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.

27 July 2006

I’m hot, so hot, Sticky sweet…

written 25 July 2006
Wow. You know how I complained earlier about the heat. I was such an amateur. Yesterday it was 100º in the shade. Yep, in the shade. Luckily, I didn’t know this. I did, however, not leave my house from noon till 8PM, with a fan blowing the entire time.
Sadly, this morning when I returned from my run, I turned on the fan but got nothing. I think the fan decided it was too hot and just gave up. Now I have to buy a new one. Booo. I could try to be tough and survive August without a fan but I’ve decided that being able to sleep at night is worth spending a decent chunk of my stipend on a fine piece of machinery that is a fan.
What a difference a day makes. Sunday the heat was a good thing. I suppose that’s because I was at the beach :) I finally made it down to Vlorë which has some nice beaches. We didn’t make it to the best parts but there’s always next weekend. I forget if I mentioned that the beaches here are very shallow. You can walk forever, no really forever, till it gets to chest height and there are no waves. Ok, maybe not forever, but at least to Italy.
As I have said before, this is a country of contradictions. Trash is a huge problem and I know of only three cities that have waste water treatment other than the local rivers. Can you say ewh (as in yuck, I am still looking for that dictionary that will give me the spelling of sound words). Even with these issues, the water was so clear, I thought I was at a pristine beachside paradise. Don’t worry on the bus ride home seeing the trash strew towns and smelling the noxious odors from the decrepit oil wells brought me back to reality.

20 July 2006

finally fotos from frank...

really Frank has nothing to do with the photos but I have a thing for alliterations (thanks Bible Bowl).
This is the address to my photos on flickr. I don’t have a lot on there but I will be adding some more when i get a good internet connection. Probably next weekend. This being my first attempt, there is no real organization. Don't worry, I will fix that soon enough.

I am going to attempt to put a link on the side of my blog. We'll see how that goes.

For the mean time feast of the fine selection.

13 July 2006

they say it's your birthday...

Don't worry you didn't miss my birthday (October 2nd, just as a reminder).
We celebrated the birthday of Ryan (to my left), who lives in a nearby city. The event was hosted by yours truly. The cake was made by my site mate Katie (second from right).
Here's a side note. I am the warden for my region, which includes all these people and a couple more. being a warden means that I am responsible for these people in case of emergency. LOL. Me? Responsible? Oh well, whatev.
Wish them luck :)

The sad stuff…

Last week I encountered one of the more troubling and disheartening sites. As Katie and I walked home from an amazing, late night dinner, walking across the pedestrian bridge we came upon a little boy sitting cross-legged on the bridge. He was alone. He didn’t move as the few people out at this time of the evening passed by him, nor did they seem to notice him either. As we drew closer, I realized that the poor child was asleep. My heart sank just seeing him asleep while begging on the bridge.
Here, beggars are not limited to adults or adults with their children. In fact, several children are constantly paroling the streets asking for money. I have also learned of the practice of trafficking children for the purpose of begging. Trafficking in all forms is a huge problem in Albania. I guess that’s why I’m here. If families have work and cities are able to assist those in need, people are not so desperate that they are caught in the schemes of traffickers.

10 July 2006

Hotdogs, hamburgers, and Mexican food…

This may not come as a surprise to anyone but I like food. I especially like food that reminds me of home. For example, a nice decently sized, made from ground beef, hamburger with ketchup and mustard or if you’re feeling really crazy, add in a slice of white cheese. These two options and many more were available at the Ambassador’s July 4th party. It was awesome. In addition to the above described burgers, I also had a hot dog, two servings of ice cream (both with red, white, and blue sprinkles), chips, potato salad, grapes, baked beans, a small brownie and a small apple pie thing. I think that’s it. I know it sounds a bit gluttonous but I had good reason. First and for most, the little shindig carried a hefty $10 ticket price. That’s a nice chunk of change for my living allowance. Secondly, the United States of America is the land of plenty right? I felt it my patriotic duty to take advantage of the “plenty” that was available to me on that day.
Most of my fellow volunteers made it to Tirana for the festivities. It was good to see everyone and hear their stories from the first three weeks. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well. The volunteers that do not have another volunteer at their site have it the worse right now. It’s hard to get integrated with the community so a lot of the time they are bored. Heck, sometimes I get bored and I have a great site and great site mates.
The other highlight from this weekend was the other food I had. A place called the Stephen’s Center serves pretty good American food. It’s run by a mission organization. I was told it was Catholic but the servers had the Jesus fish (I don’t know how to spell the word for that “igthus”?), which I didn’t think was used by Catholics. Whatever the religious affiliation, they had good waffles and refills of filtered/brewed coffee. Yay. I think I had 5 or 6 refills. It was to the point that I wasn’t wired but rather tired after all the caffeine. I also dinned on “Mexican” food. It was good but keep in mind that my standards are a little different these days. It tasted like someone had been told what Mexican food was and made it from that description but had never actually eaten it. It was close but not quite there. I still ate it all and enjoyed cleaning my plate of every last bit of melted cheese. Ummm, melted cheese.
Despite my rambling on about the food, I did manage to do other things than just eat. We went out both nights and explored the city during the day. I didn’t do any of the tourist sites yet but I figure I’ve got two years. Avash avash (pronounced ah-vosh, meaning slowly or not rushed). I use that phrase to describe almost everything I do. Life for me now is avash avash.

