that's our james

Disclaimer: This is my blog. No one else's. This is what I think about stuff. If others think the same thing, it's up to them to express it. The sole purpose of my writings is to keep my friends and family informed. My opinions are just that, opinions so don't get to worked up if something offends you. Thanks.

22 June 2006

It’s getting hot in here…

Man is it hot. I just arrived at work and I am sweating. Note to self: must remember to wear deodorant (don’t worry, many ppl here don’t) and apparently these pants aren’t “breathable.” It’s been over 20 minutes and I have finally stopped sweating. Honest I don’t mind the heat but it’s been a while. I’ve forgotten all the little tricks. I guess I better learn fast, especially since it’s only June and the really hot months are July and August. I’ve still got another 10 degrees of heat coming.
The first test of sleeping with windows and doors open was a success. I don’t think there’s a huge problem with mosquitoes in my area. I hear the mosquitoes are bad along parts of the coast but I don’t have to worry about that till next weekend when I hope to make my first visit to the sun and sand.
Another tidbit about the heat, I have exactly 5 short sleeve shirts that I can wear to work. Good thing I only “work” 5 days a week. Yesterday I made the mistake of not having my short sleeve shirts ironed so I wore a long sleeve dress shirt. Mang was I hot. Yes I do mean HOT in both ways.
Oh and on the note of ironing, I had a little funny ironing last evening. Now that I am living the life of single man, I must do my ironing myself. I accept that fact that I have to iron almost everything I wear, except socks and undies of course though that is not an uncommon practice here. I would just throw my wrinkle-free shirts in the dryer but I don’t have one. In fact they do not exist in this country. I can’t even utilize my laundry trick of drying the cloths for 10 minutes or so and the line drying everything to prevent wrinkles. So I have to suck it up and do some ironing.
I have an iron in my house but no ironing board. I went to the courtyard with my bundle of clothes-to-be-ironed in hand and that’s when the fun started. Grandma saw me and told me that I could do them in my house on the table with a cloth underneath since I had and iron there already. I tried to explain that I knew this but preferred to use an actual ironing board. She then enlisted the help of the son who took me upstairs to show me exactly what she meant. After he showed me, I told him that I knew how to do it but preferred an actual ironing board because it’s easier than a table and towel combo. He understood and agreed so back down the stairs we went to go his house. Luckily grandma was busy so she didn’t see us pass again. We walk into his house and the mother begins the same exact thing. After me telling her that I knew that I could just use a table and the son explaining that I really did know how to do that, I conveyed the idea that I just wanted to borrow the ironing board. Now I still had my clothes in hand so the son had to carry the ironing board back to my house. And finally I had everything I needed to begin the fun of ironing; one pair of pants, one dress shirt, and four t-shirts (how much do I love the fact that I have to iron my T-SHIRTS!) I guess buying an ironing board is now on my household needs list.

20 June 2006

Where’s the beef…

I had a lovely dinner of stuffed peppers and stuffed intestines. Yep that’s right. I was even told what they were before I ate them. And get this, I actually like them, especially the stuffing part. The texture, which is usually what does ya in, wasn’t too bad. I must admit that I would rather just eat the stuffing stuff and not the intestine but whatev. At least it’s not cow tongue. That just doesn’t do it for me.
There are all kinds of other food surprises that await me. I will keep you posted and drooling for more.
Bon appetit.
By the way, people often ask for the equivalent English phase. I don't think they believe me when I say we actually say Bon appetit.

You can call me Mr. Hollywood…

Ok. Maybe not Mr. Hollywood but I was on TV. Actually I’ve been on TV twice now since being in Albania. The first was for the local news/station here in Berat. We did a little march down Main Street with posters to raise public awareness about the environment. My poster read something like The Osum River is not a public toilet! How awesome is that. My counter-part organized the whole thing so I got to pick out which sign I carried. I think I chose well.
Don’t worry mom, my appearance on the national news was a little more respectable. The President of Albania and U.S. Ambassador spoke at our Swearing-in Ceremony. As the President was leaving the stage, he shook the hands of the people in the front row. Luckily I was in the front row and the last one he greeted. Though I am sure my Hollywood good looks helped me land on TV but it might have something to do with the orange dress shirt and tie combo. Those Albanians love their bright colors. In fact they think that we dress is too serious or boring. We’re not flashy enough.
I stand by my previous idea that training was like university. After the ceremony, everyone was crazy with the camera. We were all a little sad because we were leaving each other and heading to our permanent sites and to our jobs. It was like we were heading into the “real world.” Yeah, the real world in cities and towns throughout Albania, does that count?

