Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another Day, Another Change in Plans....

And the plan has changed yet again..... I went to go see where I could live with a family last night and the house was nice. Nothing fancy or great but nice. The problem was that they didn't have a car to bring me back and forth to Lezha everyday, they have a motorcycle. PC is strictly no motorcycles here in Albania. The other problem is that turns out there are some issues at home. It would not be a good situation for me to be in. So now it looks like I will be staying in my place and Laura will have to live with Jen for the summer and then move into my place once I leave. Easier for me but more hassle for her and PC.

Another thing I wanted to say that I kinda thought about a lot last night. I was sitting with Viktoria after we ate dinner (they slaughtered a chicken for me) and she was telling me about her marriage. She went into detail about how violent and abusive her husband has been to her over the years and we were both in tears by the end. I just have no clue how these women put up with it. Almost every married couple I have met have been happy in public eye but behind closed doors its just goes from bad to worse. There are some amazing women here that have to live terrible lives because their husbands suck.

The bigger question I have is, why is it that all the women hope that I will marry an Albanian man if they know it most likely means I would be in an abusive, violent relationship??? I wish there was a place for these women to go to get help, but those types of places do not yet exist here in Albania. Hopefully, their daughters will not be put into the same situation. Only time will tell. The other issue is that it is strictly taboo for these women to bad-mouth their husbands, or leave their husbands. If they do either of these things they are shunned and have no chance of meeting someone new who could make them happy. It's a terrible situation that many women in Albania face but maybe one day it will change. My hearts go out to these women and I'm making it my mission to have as many coffees with them as I can before I leave so that they can at least know true friendship and have a simple pleasure to look forward to in their day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PC really likes to test your flexibility skills.....

Last night I got a call from Marsi, the assistant for the COD program. She asked me if it was possible for me to find a host family to move in with for my last 2 months..... by Friday. Well I was totally prepared to share my apartment with Laura for my last 2 months but PC decided it wasn't going to work since it's only a 1 bedroom apartment. So, since I'm so integrated into the community and know the language, it makes sense that I would move into a host family and not Laura.

Well today I wasn't sure exactly how to approach the situation. I knew people who always said they would love to have a volunteer live with them but I wasn't too keen on moving in with most of them. They would be strict with me and for my last 2 months, I don't want strict! So I went to have coffee with Vikotria who owns an awesome small little restaurant here in Lezha. We're just talking about this and that and she says how much she would love to have me live with her. "Really?" I ask, and she starts going off about how there's a room ready for me if I need. "Well, actually I do." I called PC and told them I found a family. The only problem is that they live in Ishull Lezha which is a village just outside Lezha. Luckily, since PC has had so many problems finding housing for this new group, they are more than happy to bend the rules a little for me to make it easier for them.

Tonight I'll go and check out the house. If I like it, I was given permission to move in without PC coming to check it out. It would be really fun to live with them. They have a daughter who is 9 and absolutely adorable and I love Vikotria. Plus it means, awesome homemade meals for my last 2 months! If all goes well tonight, I'll be moving in like 2 days. Guess I should start packing.......

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Good-bye's and Hello's

As I was looking through the contacts on my phone the other day, I realized I needed to delete several numbers. Other volunteers from my group have begun to COS and it's starting to set in that I will be leaving here in about 2 months. If I had decided to just go home instead of going to Morocco for 2 more years, I could be leaving in 2 weeks. I wouldn't be ready to leave in 2 weeks though.

The summer camps are starting to be organized. The first one will be July 5th - July 10th. The second one will be August 1st - August 6th. I will be able to help out at the first one but the second one I will only be able to help out the first day or two since I will be leaving August 6th. I will be going next week to check out the campground and make sure that PC has all the info they need so that if anything happens, we're covered. Yllka and I have begun to discuss who will be attending the camp and what things we will be doing at camp. I'm happy that this year we will be a lot more organized than last year. I feel that Yllka will be ready next year to take on the camp project by herself.

This weekend, the trainees will be swearing in and 2 new volunteers will be coming to Lezha to start their service. There's so many things that I feel like I have to get done before I can leave here even though there's a new volunteer "replacing" me. You can't really say that someone is "replacing" you though because every volunteer works differently from the others. I hope that the new volunteers find their niche and will have a successful service but it really is up to them to find the work and make the connections in the community. Current volunteers can only help so much. I know that when I look back at my service here in Lezha, I will have mostly only good memories. Everyone has a bad day or two during service so I can't say it has all been good but overall it has been an amazing time. I look forward to starting it all over again in Morocco.

The best thing about this time of year in Albania is that there are little things happening all the time and when there's not, there's always the beach! So today, not much going on, time to go have some coffee's and then I'm thinking beach time :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bad Things Never Happen One at a Time

The end of April/beginning of May was not a good time for me. It all started well enough. Bethany and I headed down to Gjirokaster for a night before going over to Corfu for a few days. We had a great time with the Gjiro crew and it was nice weather to be out an about in the town. On Wednesday April 28th, we got up bright and early to catch a bus going to Saranda. Unfortunately, the 7 am bus we thought would take us to Saranda did not exsist so we took an 8 am one instead.

