Winter has been getting to me, long dark days, too cold inside and out, lots of rain. I find myself playing too much solitaire wondering if I am getting depressed. Then I realized non-depressed people do not wonder if they are depressed. Bingo, got it. So I played more solitaire and considered.
Eventually, like at noon, I got dressed and starting walking along the lake shore. I know exercise helps, I just don’t care. I also know getting busy helps so I head over to another lake shore village to attend a training on media and marketing.
I come to a house I know has a nasty little dog but I see it behind the fence, barking. The owner is out front talking to neighbors. I am chatting on my phone with another PCV. Then bam! And I have been bitten behind my left knee. Little bitch was not actually fenced in. @#*&^
I use my best American cuss words. The owner yells at the dog and chases it away. She hurries back to me to show me where the dog bit her as if this would make me feel better. Her wound is the size of a quarter, a few centimeters deep and an ugly bruise color. I do not find this exchange reassuring
I call Peace Corps medical and they tell me I have to come in to Tirana. “Today?” I ask. “Now? But it is late.” PC medical insists and I march back home. I have 15 minutes to pack before the furgon leaves and now I am wondering if I will gone a few days. I pack a lot of stuff.
I get to Tirana and medical office a few hours later. The doctor looks at the wound and pronounces it “superficial”. I am reassured. She then details the series of shots I will be getting over the next two weeks. I am less assured.
My “superficial” wound gets three very real needles inserted. I get a fourth shot in one shoulder and a fifth in the other. None of the shots are “superficial”. I come back Friday for another round. Then next week and the following week.
I did not like dogs before and I do not like them even more now.
Lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Little Prespa comprise a UNESCO biosphere site primarily because of the geology. The entire catch basin is limestone filtering the water and providing for pristine lakes. Prespa is home to the largest breeding population of Dalmation pelicans in Europe. Protecting the entire area is a complicated tri country process. Macedonia, Albania and Greece all share this area though they share little else. Three languages, moneys. cultures and statutes have to coordinate to protect this area.
The good news is there are few roads and little development. This is also the bad news. Locals live on subsistence farming and a few tourists during August.
Looking at Greece from Albania. There is an Orthodox monastery on the hill. That is in Macedonia.
left Macedonia right Greece oops we better turn around and go back
Lake Ohrid is the other side of these.
When I first arrived in Pogradec last May, I was shown all the municipality buildings and introduced to the various directors. Muharrem Colluku has 800 students and is the largest high school in the region. When I met the director she was quick to show me that the school only has one toilet. Yes, that is right, one functioning toilet, no sink for hand washing, 800 students. She pleaded with me to get the bashkia to do something. As we exited the school passing all the new landscape installation, I shrugged and explained that the bashkia really is responsible for maintenance and that there wasn’t much I could do. (I was appalled that there was money for grass and trees but not toilets)
Fast forward a few months and I have a modified understanding of the situation. Hygeine is a cultural issue. A good looking green space is much more important than working toiilets. I also learned of a project friends of mine are doing in Fier, Albania. check out http://watercharity.com/kopsht-3-kindergarten-toilet-water-project-albania I could get a donor to provide pipes, cement, sinks, etc adn the bashkia could provide the labor to fix this. I would use the same process as I did with the classroom project and just ask one donor for support.
So I proposed the idea to the bashkia. The engineer and plumber got to work and we met over blueprints a few days later. Turns out there are in fact four toilets each with five separate stalls at the school. One that is for students, one for staff and three that are locked and not used because the director cannot control vandalism of said areas.
Argh!! This is not a plumbing problem it is a discipline and management problem. I said so and the response was they want to install security cameras in each area. Double Argh!!!!
I took the rest of the day off and will revisit this next week.
Trust me here. You are glad I did not take pictures of the one “working” toilet area. .
I unplugged my fridge a few weeks ago. I was only using it to keep my toothpaste from freezing and that seemed kinda dumb. So I unplugged it and now just need to remember to put food over on those extra shelves so I have a little bit of counter space.
