When I was in Albania I got a chance to spend some of George Soros’ money.
First, though, I nearly wasted some of it.
I’ve written before about how expatriates go through a cycle of culture shock, almost normal, culture shock, almost normal. The worst usually happens about three months in. Until then, you live in a kind of “this ain’t too bad” euphoria.
In my case, the euphoria led me to get involved with too many extra projects. I agreed to help out with the Open Society Fund for Albania (Soros)’s new University Guidance office, the sole purpose of which was to help Albanians go to US or UK universities. I would sit there several hours a week and help Albanians apply to universities.
I also agreed, through a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, to proctor a selection test for teachers at an educational university in another town.
Then two things happened. First, I saw the office I would be working in and it would basically be, a chair, a desk, a couple books, a computer that didn’t work and me helping students. I knew they weren’t going to be ready for the grand opening but they planned to proceed anyway.
Second, it turned out that the selection test would be the weekend of the grand opening. I would have to say no to something.
At this point, culture shock and panic took over, and I opted to go to the selection test without telling the OSFA (Soros) I wouldn’t be around. The result was that I was pretty much fired from working with them, although my outstanding culture shock nourished denial skills made me think it was mutual.
The funny part is the selection test was cancelled. Instead something bizarre happened, but that’s another story (and one I’ve actually told too many times).
A couple years later, the OSFA (Soros) was looking for projects to fund and I submitted a proposal for a series of lectures I called “Teaching Literature as a Second Language” that I hoped would convince Albanian teachers to start using more literary works in English as a Foreign Language classes.
I got, roughly, 200 dollars for the project and that covered materials and travel related expenses. In the end, I traveled to three cities and did one lecture (which amounted to a brief history of books they’d never been able to read and a plan for how to use them). In two there were complications that stopped the lectures.
I then proceeded to shock the entire OSFA (Soros) by actually filling out an after action report. Apparently these were so rare that the person who received it didn’t appear to know what to do with it.
I tried to get more of George Soros’ money, but the OSFA (Soros) never got interested in giving me any more.