Today is my first day of work as a PCV. When I look back and imagine what I thought my life would be like before getting on the plane in New York, I could not have imagined anything like this…
The last two weeks have been a wonderful blur full of fun and frenzy. I returned from site visits and was in a bit of an unexplainable funk for a few days. I think it was that I both got a glimpse of the freedom that will come after leaving my host family, but the reality of post-training isolation and the extreme individual nature of each person’s PC experience also really hit me. This feeling ebbed as I got back into the groove of training and spent more time with my fellow trainees celebrating the good weather, last language classes (my language proficiency exam went well, by the way!), last hikes in the mountains around Bishqem, last meals with our host families, last training sessions, last days all together as a group and first moments as official peace corps volunteers (no longer trainees!). I feel so lucky to be with the talented and fun training class I am in and I already miss those friends who are far away.
The last days with the host family were emotional and exhausting. Razie (mama) and Jerina (motra ime/my sister) were a bit teary whenever we talked about how I was leaving right after the swearing in ceremony in Elbasan on Thursday. I packed up my stuff and left my room with a view and the farm for good, though not after witnessing a chicken be killed for my going away dinner (had escaped this until now) or having presents such as home made olive oil and millions of fresh-from-the-tree apricots (kajsi in shqip) given to me to take with me. I politely refused the oil as, after ten weeks of very greasy food, I plan to use as little oil as possible in all future cooking adventures.
All the volunteers in Pajove/Bishqem hosted a small gathering at a lokal owned by Brittany’s host family on the last night…and it naturally included some good Albanian fun – circle dancing (this is a phenomenon that happens anytime there is a “fest” of any kind in Albania – weddings, parties, anything…). It was a fun last week, but now I am reeling from and reveling in the freedom of being able to choose what I eat and when I sleep and where I go for the first time in 10 weeks.
On Thursday morning the 50 of us trainees gathered at the skampa theater in downtown Elbasan with all the Peace Corps staff, the ambassador, current PCVs, host families and local dignitaries for our swearing in ceremony. Many of us including myself brought all our heavy bags (which now have the additional weight of water filters and language books) with us to the theater so we could catch buses to our sites afterwards. After about an hour, we took the oath and swore our allegiance to all things peace corps. This was followed by pictures and a long afternoon (actually, all afternoon and evening) at our local hangout/bar – gramellis. I spent the night in Elbasan with six fellow G13ers at a friend’s apartment before heading out early Friday to go camping in Dhermi with a bunch of PCVs – new and old(er). In all it was a fun and celebratory day – very fitting for the end of our training. We’ve had a wild ride during PST with a few injuries and people having to move host families around, so it’s good news that we all made it to the volunteer stage in one piece…apparently this does not happen often in other PC countries? I also only found out where I was going to move to in Lezhe on Thursday after swearing in, so that was an additional relief worth celebrating.
I think the Dhermi trip deserves its own post, so I will fill you in on that later. But, meanwhile – I am now in Lezhë and am starting to get a handle on what I will be doing here. I’ll have a LOT more time to email, skype, etc. in the coming weeks….if you want to get in touch face to face let me know. Also – my address that I sent out in an email officially works (thanks mom for the package!) so – send away if you want!
Thanks to all of you who helped me make the decision and prepare to come to Albania. I am so thankful I have the opportunity to be here!