Thursday, August 28, 2008

School House Rocks!

As most of you know, I started school today. This is my classhouse. Adorable isn't it? Don't ask me what the sign on the side is all about. I need to Google it at some point. It's generally referred to as the green house. It's set in the back of the school. My own little sanctuary. Ha!
Welcome to kindergarten! Tomorrow is our first full day so I am sure to be exhausted! Boy they have a ton of energy... then add three or four non English speakers into the mix and you have mass confusion. Actually, it wasn't so bad. Not all of the kids showed up, so we'll see how it goes in a few days. I did have to give one little girl a time out. They had just returned from P.E. She sat down in her chair and said, "This is boring!" Sorry, I don't accept rude behavior!
What do you all think? Should we tackle the trampoline tomorrow? There is no safety video to view here! The trampoline is in our own backyard.
This is where I'm doing the carpet time. I'm slowly getting this area looking and functioning properly. I do have a really cute birthday area above the number line. I cut it off in the picture, as usual. Darn. My paraprofessional cut balloons out of paper and we put the names/birthdates on the balloons and graphed them under the months. My idea, but Egla's artistry! We're really a perfect team.
The first room is the play area. And boy do they love to play! The four year olds teacher has trained them well. They know how to neatly stack the blocks and put away the toys. Hurray! The second room is my instructional area. The idea on the table came from April. Totally forgot to put the hats on their heads before leaving. We simply ran out of time.

The highlight of the day was my first experience with the cafeteria. The kids went home for lunch, so it was only open for the teachers. The food is contracted in. Oh. My. Goodness. I had had one of their desserts last week (torte with apples in the middle....divine!), but this school lunch experience was over the top. I'm totally never packing a lunch. I have to support the local economy, right?! Anyhow, we had Greek salad, homemade soup, rissotto, a chicken dish and tres leche for dessert. I want to stay here forever.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Backyard

Mom wanted more pictures. Here are a few that I took on the way back from church. This first picture is of the "field" that I cross. It's the short cut that leads into a shopping area and also connects to the main road, which is very busy and hotter (in my opinion!). My shoes are quite dusty from this daily trek. The white building you see to the left is my apartment building. Underneath the apartments is the soccer field. Of course I use the term, field, loosely! You see kids practicing and playing pick up games constantly. They also burn their trash in this field.
I forgot about the view finder setting on my camera! However, that white dot you see is in fact a horse grazing in the field. A man was standing close by so I didn't want to act like I was taking a picture of the horse. I was afraid that the horse was his and he might want some lek for the picture.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bits and Pieces

I thought you might like to see a few shots of everyday life. I haven't been good at taking pictures of random things that make me laugh. I fully intend on having my camera handy the next time I see cows grazing in the field behind my apartment! Today is a quiet Saturday. The beach trip fell through so I'm taking it easy. I have every intention of doing some work...later!
This is the view of the lake in the park. The park is wonderful. Not only does it have a lake, but it also has a ton of restaurants, walking trails (though you have to be aware of the Albanian soccer players running by), monuments, evergreen trees, adorable grandparents on park benches, and (not part of the wonder of it all) stray dogs. I should have taken a picture of the monument. It is an Albanian salute to the British soldiers who gave their lives during WWII in Albania. Please come to see it!
I just now realized how dark some of these pictures are. Oh, well. I have been eating a ton of Greek salad... and I'm not sick of it yet! I buy the veggies in the local outdoor markets. The feta is also local. It comes straight from the big vat full of feta and water. The shop keeper even let me taste a sample. Yummm! I eat some form of feta daily. I definitely exceed the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables! The grapes on the balcony are from the grapevine growing off the side. You have to lean over to pick them, but it's worth it! Have I mentioned I like the lifestyle here? Food glorious food!
The man in the picture is an expat from Norway. His name is Chele (spelling is a problem). He has a single son arriving in Tirana next week. He showed us a picture. Ha. Chele's lived in Tirana for 15 years and has so many stories to tell. For instance, he was here during the '97-'98 civil war. The expats were evacuating the city. Chele and his wife chose to stay. His friend, the Albanian police director stopped by his house to give him a machine gun and several rounds of amunition. Amazing. Anyhow, we went to the Sky Club for our first taste of raki. I can't say that it was delicous, but it did give me tingly lips. Raki is a spirit made from grapes. I could probably get used to it, if I wanted to. The Sky Club rotates 360 degrees and has glorious city views. It was really posh. Another place I'll take any Albania visitors!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Load of Laundry

I have had one experience with a European washing machine and dryer. That was when I visited my friend, Marcy, in London. That was a disaster! We ended up running for a train with wet clothes and towels hanging from our bags. Moving here, I promised myself that I wouldn't make the same mistake. I'd actually learn how to operate the machines....

