|Kopshti e Razijes (actually, just a corner of her beautiful garden)|
Like most people, I don't like to say good-bye and prefer the more hopeful "until we meet again." And while these may seem unrealistic, in my experiences Life has a way of bringing good people back together again.
Case in point: Just two weeks ago, I had the very special opportunity to reconnect with someone I hadn't seen since my High School graduation in (hate to admit this) 1995 - Joel VanBriggle. I actually met Joel when I was in Kindergarten at North Franklin Elementary - a school that doesn't officially exist anymore. (Shit..I really AM old!) Through many twists and turns of fate...Joel and I found ourselves across the world in Albania at the SAME TIME! Only a month before my departure... he was here laying groundwork for his next career step with Convoy of Hope Europe. We never could have planned this happen-stance reunion but God's will/Kismet was in full effect. BUt the truth is...It IS a small world, after all. Yes. I did that. You'll be singing that all damn day. I'm sorry.
Thanks to instances like my reunion with Joel after nearly 20 years...I believe in the power of "until we meet again."
Allow me to return to my purpose today....a tribute to my Host Family- Familje e Kujtimit Kateshi. Last night, brought my last opportunity to express my gratitude for taking me in, giving me a home and a chance to learn and be successful in my Peace Corps service. Here is the letter I gave them (with translation support from my awesome colleague, Anila! also, the English version is below.):
|Mami dhe Babi|
Te dashur Razije, Kujtim, Jerina, Antonini, Manjola, Martina edhe gjithe familje tjeter!
Dy vjet me pare ju me ftuat ne shtepine tuaj.Une isha e huaj,nuk dija as edhe nje fjale ne gjuhen shqipe .Nuk kuptoja kulturen shqiptare ,mbi te gjitha isha e humbur por kisha qellime te mira.
Prej miresise tuaj une kisha nje shtepi,prej durimit tuaj une pata nje vend ku te mesoja,prej shpirtit tuaj une kisha nje vend per te qeshur,prej dashurise tuaj une kisha nje familje dhe prej kesaj une kam qene e bekuar.
Nuk kam fjale te mjaftueshme per te shprehur se sa mirenjohese jam prej secilit prej jush.Ju do te jeni perhere pjese e kujtimeve te mia me special dhe une do tju mbaj gjithmone ne zemer .Faleminderit Nje million here faleminderit.
Me ndjenja te sinqerta,
Dear Mom, Dad, Sister and Brother, Another Sister and her baby and all the other siblings (there were 3 more, who also have families!) who live abroad!
Two years ago, you invited me into your home. I was a stranger. I did not know a single word in Albanian. I did not understand Albanian culture. Essentially, I was lost. But I had good intentions.
Because of your kindness, I had a home. Because of your patience, I had a place to learn. Because of your spirit, I had a place to laugh. Because of your love, I had a family. And because of this, I have been blessed.
There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for each of you. You are forever part of my most special memories. And I will carry you in my heart always. Thank you. A million times, thank you.
With deep affection,
|Motrat Gjithmone! Sisters Always.|
I knew there would be tears. As my host sister, Jerina read the words aloud, Mamaja, Jerina and I became more and more choked up. And as I tried to reinforce how grateful I am...my poor Shqip skills had us laughing at my mistakes in no time! Tears, Laughs, Smiles... it was bittersweet, but heavy on the sweet. I adore my Kateshi family: special people who live in a small village, a village far too small to hold their enormous hearts!
Peace, Love and Shihemi prap (See you again)