Archives for the month of: June, 2012

In one of my previous posts, fellow trainees and I reminisced about delicious yum-yums from home, but with the number of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s more about stepping up to the challenge of figuring out what delicious yum-yums we can make here.

The other night I made Fruit-stuffed chicken breast and sweetened carrots, and now you can too!!

Fruit stuffed chicken breast


3 chicken breast (wash ’em well)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp (ish) balsamic vinegar

2 tsp oregano

2 pinches of salt

Marinate the chicken and rub it down with all the ingredients mentioned above. Tender love and care is optional, but the chicken spirits will look favorably upon your dish.  Set aside.

For the fruit stuffing you will need:

1 – 1.5 cups of dry fruit (your choice but I used some kind of dry plum looking thing) dice them up if the fruit is too large, and watch out for pits

1/2 – 3/4 tbsp of rosemary (crunch it if dry, slice it up if not)

juice from 1 lemon

bit of ground cloves (or try nutmeg, allspice or even cinnamon)

pinch of salt

Mix all of that goodness in a bowl and set aside.

Stuffing your chicken breast can either be the most joyous kitchen experience or a hellish nightmare, depending on how much you like sharp knives.  This is where homage to the chicken spirits plays an important part.

Lay your chicken breast flat and find the thick, meaty part.  With your knife blade running horizontal, parallel with the breast, carefully make an incision.  I want you to stab it.  Then without making the initial incision too much bigger, try to move the blade to cut along the inside.  When you remove the blade you should have created a nice pocket with a small opening.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just don’t slice it all the way open.

Take your fruity mix and stuff the chicken breast until it’s pretty full, while reciting your favorite poultry mantra.  In a pan on about medium high heat, sear  the outside and then bake in the oven for about 30 min at 140 Celsius.  That’s my oven though.  It may be whackier than yours.  For extra help  consult a seer and bring a chicken.

Sweetened Carrots

Juice from 2 lemons

1 tsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of water

1 tsp of sugar

and a few thick carrots.

Excluding the carrots, mix all that wonderful stuff in a bowl.  Make sure to whisk it nicely – just for fun.  Take your carrots and cut long ways about quarter of an inch thick.  Lay them on a pan or cookie sheet and pour the liquid, lemon sweetness over them.  Bake in the oven.  About 140 C for 15 min more or less.

And serve, Bon appetit!

It is about 7:56 pm on Monday night and I am slightly worried that I am giving in too easily to my anti-social tendencies, but I just don’t feel like “xhiroing” tonight (more on the xhiro later), but I promise I will tomorrow.

We’re about two weeks into the settling-in stage and I think the honeymoon is over, though I’m definitely remaining upbeat and optimistic in my own flat-lined kind of way.  Friends and family, you know what I’m talking about.  That doesn’t mean everything has been slow.  Oh no, no, no.  I had a flurry of activity this past week and more to come this.  Let me tell you all about it.

Being in a large site like Elbasan and being so lucky as to have a sweet pad (see previous entry) I am also charged with being the alternate warden.  The warden and alt. warden for each sub-region in Albania, are those people who are selected by destiny and the Safety and Security Officer to help Peace Corps liaise and safely deal with volunteers around the country and to ensure that if the shit goes down, we got ourselves covered.  It’s either going to be a good thing or a bad thing (ex. Me in an earthquake “. . . Oh.  Earthquake.  That was fun.” or me in a hurricane “C’mon! This is D.C.  It’ll just be a tropical storm by the time it gets here. No big deal.” and finally, me in a hold-up thinking “Is that a gun or a toy-gun?  Oh shit my planner is in that bag! Run? That’s just stupid.”)

There are worse hands they could be in.

But being a warden we also had the warden training in Tirane, where we took advantage and ventured out on the big city.  I was able to meet with friends of friends (thanks Tubman) and discovered that there ARE HIPSTERS IN ALBANIA!! Tucked away in the ruins of the old train station is a wonderful place, an amazing place, an art space called Tirana Ekspres* which opened last year.  It brings and promotes alternative local and international music, art, performance, etc.  So many of the things that I enjoy and didn’t realize I was missing SO much.  I will frequent as often as I can, I hope.  Best of, were the wonderful people I got to meet, members of the young, hip, smarty crowd of millennial Albanians, including a spoken word artist who goes by the artistic moniker of Gypsee Yo.  She is from Tirane but lives in Atlanta, Georgia and slips between shqip and southernisms (“bless your heart”) with ease**.

Conversation over cocktails with new kids has been missed.

Not to say that conversation is lacking.  Over beers and brats on a promenade of the city, a few fellow wardens in training debated vigorously the term “gentlemen” but it was nice to meet and speak with non-Americans (who thank the heavens spoke english and spanish beautifully.  My shqip is still shume keq!).  I guess I’m just looking for those social activities I enjoyed at home and trying to find out what the Albanian equivalent is here in the hopes of meeting new people and finding new entertainments for the next two years.  In that vein a brief caveat about movie theaters.

I LOVE movies, and while it’s not exactly the most interactive social experience, watching a film on the big screen is one of the best social, shared experiences anyone (who loves movies) can enjoy.  The day I arrived in Tirane, I happened to notice out of the corner of my eye the movie poster for Dark Shadows, playing at Imperial Cinema:

 Wary of recent Tim Burton films, I was still eager to see this big screen adaptation of the British series (thanks Annie-Laurie).  It’s better than Alice in Wonderland, but I think I had higher hopes. Regardless, going provided interesting commentary and observation on Albanian society.

Cinema attendance is uncommon and seems to be reserved for the upper echelon.  For example Elbasan has a movie theater but hours are in-frequent and unless you have at least five people in the theater, they won’t show the film. Shkoder in the north has a theater but I can’t comment on the state of things.  So opportunities outside of Tirane, i.e. the capital, are slim to none for cinema-goers and with ticket prices at 500 leke, which is kind of steep, it’s even more difficult.

Cinema attendance is an event.  People buy their tickets well in advance (not sure how far) and then go for coffee or dinner before the show (or after depending on the hour, of course) and the cinema provides both fancy bar/café and ritzy dining options for viewers.  It’s an enticing package deal.

Tickets are assigned seating.  So if you want to sit middle row, middle column smack in the center of the screen which is always the best spot, you have to do one of two things – buy tickets early and tell the vendor what you want or sit where you feel like and say, “whoops! sorry, un jam American”

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Finally, film viewing is innovative.  I was ten seconds of enraged when an office projector showed the trailer for the next movie (Snow White and the Huntsmen. Blah!) and ads for the theater, but then came to realize it is used only to project the shqip subtitles, superimposed on the projection of the actual movie in its widescreen glory.  Clever!

So, I’m back in Elbasan and looking forward to a Thaners reunion with my host-site peeps later this week.  Tomorrow I xhiro and hope to get some good sneak shots to share with you all.  Also I’ve identified a gym and piece by piece I’m building up my new life.

Until next time true believers.

p.s. the song is fitting because not only am I not worried about the future, but sadly I have finally parted ways with my white chucks.  I bought them about 5 years ago when for a summer job I worked at the Abercrombie & Fitch in Pittsburgh, PA and they don’t allow black chucks.  It is a fun and ironic*** turn of events in my life that led me there, but the circumstances impelled me to buy one of the best pairs of shoes I have owned.  So long kids.  I hope you find your black pair mate in shoe heaven.

*If you are on the facebook, check out their page at

**(Check it out:

*** Defined as “Poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended.”