Monday, December 22, 2008

December blues

December has actually been a pretty busy month for me here, which is why I haven't updated so much since Thanksgiving . . .

In addition to IST (which was a really long week away from my town), things have really started to pick up on the work fronts. At my office we have finally started to have focus group discussions with the community- we will have more than 40 meetings before February in order to get ideas from the community on priorities for projects. This will all end with a big meeting in which we will hammer out a project plan for the next three years based on what we have been told in these community meetings. We are meeting with kids and adults and some of their responses are great. I love it when the kids in the villages start talking about people respecting their rights and living in a clean village after 5 or 10 years. I think that they have a good idea of where they want to be in the future, but maybe not how to get there. One of the biggest challenges with coming in to these communities is that there is often still the mentality that "someone else" (governement, the US, NGOs, everyone else) is responsible for change. This is really hard when you are coming in with an organization like World Vision- there are big expecations for everything to get better right away. I'm a little bit afraid that anything we do will not be enough (because there is so many things) because people will say "why didn't YOU do this, this, this and this!"

Other than that, I've been working with 8 girls on getting ready for a Model United Nations conference coming up in February. We are Burkina Faso (which if you don't know is a small, really poor country in West Africa). I'm pretty sure that none of these girls had ever heard of BF before (I had to look it up on a map). Additionally, they have very little experiance doing internet research, have never heard of Robert's Rules of Order and are scared to speak in front of people. But we are getting along slowly, slowly.

This week, I'm going to travel down to Gjirokaster to spend Christmas with my friends Chris and Courtney and some other Southern volunteers. This will be my first trip down to the South and I'm really excited. I'm not excited about the 12-14 hours that I will have to spend on the road to get down there . . .

Anyway, I hope that your holiday season is full of friends, family, light and love!

See you next year!

PC Acronym Fun

Last week, all of the PCVs of G11 were in Elbasan for our LR/IST. This was the first time that all of G11 has been together since PST. This is also the first time that G11.5 joined us. We have a really cohesive group and have only had one person ET so far, so almost everyone was there (we missed you Paul, I hope you had a good trip home!). The first three days were IST on technical skills- this was run by the PTO and PMs. The days included SaSe sessions (where we talked about our recent EAP test), KSA sessions and idea sharing. I think we might have even discussed our RVID and PACA tools too! Also, the PCMO was on hand to give us HPV, HepA, HepB and TBI shots. My arm still hurts!

The second three days is LR run by the LC and LCFs. Although I have seen a few of the LCFs since training, there were a couple that I hadn’t seen, so that was nice. We had the opportunity to have a LPI if we want, but I didn't. I was satisfied with my I-M level after PST.

Some of us were really not happy about having the IST in Elbasan (our training site) especially since G10 have had trainings in Durres, Fushe Kruja, Korca and Pogradec and I bet they will have a cool COS but this is our second conference (out of two so far) being held at the same hotel in Elbasan! Also, in the past the IST and LR have been held separately and this year they decided to combine the two to cut costs. They have promised that we will have a great site for our MSC- I’m thinking somewhere on the beach . . .

The best part about Elbasan, actually, was that there was a brand new grocery store built across the street from the hotel. It had chocolate chips, powdered sugar, chickpeas, Parmesan cheese and other goodies. My plans for next week include cookies and falafel. Yum!

Ok, so if you understood any of that, you just might be a PCV (or RPCV). If you didn’t understand any of that don’t worry, there is a glossary following- and don’t even get me started on World Vision acronyms!


COS- Close of Service (refers both to the conference and the actual date of departure)
EAP- Emergency Action Plan
ET- Early Termination, when a PCV leaves the country before COS
G10- Group 10, arrived in Albania March 2007
G11- Group 11, arrived in Albania March 2008
G11.5- Consists of 8 transfers from Georgia, arrived in Albania August 2008
IST- In Service Training
KSA- Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes
LC- Language Coordinator
LCF- Language and Cultural Facilitators
LPI- Language Proficiency Interview
LR- Language Refresher
MSC- Mid-Service Conference
PACA- Participatory Analysis for Community Action
PCMO- Peace Corps Medical Officer
PCV- Peace Corps Volunteer
PM- Program Manager
PST- Pre-Service Training
PTO- Program/Training Officer
RPCV- Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
RVID- Roles of Volunteers in Development
SaSe- Safety and Security

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving part dy (two)

As if one Thanksgiving wasn't enough to be thankful for, the weekend included several other great activities and a whole second Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not even sure how I'm able to walk right now . . . I ate so much I should be rolling down the street.

So on Friday (after some well deserved sleeping in and chilling and leftovers) Chris, Courtney and I met up with some other volunteers to go out on the town. It seems, that it is not just Thanksgiving, but also a holiday here too . . . actually it is two holidays and rather big one's at that. Nov. 28 and 29 are Albanian Independence Day and Albanian Liberation Day respectively, so there was a lot going on in Tirana this weekend. We wandered downtown where we found a carnival set up in the roundabout by the University. There were rides, games and a stage and even cotton candy! Although carnival rides always make me a little nervous (how can we be sure they put it together all right?) we braved one ride (because, again, my theory is that it is more fun if you are in actual danger of dying). It was fun, but maybe just a little bit too long. Joe was really lucky in the fact that I was able to hold it in and I did not puke on him (it was really close though). After seeing what the carnival could offer (not that much really) we decided to continue our evening with some bowling. This for me was the real highlight of the evening. Not because I am any good at bowling, but because deep down in my heart, I really love it! I got a strike on my first frame and then things went down from there, but it was a lot of fun.

On Saturday, I went up to Rreshen, a city in the north about the same size as Peshkopi (and actually rather close if there was a road that connected the towns through the mountains, but there's not). A previous PCV there had started a theater program with the English students and Sarah, in my group, has continued it. The students did a performance (in English) of A Christmas Carol. They did a really good job- the language was pretty difficult, but it was mostly understandable and some of the kids were very good actors. It was really nice to be able to be there for Sarah and the other Rreshen volunteers as they celebrated this success.

On Sunday, I traveled up to Puke for my second Thanksgiving. Unlike the last time I actually got sick going up the mountain (puked on my way to Puke, if you will). Luckily, after a bit I felt much better, because Karen had some food for us! Karen is the chef du jour of G11. I think that she missed her calling as a master cook, but that we are all the better for it. I honestly didn't think it would be possible to cook too much food for 14 people, but somehow she managed it. And it was good. We had all the fixins for thanksgiving and then some (and this time even sweet potatoes!). And I went home with two plates of leftovers.

This year I have a lot to be thankful for . . .