Saturday, June 21, 2008

Do you know the way to Peshkopi?

Me and Kenji:
I have finally arrived in my new home for the next two years- Peshkopi. After the swearing in ceremony, I spent the night in Elbasan and left for Tirana (with some other volunteers heading up north) on Saturday morning. The hardest part of my trip was actually getting all of my luggage across Elbasan to the bus stop, but luckily I had some help from another volunteer (which I returned by helping him carry his luggage). We found a furgon (the mini-busses that are the most common form of transportation here) that not only agreed to take 5 of us and all of our luggage to Tirana, but even across Tirana to the place where we would pick up the furgons going north (for a few extra dollars, of course!). This made the whole trip a lot easier, since normally the Elbasan furgons drop of on the complete other side of town and a taxi across the city is nearly as expensive as the trip all the way to Tirana! Once on a Peshkopi furgon, I made really good time getting here, only 4 and a half hours. The trip normally ranges from 4 to 6 hours, depending on the roadwork, the driver, and how many stops are made. I arrived with no problems and was able to get into my apartment and start settling in. Mike, the departing volunteer was still around for the weekend before he departed for a short trip through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on his way back to the states. Having Mike around was great, as he helped me find my way around town and showed me some quirks of the apartment (taking a shower is a bit complicated) before he left. I have a feeling that I will continue to get questions about Mike for a while yet (Miku iku?- Mike’s gone?). Also waiting for me here is my new site mate, Kenji. Kenji is an English teacher who has been living here for a year. I think that we will get along great. We have already shared a pancake dinner (the first meal I cooked in my new kitchen) and are enjoying my movie collection. Kenji and Mike never really connected, so Kenji is happy to have someone new in town to hang out with.

On Monday, I started work. My primary position is with World Vision, a Christian NGO that does development work in many places around the world. The office in Peshkopi is brand new; it has only been open a few months. I am working with three young Albanian women and a French man. Eventually, the office here will do educational, health and community development activities in the area. Right now, they are just working on assessing the needs and feasibility of projects here. My main job is to build capacity within the office and help them write a major report (in English) about the needs of the area. I am helping with the English of the office team and just getting to know people in town and in the villages. In the coming months, as I meet people and assess the needs of the community, I will probably work on projects outside of my office as they come up. I already know that I will probably be helping out with a Model United Nations program in the fall and hopefully doing some women’s/girls empowerment programs. Peace Corps leaves things pretty open for us as long as we are working on something.

After the crazy roller coaster that is training, it has been nice to take it easy here for the past few days. Having my own space is great. Although it was very necessary for us to live in host families during training, I am happy that I didn’t have to live with another host family here. My apartment is great- it is only a two minute walk to my office, close to the center of town, right next to a mini-mart and two restaurants. I have a private house, which is rather uncommon (most people in town live in block apartments) and the family that I am renting the house from lives across the garden from me. Even though I have my own space, it is nice to have a family around just in case.

Ok, so if you made it all the way to the end of this, I’m guessing that you care about me, so I’m going to put my address here again:

Rebecca Lipman
Laggia “N. Rushiti”
Banesa 33 perballe Hotel Veri
Peshkopi, Albania

Now, after some experience with the Albanian postal service, I am quite convinced that a package or letter labeled: Rebecca Lipman, Peshkopi, Albania, would reach me. Unfortunately the US postal service doesn’t like to send things without addresses. They don’t tend to believe that the address doesn’t matter, since you have to go to the post office to pick things up anyway (there is no home delivery here) and that all is really required is a name and city. Anyway, send me stuff. Like peanut butter and parmesan cheese (send me an e-mail if you want a more detailed list). Letters or postcards can still be sent to Tirana:

Rebecca Lipman
Peace Corps Albania
PO Box 8180
Tirana, Albania

kisses from Albania-


Friday, June 13, 2008

Unë Jam Vullnetare

Cerrik crew at swearing in

I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! Today was the last day as a trainee and we swore in as PCVs. Everybody got all dressed up and we had a nice ceremony in a theater in Elbasan attended by our host families, Peace Corps staff and other dignitaries. The mayor of Elbasan came and the US Ambassador, John Withers, actually swore us in. By the way, I love the Ambassador. The best word that I can use to describe him is "jolly." He has this big toothy grin and always seems to be happy. The ceremony consisted of some remarks by our Country Director, the Mayor of Elbasan, the Ambassador, our Training Officer and best of all a speech (in Shqip) by Courtney and Greg, two volunteers. Before and after the ceremony, we all went a little bit picture crazy!

