The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Language refresher, a vague memory from weeks (maybe months – YEARS even!) ago, it seemed more an opportunity to get together with Peace Corps volunteers from my group and relive the first days when we lounged the Hotel Univers.
Other than the origin of mirupafshim, a brief introduction to Optative Mood, clitics, Permet wine, and Cards Against Humanity, I feel no closer to mastering shqip. It may be the insurmountable heights of Cases, or it may be, and most likely is, that I am a lazy cuss.
I was leaving Home of Hope where for thirty minutes, twice a week, sitemate and I flail desperately as we struggle to teach 3-5 year old children, English. On the upside these kids are adorable. Along the walk I ran into my gjyshe from back in Thane accompanied by her son, the last of four.
I really like this woman. She reminds me of old women in Miyazaki films.
We exchanged the usual pleasantries. A quadruple cheek kiss means real affection, and a string of mire. I managed to ask what they were doing in Elbasan so early and her son explained that they were going to the Doctor because she was having issues with her heart. Well I had no idea what to say to that. Already at a loss for words, my meager vocabulary was struggling to find the right way to express some kind of sympathy. I think my facial expressions conveyed the feeling, but still as we parted company, I wished I could have said more, something – hell, anything.
I have been protected by an easy bubble of English in my work and in the office, surviving in the larger community with a base working knowledge of the language, and recently the bubble popped. Well, deflated a little.
I start work at the qarku this week, and went in for an introduction to the directors I will be working with in the Development office (doing what, I have no idea except I have been given a long series of documents on city strategic planning, planning for the landfill, tourism, social services, etc.) and NO ONE speaks any English at all. Now comes the real test.
Now I know what so many other volunteers are going through, and I still don’t have it as difficult as many of them. If anything I have new incentive, if not vigor, to learn to speak shqip, passably, tolerably and maybe with a modicum of fluidity, if certainly not fluently or intelligibly. Not only will I need it for the work, but so I can honestly integrate better in the community, something I don’t think I have done as well as I should be. I need more Albanian friends.
In other news, we have begun the Elbasan Youth Council. A group of 29 high school students from around Elbasan will learn the meaning of leadership and city government functions, and if all continues as well as the orientation (see pictures below), we will have a fantastic year.
Also, fingers crossed I’ll have my laptop returned to me safely and in full working order in the next few weeks. While the lack of internet distraction has been great for reading, I have a desire to watch a movie.
the Elbasan Youth Council (and some supportive parents)
Getting our priorities for the year to come. The students will plan and develop a minimum of two community projects and present them for approval to the Municipal Council.