A few days ago, Sava, our cleaning lady, gave me a laundry lesson. She showed me twice on the washer and twice on the dryer. We even set the settings where she thought I would most likely need them. Since all the directions are in Italian, I was happy to be tutored. Sava and one of my directors (he and his family had this apartment last year) explained I needed to wait at least 5 minutes after the wash is complete before opening the door....

Last night, I attempted my first load of laundry. I foolishly began this process at about 9:00 pm. The wash alone takes over an hour to cycle through. It stops, then goes, stops, then goes... Very annoying. After it officially stopped, I waited the prescribed 5 minutes. Then, I slowly opened the door. Water came trickling out. I quickly closed the door and decided to wait 10 minutes longer. After 10 minutes I opened the door and water spilled out. "Well, I thought to myself, I need to get the water out somehow!" I grabbed a bucket, towel, mop and sponge. I opened the door and caught the water as it cascaded down into the bucket. Then, I wrung out each piece of clothing before I threw it into the dryer. It was a great arm workout! Then, I mopped up the left over water in the washing machine. I was exhausted.

I emptied the dryer pan and let the dryer run for an hour. When I checked its progress, I found a pile of wet, steamy clothes. Since it was near midnight, I set up a drying rack (thank God I have one) in my living room and dried everything the old fashioned way.

This morning, I grabbed Sava and had her show me AGAIN how to use the washer. Apparently, the spin cycle does not begin automatically. You have to twist the button and run it. Mental note, laundry is an all day process that is best begun at 6:00 am! Crazy! Seriously, if anyone knows a single man with an engineering degree AND a personality, send him my way!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Scenic Albania

This past Saturday, I went with a group known as the "Hashers" on a hike. It wasn't just any hike. No, sir! We piled into five four-wheel drive vehicles and headed west out of Tirana. About 5 miles past the city, the drivers turned off on a small unpaved road. Now, just imagine the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland! Up and down, side to side...I was trying not to laugh too much for fear of offending the Albanians who were riding with us. We passed villages and bunkers (the guide books were right, the bunkers are everywhere!) and finally pulled over into a patch of grass. The hash masters (I think that is what they are called...they set up the trail using flour as a guide) were there to great us. A villager came down and demanded to know why we wanted to kill the livestock. She thought the flour was a deadly powder. After that misunderstanding was cleared up, we were free to roam! It wasn't an "easy" hike like I had been told, it was more like mountaineering! It was hard work but worth it! Here are the pictures!
The beginning: At the lake with my new friends, Linda (from Albania) and Jitske (from Belgium)
The valley filled with grazing goats...they seemed peaceful enough!
Goat stampede! Albania certainly keeps you on your toes!
Can you believe that I live here????
An ancient olive grove. Speaking of olives, they sell homemade olive oil in the markets. They put the olive oil directly in a used plastic water bottle...

After the hike, you must be inducted to the hashers. Brother Matt, you would be so proud. I chugged beer without crying and barfing. It was actually quite delicious! We went to Mr. Chicken for dinner/lunch. Much tastier than KFC! I can't wait for more fun adventures!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Apartment Living

Hello from Albania! I haven't had a chance to take many pictures, but here are a few from my new home. It's the bare-bones basic; I hope to decorate it a little more warmly in the future!

My couch has a hide-a-way bed! I'll gladly sleep there if anyone comes to visit!
It's really an adorable kitchen.
Thought you'd like a view of the shower pan. It's small, but workable.My bedroom is spacious and open. Oh happy day!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Swimming with Matt and Dan

Tuesdays with Morrie was all about gleaning wisdom from an old guy (I'll be P.C...a mature man). I found wisdom today, while swimming with my brother, Matt and his buddy Dan. I've been in the pool swimming laps 3-4 times in the last two weeks. Usually, I'll aimlessly swim 500, then kick a couple of laps, then maybe do some backstroke.... today was different. It was a workout! Here's the wisdom I acquired today:

Approach life with a plan~ aimlessly swimming through life might be fun, but does it actually tone your muscles? Not really! Swimming 2,000 yards effectively calls for some thought!

