This past Wednesday marked a special day for Peace Corps Albania - the arrival of the next group of volunteers - Group 16, Fresh Meat! Our Training Manager asked me to come greet them and go over some basics of our cell phones. Sounds silly, right? Teaching 35 tech-savvy Americans about cell phones? Well, consider this - Peace Corps cell phones carry an element of time travel…about 15 years into the past. In a smartphone/iPhone dominated society, these relics do require a refresher course.
Wednesday marked a special day/dite te vecante for me as well. Standing in front of the new group, naturally, I was reminded of my arrival day. Of sitting in that same hotel dining room, curious and for the most part, clueless. There they sat, quietly and patiently, but I could feel their intensity. The excitement of starting this journey, the uncertainty of what’s to come and how they will manage to work through it, the jet-lag making everything just a little hazy.
It’s been two years since I was in their shoes/kepuce. At the time, I coined the phrase appre-citement: a hybrid of apprehension and excitement, which was exactly what I was feeling. Standing there now, I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, how much I have learned, how many new friendships I’ve made and how I’ve grown.
Albania started as a mystery and became a home. I’m part of a community. In some places, I’m even a “regular.” For example/per shembull, When I walk into the butcher’s shop, before I even get to the counter they ask, “chicken breasts? How many?/fileto pule? Sa?” I’ve become predictable/Une kam e bere te parashikueshme. My life is comfortable and routine, but to be clear, never mundane! After all, I still screw up the language! I recently told my boss that I “shaved” it instead of “saved” it. Well, that was fun.
But now, as I look ahead, here I am again, curious... and for the most part clueless. My service will end on May 24th. The uncertainty is back. When I look through my calendar (which is a paper, by the way) and I turn to June/Qershor… its completely blank. Crisp, fresh, white paper. Other than a few birthdays (Dannyboy, Dave and H.Lee) I don’t have anything concrete to fill in. And so I’ve coined a new word again. Liber-fying: the hybrid of liberating and terrifying. Liberating because the only obligations I have are to myself. I can carve my own path. Terrifying because it’s all new. I’m new. And I’m not sure how to navigate my way to the future I want.
Two years ago… I didn’t know how it would work out. But it did and I am better for it. In Albania I've learned the expression (that I’ve used here many times) “Avash, avash.” Which is literally slowly slowly, but boils down to “one step at a time.” And as liberfied as I feel in this moment, I know it will all work out again. Just like everything will be amazing for the Mish i fresket - Grupi 16! And just for fun, here’s a video created by MY group 14…our lessons learned. PC Albania Group 14's Lessons Learned. Click through, you'll like it! (unless you are a grumpy curmudgeon, then don't bother.)
Peace, Love and the Mystery of June.