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date…

No really. I was running soooo late for the ceremony. Of course I had everything planned out nicely but we hit a couple bumps along the way. First there was a miscommunication regarding transportation. We ended up with too many people so two of the group had to ride in a different furgon (van taxi). We also started later than we were supposed to due to this and other miscommunications. No worries, we had planned for possible delays. For some reason, no one seemed to be too concerned about the time, especially the driver. Argh. Now usually I appreciate that our driver is a safe driver and doesn’t pass or speed too often. However, this time I would have appreciated a little hustle.
We finally arrive and park a block or so south of the auditorium. Then I found out that leaving my luggage in the back of the van is not acceptable. Now don’t ask me why. I’m not sure if the back didn’t lock or if they didn’t think it was safe to leave it there. Lot of the time, life in a foreign country is a guessing game.
New plan, Liu (our furgon driver) and I will take my luggage to the hotel where I will be staying while everyone else heads to the auditorium. Yet again, Liu doesn’t drive like the crazy furgon driver that I need him to be right now. We get there, I drop off my luggage and back we go. For some reason, he takes a longer way. This might have been so he could more easily find a parking spot. Oh the parking spot. He turns down a street and starts to park along the street but then spies the car leaving from his spot on the other side of the street. Apparently that was the way better side because we waited for about a minute for the guy to leave. We then parked there but not to the liking of the store owner. He thought we were too close to his stuff. After we had parked and gotten out, the store owner insisted that Liu move the van a meter back (that’s about three feet for you non-metric people, hehe).
As they continued to discuss, I told Liu that I had to go. I couldn’t wait any longer. Especially since I had already been called by the people in charge, asking where I was. So off I ran, and I do mean ran. I’m sure I was quite the site. People in this country don’t hurry for hardly anything. Oh and I am wearing a long sleeve shirt with a tie. Oh and it’s already freakin hot outside. As I was sprinting, yep we moved onto sprint mode, I got another call asking where I was. I told her that I was close and was running as fast as I could. She said ok and just keep running!
I finally arrive at the side entrance of the auditorium and guard gives me a defiant stance. Now I am completely out of breath but luckily the director was standing just inside so I pointed to him and he waved me in. I walk to the stage and take my seat in the front row closest to the stage exit.
After sitting there a few minutes, one of the other volunteers took out a tissue and proceeded to help me wipe the sweat off my brow. Now that’s team work!
Of course I made it in plenty of time. Although it just occurred to me that perhaps the President and U.S. Ambassador were waiting for everything to be ready which means they were waiting on me. All right, I doubt that but you never know.
Oh and as soon as I took my seat on stage, I put my phone on silent. Normally a good idea but it meant that I didn’t realize that people were still trying to reach me. They thought I was coming in a different entrance. I guess I just assumed that they knew I had arrived. Oops. My bad.

09 June 2006

beautiful berat...

Another shot of the castle of Berat. I'm going to like sneak up to the castle and just taking tons of photos.
I also plan on "needing" to take several photos for my "work" at the Bashkia (municipality). Hehe. It'll be tough to pull myself away from the office to take photos of all the historic stuff. I'm also going to try to use the work excuse to take pictures inside the really old churches which is normally prohibited. I have two years to butter up the people who would give me permission for that. Does that count as work?
Speaking of work, on the serious side, it turns out that they were expecting an environmentat expert. they got me instead. i'm going to have to become one soon. one of my first projects is to research the waste management and a landfill project. wish me luck. good thing i did a paper in college on soil suitability and landfills (it was with Jessica for Nihal's class, wahwahahhaha).
oh and sorry for the abuse of quote marks. it's a nasty habit.

I am thinking of going to a training session. So I'm off like a dirty shirt.

You are cordially invited…

On 16 June 2006, I James Williams will become a Peace Corps volunteer. All friends and family are invited; please RSVP to Mr. Williams by 14 June. Key-note speakers include U.S. ambassador and the President of Albania and Katie of Berat (see all the cool kids are sent to Berat).
I am almost there. I can see the finish line on the horizon. Soon I will be a graduate of PST University (Pre-Service Training). Yeah, that’s right. I finished a university in 3 months. If you average my two stints in universities (6 yrs and 3 months divided by 2), it’s a pretty impressive 3.125 yrs for my undergraduate degree.
We have a few more days of sessions and formalities and we’re done. Yay. Let the fun begin.
Congratulations are also in order for my group. We started with 40 trainees and are swearing-in 40 volunteers. Normally 25-30% of volunteers quit early. Granted it is still early and we still have more and greater difficulties coming, all forty of us survived the initial phase.
Three months down 24 months to go 

I see London, I see France…

So what do you think of my view? You can kinda make out one of the towers of the castle/fortress on top of the hill on the right. In the middle photo is the neighborhood that is built into the side of the hill with all the houses painted white and row after row of windows. Berat is often called the city of 1000 windows. And soon Jamesville, Albania.

Not only did I score a great city for site placement and a great view, I also have my own house. Yep. That’s right. I will live in a two bedroom house. Hecks yeah. My host family will live right next door. I will eat dinner with them when I want and I can sit with the grandma next to the little shop she runs. I also have a washer specifically for me (which does mean that I will now be doing my own laundry ). The only downside to my new arrangement is that I have a Turkish toilet. I will go into more details later if you want.

During the week I was in Berat, I found my way up to the castle three times. Each time I used the back way in so I wouldn’t have to pay. I’m a broke volunteer now. I can’t afford pricey admission tickets (it’s $2 US if you plan on visiting). You see the stone walls? Those were built in the 1300’s or so, using the foundations built by the Romans in 200 A.D. And what I love is that I get to climb all over them. No railings or roped off areas. Though I suppose after we do our job here, they’ll have to be more restrictive but until then I’m gonna enjoy it.
I am really looking forward to just exploring all the twisted alleys and streets, the ancient churches, and the surround country side. Good thing I have two years.