Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flobots are famous. . .

Local Denver band the Flobots are blowing up around the country. . .

So, I have known a few of these guys for a long time and like Liz says here (you can also see their TV debut on Liz's site) it is a little weird, but also really awesome to see them start to be successful. Their first nationally released full length album comes out today, so if you don't already have it (way behind!) you should go out and buy it. It only makes me sad that I can't be there to celebrate the success of my friends, but I hope that they know that I am thinking of them often and I'm so proud.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Kickball in Albania

Many of you that have been following my life for a while know that two years ago I joined a kickball team in Denver two summers ago. We were called Science for the People, our uniforms were magenta and argyle and we were the worst team in the league. But we had a lot of fun. One thing that I am going to miss a lot this summer is going to be heading to Veterans Park, grabbing a few beers and playing kickball all afternoon. But not to worry, because there is kickball in Albania!!! Last weekend we had a party in Cerrik to celebrate all of the Gemini birthdays (including me). We ate lunch at our lokal (including a great chocolate cake baked by the girls in Shturmen) and headed over to the school and had a game of good old-fashioned American kickball. The ball wasn’t that great and my ankle kind of hurt, but it was fun anyway. If it weren’t for all of us being so spread out all over the country, I would suggest that we form a league. Hopefully we will be able to get together and play a few more times in the next two years . . .or I can introduce kickball to the Albanians in Peshkopi- I smell secondary project!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Birthday coming up. . . send me mail!

Site placement information:I have been assigned to a city in the northeast of Albania called Peshkopi. Peshkopi is a small city of about 20,000 people on the border of Macedonia. It is in the mountains and cold and snowy in the winter, but cool and beautiful in the summer. I will be working with an organization called World Vision, which is a large Christian international NGO based in the United States. I will be helping to set up a new office in Peshkopi as part of their Area Development Project. They do development work in many rural areas of Albania, particularly focusing on children. In addition to working with World Vision, I expect to work with other NGOs, the local government and schools on several as yet to be determined secondary projects. I have a site mate that has lived in Peshkopi for one year named Kenji and whom I have not yet met. I will meet him and see the city for the first time when I go on a site visit on May 29th.So now that I have that information, I also have an address where people can send me packages!

Rebecca Lipman
c/o: PShM attn: Mike DeCorte
L. Nazmi Rushiti
Rr "Tercillo Kardinali
Perballe Hotel Veri
Peshkopi, Shqiperi

Ok, I don't want to start begging or anything. . .

My birthday is coming up on June 3rd- to send me cards or other flat things (those CDs people owe me, hint, hint) you can continue to send mail to this address:

Rebecca Lipman
Korpusi i Paqes
PO Box 8180

If people were to send me packages. . .

books, movies, TV shows on DVD (Gilmore Girls 6&7, Buffy 3&5, Veronica Mars 1&2, Grey's Anatomy), granola/nutrigrain bars, good herbal tea, asian spices, soy sauce, mac and cheese, baking powder, ginger, allspice, fun stuff to keep me entertained, good stuff that you think you would want on your birthday far from home. . . Let me know if you have questions. And as always, if you send me something, I'll send you something back!

Love you all!!!! Ju dua, shume!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dua Shikoj një film- Jo, nuk mund të shikoj një film

I love going to see movies in the theatre. I love watching movies in general, but there is something about watching a movie in a theatre that is extra special for me. This is probably mostly due to the fact that I spent the some of my most formative years (from age 17 to 22) working in a theatre. I love seeing a movie on the big screen, but I also love the social interaction aspect of actually going out and going to a movie. At home, if I was ever feeling down or just needed some girl time, I knew I could count on one of my girls to go with me to see something completely bad and sappy (probably staring Reese Witherspoon and any one of several cute guys). Whenever a dance movie came out, I could count on Sam to gather 20 of us to fill two rows of seats at the late show on a Friday night. Whenever a comic book movie came out, I could always count on going with the boys and then listening for several hours after about how it didn’t follow the original story at all and the thing with these movies is . . .

Theoretically, it would be possible to see movies in a theatre here. There is a movie theatre in Elbasan (and I am in Elbasan usually about twice a week or more). They have one screen and show relatively recent releases (meaning within the last 6 months). Outside the theatre, there is a sign that has show times and prices. You can see a movie there for 200 Lek (about $2) if . . .

