I was asked about food – here’s a preview:
Përshendëtje friends and family from Shqiperia!
Today’s blog is just to give everyone a brief overview/recap of the past week since I started this crazy adventure. What is even crazier is that it has actually only been one week.
As a reminder we arrived in Albania on Thursday March 15, 2012 and I was minus one bag (only temporarily) and up 43 new friends, and a Peace Corps stowaway. A first in Peace Corps history the poor Rebecca has become a legend already among us, and of course I sat next to her for the long-long ride from Washington, D.C. to Vienna, Austria. When she started reading over my shoulder I was annoyed, but when she stopped me from turning the page I decided to go with it. We traded books back and forth the whole way. Somewhere along the way though I guess she decided to be part of the group and when we all landed in Tirane, she just clung to us. She’s even in the group picture.
Don’t ask me about the drive – I passed out moments after. The Hotel Univers was aptly named because it was the center of ours for the next three days. Language, security training, initial health information, placement interviews, etc.; there was barely a minute that wasn’t scheduled from the time we woke up until the evening. Days were so packed, that at night, even with the few places in Elbasan to explore, most were happy to hang out with new friends, write home, or drink beer or raki (more on this to come). What they didn’t tell us was that it was really a moment’s respite before the host family.
Now the host family experience, much like the Peace Corps experience itself is different for every person and is what you make of it. Having a great family helps make it a good experience.
The Host Family
They are amazing! My host dad, or baba, is a local police officer and has had quite the life. If I understand him correctly he’s the 2nd or 3rd of 4 brothers. Two live and work in Greece and the other has his life in England. This is not uncommon for many Albanian families and many people have left to find work. Mama owns a small hairdresser shop for women right in front of the house so that is an easy commute for her in this one street town of Thanë. And I have two little sisters, Vesa, at 4, is a bit of a devil princess. She commands the room with a lot of sass and attitude. Zoica is an angel. She’s 11 years old and is always smiling. There isn’t a day that goes by where the parents and I will stare at each other, and finally at a loss for words, turn to Zoica to translate.
The language is of course the biggest challenge but the shqip is coming along. In my town of Thane, I’m with 6 other trainees and it’s a great network to help with homework, getting around or just reflecting/venting about the experience. We rely a lot on each other most because Thane is a small village. Basically a 3km road between bigger places. But I like it and anyone you talk with will tell you it’s bukur (beautiful). (More on Thane later).
OK folks. Until the next update. Deri herën tjetër
Tomorrow Peace Corps staging begins here in Washington, D.C. and I’ll be meeting all the lovelies with whom I will be serving. The number one question I’ve received these last few days has been, “Are you excited?” Well, yes. Absolutely. But I’m meeting it with my own sense of calm. It’s been over a year since I first submitted my application and this has been on my mind continuously ever since. I’ve been through the strange doubts, slight nervous panic attacks as well as the dizzying giddiness. Now we come to it at last and I’m ready for the adventure to begin.
Thanks to everyone who has seen me through to this moment. Look forward to sharing stories. Stay in touch.