Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trinity East meets Albania

So….the Peace Corps has this really cool program called WORLD WISE SCHOOLS. It’s a correspondence program between Volunteers and Classrooms in the United States. Essentially, volunteers link with a teacher in the States and share our experiences. And our lives can relate back to classroom curriculum such as different cultures, geography, foreign languages and so on. Its pretty exciting to share your story with a room full of eager and interested students!

I’m lucky this year to have recently connected with Ms. Shaw at Trinity East (Windsor for those of us who remember the good ol’ days.) Ms. Shaw is the teacher of a 4th grade classroom in Washington PA... my hometown. And my very favorite part of all this….Auggie Towers, my very smart, very thoughtful, very funny and all-around very awesome Godson. His sister, Lucie and brother, Danny are pretty fantastic too! I love you guys! And miss you everyday!

Here we all are together, just goofing around a few days before I was leavin’ on a jetplane

The link included is the "Introduction video" I sent, along with a letter to Ms. Shaw's the class.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH3_ZsjnAyA. (I'm so annoyed b/c I can't figure out how to include this link without YOU needing to copy/paste. 20-somethings and unders everywhere are laughing at me. Whatever. Go to the site. Its cute. I promise.)

And throughout the rest of the school year, I’ll have the chance to answer their questions about learning how to speak Shqip, buying my groceries, Albanian history, Albanian landscape and most importantly… how I survive without a TV!

If you know a teacher in the States who’d be interested in this program, please let me know. I'm loving this opportunity for cultural exchange. And well…..after living for 8 months in Albania, I certainly have stories to tell!

Peace, Love and 4th Grade

Lil’ More Salt N’ Pep Love

It probably comes to little surprise that I’ve made reference to these fine women of Hip Hop on more than one occasion. As a teen-ager in the 90s…Salt, Pepa and Spinderella were the staple of any good party or after-football dance. Push it, Shoop, Let’s talk about Sex… and I’d be remiss if I didn't take a minute or two and give much respect to....to the song that's made a difference in my world..... Whatta Man collabo with En Vogue.

So… when my young beau suggested that we dress as Salt N Pepa for Halloween….I was elated. You read that right, I said beau. It's true, I’ve cozied up to a fellow volunteer. No, we’re not FB official. I just prefer the non-cyber public displays of affection. Anyway, back to the subject at hand… our couples’ Halloween costumes.

Or should I say costumes gone awry. My young lover is from “the streets” as he likes to say. To which I like to say “I didn’t realize Connecticut was so ghetto.” (In such instances, my wit is underappreciated.) But …perhaps, his gangsta upbringing can be responsible for why I heard “Salt N’ PepA” and built my costume around the idea of 90’s hip-hop, Cheryl Wray, aka Salt. Mama was looking FLY in her baggy jeans!

Therefore, you can imagine my dismay when he showed up in all black, wearing a foil “screw top” hat and a large Letter P taped to his chest. That outfit earned him a hearty WTF?!

“I’m Pepper. You were supposed to be Salt, as in....shakers. Salt AND Pepper. Why are YOU dressed like T-Boz?!”

Oh no he di-ent just suggest I was a member of TLC. Straight up disrespectful.

Well… what could we do? We were already late for the party! Some fellow PCV’s had te nerve to cry foul… “You pre-planned that.... didn’t you?” Killjoys. All I will say is this…h I planned to be “Salt.” He planned to be pepper. And the result was a mis-communication. But it didn't hamper our good time, and I wouldn't have changed a thing about our Halloween night. Although I have to wonder.... why he didn't catch it when I asked to borrow his jeans for my costume???

Peace, Love and a Mighty Good Man

Ahh Pushim.... Push-im Real Good!

One of my favorite Albanian words: Pushim. Not only because it so easily fits into my favorite Salt n’ Pepa’s, Push it, but also for its actual meaning. Pushim is Vacation. Pushim is a Holiday. Pushim is a Day Off from Work. Pushim is a coffee break. So when it all boils down…Pushim is everything that’s right with the world!

So…let me break down some of the various pushims I’ve enjoyed during my service thus far: (Although adding “s” is not how we make things plural here in Albania. If I wanted to be true to the Shqip form, it would be pushimet…. Unless it was in the indefinite form which would be pushime. Crystal clear, right?)

Vacations: July and August are peak vacation months in Albania. Not a big surprise,

that pretty much goes for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere too! And during that time, work comes to all but a screeching halt! Most higher ranking staff take 2-3 weeks off at a time. While the cats away, the mice certainly don’t work on budgets or statistical analysis! So… during the summer months, I took advantage of a little vacation time myself…taking a dip in the Adriatic outside of Lezhe, sliding around on the cobblestone streets of Gjirokaster, Cheers-ing “Gezuar” at the Korce Beerfest, riding on a lackof-speed boat to the island on Lake Prespa and capturing mountain peak views in Bajrum Curri.

Holidays: There’s Nevrusi….where Albanians celebrate by baking a coin into their savory dinner pie. The one who gets the piece with the coin has good luck for the year ahead. But don’t ask me what the actual days is supposed to symbolize. I’ll learn next year! And there’s a Big Bajram…and a regular Bajram. I don’t know the difference. We celebrate a day for Mother Teresa. Both November 28th and 29th are Independence Days. (I think from two different empires…Roman and Ottoman, maybe?) Eh…I’ll tell you in a few weeks! And I’m sure there are more to come! And Christmas is Krishtelindje or Birth of Christ. There are Muslim and Orthodox religions here. And my favorite part is that….GET THIS….they co-exist in perfect harmony. (Hey rest of the world…there’s something you could learn here!)

Days Off: Like in the US, my “work” is Monday-Friday. But since I’ve taken on some projects outside of my host agency, Bashkia Elbasan (Municipality of Elbasan), I often find myself working on the evenings and weekends too. But its not work like drudgery… these are all projects that I’m excited about. And as a PCV…we’re “on duty” 24-7.

Coffee Breaks: Albanians favorite past-time. Well…maybe a close 2nd to weddings. I’ve told you before…they LOOOOOVE their weddings! But a coffee pushim is a great way to spend time with colleagues and learning about their lives and families. And while most businesses and organizations are trying to deter too many coffee pushims in order to boost productivity, sometimes its just necessary to step away for a caffeine jolt. And you know for me that’s some high voltage!

So... by now, you can probably see why I’m digging this pushim concept! You might have to wait a whole year to take another vacation. And in the US…there’s a pretty decent Holiday drought after Easter….especially when it comes early. And the work week? Well…everybody’s working for the weekend! But here in Albania….you never need wait too long to have another pushim. And that’s a beautiful thing!

Peace, Love and Gimme a Break!