If the theatre is open
If the projectionist is there
If you have enough people with you
If the electricity is on
If the staff feels like it
If you don’t try to come during nap time
If you don’t have to catch a bus home before 7PM
If the moon and stars align

So far, I have not been successful in fulfilling all of these ifs. Today when I went with my friend Leslie to see if we might be able to see a 1:00 show of I am Legend (which I didn’t actually see at home), we were told to come back at 5:00 and they might have a show then. Of course the last bus home leaves at 6:30.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's not broken

The good news is, it's not broken.

Last week on a camping trip in Belsh, a town near by town of Cerrik, I twisted my ankle in the middle of the night (wine+dark+hole in the ground=bad). With a little bit of creativity and good old Peace Corps spirit, Maggie wrapped my ankle in a pair of long underwear, secured by duct tape and in the morning I was able to hobble down the mountain. My ankle was swollen and bruised, but I could put some weight on it and was able to walk (slowly, slowly).

After about a week, the ankle seemed to basically be healed. The bruise (ugly, purple) was gone, the swelling was reduced and it was no longer tender. And then I woke up on Sunday in extreme pain. But the pain wasn't from my ankle, it was from the side of my foot.

I called the PC Medical office and the our lovely Medical Officer decided to bring me up to Tirana to have a look at it. He thought that it was possilbe that in the process of the twisting, I could have fractured my 5th metatarsel, the bone going up to my pinky toe. I came up this morning (in a swanky PC SUV, not a furgon!) and we went this afternoon to have an x-ray. It's not broken, but I probably pulled a ligamant (from my ankle connected to my foot bone) and I will be on crutches for at least a week. I'm going to stay in Tirana tonight (since it is already late and driving on the scary Tirana-Elbasan road- or for that matter anywhere in Albania- is not recommend).

The real fun part will be trying to go up the five flights of stairs to my apartment on crutches. . .

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don’t drop the soap-or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Turkish toilet

I at least was a little bit prepared. . . although I had never used one, I had at least seen one before in Alaa’s grandmother’s house in Jerusalem. I never really did figure out how that 105 year old woman could possibly still use it, but she had been doing it for a VERY long time. I wasn’t really prepared to use it every day, but when that is what is available, you adapt. It’s all about aim. As a girl, I’ve never had to worry about aim before. Aim and balance. Aim, balance and thigh strength. Seriously after just a few weeks in this country and I can already feel the difference in my legs. My friends and I also discovered additional challenges this week: using a TT with a hurt leg (my balance is horrible on one foot) and being sick. . .

My dad has a t-shirt from after his PC days that I always thought was funny (and a only a little bit embarrassing), but never really understood before. . .

Oh, ain’t that the truth. Thirty-five years later and some things about Peace Corps haven’t changed . . .

The thing I was least prepared for was actually the shower situation. Like some other places I’ve visited, there is no “shower,” but rather just a showerhead in the bathroom over a drain. Unlike other such places, the drain in this case also happens to be the TT. This presents certain unexpected challenges. Thinking that it would take up less of the very precious space in my suitcase, I brought bar soap rather than my usual body wash- now I have a very good reason “not to drop the soap.”

After language class one day last week we had a hilarious cross-cultural exchange as we tried to explain to our language teacher why you wouldn’t want to drop the soap in the TT and why you also wouldn’t want to drop the soap in prison either . . . and what exactly soap on a rope is.

Mos e hedh sapunin
! (Don’t drop the soap)

Thank you to Chris for the hilarious cartoon!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pres Flocket

I tend to think of my life in terms of the length of my hair. Did this happen before or after I cut it for locks of love? How long was my hair when I dated that guy? Cutting my hair is usually a big deal because: A) I don’t do it very often (I let it grow out long before I cut it again). B) I tend to put a lot of my personal identity into my hair (I’m always the one with the curly hair, my hair is what gets me the most complements. C) I tend to cut it right before, right after or during important changes in my life (at the end of beginning of big trips, when I get a new job).

