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.

29 May 2007

easy breezy...

So what do you think of my new do? I figured while I was in Albania I'd try something a little different. I was really nervous when we started. Right now I am getting used to the feeling of a fuzzy head. Now we can sing an old James classic, "fuzzy wuzzy wuz a bear, fuzzy wuzzy had no hair, fuzzy wuzzy wuzn't fuzzy wuz he?" I love that song.

Below is the finished product. I opted for the complete buzz and not the mohawk. Maybe next year!
All comments welcome...

24 May 2007

beautiful belgrade, post bummed...

Now that I have had some time to heal from the losses I suffered while in Belgrade, I thought I would share with you some of the prettier parts. Lots of pretty old buildings and churches and trees, quite a lovely city. Later I'll actually describe my trip but for now pictures will do.

Saint Sava Church, under construction, will be largest Orthodox church in the world

a bombed out building from when NATO was not happy with Serbia and the Kosovo Crisis

and to finish them off, a rather unhappy little girl. I have no idea what the billboard is about.

ain't no mountain high enough...

A couple weeks ago, we made a treck up Mount Tomori, which is the second highest peak in Albania at over 8,000 ft. Gorgeous views and a lovely way to pass the day :)
The first picture is of the very tippy-top point. The mountain is sacred ground for the Bektashi sect. At the peak is the temple/burial of one of their important dudes.

21 May 2007

Bummed in Beautiful Belgrade...

I just got back from a conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Upon my return I was traveling a bit lighter. During my stay and or travels, my phone, flash drive, and Swiss Army knife disappeared. Hence, I am bummed.
None of it really makes sense of course. First my phone. It's doubtful that it fell out of my pocket or that I just left it on the table in some cafe. I suppose it's possible that it was stolen out of my pocket but I keep it in that little coin pocket above your jean's right pocket. You'd think I would notice if someone removed the phone from my pocket. I suppose thieves are pretty adept thievery though.
Now for the flash drive, there's a chance that I never brought it. However I do remember writing it down on my packing list because the hostel had lots of music I could download. Borrowing some music from my new friends at the hostel was definitely a high priority!
Sadness settles in my soul for the Swiss Army knife (forgive my melodramatic tendencies today). The knife was a gift from Shawn and Shannon. Not only did it have the requisite blades and gadgets but it also had my name on it. And I love things with my name on it. The disappearance of this item is most confusing. I know I had it in my bag because I tried to carry-on my backpack but had to check it because of the knife. I kept my backpack locked in a locker the whole time I was in Belgrade. Plus, in order to get to the knife, one would have to pass some quality chewing gum, $50, and 30Euros. Was any of that missing? Nooooo.
Today I am working on replacing my phone. Getting all my contacts again will be annoying. The flash drive was not a big deal. The knife is irreplaceable.

OK, next time I will detail the beautiful part of my Belgrade trip.

04 May 2007

Earth Day 2007, phase two...

James & Katie being bouncers

Students picking up trash around the school

Though my E Day activities were a bust, I still had options. Katie and I joined in the fun in Kucove where Juliet and student board members from the youth center had planned a full day of activities for Global Youth Service Day (April 21, the day before E Day).

