C'kemi? (What's up? How are you?)I've successfully made it through week 1 in Albania, and I already feel like I've been here for ages and ages. That's a good thing right? I guess I mean to say that I already feel right at home. The week was full of language class after language class after language class... it's really great though because Albanian is a pretty hard language to pick up on and is only possible to learn with extreme repetition. Miraculously, I somehow made it through the week with few struggles. My family is awesome because they understand me/I understand them, and I suppose it's safe to say that we're all pretty darn good at charades. My loving family DOES give me a false sense of hope though... constantly telling me how much language I know, only to be shot down by the neighbor lady who comes over daily and says... HA she only speaks a LITTLE... a LITTLE Albanian. Whatever, this coming from the lady who thinks we speak Spanish in America and the flight from the US was only 2 hours. HA.
Don't get me wrong though, there are definitely numerous misunderstandings, but I know to keep laughing at myself and shake it off. One day after class we went to a restaurant and literally sat there for 20 minutes trying to figure out how to ask for a menu or some sort of lunch service. We finally resorted to saying BUKE BUKE (food) and motioning by shoving food into our mouths. They finally got the idea and we felt pretty stupid. On the upside, my bargaining skills haven't faltered (even in Albanian which I barely speak). I had to barter with the furgon (bus) driver who tried to rip us off two times this week and I finally won both times and got all of my money back I was owed. (Two times a week the group as a whole meets up in Elbasan for various training sessions...T & F...and we go into the city by little buses called Furgons. The ride is only supposed to cost only 100 leke and they always ask for 150. I just kept yelling theamount of money he owed me and he finally buckled and handed it over.)
The family is still great but we've added a sister-in-law Leta into the mix since I last wrote. She's 25 and her husband (host dads brother) is working in Greece. I know my dad might sound like this total wierdo, but he's really not, he's very protective but in a good way. He knows everyone between the two towns I live in (he's EVERYONE's personal accountant) and is even paying for my internet use today because he knows the owner. They have fed me pretty big feasts too. I eat a hardboiled egg and fruit and crackers every morning, we usually eat lunch out in the town, and have pretty big dinners with meat, salad, tomatos, cucumbers, yogurt, bread, rice, and fruit every night. They also serve me Coke at every meal, so the whole giving up pop for the New Year isn't really in effect here for the next 3 months. Oh well.
As for the weather, it's soo cold here and kind of rainy. I haven't taken off my coat since I've been here until TODAY. The houses are NOT insulated, and my room is freezing all the time, so I stay in front of the heater in the family room until bed time. Today is really beautiful though, and I'm finally wearing jeans and a tshirt!
Next Sunday I'll be going to Lezha for 2 days to stay with a peace corps volunteer who has been here for a year already. It's kinda like a sneek preview into life once I'm officially sworn in as a volunteer in June. I'm really excited to go! We also have been making connections with important people in town... doctors, nurses, and teachers that we will have to collaborate with in the future for our projects during the 3 training months. We have a LOT of work to do, so hopefully I find time to get it done.
The wierdest part of Albania is that I feel like I'm snapped back into part of history in the US where women don't have any rights. No Albanian women go out to the bars, they always cook the meals and clean, they always stay in the house, it's just so wierd I can barely believe it.
Side note: we frequently watch TV in the house, and the family loves Spanish telenovelas, so hopefully I don't lose my Spanish while I'm here...kinda cool huh? Also, I got trapped into watching 8 hours of wedding video footage of all the women in my family yesterday. Basically someone took personal film footage and added some ghetto graphics to it all BAM, your wedding captured on tape! They also have a version of SNL here called Portokalli that's on Sunday, so Sunday Night Live if you will, and it's really very funny the parts I can understand so we watch that a lot too. They also have a version of Big Brother that is huge here and we all watch Saturday night together. Plus, they have this ridiculous ghetto version of Deal or No Deal Albania which they have reg. people opening the "cases" made outta a shoebox and tied with a string. So far, 3 people have miraculously had the 10000 Euros in the case but didn't play it out. HAHA, convenient eh? Well, yea, if you haven't guessed we watch a TON of tv here, but that tis the life.
Miss you all, email me soon! Love, Kate