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.

12 December 2006

home, sweet home...

Image one: sunset and corn field. I miss corn fields. I am definitely a Hoosier
Image two: me, Terralyn, Mona making the buckeyes

I made it! I am home again. It feels great. I am really excited to spend Christmas with my family.
Traveling went pretty smoothly, including some unexpected diversions the night before we left Tirana. I'll post about that later. Let me just say the Hashers are an interesting group. I travelled with my neighboring site mate Juliet. It was nice to travel with a friend.
We arrived at the airport using a taxi because the shuttle between the central square in Tirana was not running every hour on the hour despite what the sign in th bus window said. The nice thing was that the taxi driver gave us a fair price and did not try to charge us more. I would have argued with him if he had. He wasn't even a real taxi driver but rather just a security guard at the Sheraton where our friend dropped us off at 3:45am.
The lines went smoothly and Juliet didn't get charged anything for her bag being a little heavy. I even had fun in line. Albanians don't really do lines. It's more of a crowd in front of a counter and shout out orders or push your way to the front. I still haven't managed to adopt this style but I have come up with some defensive tactics when I see it coming. The line was beyond the small rope off section. A lady came up and stood right at front of the line going into the ropes. Unfortunately for her, she would have to cut in front of me to get in line. HA! So not gonna happen :) I forced my foot between her bag and the guy in front of her. She retaliated with a more forceful push of luggage and self. I stood my ground. The line opened. I looked and her as she started to move forward and said in Albanian, "I am next." She just looked at me. It was awesome. What can I say, it's the small things.

Though Alitalia was crappy with the food service and lacked drink service but one time other than with the meal and snack on a 10.5 hour flight (I will ignore the fact that I only got one meal and SNACK for ten plus hours), they did not damage any of the fragile contents of my luggage. I was very worried about that. I brought home a bottle of wine for my sister's birthday. I have had a bad experience with packing a bottle of wine. It ended with a wasted bottle of expensive wine and a couple of articles of clothing completley ruined.

We celebrated my sister's birthday last night and attempted to make buckeyes (chocolate covered peanut butter balls). She LOVES them. We had a slight problem so we have to compelete the chocolate phase tonight.

It feels good to be home.

06 December 2006

Grape Expectations...

Image One: Bottles of wine at Cobo
Image Two: James & Katie sharing a toast
Image Three: Ryan with a "come hither" look and a glass of wine

First of all forgive me for the awful pun. What can I say, I have been away from English for a while so that little gem seemed slightly clever. Rest assured that the reality quickly set in.

Katie, with the help of one of her freinds in Berat, arranged a tour and tasting at a local winery. A group of us went out to see the Cobo Winery. Berat is known for its wines locally and Cobo is one of the better ones. The winery is building facilities for tours and tastings. They are not quite finished with the work but they gave us a tour anyway.

Local wines and vineyards are great for tourism. Berat apparently has the right ingredients but hasn't developed them yet. Berat is also know for its walnut flavored raki. Raki is the national moonshine basically. It's powerful stuff. Do NOT make the mistake of drinking it like a shot! Raki must be sipped and slowly slipped at that. I often describe raki as a cross between rubbing alcohol and paint thinner. Tasty and smooth. Berat raki is actually tasty and smooth with a taste similar to Jägermeister.

We had a great time. They showed us around and explained some the wine makeing and bottling process. We had ordered wines and snacks which we ate after the tour. They refused to let us pay for the wine and food we ate. We were then forced to buy wine and walnut raki to make ourselves feel better :)

It was a great little expedition. Plus it's encouraging that Cobo was doing all this on their own. No one told them to build this or to start bottling the local raki. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive. Albania needs more of that and with local success it will come.

01 December 2006

Stick a fork in me…

Mos merak! (Don’t worry)
Thanksgiving was AweSome!
I had a great dinner at the home of woman who works at the Embassy. I was there with Kate & David who don’t get to see enough since they live in the far south. We were the only ones from Peace Corps. It was nice to spend some time outside of our instant group. Another couple joined us with their two kids. We feasted on all things Thanksgiving. I really had a great time and am very grateful for the hospitality of our hosts. The other couple even offered to let me stay at their house if I wanted. That turned out not to be necessary but they went out of their way to drive me to where I was staying.
Speaking of where I stayed, whew doggies. It too was AweSome. A large group of us, around 11 volunteers ended up crashing at this guy’s house. He has lots of room and he had lots of leftovers. And “had” is mos def the right word. You’d be impressed at how quickly freeloading volunteers can polish off all the leftovers and then sum. Our host was amazingly hospitable and even invited us back. The day after Thanksgiving I left only to go to the PC office for a required flu shot. Otherwise I would have been completely content to stay and be a big ol’ bum. What can I say, I stick to my strengths.

Momma I’m comin home…

I tend to be bad at notifying people about major life events, for example, moving to Albania to join the Peace Corps. Here is your heads up. I am coming home for two weeks for Christmas.
Of course two weeks won’t be enough time but I want to see everybody I can. I don’t really have any set plans. If you are available for a lunch or dinner, what am I saying, I will do coffee, snacks, dessert, and breakfast, email me. I will figure out my schedule and see what I can do.
Oh, you should know that I am craving Mexican food somethin’ fierce. Viva la Mexico!