Saturday, June 20, 2009

How I Began My Summer Vacation

One last day sunning myself and splashing around at the Embassy pool with my friends, one last BBQ saying good-bye to teachers who are leaving us, one last walk in the park..... I'd love to say that this is how I spent my last day in Tirana before leaving for the summer holidays. Ha! This is more my reality: Curled up under a comforter even though it's a least 90 degrees outside, doubled over in pain as my stomach rages within me, trying desperately to drink some Sprite (thanks Amy for delivering me some!). Yep that's right. My students gave me a memorable parting gift... the stomach flu. Good news is, it's only the 24 hour type so I should be recovered in time for Rome. Let's hope.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Matt the Maniac

All my students knew that today is my little brother's birthday. How did this come up? Well, I have a student whose birthday is also 11 June, also called Matt. His name is the Italian form of Matthew (Matteo) and I absolutely love how it just rolls out of the mouth... Maaatteeooo. Love it.

This morning started out with one of my little girls sharing a story about how her finger was slammed in the door. That progressed into everyone wanting to share stories about hurt fingers. I said, sarcastically at first because I was getting tired of the stories, "Hmmm, maybe I should share about my brother's hurt finger because it is his birthday after all." Little kids don't get sarcasm. "Yes, Miss DeKorte, tell us about your little brother." I drew a picture of our childhood tree house on the white board and launched into this story:

One summer day, Matthew found a hammer and a brick. We had two friends over and we were playing in the backyard. I was dressed up like a princess. Matt and our friend Paul were on the porch of our tree house (which was really a stump house). They placed the brick on the railing. Matt took hold of the brick with one hand. Paul had the hammer and started pounding on the brick. All of a sudden, Paul missed the brick and the hammer landed on Matt's thumb. It took off his entire thumb nail and a bit of his thumb. I was sooo embarrassed because we rushed Matt to the doctors and I had to sit in the waiting room in my dress- up clothes.

My students LOVED this story. "Please tell us another one!" they cried. I replied, "Ok, just one more Matthew story." I told about another childhood injury which involved Matt, a balloon, a cabinet and lots of stitches. That had them crying for more. I told them I would tell them another Matthew story during story time (thinking they would forget). What was the first thing they asked when we sat down for story time? Yep, they wanted another Matthew story.... which turned into three more. At one point, they were talking during the story. I told them that they wouldn't be able to hear the end of the story if they continued to interrupt. I've never seen them get so quiet so quickly.

What appealed to my kindergartners about these "Matthew stories?" I think it's the way that my brother has always lived his life: full steam ahead! He has a way about him that people like instantly, even my little students half a world away. I am so lucky to have shared a childhood with such a funny and gregarious little brother. I am even luckier now that this funny, gregarious little brother has turned into a true friend. Happy birthday brother Matt!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Olive Oil Festival

Don't laugh. There is such a thing as an Olive Oil Festival! And believe it or not I could actually taste the difference between a "good" olive oil and a "bad" olive oil. This event took place on the site of the ancient ruins of Apollonia (which are no where near as amazing as Butrint, but the location is lovely). Many families from school were there, so it was a very social festival. There was traditional dancing and singing (I'm going to try uploading a video of the music), Albanian wine, local olive oil, but sadly, no olives.
There were 18 of us, teachers and parents, who got a ride to Apollonia. A parent from school is helping a local man, George, get his driving service up and running. She organized this complimentary trip for teachers and then opened it up to other parents. (We've used this service for Saranda/Butrint. George will be who I use when I get visitors over here). We hiked to the top of a hill for a typical Albanian meal- mixed meats, Greek salad, French fries and toast. I took this picture of two students, one who I'll have next year, catching butterflies. Jaz is actually an expert! She amazed me.
The four of us girls have a rating system for bathrooms. The scale goes from 1-10. To be a 10, the bathroom must come fully stocked and also be aesthetically pleasing. A 7 is the essentials, minus towels. I don't like Turkish toilets, but some actually rate quite high if they come well stocked. This was a Turkish toilet in a little house. It rated as a 3 in my book (maybe 4 if I'm generous), though it is so charming I'd like to give it at least a 7. This one is tricky to rate.
Sometimes I'm so struck by similarities between California and Albania scenery. Here I am with my friend and fellow teacher, Miss Violeta who teaches the 3s, overlooking farm land that could be Santa Maria 100 years ago.
I've mentioned the restaurant, Serendipity, in a previous post. I think I also mentioned the yummy mojitos. This is the guy who owns Serendipity. He's always there and is very friendly. Tracey and Sarah like his "crocodiles" which are basically mojitos with gin instead of rum. Anyway, moral of the story: you never know who you might see around!
The Larzeliers and the Hemphills standing among ancient ruins.
Tracey decided to walk down the amphitheater steps (Violeta and I had climbed down another way). It's amazing how steep and narrow the steps are.
Posing by the columns! Can't wait for Italy and more pictures with ancient artifacts (and preserved bodies... I am so excited to live a life- long dream of seeing Pompeii!)
If you look to the horizon, you'll see the Adriatic. It was another beautiful Albania day.