Thursday, April 25, 2013

For my Teammies back home

For my teammies:

Hey ladies! This post is for you. I feel so far removed from the US..and especially OH, but I felt it didn't feel right to not acknowledge the great season you had. I just wanted to say congrats to the seniors..aka my roomies... For many reason. Sarah G, Ritty, Coll, and Aly, I am so proud of your gymnastics careers! No matter when they ended, you guys were dynamite on the competition floor. You all were there to give me support at the end of mine, and I feel so honored to have been on the same team as you. Milly and Tot, congrats on Nationals. What a wonderful accomplishment. To my girls who are about to be will forever and always be my little freshlings, and I can't tell you how much I love and miss you guys! Congrats on finishing the season, Bucks! I hope you're pumped for next year. And PS...I love you, Grady.

I just read through my senior gift binder and all of the letters you wrote me, and I wear my necklace every day here in Albania. The letters really bring a smile to my face, and keep me feeling somewhat connected to home. There is so ethi g about being on a team that really hits home, and you guys will forever be my teammates. 

Life after gymnastics is an adventure. You find out a lot about yourself, and learn to file gymnastics away in your past. It's always a part of you and you can refer back to it, but there is more out there to do and explore. 

I just want to remind you guys that if you ever need to talk, I am just an email/facebook message away. Enjoy post season, sunny days on the oval, and all the varieties of food and real toilets that exist in the US. 

Go Bucks, go nuts! Love,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Site announcement and PST life

April 23, 2013

What the's already the 23rd and PST is flyyyying by. I am having such a wonderful time in Librazhd. My days are occupied by teaching, learning, playing whiffle ball (frisbee, volleyball, and dodgeball), coffee + tea, and spending time with other volunteers and my Albanian family. are today's categories: My future site, Practicum, What I do for FUN, and RPB (random panda banter)

My future Site:
It's... Milot!!! A site up north, 1 hour from the beach, 1 hour from Tirana, and 1 hour from Shkoder. It is a small site with a population of only 4000. The school has only 1 English teacher who is new and has no teaching experience..yet! I will be the first volunteer there, and I will be alone, but with another volunteer 15 minutes away by furgon (mini bus). I am excited, but slightly nervous about my safety there. It should be an adventure.

=practice teaching. This week I have 11th graders. They are awesome. So far, I have taught 4 different 11th grade English classes. The students are receptive and interested in learning. Some love to show off their English skills, some are shy, and some just plain don't speak English. All this practice, however, is making me feel very ready for my own class! I am excited to teach!

Other volunteers and my family keep me enthusiastic about Albania. I love circle dancing, drinking coffee, and playing sports with volunteers and Albanians. The other day I visited Pajove (another PST site) with 2 other volunteers from Librazhd and we got to see what village life was like. I got to hold chicks and see how BIG village houses are. There is only one cafe in all of Pajove, and the streets are pretty...dirt-paved. Although it is small, it is full of character, and I love the volunteers..and donkeys there. :) 

Clothing. Oh clothing... We Americans feel that 70 degrees is shorts and T weather, right? Ok, well I feel that way. However, in Albania that is not the case. I am constantly being criticized for not wearing enough clothes. I've only gone out in shorts and a T once...maybe twice, and my poor host mom and sisters looked at me like I was about to jump off a cliff. My sister keeps telling me "I think you don't understand that it's not Summer yet." It's pretty amusing. The other day some of us went tanning by the river. It was awesome...and worth the skeptical looks from other Albanians. I hear the Summer here gets VERY hot which means I will be VERY happy and VERY much wearing shorts and skirts. :)) I am sad that I only have a month left in Librazhd now. i love it here. 

Okay, until next time... Mirupafshim!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


April 10, 2013

Oh hi there! I have a lot to post about, but I'll do my best to keep this somewhat short..and interesting. I have been in Albania for 3 weeks now and I am still very happy here. Anyway..The general things I will discuss in this post are:
1)  I went on a volunteer visit to Kucove (and Berat). 
2) My experience with learning the Albanian language
3) Struggles and expected struggles
4) Funny stories
5) Miscellaneous Panda Banter (MPB)

Volunteer visit-
The volunteer visit is an awesome thing. It is a time for current trainees to visit a current volunteer somewhere in the country for 4 days. To make things less complicated, I am going to generalize this experience by saying it is a time for trainees to take a break from their host families and other trainees, make use of wifi, eat volunteer-made Mexican food, see what it's like to be a real PCV, and put many many workout videos, movies, ebooks, and music on flash drives. I had an awesome time, and now I can't wait until NEXT FRIDAY to find out where in Albania I'll be placed!!! Apparently someone cries every year due to disappointment in placement, but I have faith in group 16. Let's hope for all smiles. I know I'll be happy with wherever I get sent. 

