My team was in charge of PT this morning. I must admit that I am afraid to lead PT, which is a strange feeling because it’s something that comes so naturally to me. The Army has a specific way in which you are supposed to warm up, and the cadets here are all about doing everything by the book. At the end of the workout this morning, the guy who led PT was grilled by a cadet for not doing the warm ups properly, and that he should practice before hand. That’s a bunch of BS if you ask me. Get the job done, do it professionally, if you mess up, do it better next time. We did card PT, which is where you assign a suit in the deck to a specific workout, and the number on the card dictates how many reps. For example, hearts= close grip push ups, diamonds=crunches, spades=wide grip push ups, clubs=leg lifts, jokers=two laps around the track. Therefore a 2 of diamonds would be two crunches (or you can multiply all the numbers by two to get more reps in); and you work your way through the deck. A good workout that exhausts the muscle group, and is pretty fun in my opinion. However, we got grilled for not having enough variety, how it’s a workout that most people consider to be a quick fix, and for not providing enough motivation. That really rubbed me the wrong way, and I lost a lot of respect for some of the cadets, for lack of tact and for relying on someone else to provide motivation. It’s PT, not Disney World, motivate yourself. Luckily, I was not in charge of the workout.
Sorry for the rant. We cleaned up and went to chow; upon returning to our rooms the laundry service came and we exchanged our clean clothes for our dirty. The laundry service comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and has become notorious for failing to bring any change for when we pay, miscalculating our bill, and charging us a higher unit price. But we don’t have many options, so we deal with it. It’s still pretty cheap compared to US prices, so we don’t have any grounds to complain.
Our English classes today were pretty laid back, we took it outside to a couple of benches and just talked for two hours. We managed to get some more research on our city for the brief. Most of the information about Skanderbeu from yesterday’s journal was derived from these two hours. We talked about some fun stuff, like different American beers, downloading pirated movies (legal in Albania), and Rocky Mountain Oysters. Somehow, whenever we start talking about Colorado, they always say “and they have the gay cowboys, right?” referencing Brokeback Mountain, which was not set in Colorado.
We met with Major General (two stars) Prenda, who runs the base at which we are stationed. We were expecting him to give a briefing on what he does to keep the base up and running, but he wanted to hear more from us and what we were doing. His English was very good, which is typical of their higher-ranking officers (due to the NATO partnership, English is a requirement for promotion, and the ability level increases with each iteration). Our cadets asked some questions that were probably ill-suited and not very tasteful, but he answered them all the same. One of them was “Some speculate that based on the upcoming election, America might not fulfill it’s NATO requirement, how would that affect Albania” (unsure as to whom s/he was citing) to which he replied “we would immediately invade them.” Just to clarify, that was a clear sarcastic comment. Other questions discussed how the Albanian judicial corruption had affected the military, which the Maj General was clearly not happy to answer.
After the briefing we had lunch, which upset my stomach and I wasn’t able to clear my plate. Sorry mom. Upon returning to our classes, we found the Albanians formed up receiving some kind of briefing from their Lieutenant Colonel. It did not look like a happy briefing. When the broke formation, our group headed towards us and told us that they were getting chewed out for giving us, the cadets, the idea that corruption was rampant throughout the Albanian army, based on our questions to the Maj General. To clarify, the Albanian Army has been one of the sole institutions that has by and large avoided the corruption in the country. I think that perhaps the LTC overstated the issue, but I can’t blame him for wanting his troops to send the correct message.
Our group went out for a coffee afterwards where we hammered down on their presentation of Colorado (they switched it from California earlier in the day), and got them a respectable amount of information. I think they’re going to do pretty well on Monday. They also asked me to explain baseball to them, which is a lot more difficult that one may think. After that, American football. To show more interest, I asked them some questions about soccer. On our way back to the compound, I asked them about their schooling system, as I have an reader on the blog who is interested in the topic.
One year of kindergarten is required for them to enter school. This grade is held at a different building that the rest of elementary school. Grades 1-4 are considered elementary, 5-9 are middle school, and 10-12 are highschool. K-12 is free in Albania, save for books and other expenses. After your last year of middle school, you elect whether you want to go to a science based high school, or a social based high school (history and social studies). In high school, the class remains in the same room for the whole day, while the teachers rotate around. During the younger years, one teacher will teach all of the subjects. Up until 2004, eligible citizens were required to serve one year in the military. However, if they elected to go to college, then they were exempt from this requirement.
The rest of the day was free for us to spend how we chose, except for dinner. I worked on my journaling and then made a run through the markets to pick up snacks for the drive tomorrow, as well as a souvenir for a family member. I used my expert haggling techniques to save about $5. Our group stopped for some ice cream before heading in for the night.