Wednesday, August 25, 2010

American Corners Podgorica - The Coolest Place in Town!!!

Today was awesome! Danielle and I had our Security Briefing with the U.S. Embassy. We meet Slavica (Cultural Affairs Assistant) and Shelly (Public Affairs Officer) at Masa Cafe for coffee. It was so nice to finally meet Slavica in person. We had communicated a lot prior to my arrival in Podgorica. She is our primary contact person for the U.S. Embassy Podgorica. She oversees the U.S. Fulbrightor's in Podgorica and a ton of other Embassy projects. Slavica was extremely friendly and she gave us an informative orientation packet. It was filled with a ton of information about Podgorica, the U.S. Embassy, American Corners Podgorica, and more. Our coffee meeting was a huge success and it ended with a few helpful Montenegrin Language tips. Slavica has arranged for Danielle and I to both have a Montenegrin tutor. I plan to contact them right away to start setting up meetings. We also found out that on October 6 the Embassy will be putting on a big reception for us.

After coffee, Danielle and I fixed a quick lunch and it was off to find American Corners Podgorica. I had e-mailed two of the librarians, Sanja and Milena, ahead of time through Facebook. As soon as we walked through the door, they knew who we were. They welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles. There hospitality was so kind and genuine. They gave us a tour of the American Corners Center and showed us the English-Language Library Resource Center. I plan to donate over 100 books to American Corners Podgorica that were provided thanks to Dr. Donna Weimer (Juniata College) and Mrs. Melissa Morral (Williamson High School).

Here is a fun little story. As I was browsing the bookshelves, I came across a book that I fell in love with when I took a course called "Women, Work, and Identity" with Dr. Lynn Cockett at Juniata College. The book is called "The Second Shift" written by Barbara Erhenrich. I told Sanja and Milena about this book and course. Milena told me that she actually just ready it here not to long ago and referenced it in one of her university term papers. It's a great book. So if you haven't read it, (especially if you are in a relationship) I highly recommend that you, and your partner, read it.

We talked for a bit about a number of programs American Corners Podgorica offers. They are definitely a very busy organization. Danielle and I plan to do a number of public diplomacy projects with them. I have two projects in mind. Here is a rough sketch of what we have in the works. I would like to develop and publish a monthly informative newspaper centered around the different programs, initiatives, guest lectures/speakers, and individuals at American Corners Podgorica. Currently, they do not have anything like this, but they do have a well followed and well maintained Facebook group. The neat part about this project is that all of the articles will be written by Montenegrins, or anyone who is interested in writing for the newspaper and wants to improve their English writing skills, learn about American Journalists, learn newspaper layout and photography, etc. It will operate like a University Newspaper Organization/Club. The project is in the brainstorming/development stage right now, but once I know my teaching schedule I plan to pursue this idea further. I am also planning to develop a curriculum for a leadership workshop series that teaches the Social Change Model of Leadership. I will spend the fall semester developing the workshop curriculum and in the Spring semester I will implement my leadership workshop series over a period of eight weeks. In the end, all those that participate will receive a certificate saying they have completed the workshop.

As we were sitting and talking with Sanja and Milena, two young students approached us (Danka and Nikola). Danka just graduated from High School and is brilliant. She speaks English extremely well. She also speaks Italian and Russian. WOW! She has been accepted into the London School of Economics. How cool is that? Nikola is entering the 9th grade, but if you meet him you would think he is a university student. He is very intelligent as well, speaks excellent English, and has developed his own webdesign business. They were very interested in learning about where we live at in the U.S.A. and what subjects we will be teaching at the university. Danka and her mother, who was also at American Corners Podgorica at the same time we were, invited us over to her house for dinner. Danielle and I went. We had an authentic Montenegrin meal. It was pork roasted in olive oil, milk, and rosemary. They also had amazing bread and a variety of cheeses. We had unbelievable Montenegrin cake and ice-cream. It was out of this world.

Well... that was my day! I can only imagine what tomorrow will have in store. Danielle and I are going with our landlords to register with the policja (police).

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