"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

Friday, August 31, 2012

First Week

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile I haven’t had internet (except for the very slow internet cafĂ© below me that can’t even keep up with my typing.) I moved into my very own apartment on Monday, and spent the following few days setting it up, and spending time with the other foreign teachers. We went to the mall (Teg) to get household items. They offer a free shuttle(about a 20 minute ride) from the center (about a 30 minute walk.) The first time I went I bought fairly minimal items, knowing that I didn’t have much cash on me, and knowing that I had to carry it all back. The second trip I took my backpack, filled it, part of another bag and carried a fan back. Putting the fan together was quite the experience because all the directions were in Albanian, and I still had no internet to help me translate. I think I set it up okay :S  Also I should mention that the Carrfur (Super Target) at the mall has bottles of Jameson! Which made me one happy girl!

Adam (a returning teacher) took me and Scott out the other night and took us to a place that makes their own beer. They only make three kinds, but one taste similar to a red ale, and it was probably the best beer here. I’m happy to find that all the things the internet said about beer and alcohol not being imported is not true. They have several beers from Germany and Belgium at the store, though not found as often in the bars. I notice that very few of the women are seen out late drinking at night, which makes me a bit said, but Adam said this is slowly changing and ultimately depends on what part of the country you are in.

I’m already itching to get out of the city, and also to start work. We were planning on taking a trip to the top of Mount Dajti this weekend, but there are several forest fires right now, so we may opt to go to Durres on Saturday. I’m excited to say that the other teachers are all also eager to explore the surrounding countries and countryside. The other female teacher (Courtney) and her boyfriend (Bobby) brought their hiking packs, a tent, and their sleeping bags. I may end up investing in a cheap sleeping bag and tent so I can go on some camping adventures with them. Courtney has done a ton of research on the best places to do so. I guess there is a kayaking/beach camping 5 day trip that she wants to do. Me too!

I’ve been going to the school everyday for free lunch (since it is so good) and have been talking to the director and other workers at the school at random. I’ve also been introduced to several mothers and children from grade one, though I’m not sure they will all be in my class yet. The director (Mr. Ismail) is super kind and inviting. He is also understanding that the schools resources are lacking and wants to improve this immensely in the coming year.

Today (Friday) we had our first really official day of work, including meetings about the teaching plans we need to fill out, getting into our classrooms, and receiving our teaching books. I also need to work on setting up my classroom, with no resources. AH! I just made myself a huge list of posters to make and supplies I need. 

I’ll post a blog about my apartment (with pictures) soon. I'm waiting to get internet in it. I’m also still working on setting it all up, but am finding that as I do so I feel more and more at home. Now if I could just start sleeping at night....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day one and two

I have to say that flying isn't my favorite thing in the world. I tried to plan it out so that I could sleep on the plane, but I was unable to do so. I ended up staying up for 36 hours straight. I also almost missed my flight to Tirana because I had to wait in 2 passport check lines, and a visa line in Turkey. Luckily I met another packer fan during my layover in Chicago, so I had someone to keep me company during the wait and long flight. I didn't have a window seat into Tirana, so I was straining my neck to see outside. The mountains here are truly breath-taking. I must continue to live in cities that are near mountains.

I arrived at about 8pm there time and was directed to a hotel room, and then went out for a short walk to buy some water and visit and internet cafe to e-mail my mom that I had arrived safely. I came back to the hotel to find out I had free internet and was able to skype briefly with my mom. Sleeping was strange. I passed out quickly for 3 hours, then was awake for 3 hours, and then slept for 4 hours. Currently it is about 3pm (8am back home) and I feel exhausted and ready for more bed. Going to force myself to just stay awake until 10 or so at least so I can try to adjust.

