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I’ve hit my two-weeks-left-in-Lezhe mark and there is so much to be done, that life seems a little crazy.

Packing for a two month trip, contemplating moving, searching for a job, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues, giving words of wisdom and showing around new trainees, and cleaning up and organizing my house are all on my to do list. Despite it all, it feels great to be busy. I’m also having great success finishing up two other projects – a tourist map for Lezhe and a needs assessment document that I’ve been writing with six other community development PCVs that we presented last week to USAID and the national Association of Municipalities. I’m glad to have work to do right to the end.

In other news, I’ve decided to continue with this blog during my travels after Peace Corps, so stay tuned throughout the summer for updates!

This Sunday several PCVs are partnering with Green Line Albania to organize a flash mob in Tirana to both honor Earth Day and publicize the Green Line “clean up Albania in one day” event on May 9th. Should be the first flash mob of its kind in Albania and a lot of people will be there – Outdoor Ambassadors group members, PCVs from all groups, PC staff, and students from local high schools and universities all celebrating Earth Day together.

I’m trying to learn the dance this week…it’s proving to be a fun but silly adventure – me dancing in my living room alone, having a great time making the neighbors wonder.

Over the last week I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the ins and outs of PC Albania with my visiting friend. Coming from a business background, she has many questions about the efficiency of the PC program, how measurable our results are, and how our reporting processes work. Though I won’t be able to see most of the “results” of my service in the community or even comprehend what they are, I firmly believe that my presence in Lezhe has been a symbiotically beneficial one. But, I sometimes have trouble putting into words why exactly I feel this way.

Many of my answers to her “why is this this way?” questions are cultural in nature, which are hard to understand if you haven’t actually been in the PC in Albania yourself. In fact, these cultural and work place differences are something that I spent 10 weeks of training learning about, but I think it’s taken me all two years to finally begin to understand how to work within the local hegemonic framework.

I recently read this blog post, “What the Peace Corps Taught me About Failure,” written by an RPCV who served in Africa. While the context of my service is drastically different, at times I’ve definitely experienced the same feelings of incompetence that Maya had during her service. The article is well worth a read for anyone who’s ever criticized the Peace Corps for not having more quantifiable results.  Maya’s writing can show a bit about how PCVs themselves struggle with this fact….and why our successes, when they happen, are all the sweeter for it.

I think I could be here another 2 or 4 years and still be surprised daily by the decisions and reactions that happen in the workplace and in my daily routine. The only difference is that by now I’ve learned that the surprise, the feeling of failure when something unexpectedly is cancelled, is normal. I can accept these things and move on. I can accept what I have done here, and go back home.

Yesterday the new group of volunteers arrived in Albania and were escorted to Elbasan for training. Surprisingly, this doesn’t make me really feel anything….in fact, it is so removed from my experience here (I will likely only meet a few of these volunteers and will leave before they swear in), that I almost forgot about it entirely.

A much more momentous occasion (for me) is coming up tomorrow, but I feel a similar disconnect to it as well. March 17th is not only St. Patrick’s Day, but the day that marks my group’s two-year in Albania anniversary. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that important. I feel so comfortable here and am spending time thinking about my departure that my only thought about two years is that it seems short to me…though I do feel like it’s been a while when I think about the fact that before I left the US the Ipad did not exist and Obama was a relatively “new” president.

 

Here in Albania (well, at least in Lezhe) it finally feels like Spring. I’m sure there are cold snaps to come and much of the country is still melting out from the snow of three weeks ago, but, for me, life is comfortable again and I’m enjoying the change in the weather.

This photo is from the first real warm day, Feb. 28th, on a small beach north of Shengjin spending the day on the sand with friends. Thanks to Adam for passing it along!

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, which in Albania means an excuse for all the women in my office to get real dressed up, get their hair done, go out to lunch at a place by the beach and DANCE!

Naturally, I’m excited.

Last year I loved this opportunity to bond with the women I work with and celebrate our lives together, but this time around I see it more as the first (of many, I hope!) farewell fests for me in Albania. AND, this year I get to double dip, as I’ve been invited to an evening soiree at the new American School in town. They will be two very different parties, but both part of a tradition I love here that I hope to bring back and share with my friends and family at home.

So – gezuar dita e grave to all the lovely ladies in my life! I wish I could be with all of you tomorrow!

I have a new hobby – searching for plane tickets online. 

I booked my flight back to the states this week (!). July 23rd I am actually coming home….28 months later.

However, in between then and my COS date of May 18th I’ll be bouncing around Europe and Turkey a bit with Adam. How to do this most efficiently/costly is becoming a bit of a game. A fun way to spend the time….and my cash in lieu funding.