Last weekend on my way down to Korçe I stopped for a night at my host family’s house. I showed up at around 4:30 in the afternoon and my youngest host sister, Jerina, came to greet me. I asked where everyone else was (I knew my host dad was still in town – he works in Greece most of the time) and she answered that they were all at the hospital in Elbasan because my other host sister, 22-year old Manjola, had her baby that morning.
I was really excited to hear the news, but hadn’t expected the baby to be born for another two weeks. At first I felt odd being there on such a day – was I in the way? What American family would be so welcoming to a house guest on the night of a family member’s birth? Pretty soon my host mom and dad returned from the hospital and they were full of life and very glad to see me. All my American worrying was completely swept aside and I think I have never felt more like part of the family as we sat around and caught up over a festive and casual dinner together.
I left the next morning feeling more relaxed and refreshed than I have for a while. It’s amazing how comfortable I feel in my host family’s home now and how comfortable they are with me, even though we don’t see each other but once in a while. I guess part of it is that they are some of the few Shqiptars who knew me when I didn’t know anything about Albania – they have seen how far I have come and we can laugh about all the mistakes I make.
As it so happens, Martina, the new addition to the family, was born on the third anniversary of the independence of Kosovo. All we saw on TV that night at my host family’s house were Shqiponjes flying in the streets of Prishtina and video clips of cute Kosovar school children circle dancing in their classrooms to Albanian music. It’s amazing how similar the two countries are, and after my service (when I will be allowed to go to Kosovo), I’d love to visit Kosovo.
Another date of significance passed this week as PCVs in Group 10 who arrived in Albania in 2009 finished their Close of Service (COS) conference. Their COS was part of the reason I had to go down to Korçe in the first place – I had a meeting corresponded with the conference and it gave us all a good excuse to check out the ski area nearby. While it was great to see all the G12ers in one place, it was difficult to think about these good friends of mine taking off for other jobs and lives in the States and elsewhere in just a few weeks/months. Also, Group 14 will arrive in Albania on the 16th of March, which means that we will be the “big kids” for a while. Thinking about all of these changes got me thinking a little about what I want to do after Peace Corps…which right now I am just not ready to think about.