I woke up this morning and had a delicious breakfast (the waiter was insanely attentive to my needs) including some delicious tomatoes and olives! On my way to look at an apartment, Jeff (the cordinator) bought me a machiato(like espresso with foam), and was surprised to see me drink it without adding any sugar. Then I looked at an apartment, which I will be living in. It is a fully furnished one bedroom with 2 balconies. Its located in a little plaza area about 10 minutes from the school. I also got to visit the school and see the classrooms. The classrooms all look the same, fairly small with smart boards and basic desks. The first grade teacher from last year left behind a lot of worksheet resources for reading lessons, so that will be helpful. I also found out I will be teaching one subject of 5th-year students. Then we walked to the center of the city just to look at shops and restaurants along the way. I was shown where I am able to buy peanut butter, but it costs a lot more here. Then we stopped and got a yummy pita sandwich from a fast food place. The sandwich was huge and only cost about $1.50. Generally Jeff said it is almost cheaper to just eat out than to buy food and cook for yourself.

Another teacher, Scott, arrived after this, and we went out for a few beers at a few different places. Beer cost about a dollar here, depending on what kind you want. We looked at two beautiful apartments, but they both cost way more money than the other one I looked at. Then we met another teacher from the school, Dorie, who is Albanian, and went out for dinner. Meatballs, greek salad, french fries, fried cheese, and bread. Then I headed home to bed.

Sleeping on the second night occurred in a similar fashion, except I was completely exhausted upon waking up.  I had some cappucino before looking at the apartment that Scott will be renting. We had some pizza for lunch and then Scott and I headed out on our own to visit "the Blokk" which is the more  fancy part of the city (lots of clubs.) We stopped to buy some phones and to look out of the revolving tower. We also stopped on our way home for gelato (70 cents.) I also bought an Albanian-English dictionary and some post card. (I'll send them as soon as I find out how to...) I took a siesta (to write this blog) and now I'm heading out to dinner somewhere.

My stomach is doing okay, but is a bit confused by the new schedule, and all the meat. Overall I'm doing okay emotionally, probably just because I'm too tired to think about anything other than what I must think about in the moment. Sorry this post is so long, hopefully soon they will start being more specific and less rambling.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

5 Days Out

The last 2 weeks have felt chaotic and nomadic. I just can't seem to get everything in my brain strait, and I've been moving my things and self around more than I'd like to. I spent my last week in Minneapolis eating my favorite food and drink my favorite thing (beer.) On the Saturday before my departure we attending 2 brewery tours and didn't eat lunch until about 3:30 in the afternoon. We spent Sunday watching Packer games, and Monday at the 331 club listening to bluegrass music. I'd like to thank everyone who came along for the ride. I'm glad we all managed to survive.

On Tuesday morning my parents arrived to pack me up in their car. We stopped to have lunch with my brother on campus and what came was the first teary-eyed goodbye. Aside from getting myself on the plane and through customs I knew this would be the hardest part for me. It's a good thing that in about 4 months he'll be meeting me in Spain! Tuesday night I had a freakout about everything I needed to do, so I sat down and wrote myself a schedule. I spent the following Wednesday running in an out of appointments and re-packing my bags to meet the airport requirements. I also went shopping with my mom for my new camera! Thanks for the graduation present mom! Thursday was spent with Grandparents and saying goodbye to them (also hard.) After spending all day in the house I decided to head to the brew pub for some beers, and ended up running into a friend. 

Friday morning led to another freakout as I realized the lock off my big suitcase was missing. It is truly amazing how the little things can cause you to feel overwhelmed to the point of sobbing. I texted my friend who informed me to quit sweating the small stuff. I stopped at Target and bought a new lock. It really wasn't a big deal, but it's just little pressure that continues to add up. 

I'm now in Milwaukee spending time with my brother and his family before I head out on Thursday(5 days from now i'll be on my way to Chicago.) 

Overall I feel totally unprepared. I sit and read through my welcome packet again, and realized that I practically have the thing memorized. My aunt informed me that I can look at maps of the airports when I'm on the plane, so that shouldn't be of concern either. Bags are all packed and under the weight limit. So what am I forgetting? Just get me there already!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Scariest Things

I'm writing this post not because I want to, but because according to Dumbledore (who is the wisest man I know) "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery."
Scared. Up until this week I felt mostly excited about moving, but it is finally becoming real to me that I moving, by myself, to a country where I don't speak the language, or know much about the culture. I can do this.