Live in the moment~ I was swimming backstroke, a stroke that I adore, but I was deep in thought. I was thinking about how I didn't want to start the breaststroke and how Matt has always been so much better at that stroke than me. Then, I got mad because I'm so slow at breaststroke. Before I knew it, I ran right into the wall with full momentum from my backstroke. Ouch. My head still hurts. Live in the moment and don't worry about the next stroke!

Take charge~ Two little rascals swam into my lane. Public swim was going on at the time. I had to kick them out (which I was glad to do) but I was shocked that the lifeguard didn't say anything. (The boys did try to do some back talking...that's when I got teachery!)

Live for the joy~ I really hate going to the gym. But swimming, walking and biking are pleasures! I don't think God intended us to torture ourselves into shape...challenge, yes, but we should enjoy it. Swimming brings me joy!

Who would have thought I could learn so much in 45 + minutes in the pool? Thanks, guys, for letting the older (but not wiser) sister tag along!!!!

Ode to the Oregonians

This is a long overdue post. My dad's four siblings live in Oregon with their spouses. This June, as is my custom, I went up for a quick visit. Besides visiting with aunts and uncles, I also visited my cousin Kim and her family and my Great Aunt Dena. I have a few things to say to the Oregonians.
(Ok, so I got a little bit's a stage I'm going through....)

Aunt Kathi and Uncle Ed: Thanks, Aunt Kathi, for playing hooky and driving down to southern Oregon! That, I believe, has been among my favorite surprises. Thanks for your good, sound advice last summer. My talks with you two were a definite turning point on how I view my life and my career. Here's to being extraordinary!

Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol: Practice hospitality and you do! I always feel at home on the ranch. I must say that I do enjoy staying at your "Bed and Breakfast." I can't wait for next summer and more shopping know I'll be back!

Uncle Ron and Aunt Kit: I have to tell you that one of my best summertime memories was when we all went to that small Italian restaurant with the outdoor seating. It was so relaxed, homey and delicious (not to mention hilarious). It was family time at its finest! Thank you for your prayers and support. You know my weaknesses, but you also know my source of strength.

Uncle Andy and Aunt Willie: I never get to spend enough time with you. That's the sad part. Luckily, I appreciate any time with you. Maybe you can come to Europe in the next year or two? I'll meet you anywhere!

Aunt Dena: She is THE model for the Greatest Generation. What 94 year old woman do you know who has her own g-mail account? I love your stories, Aunt Dena, your sense of humor, and your faith.
Aunt Dena with her art work.

Kim, Matt, Kassidy & Abby: Ok, it's so fun watching your girls grow. Thanks, cousin, for being my friend. I always feel close to childhood when I'm around you. I know it's because of the mischievous days we spent together growing up!

Kim and I wore smatchy matchy clothes when we were younger....we couldn't resist.

To the rest of the clan: I think about you often and I promise to keep in touch! (Kevin and Jody have made the staying in touch especially easy!)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Santa Barbara Weekend

Ahhh. Santa Barbara. A perfect spot to catch up with Westmont friends!
Kristyn, Angelica (one of my former roommates), Holly and Marya hanging out on State Street. I love this town! It was different hanging out as tourists, not as college students.

Long story: Basically I arrived early in SB and hurt my foot. I got the great idea of buying supportive shoes so I could actually walk. Finally, I decided on these million dollar shoes. Miraculously, I could walk....however the shoes caused MAJOR blisters. Marya recommended that I get skin graphs to heal the blisters.

Our second tasting room! I think we were all feeling pretty happy afterward. (And I felt no pain!) This was the Santa Barbara Winery. I enjoyed their wine, but I think the other girls like Kalyra.

Of course, Aimee had us perfectly posed for our shot at the Westmont fountain.
This picture only took 12 attempts! I'm pretty proud that I finally got it! This is the Westmont prayer chapel. It's always been one of my favorite places.