It’s been a busy past two weeks here in Lezhe! Or – not in Lezhe….I’ve been out of site for quite a few days recently.
Last week I spent three days in Tirana being trained to be one of 9 wardens for PC Albania. This means that my house is an evacuation point for other volunteers in the region and in the event of any emergency I am responsible for getting in touch with around 10 people and helping them get to my house. In general it was nice to catch up with other volunteers and spend some time in Tirana on Peace Corps’ dime. After talking about earthquakes and political strife and the fact that taking a rowboat to Italy is actually one of our evacuation options from Lezhe (yes. really…), it kindof got to the point where whatever we were talking about is extremely funny out of context. However, if there really was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake here or in any of the neighboring countries we would all pretty much be SOL. And, in some ways the training was humbling because of the current evacuation situations in Thailand and Kyrgyzstan.
After training I returned to Lezhe briefly – On Saturday night my counterpart Yllka was married to Blerim, another member of the Bashkia staff. Leslie and I were both invited to attend the bride or nusja’s day (weddings are two-day affairs here in Albania) and it was quite swanky as Albanian weddings go. The event happened at a nice hotel out by the beach and many members of the staff from my office were there which made for fun ice-breaking. However, just like all Shqiptar dasums (weddings) the night was not without lots of circle dancing, many plates of food, countless shots of raki and krikulls of beer and sparkles galore.
After the festivities, I took two days to go south to visit my host family. It was nice to see them after a month, and we had a relaxing afternoon watching Germany beat England. I thought the visit might be a bit awkward, but I felt very comfortable. Jerina and Manola and I all fell asleep on the couch during the game, and we had a nice quiet dinner (with better food than usual) with just my host mom, Jerina, Manola and Antonini. They had put up some of the photos I gave them when I left, and in the morning when I headed back to Elbasan I was sent away with a bag full of eggs and a big bottle of vaj ulliri (olive oil) from their trees.
When I finally made it back to Lezhe Monday after a crazy return trip afternoon of multiple furgons, trekking across Tirana looking for a food processor and trying to translate english to shqip to a furgon driver for some German tourists wanting to get to Ohrid it was wonderful to see the cone shaped mountain and hill with the castle as we approached town. Recently it has really started to sink in just how much I feel at home here – both in Lezhe and in Albania in general. I have Albanian friends and Lezhe is small enough that I can’t go anywhere without seeing someone I know, I have started to work on a few projects in the Bashkia (a highlight of the week was someone from the development office actually approaching me about working on a design project…somehow word has gotten out that I know InDesign), and I am feeling more comfortable with the language every day.
This weekend I’ll be in Divjak beach camping for the fourth. Hope you all enjoy the festivities at home for me…I definitely miss barbecue, porch swings, good beer and being with friends on the mountain or in Wellesley this time of year…