Friday, December 18, 2009

A Note on Culture

Today, there have been exactly 3 very interesting things that have happened to me that are great examples of the culture here in Albania. The first thing that I want to mention is the man I say peeing on the high school wall this morning. I had just left my house and was about 100 feet away from this old guy when he unzipped his pants and let it go. Public urination - not cool. Public urination on a high school wall with students all around in front of a window at 10am - hilarious (and at the same time gross)!! When I saw that on my way to work, I knew that it would be a good day.

The second thing I would like to tell everyone about is my trip to the bank. When I was in Bosnia, the ATM took my card and did not give it back. I am still waiting on my replacement so I had to actually go inside. Well I open the door and its packed with people. There usually are people but not more than like 10. I walked to the man at the end of what I considered to be a "line" and asked if he was waiting (the 2 tellers were just standing there). He told me that there was "s'ka leke". Translation, no money. I stood there for a second and then I turned around and walked out of the bank. As I was walking back to work I burst out laughing. It was an absolutely ridiculous concept to me that a bank had no money. Only in Albania. Luckily, when I went back just over an hour later there was money again. Now I know why so many Albanians don't trust their money in the banks.

Tonight, Peter and I came into Tirana to go see The Nutcracker at the Opera House. For $5 we both got tickets. It was fairly good. I haven't seen the ballet in probably 4 or 5 years so my memory from former performances is a little rusty but I enjoyed myself. At intermission I went down and found the musicians. I now have a number of a man who may be able to get me a cello!! Whoo hoo!!! Listening to the orchestra play tonight really has made me want to play again. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to play every once in awhile when I come into Tirana.

So it has been a culture filled day. Every day in Albania is always different and for the most part entertaining. It's days like today when I think "How will I ever readjust to living in America??" I think when I get back I'm gonna be one of those people that even my own family is embarrassed of and they keep me locked up in my room. It's going to take a long time for me to break some of the habits I've picked up here. Here's a list of some of my favorites:
-waving my pointer finger to say "no"
-shaking my head from left to right to say "yes"
-pushing my way to front to be served first
-raising my hand up in the air and clicking while calling out "boy!" to get the waiter's attention
-arriving when I feel like it even if we scheduled a time to meet
-assuming that when I'm with a man he will pay for everything
-inviting people for a "coffee" when I mean any type of beverage
-stopping to say hi to everyone I know and ask them the same question 5 times in a row
-negotiating the price for clothes

Well that's enough about Albanian culture for one day. Christmas is one week away and then New Year's!! If I don't get the chance to post again before then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's!!

Here's a fun picture depicting culture in Albania. It's the Lezha pigs!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

With December has come Winter...

My apologies first off for again slacking on updating this thing. I thought about sitting down several times to write some stuff down but just didn't know what to write. So here come a long list of what's been happening in the 'bania.

The end of October: Halloween was fun. I don't think it was as fun as last year but there were some creative costumes. Joe, Bethany, Kacey and I went as a group. Kacey was 1st base, I was 2nd base, Joe was 3rd and Bethany was a home run! We all made shirts with nicknames on the back and our team name was the "Puntang Klan". A fun spin off of the WuTang Clan and the Albanian word "pune". Anyways, we spray painted handprints on my shirt and my shorts. Joe drew lip marks all over his pants and we kissed Kacey all over. Bethany pulled off the home run quite well I think. Let's see, there was also Willy Wonka with a Chocolate bar, Dumb and Dumber, a panda bear, brown bear and Koala bear, the Albanian flag, and several interesting takes on a turkish toilet. Always funny to see what we can come up with on a PC budget.

November: Obviously, my birthday kicked off the month to a great start. My English girls totally suprised me. One of them texted me saying she needed to meet with me to talk about an assignment. Well when I opened the door later that day, all my girls walked in with cake, cookies and soda! It was awesome. For dinner, Bethany, Peter and Nikolla took me out to dinner at Ylli's. We had the place to ourselves and after we stuffed ourselves silly we danced the night away. It was a great 23rd :)

Thanksgiving was also very memorable. I was invited to eat at the Ambassador's house. Well I was not let down!! There was a huge turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoe casserole, rolls, wine, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, brownies and lemon bars. I ate a little bit of everything and enjoyed every single bite! I don't think I've eaten like that in over a year and a half!! The conversation was pretty entertaining as well. At one point, the Ambassador and I were talking about the Roma and Gypsies in Albania and he invited me to work on a project for the Roma communities in Albania with him and the Ambassador of Switzerland. Whoo hoo!! After dinner, I spent the night at the Elridges. I was able to talk to my parents and Becca!! What a nice end to Thanksgiving.

The next Friday, I left Tirana at 6am with 2 buses of Albanians to go to Bosnia for the weekend. Oh it was an experience all right. The travel agent was a disaster but Ardi was there and tried to hold it together. Bosnia was very beautiful and I hope I can go back maybe and spend some more time there. There are still all the remnants from the war but then its developed so much sometimes you forget that there was a war.

English lessons are still keeping me very busy. I'm still teaching my counterpart and my high school girls but now I am also teaching the inspectors at the port of Shengjin. Yeah, that's interesting. There's only about 8 but they are all older so its going to be a lot harder for them to learn. 2 of them are pretty good though and they are learning. I teach there 2 times a week for an hour. In January I will be teaching the police here in Lezha as well. I'm a community development volunteer, not a teacher!! Oh well, I enjoy the lessons for the most part and teaching the inspectors will help decrease the amount of human trafficing that goes on in Albania.

I'm still torn as to what to do after I finish my service here in June. I'm meeting with Hill and Jan on Wednesday to discuss a 3rd year extension. Whether I will do it here in Albania or somewhere else I have yet to decide. My parents I think will disown me if I do another full 2 year service. I'm kinda thinking that I want to at least do the 3rd year. The economy in America right now doesn't look to appealing. Well I have to figure it out by January so I'll let you all know when I figure it out myself. Just over a week until Christmas! I can't believe how fast my close of service conference is coming up. Feels like I just got here yesterday......