The two puppet magnets are actually Japanese imitations of sea worms. Willy, Cameron and I were initially grossed out but found they were funny once you got used to them.
I am finally getting my Peace Corps experience. I am not hauling water or digging latrines but I do depend on a woodstove for heat and cooking, food is bland and questionable, water, when available is not drinkable, my apartment is at freezing unless I crank up the fire and get it up to 40degrees. No bugs or snakes but lots of mold and damp. I signed up for this because I wanted to see if I could do the physical part of PC. I can but it is demanding. I spend quite a bit of energy staying warm and staying dry
The Community Classroom update:
The GLOW club we started is now planning to bring mini-day camps to younger girls in the villages. The weather has interfered with some of our planning sessions but we still seem to be on track to have day camps on Sundays through March. The teenage girls in GLOW did not see themselves as experienced or capable until I had them remember what life was like at ten. Slowly their eyes got wide as they realized how grown up they would be to ten year olds. Now they are busy planning activities that will let the younger girls ask questions and learn as they have fun.
I am hosting yoga per qef (Yoga for fun) nine times a week. So far only four women have come and only one comes regularly. This sounds like a failure only if you assess by attendance. Having regular fun classes for women is talked about around town. Walking home yesterday I heard a couple of old men talk about that volunteer and yoga. I am sure they did not realize I understood Shqip. So I trudge on, doing yoga with the skinny guy on the DVD leading and watch for the revolution.
Mommy baby meetings are at the talk phase now as well. LIndidta, a local woman who just had her first baby, is talking to other women about coming together. There are many reasons they refuse; husbands won’t allow it, the weather, work but even talking about the idea is revolutionary.
Phase two of the CC project is supposed to be about training the municipality to manage a schedule for the classroom. This has failed but there are elections in June and a new staff might be more receptive. Phase three is to move a reservation system onto Facebook. I have decided to go ahead with this and not worry too much about phase two.
Other news: GLOW national committee has formed. GLOW has been so successful at local levels that Peace Corps has decided to get organized nationally with the primary purpose of turning GLOW over to Albanian management in the near future. (Peace Corps is never supposed to become a permanent agency in country) I was tempted to apply to be director but, really? enough of me already. SO I applied to be the PR and media coordinator, better kingmaker than king. There are two women who will be co-directors, one American and one Albanian. They will be terrific as figure heads and managers. One of my great joys is to mentor rising professionals and I will get plenty of opportunities to do just that as part of this committee.
I have no internet and no phone service this morning and I find this to be a gift. I would usually be online reading FB posts, wondering about my kids and worrying about the world as I read the NYtimes online. Instead I watch the snow on the rooftops and wonder why I am here.
I have learned of a job opportunity here in Albania that I would be great at. The American Chamber of Commerce needs an ED to network in Albania and the greater Balkan region. Networking is my happy place. I could move to Tirana, become important, live somewhere with heat, become important, know all the important people (this is one small country there aren’t that many). So I sit with the temptation. I signed up for two years Peace Corps but I am a volunteer for god’s sake. I feel I am doing little that is productive here in Pogradec.
And then I take the opposite side of the argument with myself. “Self” I say, “what about the girls here in Pogradec and the surrounding villages? The women who are talking about exercise if not actually doing it? And GLOW nationally? Who will mentor them?” Self replies, “Ha. You are not that important. And you are that cold.”
This dialogue happens in various forms every day “Why am I here?” versus “What would they do without me?” I go a few rounds and then end up playing solitaire or going for a walk. There is no resolution and the truth is somewhere in the middle which is not particularly dramatic or exciting. Balance has never been an aspiration of mine. This is Peace Corps.
The title of this blog, The Lone Pilgrim refers to St. Anthony of the Desert. He was a rich kid who gave up everything to live in a cave. He found that too luxurious and left the cave to wander the desert. Beset by demons, he finally asked them why they bother him as he does them no harm. The demon temptation takes on many forms. If it walks like a duck and quakes like a duck it is probably a temptation. And I am an ace at mixing and mangling metaphors!