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 2007

The not so friendly skies & all you can eat...

Now I realize that America is a service based culture. Though not always practised, all businesses have the mantra that the customer is always right. I also realize that Europe is not nearly as customer-friendly. I understand that and have adjusted my expectations accordingly.
Alitalia STINKS!
I have had the unforunate pleasure of flying with Alitalia twice now. I can easily say it was awful. I've never had such bad service. It's like they are annoyed that you are using their business. Sure it's not a luxurious carrier but I'm pretty sure that I should get more than two waters on an 8hr flight. Plus some decent amount of food that might come close to the size of an actual meal would be nice. Though even if they did provide more food, I wouldn't eat it. It's awful. You know it's bad if I would rather go hungry or pay inflated airport prices for some snacks.
This isn't even why I am mad now. I got over their lameness when I flew back from Christmas. No they managed to screw up again. First they forced Mona to buy a return ticket from Albania because the ticket agent was an idiot. Second when I called to see what her options were because she might miss her flight due to President Bush's visit, the agent (who I reached by calling the US number because the Tirana office was mysteriously closed) was awful and idiotic. She told me that nothing could be done. Mona's ticket could not be changed. When I told the agent that the ticket itself said that changes could be made for a fee of 50Euro, she argued with me. I told her I wanted to speak to a supervisor. She said the supervisor was going to be out for an hour or two. I said this was unacceptable. I needed to get the issue resolved. As I was being insistent, not rude yet, she actually hung up on me. I was pissed! I called back got everything taken care of and spoke to the supervisor. It wasn't even that difficult. Argh.
Moral of this story, NEVER fly Alitalia.

Oh, while I'm venting. Just because you order the "salad bar" and ask if you can get as much as you want, it doesn't mean that you will not be charged for each plate. I learned that the hard way. I ordered the salad bar at a restaurant in Tirana called Taverneta which is used to foreigners. The first time I took small portions of a few things to try them out. The next time I tried a few others. Finally I went back and got some more of each of the dishes I liked. Have you already figured out that I was charged for each plate? Yeah. Nice, huh. I said something to the waiter as we were leaving but I might go back and complain some more. Perhaps I was being foolish but at least the staff should know that there are people like me out there and you got be ready for the foreigners.

Ok. Thanks. I feel better.

Meet & Greet...

A big part of being in the Peace Corps and especially in Albania is the the people. While Mona was here I took her around Berat for many, many visits. We were able to meet most of the people I see regularly. Originally, we were going to be in Berat for only a few days. However, I had to stay for a training for a tourism survey project. I wasn't too thrilled to be organizing a training instead of chillin' at the beach but it worked out well.
All my friends enjoyed meeting Mona. While visiting with Katie's host family (check Mona's blog for a picture), Esti commented that it was very special for them to be able to meet the people in our lives that they have heard so much about. They all said how happy I looked now that Mona was visiting. They also insisted on calling her either my fiance, bride, or wife. They don't really have a good word for girlfriend. When asked about our future plans, you know, wedding and kids, I replied, "avosh, avosh" which means "slowly" or "easy does it."
Mona also got to meet several of my Peace Corps friends during the Midwest Mixer, including Katie's family who were visiting from Minnesota (Minnesota and Indiana, hence the Midwest name). David and his family who are part Midwestern joined in the festivities. They were in Michigan last so that counts, plus they've hung out in Fishers and shopped at Trader Joe's on 82nd Street and gone to that Chuck E. Cheese. All of which I too have done.
One of the goals of Peace Corps is to show other cultures the many different part of American culture, not just the stuff from movies and music. Another goal is to teach Americans about other cultures after we return. Mona did an excellent job as a part-time Volunteer. They miss her already and ask about her every day.

Berat Host Family Mona, Lida (my tutor), James
Albanian friends at Midwest Mixer 2007, Emiljano (my supervisor) & Axhem are my office mates, Mirela (my counterpart) is playing with her son


Ok, it's official. It's summer. Not only does this check out according to the calendar but also with the temperature, which is the only indicator that matters. Yesterday's temperature was 37 or 38 degrees Celcius. For those not good at Celcius (which I assume is most of my readers), that works out to 100 degrees Farenheit or a little under. Yuck!
I was trying to convince myself it wasn't that hot out. I have a theory that if I deny the heat then it won't affect me. WRONG. I was sweatin' up a storm just walking around. Plus yesterday I had to walk up the steep castle road. I sought refuge in what little shade there was and took a couple breaks along the way. It wasn't even high noon or after. This was at 10:00am.
I have a feeling that this summer is going to be a beast. Good thing I have my pool.
The pool has come in handy several times already. I knew I would really enjoy it and I was right. I plan to have a pool party on Labor Day if anybody would like to come.