Albania is proud of its traditions and especially its populore. A slightly modernized version of the music that has been in the region for, without doing any research or fact-checking, a very long while.

This entire video is set in ELBASAN, my home.

And now, some general updates:

Elbasan Youth Council

This week our Elbasan Youth Council graduates.  During the last many months we’ve met to learn about Elbasan and the different city structures and services offered, about project planning and development, about leadership, and all that other good stuff.  Working with both the youth and staff has been a real learning process, but nothing has pleased me more than seeing the group come together to complete their community projects.

While Melia and I managed the EYC, the community projects and issue areas were selected, defined, planned and executed by the youth with some small help from staff.  A quick summary of their accomplishments:

  • Environment group held a successful community clean up day.  We had a small group of 17 volunteers pick up trash, and they received praise from gyshi and gyshja alike.
  • Youth Spaces held a fundraiser and collected upwards of 50,000 lek to purchase books for the public library. They have also found a university student who will donate time to create a digital catalogue.
  • Social Services partnered with a drug clinic here in Elbasan and in Tirane to prepare informational brochures on the dangers of drug use and how to seek help. They had 5 presentations at local high school and university classrooms.
  • Arts and Culture organized the first ever Elbasan photography competition “Elbasan in Focus.”  Check out the entries here.  They sought local support from businesses for prizes and printing, and tomorrow evening will announce the winners of the competition with much fanfare.

More than the projects themselves, it has been about seeing the youth empowered and realize that they can make a difference.

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Cat
“Myself and Pangur, cat and sage
Go each about our business,”
– “From the Irish of Pangur Ban,” Eaven Boland

After my heartfelt blog post about Cat, the brazen hussy moved out and took the kittens with her. She still pops in for a rub and demands to be fed. I relent. I’m a soft touch.

The Kids are Alright
“Your actions, and your action alone, determines your worth.”
– Evelyn Waugh

For the past 2 months or so (the time, it does fly, doesn’t it?) I and many of my PCV colleagues have been working with the Group 16 of trainees.  As I write, they are on Site Visit, visiting the communities they will be living in, meeting the counterparts with whom they will be working, fingers crossed, seeing the houses/apartments they will be living in, and heaven help them, getting pumped for the journey that lay ahead.  I was in their place a year ago. I spent my site visit going around different offices imagining projects that never happened, picturing myself in my soon to be place, and watching Dexter with my PCV host, Kyle.

My friend Aaron came to visit a few weeks ago, during a very busy weekend in Elbasan.  There was an Outdoor Ambassadors leadership training, a Flash Freeze for the Environment, and training activities for the 16ers.  He saw us at a peak of activity and met volunteers at each stage service, beginning, middle and end.  It was nice to hear from someone who lives abroad and works in development that we’re doing good work, we’re not crazy, and yes, things will be alright after Peace Corps.

Welcome group 16 and good luck. Goodbye group 14 and good luck.  Hello year 2 Albania.  In the coming year: EYC Summer program, EYC school year, more gender/human rights, more travel (?) more culinary madness (gazpacho season is back!) and who knows what else I come up with.

London Calling
“I’ve been to the east and I’ve been out west
and I’ve been the world around
but I ain’t seen no one anywhere near
a girl from London town”
-“London Girls,” Tori Amos

I’m going on vacation! I have not been to London since I was a senior in university so that’s… a while ago.  I love Albania, but there are certain things lacking in ready availability that I crave.  I’ve got plans to see a few concerts, catch a show (maybe 2), visit an art museum, have a crazy-good cocktail, see hipsters, and whatever else strikes my fancy.  Get ready London. I am coming.

The Epilogue
Gloria: You’re his family now and that means only one thing: you be the wind in his back, not the spit in his face.
Jay: What?
Gloria: Something my mom always says. Its gorgeous in Spanish.
-Modern Family, Pilot Episode  1.1

My office and most of the people I work with speak a degree of English that for the past year I have been able to work in pretty decent shqiplish and with the occasional aid of a translator. More people would rather practice their English with me, than listen to me struggle and butcher their language.

So, my shqip has stymied (a becalmed shqip), but I get along well enough, until someone lacking in tact tries to correct me. It’s not that I don’t need the correction, or welcome it, but some days when a non-native speaker, like me, say pullë (stamp) and not pulë (chicken) and clearly at a restaurant would order the latter (true story), then yeah, it’s annoying.

I remember a lesson I learned from my mom, who said when people made fun of her accent,  “Well if you don’t understand me, mejor te hablo en español para ver si me entiendes…pendejo.

Aquí tienen, para que se rían.

Afterthoughts

I made cherry pie. It was delicious. Clearly, I’m proud of myself.

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I was contacted by a lovely young woman who reads the blog. This might be a bit too late to be of any good, but she has a project that you can read about here. It’s about travel and storytelling which are all things I love.

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