Friday, June 20, 2008

Coffees and handshakes

So I have been in Lezhë for just under a week but I have finished my first work week. The people in the bashkia in Lezhë are pretty amazing. My counterpart is so sweet and relaxed. The other people are pretty much the same way. I got a lot of "Who is she?" this week and a lot of "does she speak Albanian?". Everyone was always a little shocked when I would answer their questions even if they were being asked to my counterpart. Then when I told them I only had studied for three months they were even more shocked. I liked their reactions :)

Anyway, I did a lot of sitting in the office because there aren't any projects for me currently. I've handed people pens and I've done some stapling. Other than that I'm just trying to get to know people. Today I was in Shengjin for the first time by myself and ended up just going to coffees with the people who work at the komuna. That was interesting. Especially since it was me with a whole bunch of old men. I was getting looks like no other! It was funny. Their converstaion was so weird. They started talking about sports, then went on to family, then work, then fishing, then the city, then the mayor, then me and my background, then the work I would do and then that was it. The people who I am going to work with were on vacation today so they said I could just go. I wasn't going to complain but still I didn't do anything.

I know that the summer is going to be hard because I need to meet everyone and just prove to them that I can do things for them. It's going to take some time and I need to be patient so here's hoping for a quick summer. Sitting around doing nothing is kinda awkward. Peace Corps stresses building relationships the first few months at site so I guess I'm just going to do what they tell me. Hopefully projects start coming after summer.

My house here in Lezhë is pretty sweet and I only have one thing to complain about. I don't have a working stove currently. Other than that I can't really complain. Especially since some volunteers don't even have houses yet! I just have to get used to walking up to the top of the hill everyday. Let me tell you my knees are dying right now but I'm giong to have buns of steel after two years! Hahaha.

On a happy note: I recovered my phone I thought I lost the other week. And I'm going to the beach now :) YAY!

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm a PCV!!!

As of today I am an official Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania!! Whoot whoot!! The ceremony was short and sweet and fun. The ambassador came to swear us in and the mayor of Elbasan was in attendance as well. There were speeches and all that good stuff. I personally think the high lite of the ceremony was the slide show I made for the beginning. It was pretty amazing :) It's a little weird to think that all the people I was up on the stage with today I did not know three months ago and now its weird to think that I will be living without them.

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Lezhë where I will be spending the next 2 years. I am so excited that training is over and this journey can really begin!

On a sad note: I lost my cell phone on a furgon this morning. Oops.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PST is coming to a close

On Friday I will be swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. Whoot whoot! I'm so excited that PST is over! I've truly enjoyed my time in Cërrik and getting to know all the other trainees in my group. I am loving my time here in Albania and getting to know all about Albanian culture. I am just so ready to get to my permanent site, be in my house, and get to work!

I cannot wait for the times that are ahead of me. I know that there are going to be really good days and really bad days. However, I know that there are people all over Albania that will help me get through the next 2 years. I am looking foward to my small successes and the big ones will just be icing on the cake. Time in Albania can move slow though so to help keep me happy and content here in Albania, send me mail!! My new address for the next 2 years is
Leslie Surrett
Peace Corps Albania
Lagjia Baslidhja, afer spitalit
Lezhe, Albania

Well that's about it for now. My next post will be from my home in Lezhë!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

First Small Success - CHECK!!!

On Saturday May 24th, we held our long anticipated art show in Cerrik. After all our worries about no one coming, about not getting any artwork, after having to buy all the prizes and not being able to display the artwork properly, we had a very successful art show.

On Thursday we had gone around to all the schools and collected much more artwork than we thought we would. In the afternoon we went to the cinema to set up what we had. We discovered that setting up the artwork against the back of the chairs was not going to work. We than thought we could tape the artwork on the walls, however this would have required a lot of tape which we did not have and we did not want to put tape on everyone’s art. We found these wire things that we decided to hang yarn between and then use clothespins to put the artwork up. Yes, it was a little ghetto but it worked out great. It took us about 4 tries restringing the yarn before we were happy with the level of the artwork and the closeness to the wall.

Also the week before we found out that our judges, the school principals, teachers and some representatives from the municipality would most likely not be able to make it to the event on Saturday. We decided to take the artwork individually to their respective judges and ask them to pick out their favorites. This actually worked out fairly well and we were able to decide on how we wanted to arrange the prize categories after getting their decisions. We decided to give out one first prize and two honorable mentions for every category. We had prizes and certificates made based on this and then were surprised Saturday morning when the municipality dropped off some more prizes for us to give. It was a very nice surprise.
Another nice surprise on Saturday was walking to the cinema to find a huge group of students waiting outside the doors. They were there but they were there hours early!! We had to finish setting up and finish writing names on certificates before opening the doors! We managed to finish most and then the doors were open and the children came running in and sat down. They obviously had no concept of coming, looking, leaving, and returning for prizes. Well what were we to do with all of them until the prize ceremony? We put on some music and then we just finished getting our stuff together. We had forgotten to write out some speeches in Albania but luckily we had a very fluent English and Albanian speaker there to help us out. We ended up doing the prize ceremony an hour after the doors had been opened and an hour and a half earlier than we had planned on doing it.

The kids loved their certificates and the ones who got prizes were very happy. We took one picture with all the participation award winners. Then we did individuals with the honorable mentions and 1st place winners. When we finished and told them “Thanks for coming!” they all ran out of the cinema tearing the artwork with them! AHHH!!! Most of it was saved but we couldn’t believe it! We all cleaned up and just kept looking at each other going “It’s done!!” None of us could believe how well it went. Yes there were things that could have been done better but overall it was a success.

Now that the art show is over PST is pretty much done in my book but really there are 3 weeks left. The next 3 weeks will go by so fast though so I’m very excited. I hope that everyone back home is getting ready for summer break (if you’re not already on it) and I can’t wait to hear from you guys!