Juliet herself had some project drama. Somebody with a grudge and a big ego tried to get in the way of the planned events. Juliet and the students forged ahead. She handled the situation well. I told her to contact our program director and get other people involved. Luckily she didn't listen to me. She's a smart girl.
We started with school yard clean-up. Students from nine local schools picked up trash around their schools. The second picture is from the school where I helped. I was there to take pictures but I'm not gonna stand around doing nothing. If I say that they should clean up, then I should be willing to help (and help is all I should do, I'm not here to do the work for them). It was surprisingly hot and there was a surprisingly large amount of broken glass around the yard (by yard I mean a kinda small fenced-in gravel area around the school). We did one full sweep then trees arrived for planting. After the work, the kids were given hand wipes. One boy used his and promptly threw it on the ground. I reminded him of the work we did and he promptly picked it up. A small victory perhaps? I'm not sure because the boy did this same thing two more times. Each time I reminded him that littering is bad. Baby steps.
All the participants returned to the youth center for lunch and more activities. While preparations were made for lunch and the lingering participants returned from their school clean-ups, Juliet asked us to play games with the youth. I was given a hacky sack and so off I went. Ryan and I got some kids to play and kept them occupied for a spell. At one point a kid came into the circle and started to disrupt everything. I made him leave. He asked if he could join in again and I said yes if he played the right way. He did just all right. Not blatantly disruptive but definitely annoying. Before too long, another boy took the hacky sack and wouldn't give it back. I'm not going to go chasing some stupid little pre-teen punk around. I went to go get someone in charge. When I came back out, I couldn't find him. Oh well, we had a new task. As lunch time drew near the approximately 150 kids were all waiting to be let in. The youth center members were doing an ok job of keeping kids out. But when the pizzas arrived it was about to get ugly fast. I acted quick. I became the bouncer. I physically blocked the door and would not let anyone in (the group was fed in shifts,the first group of students was already being fed). As I am blocking the door and others are bringing in pizzas, guess who decides to create a little trouble by pushing, hitting me, and almost knocking a pizza box to the ground. It was my little friend from the hacking circle (not the one that took the hack but the disruptive one). I pushed him back and told him he was very bad. I was quite proud of myself. So many of these boys are never disciplined. It's infuriating. I don't understand why they spoil them so much. Too many of the children are disrespectful, obnoxious, and rude.
After a while of being bouncer, we just closed the door. The kids finally stopping banging on the door and I moved on to helping serve the pizza. As I am doing this, I see one of the youth center directors/advisers setting another table, which is good. The bad thing is that he let the little jerk and his little jerk friends in to eat. I immediately went over to him and told him that these boys were very bad and they needed to be outside. They are bad boys. He wasn't really doing anything about my concerns. I grabbed one of the student workers and had her translate. One of his replies was that if we let them in to watch, they will see good behavior and learn from it. Yeah right. I am pretty sure that the real reason is because the man knew the boy's father. The man tried telling me something about the boy's father being a good man. Well, I don't care who his father is and how good of a man he is. All I know is that his son is a pain and a jerk. For the rest of the lunch, I would glare at that kid whenever I was looking in his direction.
Ok, now this probably doesn't sound like the appropriate behavior from a Peace Corps volunteer. What can I say, I'm past the point of being overly accepting. If something is crap, I'm gonna tell you it's crap. Granted it's doubtful anything will change but at least I've said what I actually feel.
After lunch, Katie and I went back to Berat. Juliet continued with activities with the youth center, including a discussion of what the participants learned. It was a great activity and very successful. Baby steps.

gray skies are gonna clear up...

Today is a good day.
It's good because it's not bad. There's nothing particularly good about today. I'm just happy that it's not bad. The last couple days, things have not been going too smoothly. Nothing catastrophic, just everything below par.
Tuesday saw the return of my tummy troubles. I had stopped taking some medication on Thursday and Monday I thought that all was well again. Tuesday I found out otherwise. I called our medical office. He's stumped. He said he'll get back to me. Obviously I didn't wait for his call (which is a good thing since I'd still be waiting), I tried tactic #23: activated charcoal. You take this charcoal powder and mix it into water. You drink at least a litre of this black, chalky liquid each day. Yummy. After drinking the stuff for two days, I saw a moderate improvement. However, this remedy also did not last. Today I am going to try #24 acidophiles (I tried it once before). You're probably wondering why I am happier today even though my troubles continue. The difference today is that I am not exhausted from doing nothing. I woke up today in good spirits and feeling awake. That's always a plus.
Another thing adding to my good day is decent Internet. Now I realize I am fortunate to have decent Internet access at my office. However, this does not prevent me from being frustrated by dial-up-esq speeds. I am trying to do a lot of planning for my upcoming conference in Belgrade and my trip with Mona. Figuring out the transportation and lodging is bad enough.
Doing it with crappy Internet is maddening.
And lastly, it's not raining today. Now it's not sunny either but remember this week I'm shooting for average not awesome. Plus I know that summer is coming. I am really looking forward to hot summer afternoons in my kiddie pool on my balcony.
I hope all of you have an awesome day and weekend. Don't forget Cinco de Mayo this Saturday.