Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Work hard and play hard...

We are officially past the half-way point of pre-service training. After this week, we will have only four more weeks of PST. Actually, the time we have left here in Belesh is less than four weeks since we will be at our counterpart conference in Durres for one week and then visiting our permanent site for a weekend.

In the meantime, I am really enjoying my time here in Belesh. I am trying to savor every moment I have with my host family and trying to take in as much of this beautiful village as possible. I love how every morning just before school my host father will ask if I am well, if I slept well, if I had any dreams, and when I will return home. Upon returning home each day, the family asks if I had lunch since I learned early on that every restaurant here in Albania does not actually serve food. Instead, some serve only coffee or tea. I enjoy waiting for the other trainees outside of the school in the morning and afternoons and having the kids come up and talk to us. Though, now they are starting to get tricky and quiz us on their names…We know all the best places to get byrek, ice cream, pilaf, and salads. On days when I have to study or have homework to finish, I think it is fun to run up the stairs of my house as fast as I can before the kids call me out to play. Overall, I love the sense of connectedness and comfort here in Belesh. Everybody knows everybody, or is even related in some way. This means it somehow gets back to the family that we eat ice cream every day! Though I may be a little sad to leave Belesh, there is no doubt I will be returning to visit several times over the next two years.

Peace Corps has managed to keep us especially busy as of late. We are currently completing the requirements for our technical practicum. For those of us who are health education trainees, we are required to teach three health topics to three different populations, including: hygiene and hand-washing for first graders, anti-smoking education for seventh grade biology students, and hypertension for community members. Last week we successfully completed the hygiene and hand-washing lesson. I gave the education portion of the lesson about what germs are and how they are spread. The most important, potentially surprising, and empowering part was that I was able to do it all in Shqip. Good thing no one else knew it took me about three hours to write and edit my talk. In the end, Darina, the Health Education Coordinator was pleased with our lesson and the kids had some fun, too.

We will be giving the remaining practicum lessons this week on Wednesday and Thursday. Hopefully they go as well as the first one did, but any successes or challenges we have will all be important as we prepare for our service.

Since the practicum requires a lot of time and energy, we have been sure to supplement our work with fun and adventure. Every Saturday in Belesh, there is a pazar (market). My family does most of their food shopping for the week here at the pazar. They also have clothes, furniture, music, and any other random assortment of goods you could imagine. Usually, we are in school on Saturday so we have never been able to attend the pazar. Luckily for us, we got out of language class early on Saturday and so we all took a stroll down the pazar. My favorite part was observing all the knock-off items, especially when they are spelt so wrong! Here are some of the undies I stole a picture of:

I wonder how Calvin Klein feels about this? It is a bit difficult to see in this picture, but there are also some Versage (Versace) undies. It is just fantastic!

For me personally, the best part of our weekend was the adventure we took to the bunkers. Many of us wrongly thought that the bunkers were used for protection and safety during wartime. Instead, the bunkers were put into place (some hundreds of thousands of bunkers, that is) throughout Albania in the 1970s to enable mountain-based guerrilla warfare to be implemented in the plains when necessary. Essentially, they represent Albania’s strategy at that time for protecting itself from foreign invaders. During our time here, we have seen bunkers that people live in and also one newly constructed house that has actually been built over a bunker. Anyway, just before you enter Belesh is a series of bunkers that I have wanted to visit since we arrived and the time came where we were finally able to do so!

These bunkers represent an important historical component to what it means to be Albanian today and I am so excited to have had the chance to visit some so closely. Apparently there is another series of bunkers in another direction from the village center that we may visit this coming weekend.

The random event of the week was actually a painful one. We toured the hospital in Elbasan last Friday and as we were exiting the hospital, I walked straight into a cactus. It was along the wall in the entrance of the hospital. I guess I was too busy talking away to notice the cactus, but then again who puts a cactus in the entrance of a hospital? I had pokies in my jeans at the knee. I tried to remove as many as I could but before I knew it we were off to our next site and so I had to deal with a handful stuck in my skin until lunch. I am happy to report removal of all pokies was a success. Lesson learned!

1 comment:

  1. Stacy your posts are so fantastic and I have to say I was laughing so hard at Celvin Klain! That's hilarious! You'll have to submit some of those pictures to www.engrish.com! Hope all continues to go so well!