First Sight of Snow

Waking up earlier this week, with only the top of my head and nose peeking out from under the covers, I could feel a chill creeping in. My nose was red, and the air had a wet and cold feel, which accompanies the winter months here. I had set a ridiculous and somewhat stupid, goal for myself, refusing to use my heater until November 1. As I crawled out of bed, shoving my wool socks into my slippers and scurried to the kitchen to make coffee, I started questioning whether there were much better ways to channel my energy. I am quite stubborn at times, but unable to shake off the cold, I broke down and plugged in my space heater. As I peeked outside, I was surprised to see snow on the mountains. Last winter, the mountains remained clear until January. This year, we hadn’t even reached November. A slight anxious feeling came over me as I wondered just what kind of winter may be in store.

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My sitemate living on the fifth floor made for a tiring afternoon of carrying wood and a lot of stairs.

My sitemate living on the fifth floor made for a tiring afternoon of carrying wood and a lot of stairs.

First fire of the season!

First fire of the season!

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And homemade pizza!

And homemade pizza!

My city has been undergoing a slow facelift. Albania isn’t exactly known for its curb appeal, so I was more than surprised when I saw the aesthetic changes to my city. It is more than needed in some parts of town, and I was excited to see that a large part of the work was being done in my neck of the woods. New sidewalks are being put in down the main road and a side street that leads straight to my house. Less likely to fall in a hole when I am not paying attention, this was a vast improvement to my walk home from work.

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Of course, whenever there is construction the power goes out. Or when it rains. Or windy. Or in the afternoon. Or morning. More than a tad unreliable, one could say that is part of the “joy” of living in a Peace Corps country. As I was working on finishing my grant application, my power suddenly switched off. Not the least bit surprised, I packed up my computer and headed to my office. Determined to finish the application that morning, I was disappointed to find no power at my office as well. Walking to my favorite café, I realized all of the stores and coffee shops were dark and without electricity. The entire city had no power. Followed by our post office was closing because one of the employees was sick. It’s been a while since I have been in America, but I don’t think that’s normal?! All I kept thinking about was this scene from My Cousin Vinny…

When I am traveling and people learn that I speak Shqip, they seem to always ask one question; “Are you fluent in Albanian?!” Hahahaha. I can only speak for myself, but to answer that question simply, absolutely not. There are still days I am extremely confused, unsure of what’s going on or what my coworkers are talking about. Obviously, it is nowhere near the confusion level that I was at last year, but it’s still there. I have learned to get a kick out of the fact that having a simple conversation can actually be physically painful. One morning, my coworkers, were leaving to go to the kindergarten. Always ready for an excuse to play with kids, I closed my grant application and trotted along with them. I asked what we were going for and was told we were going to hand out some health information. Great! We slowly walked to the town center, where we stopped and they turned to stare at me. Asking where I was going now, they looked at me with expectant faces, waiting for my answer. Uhhhh, I thought we were going to the kindergarten. No, no that is later. We said our goodbyes and I stared at them as they continued on to the market. As I awkwardly walked away, I literally had no idea what had just happened.

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The newest project, that my sitemate and I are working on, is a youth council for Permet. Jackie wrote a small grant to acquire funds to get the club off the ground and she printed off applications to hand out. We lined up a day to go to the school to deliver a small presentation to the older classes. As things tend to happen here, we had a few delays in going to the school. Luckily, at the end of the week, we finally succeeded in securing five minute spots in two different classes.

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The youth council is a seven month program, that will meet once a week. The goal of the program is to provide leadership development for the kids, as well as develop relationships between city officials. The classes will be held on a wide range of topics, and the kids will be in charge of picking a community project. They will also be in charge of fundraising for their cause. Hopefully, as we collaborate with them, it will be a successful project, sustainable program and great experience for the youth of Permet!

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