Using What You’ve Got

More times than not, PCV’s are faced with a lack of resources. Actually, most volunteers would agree that is a guaranteed challenge in the Peace Corps world. Whether it is materials to hand out, proper demonstration models or simply a lack of tools needed to actually to do a presentation. But, as they say, we learn to go with the flow and teach lessons a bit differently than we would in a…more civilized world. Which is why I didn’t bat an eye when I found myself in an abandoned building this last week.

At least there were plants. A sure promise of a spring to come.

At least there were plants. A sure promise of a spring to come.

The health center and I had been discussing holding a breast cancer awareness presentation for some women in Permet. A few months ago, my coworker went to Tirana for a seminar and received a DVD about breast exams to bring back with her. I took the disc home with me and checked out the material on it. I was a little disappointed to find out that this was an hour long informational DVD that was geared towards doctors and nurses. It wasn’t exactly the correct information to try and deliver to women about doing self breast exams. I returned the next day and discussed this with the women in my office. I suggested that we should find some other information to show that would be more appropriate. That idea didn’t go over too well with them. They had received this disc from an official conference and so they decided we needed to show it. I halfheartedly agreed to bring my computer the next day so that we could hold a presentation for some women.

Before leaving my office the next morning, I found myself in the middle of all of my coworkers cheering. Why? Because I had worn makeup that day. They literally stood up, started clapping excitedly and telling me how pretty I looked that day. Followed by ushering me around the rest of the building so that they could see me in all my glory. Maybe I should put more effort into my appearance if there is that much excitement over some eye makeup…


Later on, I found myself in an abandoned building on a cold rainy morning. Along with ten other women who were huddled around a wood stove.


There were a few things that frustrated me about this scenario. One was that the information we were sharing wasn’t appropriate for this audience. If I am being honest, this is a situation I find myself in a lot here. Secondly, they couldn’t see or hear the DVD from my little computer and that made it even harder to keep their attention. The reason the latter bothered me is because Permet does have a perfectly good conference room. With a projector, white screen, chairs and it’s not located in a room full of garbage and broken furniture. The only problem is that this room is in the cultural center and they are a different political party than the heath center. Which I am learning means they are off limits to collaborate with. At least that’s what they tell me, but here’s to hoping I can change that this next year!


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In America we tell our kids not to trust strangers. To not take candy from strangers. To not get in a car with strangers. And certainly don’t take candy from a stranger in a car driven by a stranger. The week after my birthday, you could have taken one look at me and laughed because I was doing all of the above. The only difference is, I am living in Albania and none of those “stranger” rules apply. The fact that I am an American may affect this lack of rule enforcement a bit. But mostly, I think these things just don’t apply here. So, I found nothing wrong with handing out chocolate to every child I saw on the street, in the store, in furgons, cars and everywhere in between. Extending my sugar high to the kids of Permet was a great way to celebrate my first days of being 25. I did stop in my tracks one afternoon as some of the kids in my neighborhood ran up to me screaming about my birthday. Immediately followed by facts about HIV. They had been in some of the classes I had taught a few months ago about Aids. Never before had I received birthday wishes followed immediately by facts about HIV and Aids. At least I knew they were listening to me… I guess there are more firsts in Albania than I had thought!


Valentines day has rolled around once again, a holiday I only like because of one thing. You guessed it…chocolate! In honor of this holiday, I am spending the afternoon cleaning all of the mold that seems to be spreading throughout my apartment.


Nothing like showing my lungs a little love and cleaning out any toxicities that the mold might be giving off. And replacing them with the fumes of bleach.

Happy Valentines Day!

I made this video for one of my best friends here and someone who has helped me get through the craziness of Albania and life in the Peace Corps!

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