gonna hold off for a bit, I’d like to know the language well enough in order to explain to my family what I am doing. Thinking about creating a re-use plastic chandelier but don’t want to just start and them think I’m crazy, might need to wait until I’m in my site. I’m crazy by Amerikan standards anyway… but might as well let people know this gradually. I learned how to knit yesterday and am starting in on a yellow scarf!! Yay, something healthy to keep me away from other issues. This blog is messy all over, written in different stages, and I’m too tired to care.
LOVE!
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