Once we got to Saranda we had to find something going towards the Albania/Greek border. We jumped on a bus going to Butrint and in Butrint, got on a furgon going to Qafe Bote. The furgon ride was something else. The road was very narrow (not uncommon) but also very bumpy. Not to far from the border we were pulled over by some police looking for people without papers. They questioned Bethany and I, but once they saw our American passports, they let us be. Instead, they pulled 3 guys off the furgon and we went on our way. Once we got to Qafe Bote, we had to wait 2 hours for a bus to come on the Greek side to take us to Igoumenitsa, the town where we were going to catch a ferry to Corfu. We met an Albanian boy on the furgon who was also going to Corfu and he helped us get our tickets. On the ferry we encountered a problem, our phones were not working. As we were talking to the boy, we found out he lived up by Sidari which is where our friend's brother, Fation, lived. He offered us a ride up there. We were hoping to stay with a couchsurfer but once we got to Corfu and checked the internet we still hadn't received a reply from her. The boy and his cousin drove us to a few hostels that were closed so in the end he took us up to Sidari. We waited at a restaurant for Fation to show up after work and help us to find a place to spend the night.

Once Fation finally got to the restaurant we were exhausted. He and his friend helped us to find a place that was cheap and nice enough. We dropped off our stuff and met up for dinner. After dinner was drinks and then it was bed time. The next day we got up early to head back into Corfu city to meet up with Bethany's cousin who was on a cruise and was making a port call in Corfu. Unfortunately we got there 3 hours after her ship had docked and couldn't find her anywhere. We decided to go off and look around the town and do some shopping. It was a nice day to wander around the old town and be tourists. We headed back to Sidari on the 8pm bus and ended up meeting more Albanians. A girl sat next to Bethany and after a few minutes asked her if she spoke Albanian. Of course she said yes, and then the girl said, do you know Fation?? Again, yes. The girl goes "I've seen your pictures on facebook!" Turns out she was Fation's girlfriend. What a small world! Anyway, we meet up with Fation again after work for drinks. We went to bed kinda early again. I was planning on leaving Friday morning so that I could get to a birthday party in Corovode by Saturday morning. Well I slept through my alarm and missed the ferry.

When we finally got up, the sun was shining and we decided to spend the day at the beach. First things first though, coffee!! We had coffee on the beach and then layed out to soak up the sun. About 3, we headed in to get some lunch. After ordering, I decided I wanted to go look in one of the stores to buy a skirt. On my way to the store, I stepped on a branch. It hurt like no other! I was like, walk it off Leslie, walk it off. Well once I got in the store and asked for a bandaid, I passed out on a chip display rack. Not pleasant. The store owner called a doctor. He came and checked me out, took me to his clinic for a minute and told me there was something in my foot and it would need surgery to be pulled out. No way, not without PC approval first! I walked back over to Bethany who had no idea what had happened. Filled her in, and after eating got online. I tried to contact our PCMO and CD to ask what to do and of course, no one responded immediately. I had to have anther PCV call the CD to tell him to get online. I spent the next 3 hours talking to them about what to do. We decided I would come back to Albania the next day and they would pick me up and we would go from there.

That night, we convinced Fation to let us stay with him at his house. We went and had some raki with his parents. I went to bed about 1 and Bethany and Fation stayed up drinking. About an hour after they finally went to bed, Bethany started throwing up next to the bed. I waited for her to finish and then tried to clean it up as quietly as possible. Once we woke up about 6am, she was still in bad shape. Everyone else was up and worried about her too. We waited at the door for the 7am bus to take us to the port and it never came. Fation had to drive his dad to work so he ended up driving us to the port after. We barely made it.

Once back in Albania I called the PCMO and told him to meet us in Fier so we didn't have to wait in Saranda all day for him. We got there in the early afternoon and went the rest of the way to Tirana together. After dropping Bethany off, they took me to a clinic to get my foot x-rayed. Nothing showed up. Lowell, the PCMO, decided I would stay with him until we figured out what was wrong with my foot. The next day, May 2nd, I got a call from Joe and he told me I needed to call my mom right away. I called her and found out what I had been dreading - my grandma had died. The rest of the day I was a wreck. I had to stay off my foot as much as possible because of the pain and I couldn't talk to anyone who I really wanted to talk to because they were all in America.

On that Monday, PC drove me up to Lezha to grab some things. When we got back to Tirana, they took me to another clinic to get an ultrasound of my foot. That time they saw what was causing me so much pain. I had a piece of wood, about 5 mm big stuck in my foot. They decided to do surgery then and there to get it out. It wasn't too bad and only took about 30 minutes to find it. Once we got back to Lowell's house I checked my email to see if my mom had booked my ticket to come home. She had, I was leaving the next day at noon.

The flight home wasn't too bad. Even my short connection was made since I got wheeled through the airport since I had just had surgery on my foot. It was so nice to be home and see everyone and have the comforts of home for a few days. Of course a lot had changed but not that much. My grandma's funeral was Friday May 7th. It was in Whiting, Indiana and I think she would be very happy with how it all went. I hadn't seen my grandma in over 2 years but she looked amazing. She didn't look sick at all, which is a lot better than she looked in her last weeks according to my dad. It was very sad to say good-bye to her but I know that she's happy where she is now and isn't suffering anymore.

I came back to Albania on the 14th of May and now after about 3 days of readjusting, I feel at home again. I'm back in my routine and happy to be here. It was weird to be home after so long. Even weirder was that I came back to Albania the day that 3 people from my group COS'ed. Less than 3 months now and I'll be finishing my service here. I can't even think about what life will be like, not living in Lezha. This is my home now and I'm comfortable here. I'll have about 6 weeks in America before leaving for Morocco to do this all over. I'm anxious, excited, and nervous. I know I can do because I have but at the same time its going to be so much different from here. I'm trying not to think about it yet since I still have time here but it's hard to not think about.

Well this turned out WAAAAYYYYY longer than I had expected but I needed to get it out. Hopefully my bad luck lately is over and it's back to only good things. Only time will tell though but my fingers are crossed :)