Albanian Language-
I am actually having a fairly easy time learning this language. I am very proud of the progress I am making. The grammar is a it hard to pick up, but my technique is just to not stress about it, and speak without thinking.

Sickness. Sickness constantly flows through the trainees. We are disgusting germ machines. I currently have a terrible cough with a lot of chest congestion. It may be bronchitis. Last week I had a fever, and the week before that I had a headache/soar throat combo. Also, my nails are turning yellow..which the Health volunteers tell me is a sign of iron deficiency. The only other real struggle I have is seeing all the starving/beaten animals on the street.

Struggles I predict for the future: 1. Loneliness at site 2. Corrupt school systems 3. More sickness 4. Losing things and/or being robbed of things

Funny stories- one volunteer said the word "to be f*ck*d" instead of "to be called"

I was mistaken for a small child who doesn't speak Albanian

Got locked out of my house, tried to jump the wall, the brick came loose --> i fell on my back

MPB- I have observed some big issues while being here. there is a lot of cheating and corruption in the schools, and that is just how life is here. also, the hospitals lack proper conditions including elevators (for a 6 story building), sanitary needles, and heat :(( I am super excited to find out where I'll be placed for the next 2 years this Friday! Also, today we did a 5 hour hike up to a tree in Librazhd. It was awesome because volunteers from other villages came. I'm running out of internet time so it's time to go. Nect time I post, I'll have my site placement. Woo!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gotta love being Jewish in a Muslim country while celebrating Easter in a Catholic Church

So as you can tell from the title of this post, I celebrated Easter yesterday! It was so much fun. I went to church with my sisters Ira and Sindi and we sang a lot of songs in Shqip. Because it was my first time in the church, they welcomed me by drum rolling their hands and counting down from 10 in shqip and then in unison shouting "mire se vini!" (Welcome!) I was worried about feeling awkward there because I was so out of my element. Not only am I jewish, but I also don't speak/understand shqip very well. However, I tried to sing along and I kept getting a lot of smiles and hugs and I felt very happy there. It was pretty awesome being inundated by a culture not of my own. After the service, I circle danced (traditional Albanian dance) for the first time. Everyone held hands and danced ina circle: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, grapevine are the regular steps...however the pace soon picked up and we were kicking and hopping and twirling all over the place. I was sweating pretty hard by the end. There were also games at the church. They put a balloon between 2 people, and the couples had to dance while keeping the balloon between their heads. I didn't participate in this game, but it was fun to watch. We also all received decorated eggs and the. We had to smash them into someone elses egg. Whoever's egg cracked first would have good luck throughout the year. My egg cracked first :))

On the way back from church I saw something not so pleasant..a dead kitten. Apparently it happens a lot here. There are 2 reasons for this. 1. Because there is an abundance of street cats and dogs. 2. Because cars drive super fast and out of control here...and they usually blast ghetto american songs <-haha. However..I love animals and seeing them constantlymin dumpsters and or dead makes me really sad.

On a brighter note... I got to practice my circle dancing again in the same day. I went to another volunteer's host brother's birthday party and we circle danced and free danced. I like Albanian dancing a lot. There is only hand other types of touching, which makes it a lot more comfortable than American dancing...aka grinding. One guy also had a huge drum and he was playing it in the middle of the dance floor to the beat of the songs playing. At the end of the party, the birthday kid (Alejandro's) friends shoved a cake in his face.

Yesterday was a really awesome day, and I had a lot of fun and cultural exchange. I also got to shower which was a treat since I only shower twice a week. Also, when I shower I have to pick and choose..and make sacrifices. For example: the water stops being hot after I shave one I shave the other or stay hairy? Or I shampoo my hair and then the hot water runs I push through the cold and condition or just call it quits? So far I've been tolerating the cold, but I don't know if I can keep it up. Haha I guess I'll let you know if things change. Language lessons are going well, and I am really happy :))