Archive for September, 2012

My Time in Europe is Coming to a Close (August 8)

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

My time in Europe like my time in Albania (I spent a little over two weeks in Albania) is coming to a quick end. Eight days until I return back home to America. I guess home is where my immediate family is. I would not have necessarily referred to America as my home but probably one of the most comfortable countries for me since I have grown up there. I was surprised how I felt at home in England during my work placement.  Even though I missed my family and friends, I did not feel it as harshly as I did in Germany. I guess family and friends make a home for you wherever you go. With my second parents in England, my close friends in Germany, and the welcoming volunteers, translators, and Vermosh residents in Albania. If you have a problem, the Albanians will find a solution for you in Vermosh. Before I “reflect” on my time in Albania, I just realized (or don’t remember) I did not cry when I left my friends behind in the various countries. The only time I cried was when my immediate family left Germany. Being in England showed me I could survive living in England, allowed my family to get to know me better, and I got to know them much better as well. With Germany, I learned (slowly) to survive in a country that does not have English as their native language (even though many know some English), to create a “home” for myself without knowing anyone in that country, meeting people who I hope I can stay in their lives but I have a sneaky suspicion that we will sadly never be as close as we were in Germany, and changing my current life plan, which will probably change again next month but I feel more hopeful about my post-grad life. Ok, now back to Vermosh. I was very skeptical about Albania since I did not receive much information about my volunteer stint. I luckily found a family at the airport who was in the same volunteer program (Balkans Peace Park Project…like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/B3PBalkansPeaceParkProject) as me, and we were luckily placed to sit next to one another on the plane . Skodra was boiling hot which I did not expect. Girls dressed to the nines with low shirts, short skirts, and heels. There were always groups of young males walking around Skodra as well. I felt there were more males than females there. I felt a lot better once we were in Vermosh and once I was in a routine again.

Students in Vermosh with the volunteers

We stayed in the locals’ guesthouses, which we paid for staying there as well as three meals a day. The lady of the house was in my class as well as her brother-in-law. I was supposed to teach children (ages 6-9) but there was only one who showed up on the first day, and eleven adults that the supervisors did not think would come so I volunteered myself to be a substitute for the first day until the coordinators could reorganize. However, after the first, rough day, I knew despite how poorly the class went I felt I bonded with the class, and I wanted to remain as their teacher. It is extraordinarily strange how quickly attached a teacher becomes with his or her class. I love how clever they are, love how surprised I am when a student understands the material, the girls who were always prepared, and the boys with their cheekiness. They all really wanted to learn, and it is so amazing to work with them. I guess I can no longer make fun of my friends who want to be teachers because those feelings can be very addicting and rewarding. I am going to miss teaching (although not preparing for the class), and my students.

My class

I hope they have happy, healthy lives and that our lives will hopefully cross again. I am surprised by some of the volunteers. Some of them I got along with who I did not think I would become friends with. I hope I will meet them soon and that it was a pleasure to have met them all. I am grateful for the interpreters despite our misunderstandings. I could not imagine lasting ten minutes in my class without my interpreter, and we worked very well together. Complete immersion would have probably been better for the students, but I have no formal training in teaching English so I am very grateful for the translator to be able to make sure everyone was on the same page.

All the volunteers

I am blessed to have to experience this amazing time in Europe, I hope I will see my friends again, and who knows what the future holds!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyDwFHvtEjE&feature=share[/youtube] Thanks to Meghan for creating this beautiful slideshow and video of our time in Vermosh!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHyJTpDFgc8[/youtube] My class did a rendition of this classic for closing ceremonies!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP-fPKpFwig[/youtube] An Albanian song that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Couchsurfing in Deutschland (May, June, July)

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

After my trip to Milan, I wanted to travel. Unfortunately, Erfurt is at least two hours away from major airports so I decided to see as much of Deutschland as I could. Luckily, I made a friend (yay friend!) who wanted to travel as well. We heard Dresden was a neat place to visit so we bought our train tickets.

Dresden!

Three days before we were supposed to go, we still could not find a hostel. We kept hearing back from many hostels that they were booked for the whole weekend. We had both heard about couchsurfing, but I did not think of couchsurfing as a serious option. However, my friend did make a profile and was looking for potential places we could stay for just a night. My friend fortunately has a good sense of character (even when just basing off of an online profile) and has this talent of finding people who would take care of us. She found two of the three places we ended up couchsurfing. Both of the hosts she found were able to spend more time with us than the one I chose but all our hosts were fantastic. They all met us at the train station and responded to our text messages. They all helped us find our way through the new city (we couchsurfed in Dresden, Hamburg, and Köln), and one even had his roommates give us a tour of the city. I believe the more time you spend with the host the better experience you will have. I loved having a “local” show us around and tell us more about the attractions. I think couchsurfing is a cheap way to travel, a great way to meet locals, and see the sights. For however long you are there, you become a part of your host’s life depending on how friendly and open they are. You can meet their friends and learn about their lives. Normally, my friend and I would either make them breakfast in the morning or buy them breakfast to say thank you. I would recommend people to do this if they are “safe” about it because there are sadly many crazy people in the world. I always traveled and couchsurfed with a friend. Two out of the three people we stayed with had very positive reviews, and I would send my relatives the host’s profile and address just in case anything would happen. I recommend couchsurfing but definitely try to be as safe as you can with it!

Music Festival in Köln

My Weekend in Milan May 11-13

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

As you might have been able to tell from my last blogpost, I was not entirely in love with Germany. I did not think I would be but after watching friend after friend  fall in love with the city they were studying in, I allowed myself to hope that I had found a country where I would like to live. After a rough month and a half, I was ready to travel again. I feel I will never get my fill of travelling! I went via train, bus, and Ryanair to Milano to see a fellow UMW student who was studying there at the time. I always find strange how quickly friends pickup from where they left off. Seeing them again automatically made me feel much calmer. We explored Milano that day by walking around on a tour that my friend gave us. We saw the Dom, park, castle, fashion center, and much more. I was astonished how persistent beggars were at selling their dying flowers or bracelets. 

The next day we went to Lake Como where George Gloony famously has a holiday home, and he visited there a week later (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20603244,00.html ). I loved Lake Como with its lovely scenery. 

The food in Italy was amazing. I would gain serious weight if I stayed in Italy longer. The first night we went to a buffet full of pasta, pizza, bread, salad, and other delicious food. The next night we had pizza which was the best pizza I had so far during my time aboard experience. My first gelato in Italy! I was sad to leave my friends, but I was pleasantly surprised that I missed Erfurt. While I was in Milan, I kept preparing myself to say phrases auf Deutsch to the Italians and was actually doing well…if only I could do that in Deutschland! I was very glad to not be relied on to translate like my friend was, since she was the only one who knew how to speak Italian. Once I was back on the Straßenbahn in Erfurt, I realized I missed that place, and my friends who I have become used to seeing every day. I guess I might love Deutschland after all!