After being in Albania for a few weeks, I decided that I really wanted to cut my hair. Ever since I got here, it has been dry and damaged something that is made worse by the fact that I am only able to shower at night and only about twice a week. Additionally, summer is coming up fast and I think that my long hair would probably drive me nuts here in the summer. So I sought out the help of my neighbor Ramina- she is the absolute perfect person to help with a haircut: an eighteen-year-old girl who speaks perfect English and knows everyone in town. She agreed to accompany me to the hairdresser and make sure that I didn’t get ripped off. I found a picture of myself with shorter hair as an example and we set out.

Random note about Albanian language-
The verb pres has two meanings in the present first person- both to cut and to wait.

When we arrived at the hairdressers, she was busy doing the hair of a bride. I had to pres for my pres. While waiting, Ramina and I went over to visit my friend Leslie who has been sick. We returned a little while later and had to pres again while the hairdresser was retrieved from the café. After all the waiting, I just wanted to get to the pres (this time meaning cut!). Of course I always feel a bit nervous when getting my hair cut. I have had some not so great experiences (starting with the time when I was four that I let my sister cut my hair), but the great thing about getting my hair cut is that I know that it will always grow back. I am blessed to have very fast growing hair, so I know that if I have a bad cut, it is only a matter of a few months and it will be fine again. Poor Ramina sat behind me looking so nervous! As the curly locks fell to the floor I felt as if a weight had (literally) been lifted off of my shoulders! It is a little bit shorter than I had hoped (curly hair always turns out shorter than you think it will) but overall I am happy. I know that it will be easier to manage and hey, it will always grow back!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


When learning a new language together with a group of people, you are bound to start to create your own strange hybrid of the new language and your native tongue. Many people have heard of Spanglish (the combination of Spanish and English). After a few weeks learning Albanian (Shqip) the volunteers have started to speak a lot of Shqiplish. A volunteer from group 10 (that would be the training group last year) wrote a song in Shqiplish. Let me tell you, it is hilarious, if you speak Albanian and English. Sorry if you don’t speak Albanian, but you might think it is funny anyway and it is educational- the song is all about the most important word in the Albanian language- “Mirë.”

Click here to hear the “Mirë Song.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cinco (five, pese) de (of) Mayo (May, Maj)

The first job of the “American holiday” committee formed by the trainees was actually to organize a party for a holiday that truly represents the diversity of American traditions- Cinco de Mayo. Even though the tortillas didn’t come out quite right (still a lot of experimenting with baking to be done- the corn flour was not quite what we expected), the rest of the food was great: spicy rice, chicken, vegetables, salsa and even some guacamole. We used the bar owned by one volunteer’s host family and had a great time. I think that her family must have thought we were all nuts when we found a broomstick and started to limbo! Apparently there are some very limber people in group 11! And we even had a piñata! Anyway, it was great to share our culture and have a little taste of home together. I hope that your Cinco de Mayo was happy and safe, where ever you are.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Party in Cerrik! What, what!?

Two of my site mates had birthdays this week, so we decided to host a party. The party itself didn’t actually differ that much from what we do every day. . . hanging out in the internet café, except that this time we had friends. About half of the other trainees came out for a drink. Also we had cake- well sort of.

Courtney and I decided that we wanted to try to bake a cake for the party. We discovered several challenges to baking here:
Unsure about ingredients- I think that this is baking powder, does this look like baking powder? Does anyone know the word for baking powder?
Ingredients not available- powdered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla etc. You may be able to get them somewhere, but I sure haven’t seen them and don’t know how to ask for them.
The oven is in Celsius and not so reliable . . .
Living in someone else’s house and using someone else’s kitchen- including only having very large cake pans and no measuring cups (we baked at Courtney’s house and I forgot my measuring cups at my house).

So we baked a cake. I made lemon curd (one of my favorite recipes) for the filling, but the frosting was a disaster. We didn’t have powdered sugar and with regular sugar it was . . . gross. And the cake didn’t really rise. I am going to go ahead and blame it on the baking powder (is this double acting???) and the fact that we didn’t put it in the oven right away. It tasted fine (and the filling was great!) but it was just kind of flat. I plan to try the same recipe again using my own (imported) baking powder, but I think that I will wait until I am in my own kitchen (only 6 more weeks!). I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Anyway, the party was great, the cake was an experiment and tasted good. The party was fun. Happy birthday Courtney and Karen!

U bësh një qind vjeç.-May you live to be 100 years old!