Friday, July 26, 2013

What have I been up to?

Today's categories: 1) New Apartment 2) Shkoder Camp 3) The Power of Friendship 4) 4th of July in Ksamil 5) Random Panda Banter (RPB)

1) New Apartment
So the day finally came. I have my own lovely apartment, and it feels AWESOME! I think it's important to have space to just lay around and be disgusting. The only rough part was I had to pay full price for my host family rent as well as 1/3 rent for my new place so I am slightly broke, but that's Peace Corps. I have had a lot of help moving in and gaining things/furniture for my house from fellow volunteers, and from my host family. I will go on to speak more about this in my Power of Friendship section :) I have a giant balcony, a living room/kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom. I have a stove that electrocutes me if I don't wear shower shoes while cooking, a refrigerator, and a water heater that heats water for only 1 minute, but really it's no problem! I kind of enjoy living like this. I am so grateful to have my own place, and to be living the life of others around me. I am learning a lot about conservation of all, water, electricity etc. They are lessons I really needed to learn. My neighbors, and really the whole Milot community really look out for me. They care about me a lot and insist I call them family. It's a nice feeling, and I am happy to be placed in such a cozy site. The people here motivate me to do great things.

2) Shkoder Camp
The Shkoder camp was/is being held in a beach town called Velipoje. It is run by a volunteer named Danielle and her counterpart, Orida. I have to say, I was really pleased with the camp. The girls were very well-spoken and very sweet. They were an impressive bunch of girls, who had a very progressive and caring teacher. Orida stressed how Danielle made her dream of having this camp come true, and it was great for me to see their relationship. I hope my relationship with my counterpart will be as strong. Amber (another PCV and now a best friend of mine) and I volunteered at the camp as counselors, and we taught the girls about eating healthy, exercise, and healthy body image. It felt really nice to lead the girls in exercises, and have them participate in conversation.

3) The Power of Friendship
I have always relied somewhat on having friendships to carry me through life. Friendship is so so important..everywhere in the world. Here in Albania, I rely on my friends in Milot as well as on other volunteers. Amber, Mark, and April (in particular) have helped out financially through this month. Without them, it would have been a much bigger struggle. Amber helped me decorate and have a smooth transition into my new place, Mark (the closest PCV in proximity to me) brought me blankets, silverware, and Tupperware, and April lent me some money. Along with the volunteers, the community has been buying me coffee and food, and inviting me into their homes. Friends and family back home have also been wonderful. They keep me connected to the States, and make me feel missed and loved.

4) The 4th of July in Ksamil
A lot of volunteers went to the deeeep south for the 4th. We camped out on the beach and went to see the ancient ruins of Butrint. It was so nice to see some friendly faces, including my best friend from PST, Tyler. A bunch of us went to this restaurant where they served delicious burgers (which are almost impossible to find in Albania!). We had a great time getting our tan on and enjoying each other's company while celebrating our home country.

5) RPB
It's funny to hear volunteers talk about their site placement. We all try so hard to justify why we were placed where we were. We also become defensive of our sites. For example, volunteers in the North tend to think the North is for more rugged and integrated volunteers, while Southerners feel their sites are more beautiful and fun (these are all generalizations). Small-town volunteers complain about not having things like supermarkets and/or banks, while large city volunteers complain about having difficulties finding identity and recognition in their community. Small town volunteers preach integration and large city volunteers can boast about fun tourist attractions and well-educated students. Beach towns have awesome summers and terrible lonely winters, while mountainous/valley towns may have ghost towns for the Summer, but busy winters. The truth is we all have pluses and minuses to our sites. We were placed based on need, and each volunteer has something to offer their community. Sometimes I find myself getting bitter when I visit a big site; I admittedly have complained about Milot. I have to stop myself because Milot has a lot of great things to offer. It's annoying and not really helpful to complain. Also, I think it's disrespectful to other volunteers who are facing their own challenges at site. Well, that's all I have to say about that. If you want mail/post cards from Albania, send me your address! It's nice to have people to write to :))

Decided I'd start posting pics: Most of the photo cred goes to Amber!

US Ksamil crew:
 Some basketball in Bajram Curri: (surprise trip to celebrate Jenny's birthday!)
 Cold in the "Blue Eye":
 Shkoder camp:
 Ice cream in Ksamil:
 Marta, my corn lady in Milot:
 My city :) :
 Coffee with the locals and Marku and Amber:
 Partners in Crime (Amber and Kat):