Following the ceremony (and some tearful goodbyes from host families) many of the volunteers went out to enjoy one last beer all together! In the afternoon, a few of us decided to journey out and find a place to dance. So we had our first experience with an Albanian disco. Ok, first, it was like 5 in the afternoon and we were almost the only ones there. I think that the people working there thought that we were nuts! Crazy Americans!

Anyway, we finished up the day by breaking in the kitchen of one of the volunteers that will be staying here in Elbasan and cooking dinner. After a few setbacks, they succeeded in making something that resembled baked spaghetti (someone called it spaghetti stew). Ok, here was the problem: at some point, the fuse with the stove on it blew (but we didn't know at the time) and so the pots of water on the stoves weren't heating. Someone came up with the idea of just putting the uncooked pasta into the sauce pot and sticking that in the oven (which we thought was still working). After this was done, someone figured out that the fuse had been blown all along and reset it. The pasta was already in the sauce, so there was nothing that we could do. Really it came out fine (I thought is tasted good) although it was a bit starchy. Anyway, it was filling!

So now that I'm actually a volunteer, what am I feeling? Scared to try to get all my bags through Tirana on mini-buses. A bit nervous for my move up to Peshkopi. Excited to get to work. Sad to be leaving the other volunteers.

Next stop, Peshkopi!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When is a teacher more . . .

When is a teacher more than just a teacher?

When he is also a mentor, a good excuse, a grandfather, a pass signer, a drinking buddy, a lunch date, a driver, a host dad, a cheerleader, a love coach, a photographer, a colleague, a joker, a substitute, a father, a minister, a counselor, an adviser, a masseur, an editor, a father, and most of all- a teacher is more than just a teacher when he is a friend. Wee you will be missed.

Monday, June 9, 2008

She's Crafty

I have wanted to learn how to knit for a long time now, but I just never really got around to learning. Like playing the guitar, doing yoga or becoming a great chess player, knitting was always one of those things that I said I would do if I only had the time. Well, not I do have the time, so when the opportunity came up last week to learn how to knit, I jumped on the chance. I went out and bought myself some needles (shtizë) and a few balls of yarn and got underway. I’m not so good at it yet, I can only do basic knitting and purling, nothing fancy. My first project is a scarf for myself (I don’t want to subject anyone else to my work yet), but I should be able to make scarves for other people soon. My goal is to be able to do a hat by the end of the summer and maybe figure out how to do more complicated stuff by the end of the year (socks, gloves). The yarn that we have seen here is not generally that great (imported acrylic) which is kind of ironic given that you see sheep everywhere you go. So, in addition to postcards, if you tell me your favorite colors, you might just get a scarf or a hat coming your way soon . . . they say Albania has a long cold winter . . .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On this day

On this day. . .

1 year ago today. . . I was in Maine surrounded by new friends (and Lola and Missy) at the GMC conference

3 years ago today. . . I was receiving my MA and my BA from DU

6 years ago today. . . I was writing a 24 page paper about human trafficking.

7 years ago today. . . I was welcoming the sun at Kurt's Opening Ceremonies of Summer, with some people that were soon to become my best friends.

10 years ago today. . . I was crying because people that I thought were my friends left me behind

14 years ago today. . . I was at a Colorado Rockies game

16 years ago today. . . I was sleeping on my living room floor

19 years ago today . . . I was roller skating at Skate City

21 years ago today . . . I was swimming at Celebrity Sports Center

23 years ago today. . . I was eating grape popsicles and falling off the swing set

26 years ago today. . . I was being born

and 39 years and one day ago, my parents were getting married.

So happy anniversary to my parents and thank you for 26 good years!