As I sit in my favorite bar in Minneapolis drinking a delicious IPA I think about all the things I'm going to miss, some more than others. Beer is pretty close to the top. So according to Dumbledore I need to face my fears to recover from them, right? So here goes....my top 5 fears.

5. Getting there. Honestly I'm not nervous about the flight itself, but I'm nervous about finding my way through customs and the airports. I'm sure I'll survive, but I've never flown alone.

4. The language. I've learned like 20 words/phrases so far, and I plan on making more flashcards to learn next week, but seriously. Hard. I've heard if you are just thrown into a language that makes in much easier to learn. Here is to hoping.

3. OMG my own classroom! I know I'd have this fear no matter where I am, so that makes it a little easier to deal with. Last year I took charge of the class for 2 weeks, but I was told what lessons to cover the kids had already been taught the routines and the classroom was set up. I don't even know where to begin. But I guess this is just going to have to wait until I see my classroom and my schedule. I think what freaks me out the most is that I'm starting a new job at the same time that I'm in a new environment at the same time I'm trying to meet new people.

2. My niece and nephew not recognizing me. My niece is 2 and a half. As far as I can remember I don't remember anything before this. So when I come back and she is almost 5 how is she going to recognize me? And my nephew will be her age! How insane! So how do I plan on keeping up? Well I haven't approved this with the brother and sister-in-law yet, but I think I'm going to try to plan in every other week skype dates. Also I plan on sending her post cards of everywhere I visit.

1. Leaving my best friend/brother. When I first applied for this job Daryn was more than supportive. He sat and listened to me complain about others viewpoints and he told me how amazing it sounded. Through every boy issues I've gotten myself into (many the same) he has been there to talk me through (and in some cases drink me through.) He's introduced me to the best beer, the best music, and taught me my greatest life lessons. If I can find someone in Albania to be half the friend he is I will be the luckiest girl ever. And if not at least I can come back and start a commune with him or bartend for him. Our dreams will all come true! And if not, at least I hope we live near each other so we can get together and watch packer games on sunday.

After writing all of this (and drinking two beers) I'm convinced Dumbeldore is correct. Acceptance.

Friday, August 3, 2012

3 weeks out

3 weeks from now I will officially be in Tirana!

Wow! What a week it has been indeed. I've accomplished several things on my bucket list, and will complete a ton more in the week to come. I went on a fantastic hiking trip up north last weekend, which was great to take my mind off things.

Tuesday night I went to a Twins game at target field with my co-worker. We had great seats and were able to watch the moon rise behind the skyline. I made it out for several bloodies, and went to get ribs and listen to blues last night. I've been continually making it to the Roe Family Singers as well! I tried both forms of Juicy Lucys and have come to the conclusion that's Matt's bar has the better one :D

Today was my last day of work and I have to say it was a rough one. I don't think many of the kids understood that I won't be there ever again, but the one who did would not let me out of his sight for a second. I ended up sobbing for the first 10 minutes of my drive to work. I'm going to miss working with these kids so much. But I'm sure I will get to work with many more fantastic kids along the way.

On Monday I went shopping for a money belt and luggage locks. I had a little mini breakdown in the store realizing that I had no idea what I was doing, but I just made the best informed purchases I could and left. Packing has been insanely disorganized. Clothes have been thrown into space saving bags, and socks have been smushed inside of shoes. All in all I'm feeling like my packing for Albania is getting nearly done, but my packing to move my crap back home is not going well. My room is a mess, which isn't helping me stay any less stressed. It's also becoming really hard to prepare not only for my journey to Albania but my vacation time in Wisconsin. I just don't know what actually needs to go into my carry-on. Frustrated! I'm still trying to figure out my banking/phone stuff for while I'm there, but I'm trying not to worry about it too much. I'm sure the school has had enough experience in this area.

I'm still working on selling my car, but have a guy coming to look at it tomorrow morning. Hopefully that works out and I can be done with it! I'm also getting the tattoo, that I've been wanting for a year, done tomorrow night! super excited!!!