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Monthly Archives: February 2012

During the communist period in Albania, the government regularly published Pionieri, a magazine for all the “young pioneers” of Shqiperi. I had heard about this publication and it’s entertaining and enlightening view into what life during Zoti Enver’s reign was like for youngsters from other volunteers, but recently had a chance to get my hands on some copies from the 70s from the Lezhe library’s extensive archives.

So far, I’ve enjoyed looking at the articles and exploring what was deemed important to show/teach/tell the country’s youth during such a closed-off time. I like to think of Pionieri as a sort of communist version of Highlights. Most of the articles seem to be about national heroes, sports, school and ways to help out in your community. But, each issue has a feature on another foreign country and a decent selection of fiction and poetry in Shqip.

While I’ve enjoyed reading around, I think the best part for me….the most “translatable” per se….are the graphics. I love the style and the bright colors of the printed borders and backgrounds interspersed with the greys of the black and white photos….and I appreciate them all the more because they all pre-date computer layout programs by about 30 years.

Take a look:

I also was struck by the prominence of girls in the photos and contributions in this publication:

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This week I was supposed to head to Macedonia with a few friends for a ski vacation to use up some last vacation days. We have our Close of Service Conference next week and we (group 13) are not allowed to leave the country for the three months we have remaining following the conference.

Unfortunately, a record-breaking snowstorm is following up the cold snap, and Peace Corps has put all Albanian volunteers to stay put where we are. So, while this would have made for AMAZING skiing…the timing is really terrible and I’m hanging out in Elbasan for the time being….which seems like the only place in Albania without any snow. Adam is here with me, and he couldn’t go home if he tried to as there’s almost 2 meters of new snow where he lives.

Reminds me of the winter back home in VA before I left for PC….except that 2 meters of snow does a lot more damage here than in the US. At least 8 volunteers are stranded and couldn’t leave their sites if they wanted to. I’m happy to be here with all my warm ski clothes waiting it out.

This weekend I am in Elbasan with 40 students and about 16 PCVs from all over the country at the Outdoor Ambassadors Youth Leadership Conference. Despite heavy snows all over the country (even in Elbasan last night!), we all arrived safely and are immersed in the thick of project idea brainstorming, team-building exercises….and a bit of fun, too! We had to cancel the nature hike, but a riveting game of jeopardy with questions from the “worst case scenario” survival book was a great ice-breaker.

It’s still amazing to me to be involved in an organization that can bring people together from every corner of the country towards a common goal. I love seeing the students interact and feed off of each other’s energy. The two students I brought with me from the club I lead in Lezhe are so confident and independent…even in comparison to when we traveled together to the summer camp last June. Seeing this is inspiring for me in my frustrated-with-the-bashkia winter slump, and I am so proud of how far they’ve come.

Right now we’re working on developing goals and objectives for community projects, and we’re reassessing their film night project to try and see what steps they can change/implement to create a successful, effective project to promote volunteerism and care for the environment in Lezhe. It’s nice to let them develop the ideas themselves….and get feedback from their peers in other cities.

A big thank you again to all who contributed to the Peace Corps Partnership grant that helped fund this weekend conference. Two days may not be much, but for these high-school students it’s an inspiring experience of a lifetime. Oh, and it’s fun for me, too!

For those of you who haven’t heard, this winter is one of the coldest in recent memory for all of Europe. People are dying from low -30s Celsius temperatures in the Ukraine and Romania, and here in Lezhe the bitter wind is out of control.

Unfortunately this kind of weather means that not a lot happens work-wise in Albania. The high school in Lezhe doesn’t have functional windows or heat of any kind so the students have been let out of school early every day for the past two weeks. I may live on the coast where there isn’t much snow, but when the wind blows even the slightest bit the power goes out with an infuriating regularity that is almost predictable, but not quite.

For example, I have had power about half the time over the last month….and I never know when it will be on or off. This is mostly not a problem for my daily existence, except when I hope to accomplish anything at the office. All of this means that lately I’ve been spending a lot of time planning to have meetings that never happen and instead going for coffees or coming home and sitting infront of the fire. Just this week we had to postpone an Outdoor Ambassadors film night fundraiser because the theater we were going to use does not have any heat and we thought that no one would attend.

Conveniently a few of my close friends here recently celebrated their birthdays – good excuses to get together and be cold with company. But, when we’re together and the power is out and we don’t want to go outside….what do PCVs like me do, you ask?

Well, we play lots of cards. Lots and lots of cards. Sometimes, like this past week, we make forts out of all the blankets and pillows in the room to make a warm space to huddle. But most of the time we sit around and converse.

I can’t remember any time in the US when I had this much time to really just TALK with my friends. In person. The time I’ve had recently with my American and Albanian friend is wonderful and rare and makes me not mind the down time at all. Just another way the Peace Corps is a social experiment….and a mirror that reflects our selves on a second life pattern – one far from the stresses of the US lifestyle.

As I’m swiftly reaching my three-months-left milestone I don’t know if I am ready for life to speed up again.