I can’t believe it has been over a month since I updated my blog! Winter is bringing a lot of change which is good because it keeps things bearable when you can never escape the cold! I can now claim to truly understand the value of insulation. For the winter I have moved into my living room because it gets sun all day and is several degrees warmer than the rest of my house. I set up my wood stove and with the help of my counterpart and some neighborhood kids we hauled 2 cubic meters of wood 4 stories up to my apt. That was fun. Pictured left is my wood stove.
In other news, I am continuing my Judo training with increasing success. The beginning was hard because of communication troubles but now that I have learned the basic techniques and can communicate better things are improving. Judo hasn’t come easy to me but it has been extremely worthwhile because it has helped me become more disciplined, healthier, and make solid friends. Last week we went to a competition in Montenegro and next week we are going to Prishtina. I traveled along to take photographs which was a lot of fun because they loved being photographed!
My English classes are also still going well. The three times we meet a week are the highlight of my week. Sometimes it can be hard to maintain control of the classroom and it is really easy to tell who comes to learn and how comes to socialize. Recently we have been working on describing and comparing people. Tomorrow we are going to have a lesson on Thanksgiving and talk about what we are thankful for. Some other members of the community have also approached me about helping them learn English but it has been slow going on organizing something.
Work at the Bashkia is continuing as usual. Over the last couple weeks I have attended several seminars on Strategic Development, Budget Planning, and Project writing. They were quite and experience because they were all in Albanian and three consecutive days of seminars in Albanian is hard on your attention span. With the help of the powerpoint it was too hard to follow along but some presenters were harder to understand than others and that made things difficult. The seminars were put on by a Swiss development organization and they just released a call for grant proposals so we will begin working on that this week.
Yesterday I went on a hike with my friend Nardi from Judo. We hiked out to Dush, an abandoned village northeast of Vau Dejes. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my camera batter was low before we left so I was only able to take one photo of Vau Dejes. The hike was really interesting because we walked through a valley with a house or two every half mile but all of them had been abandoned. We passed destroyed communist food distribution centers and Nardi’s old school. It was really neat to hear Nardi talk about the home where he grew up. Hopefully we will be able to go back sometime and take pictures.
After the hike, we got ready and went to Narac, an inhabited village south of Vau Dejes. There we meet two church leaders and a group of guys to discuss forming a volunteer organization in Vau Dejes. We spent an hour or so talking about the problems of the community and the importance of cooperation and fostering community values. We didn’t come up with any concrete plans other than to meet again. My hope is that we can write a community vision statement and a list of goals from which we will be able to plan projects or activities but we shall see.
I think this post has enough meat to tide you over for a while. Speaking of meat, Thanksgiving is next week and I will be traveling to Divjak to celebrate one of American’s greatest holidays with some other volunteers. I couldn’t be more excited to enjoy a slice of Americana abroad with other Americans. I am going down early on Wed to help a friend kill a turkey so this should be a particularly memorable Thanksgiving.