Saturday, April 9, 2011

Three Nights in Fear

So this past weekend brought a new PC experience. Those of us in training were assigned cities, towns and villages across the country to visit. We’d stay with a current volunteer and get a taste of their personal and professional lives once we’re weaned off the Peace Corps’…..well, you get it. I’ll just say that we are very sheltered during our training. And for good reason, despite our overconfidence, we don’t yet know our gomars from a hole in the ground!

Getting to my visit included a bus ride like I’ve never had before. The bus had seats for about 24 people. When it arrived at my stop for pick-up, there were already 28 people inside. And there were 5 of us, all PC folk, who still needed to get on. One of our 5 was a current volunteer who knew how to sweet talk the driver. We climbed in…literally and then climbed over some Albanians and landed on the laps of our fellow PC trainees and volunteers who had snagged actual seats on the previous stops. Laps on top of laps….it was intimate. Was bound to go there eventually anyway, right? Kjo esthe Albania, kjo eshte jete. (this is Albania, this is life.) By the time arrived, my right leg was asleep from tootsies to ass cheek. Hmmm…do I want to use this as my standing anchor leg or landing leg with my first step? Luckily that painful tingle returned just in time to add pressure and weight!

I spent 4 days/3-nights (sounds like a AAA vacation package!) in lovely Fier, Albania. One of the 5 largest cities in Albania, Fier is in the Southwest (ish) of the country. I looked for some “I’ve Lived in Fier” t-shirts but no such luck. And frankly, I didn’t look all THAT hard. But I “hier” they are out there. (anyone had it with my puns yet? I’m just getting warmed up. Tell Monty that he’d better keep sharp!) Anyway, its about 25 kilometers from the Adriatic. No, I’ve not gone all metric yet, I just don’t know the conversion and that’s what I was told. Considering I know that a 5K is 3.1 miles, I surely could do the math. But I’ve always hated math.

Well….no matter how far it was, I didn’t make it to the Adriatic. I’ll get there eventually and dip a toe into the salty sea waters. But I DID get a chance to see Apollonia. I made some crack about Prince and his Apollonia from Purple Rain and clearly dated myself. Not cool all you 20-somethings, not cool. But this one is an historic reserve from the 15th century (don’t hold me to this…but I’m close give or take a few thousand years either way!) with a monastery, acropolis, amphitheatre and some old cave systems. It was a beautiful spring day and I had great company….two other trainees in my Group 14 and two current volunteers who thankfully have actual skills in Shqip. (there’s hope for us yet!) Anyway…if you ever find yourself in Albania…I’d highly recommend the visit to Apollonia. It’s certainly worth the $300 Leke entry fee ($3 US)!

The volunteer I stayed with is working on a few different projects with various organizations. One is the Bashkia (municipality government) where she’s coordinated directory systems and helped to develop a One-Stop-Shop for citizens of Fier allowing for quicker answers to their questions while improving efficiencies in Bashkia operations. She’s also working with a colleague to develop a young girls program, inviting high school age girls to participate and talk about life’s interests, challenges and possibilities. No moss grows on this rolling stone! She certainly stays busy and taught me a lot. Thank you Susan!

Peace and Love.

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