Saturday, September 27, 2008

London Part one- Hanging out with rock stars

So, why are you in London? Well, I know these guys in a band . . .

Totally worth it. First, I love the Flobots, second, I love London. I knew I would love London. There is so much to see that it is a bit overwhelming at time, but it is great. I don't think it would even be possible to get bored here. So anyway, I booked a ticket and came. Ta-da! London. The first two days of my trip were very Flobots centered. When I arrived in London, I hopped directly on a train to Manchester for the first of their two Britain shows. When I got to Manchester I ran into a bit of a problem when the girl I was supposed to stay with never came and got me from the train station. No problem, I went to the show and met up with the band and they made sure I was taken care of- sleeping on the tour bus! They were great enough to clear out a bed for me and let me ride with them back to London. Sleeping on a tour bus with a rock band. How cool is that? When we got to London, we just kind of hung out for the day while they got ready for their show that night. I found the girl that I was supposed to stay with in London (no miscommunication this time, no problems, great person) and got settled. I then met up with my friend Ria at the show. The last time I saw Ria, in fact, was at the Flobots show in Denver 6 months ago on the day before I left for Albania. She lives in Northern Ireland, but met up with some of her friends from Uni (that's British for University) for the concert. It was great to see her and get to spend some time with her and her friends. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend too much time with the band after the London show (they had to go do press interviews and who knows what else the next day), but at least I did get some face time on the bus and two awesome shows. Too bad it will probably be another two years before I get to see them again . . .unless their tour comes to Albania :).

Performing "Rise" in London

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm going to London! I'm so excited. To get ready for my trip, I decided that I needed to save money (translate- not travel), so I haven't been out of Peshkopi for almost a month and I am ready to go! It is amazing how cheaply you can live here when you don't go anywhere. You know, when I'm home I go weeks and even months without going anywhere special and I'm fine, but I think that I would be a little (or more than a little) stir crazy without traveling here. I have also been battling with super slow dial up internet for the past few weeks, so coming to Tirana for a day before I leave has given me time to get some things done. I also have been able to meet and hang out with the new volunteers that were transfered here after they were evacuated from Georgia. They are pretty cool crew and I commend them for coming here. After they were evacuated they spent almost a month in a hotel in Armenia and then came here and are now living in another hotel while they get a quick and dirty intro to Albania (5 weeks of language as opposed to our 12). Ok, so I'm off, my next post will be from the UK! Yeah!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wake up call

So the other night I woke up at about 3:30 to strange drumming outside my house. I listened as it got closer, seemed to pass directly under my window and then moved off into the distance. I thought I might just be imagining it or that there was just some crazy guy drumming in the early morning hours (they have much less respect for noise restrictions here).

But then I heard it again a few nights later.

And then I heard it again last night. I have formulated a theory: it is a Ramadan wake up call. Peshkopi is theoretically 98% Muslim. This doesn’t appear to mean too much around here, religion not really being a very dominant force in life in Albania. I very rarely see any covered women or any other clear signs of the religion here, although the mosque does do the call to prayer 5 times a day. Right now happens to be the holy month of fasting- Ramadan. During Ramadan, faithful followers fast during the day. This means that in order to eat breakfast, they have to get up to eat well before the sun. So my theory is that the drummer is someone going around town in order to wake people up before sunrise-kind of like a town crier, errr drummer or a communal alarm clock (because apparently the normal in the bedroom type alarm clocks are not reliable???). Ok, so that’s my theory.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A dip

So there is this thing that they show us in training about cultural adjustment. Basically you are on a bit of a roller coaster ride- you have an initial “up” time when things are exciting and new and then things can get a little bit hard as you start to miss home and then hopefully you start to hit a stride and get used to things and like your surroundings and then maybe you have a setback, etc. Well right now, I think I’m in a dip. The excitement and newness of things is starting to wear off and I’ve been feeling a bit sad lately. It is nothing specific- work is slow, money is tight, travel is expensive, internet access is spotty, I lost my CNN. I’m goint to London in a few weeks for my first “vacation.” My good friends the Flobots (you may have heard them on the radio, they’re famous now I hear) are doing a European tour and I decided to bite the bullet and spend way too much money to go see them. It was a really hard choice- the ticket alone was more money than I am making in a month here. But I felt like I need to take my mother’s constant advice “take the trip.” I always regret when I don’t go somewhere and almost never regret it when I do. Anyway, so I’m in the process of making plans for my week in the UK (which is more of a challenge than it should be with my slow internet) and if anyone has any advice on what I just must see and do or has some wonderful old friend that you think I might be able to crash with. . . let me know. Hopefully a week away will get me recharged and I’ll be on the upswing of the curve before I know it.

In the meantime, something that might cheer me up is news from home- letters, packages or just a quick e-mail are appreciated. Let me know what' s going on in your neck of the woods (and I reward all letters with return postcards :).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Small bits

I lost my CNN. I have cable TV from my landlord and for some reason or another every so often some of the channels change. First I lost Digiplus, a channel that showed mostly American tv shows and Spanish/Portuguese/Italian soap operas. That was sad, but the real blow came when last week CNN World became a German channel that has infomercials during the day and poker tournaments at night. I still have one movie channel showing mostly bad action (Jean Claude van Dam, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan etc.) but occasionally gems like all three Terminators and the original Superman movies. This is a real blow because it comes at the same time that we are also loosing our Newsweek service. For the past 25 years or so, Newsweek has provided free weekly copies to all PCVs. They have decided that the expense of this service is too great and that most volunteers now have access to other sources of news (like the internet). That’s all well and good, but when I am working with dial-up and have to do a lot of other things on line it is often hard to sift through news (and it takes forever to load and my internet is expensive). Should I write a letter to my congressman?

I’ve always loved the spring. Here, the spring seemed to pass by too quickly with rainy days and then all of a sudden it was June 1st and hot. Usually I like the summer- in Denver the summer is hot, but with beautiful cooling thunderstorms in the afternoons. Here, it was just hot. I’m thinking that I will like the fall here. Today, when I woke up it was pleasantly foggy. I’m looking forward to getting my wood stove running and snuggling with a hot cup of tea and a good book. I’m a little worried about winter . . . nothing seems to be insulated for the snows that they tell me will come.

The Georgians are coming. You may have seen in coverage of the conflict in the Republic of Georgia that all of the Peace Corps Volunteers stationed there were evacuated. I think that many of them will return to the US and a few of them may try to return to Georgia to help with relief, but some of them are choosing to be reassigned. Albania has offered to take in 12 volunteers. They are scheduled to arrive next week. I’m not sure what I would do in their situation- they were almost done with training and learning one obscure language (Georgian is in fact even more obscure than Albanian- it isn’t even the same language family as we are) and now they have to go through weeks more training in a new obscure language and get used to a new strange culture, all after having been through what I imagine was a very scary experience. I wish them luck and want them to know that when they arrive, the volunteers and staff here will do whatever we can to the transition smooth. Welcome to Albania!