Brenner Luggage is the Best…
Perhaps I have found the best luggage store in Indianapolis, maybe even the world.
I bought an electrical outlet converter/adapter before I left. When I got here, it didn’t work. I finally got around to emailing Brenner’s to see if they could assist me, even though the problem was probably the responsibility of the manufacturer of the product and not with the store. The next day I had a response from Mr. Brenner himself asking me for my address and a little more information so he could send me a new fuse for the converter.
I decided to give it another shot with a different outlet and device before having a replacement fuse sent and it worked. No need for a replacement. Nevertheless, customer service like that is so refreshing. Can you imagine a big box retailer like Wal-mart even responding to my email. God bless independent, local retailers.

04 July 2006

Oh say can you see…

Happy Independence Day!
This is my first July 4th out of the country. Weird.
Luckily I am heading to a cookout at another volunteer’s place. On the 7th I will head to Tirana for a celebration at the private residence of the ambassador. The home of the Ambassador is located in the American Compound. Seriously, that’s what they call it. I want to laugh every time. Also amusing is the description of the area where all the embassies and support functions are located. It’s called The Block. Supposedly it is a little slice of America. We’ll see.
I had to call in some favors from some very influential people in order to reserve a ticket because the availability was so limited. Oh wait, I don’t actually know any influential people. Does shaking the hand of the president count as knowing him? I basically just got lucky in getting a ticket. I called the person in charge of tickets instead of emailing or messaging. She said that she had several emails and messages that she hadn’t read yet requesting tickets. Only 15 tickets were made available to PCV so I didn’t think I would get one. Fortunately, since I actually called, I got one. Score!
On a completely unrelated note, I just found out that I have been doing the grammar of possession wrong. Who knew? I thought I understood genitive case (possession). Nope, not so much. I checked my language book for clarification and in the process found this little gem: “For Genetive Case, the indefinite is different than the indefinite, the indefinite is definite.” OMG. Dig you get that? Does it sound confusing? It is. I wrote it and even know what it’s referring to and I don’t understand those notes. Just for a little clarification, indefinite refers to nouns using “a” and “an”, while definite is “the”.
I’m definitely, indefinitely out of here.

02 July 2006

rockin good time...

I just saw that 92.3 WTTS just finished giving away their annual CD sampler. Somehow I missed it. Go figure.
Did any of my wonderful friends happen to procur one of those lovely little musical gems? If so, I'd like to arrange a sample of the Sampler.
just in case you are curious.
that means thank you, mom :)

Careful, it’s hot…

Guess what. I burn. I mean I really burn.
We went to the beach yesterday with the Red Cross. I didn’t put on any sun block. Yes, I know that a big mistake. I accept the consequences of my lack of actions. Though it didn’t help that yesterday was my first exposure to a full day of sun, I still contend that the sun is more intense here. Don’t ask me why or how. It’s just a theory.
Oh and while retrieving a soccer ball from an inlet with really squishy, nasty, and slimy bottom, I lost a sandle. The earth basically just swallowed my foot. I fought back but in the process lost the sandle. So sad. For frequent readers of "jimmyloubill" this story sounds oddly familiar to the mud mishap of my training site mate Juliet. I guess I laughed a little too much at that one.
The rest of the day I walked around with only one sandle on. It was rather amusing. It’s not like I don’t already standout here enough.
Even with all my troubles, the day was good. It felt great to go to the beach. I had fun and met some new people.

The facts of life…

Last Sunday was very enjoyable and very frustrating, all in one. We’ll start with the good part. The host family of one of my site mates invited the volunteers living in Berat over for dinner. The four volunteers, the parents, the daughter who had recently returned from studying high school in Italy, her Italian friend from school, and four other friends all dined al fresco, enjoying the surprisingly cool evening and wonderful view. The food was so good. We started with an appetizer of pasta, which is common as both an entrée and appetizer, followed it with salad and various pickled veggies. The main course featured qofte (chafta), which is an Albanian dish made of fried minced meat patties, Cornish hens (I think), lamb, and byrek (booreck) another Albanian dish. We had fresh fruit and ice cream for dessert. As we ate dessert, the host father played traditional folk songs and all the Albanians joined in. The festivities lasted until midnight and made for a very memorable evening.
And the other side of that coin was earlier that day. I have gotten used to not having power from around 11:30 till about 2:00. That’s the time you have lunch or coffee (most businesses have generators), meet with colleagues, or rest at home. However, the new luxury that I have to sporadically live without is water. I didn’t have water for most of the daytime last week. I am not sure if losing water will become routine, especially as summer wears on, or if it was just an odd occurrence. The most frustrating part is the lack of water conservation. In fact some of the behaviors are quite wasteful. People are charged a flat fee for water use and not by consumption amount. If there were water meters, people would behave very differently I suspect. Each day that I didn’t have water, I found at least one person watering the street. No really. That’s what they were doing. To this day I am not sure why. I know that businesses will do it to cut down on dust. As for the others, that is a mystery I have yet to solve.

You take the good, you take the bad, and you have the facts of life, the facts of life.