Last week I went to Tirana to meet up with a group of nonprofits including Pink Embassy, Albanian Women Empowerment Network, Aleanca, and a rep from the Ministry of Labor on Gender Equality to help plan Diversity Day 2013 (title pending).  I was pleased that they were starting the planning process early (Long-term planning is not a strong-suit of most people) and there was a lot of discussion and very little agreement except to meet again in September.  All of Albania will pretty much come to a halt in August for the Summer pushim.  Entire offices and agencies will shut their doors and people will disperse in every direction to get a little R & R.  My enthusiasm has been thoroughly squelched until September, and with not much to do, the days have gotten a little long.

Thank goodness for Jen, who pulled me away from my non-stop Community (#sixseasonsandamovie) marathon, to visit Gramsh in the south and join her Outdoor Ambassador (OA) group for some fun by the river.  OA is one of 4 Peace Corps committees here in Albania that focuses on environmental education for youth, as well as English, gender education, and general good, happy fun-times.  The Gramsh group is more about the happy-fun times, and despite the fact that they could easily walk to the river on their own, they prefer being able to tell their friends “I went with Ambasadori natyrë.”

Gramsh is divided by the river, but with the combination of summer heat and a near by dam project, the flow is a fraction of what it normally is, and cracks in the river bed look like an alien landscape (between Gramsh and Shengjin – we’ve got two locations for our zombie apocalypse movie.  Still languishing in pre-production).  Only the boys came this time, and I caught up with Jen in a warm pool, while they rough-and-tumbled in the quick river stream.  Quick note on the river.  Even when it’s just to your knees, the water has incredible strength and I was constantly on the verge of tipping over.  Add that to trying to find my footing between the river stones below I was making slow progress, when one of the guys rushed out as if nothing, grabbed my hand and hauled me to the next shore.  Only a little emasculating.

The kids are great, and many speak perfect English (I’m still struggling with Shqip).  I talked a lot with Bruno, who was accepted to study for a year at some unknown location and high school in the States.  More introverted than his friends and self-admittedly not very good at football, he joined Jen and I for a game of frisbee. Somehow we were talking about Albanian traditions and turned to raki (it’s like moonshine grappa.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes lighter fluid) and he said that he didn’t like drinking and didn’t think it “made him a man” to drink the stuff.

So next week, Peshkopie for the full moon.  But this week will be more of the usual routine.  Wake up around 5:00 am when the neighbor starts washing. Get up around 6:30 and lumber over to start coffee and check the email and weather (these days – hot.) Head to the office for a few hours either in the morning or afternoon.  Maybe a quick visit to the market to pick up veggies and other items.  Come home and nap, read, watch a film, some combination or all the above.  Maybe go out and xhiro it up.  Yeah.

Until next time true believers!

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