June 1, 2014

This blog has more or less become a rough guide to my Peace Corps experience. My transition from the States to Albania and back again. When I left for the Peace Corps, I was consumed by what I should bring with me, what I would be doing as a Volunteer, where I would live and what my community would be like and now the most important things to me are the memories and trinkets stuffed in the small bag I returned with. I arrived in Albania as an American meeting others, after a while I became a Volunteer meeting a community, and a human meeting other humans – united with the people I served. I set out to accomplish the three goals of the Peace Corps: to help the people of interested communities meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of peoples served on the part of Americans. After a few months in Lezhë I gave up measuring my successes with results and instead learned to serve my community in whatever way I could, in whatever way they needed me. And in doing so, I changed the lives of others and myself. Lezhëjans are my family now, and I’m changed for the better because of them. I’ve left what had become my home; my routines, behaviors, and life are based off of experiences in Albania. I’ve been back for three days, and I’m about to embark on a new adventure; my transition back to a life of anonymity, out of the spotlight of being the only foreigner in town.

For a part of the world I knew nothing about, Albania and the Balkans have now become my home. This experience will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I am grateful.

May 14, 2014

27 months.

May 11, 2014

Home Sweet Lezhe. This morning I got up, said goodbye to the cat and Onyx and headed out the commune to meet some friends at the office for coffee before my departure. I passed by gjysha, who ‘babysits’ the neighborhood kids when parents are off to work, who says miremengjes as always and asks how life is going. I say hello to several people on my way to work, like the dyqan owner and the smiley lady that makes the good byrek. Just outside the office is an old man, the husband of someone that works in the policlinic, that for the first year of my service would always ask me to lunch and on more than one occasion has pulled me aside to tell me he has the utmost respect for me. He’s my number one fan.

After coffee with the ladies I headed back home, past the kids too young to go to school that play in the pomegranate trees. I sat on my roof talking with my neighbor, enjoying some lunch, and then got back to packing, organizing, reading. Life here is an inherently singular experience, but it would not be the same if I didn’t have those members of my community; my extended Albanian family who look out for me, who offer me invitation to coffee and lunch and dinner, and who always ask about my life, family and friends in America.

May 10, 2014

Krujë, Albania. 2014.

May 8, 2014
Junot Diaz in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

"…and the general ruination of so many of the buildings as if Santo Domingo was the place that crippled concrete shells came to die…but also it seemed in many places like a whole new country was appearing atop the ruins of the old one.

Junot Diaz in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

"…and the general ruination of so many of the buildings as if Santo Domingo was the place that crippled concrete shells came to die…but also it seemed in many places like a whole new country was appearing atop the ruins of the old one.

May 5, 2014

Both of the PCVs living closest to me left last week, marking the first round of Volunteers that have ended their service and have moved back to the States. Time is such a funny thing; at one point I never thought it would speed up and now here I am wishing it would slow down. Taking from past experiences in packing, I’ve been spending my days at home slowly and methodically sifting through all the items I have used and acquired over the past two years, and running my mind around my next adventures to come after Albania.

May 3, 2014

To celebrate my last month in Albania I headed down the southwest coast to see some places I had never been and to say goodbye to some dear friends. My first stop was Himarë, a lovely small beach town that speaks mostly Greek and English. Then I stopped in Delvinë, just outside of Sarandë surrounded by mountains and wonderful views of the coast. All in all the trip was a success, minus some bouts of rain. I met some wonderful students, an old gjysha that held my hand and pointed me in the right direction, and a Franciscan nun that gave me wise words about change to remember during my transition back to the States.

May 2, 2014

Apollonia. Fier, Albania. 2014.

April 21, 2014

April, 2014. Hiking in Narte just north of Zvernec island.

April 21, 2014

The Lezha Commune. Typically for Peace Corps housing in Albania, you get a communist-era pallati situated in the center of town, but I did not. I’m the only Volunteer with this kind of set-up and it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. I live in a big commune right next to a semi-functioning garden with chickens, plenty of cats, and my trusted guard dog Onyx. There are several things about this house that I will miss, simply because they provided me with a unique living experience for two years. I’ve never been as unbearably hot as I have in the summers here, thanks to the black tar that covers my roof, and I’ve never been so cold as I have in the winters here, thanks to my windows that blow open with the wind and cement walls. I can be in every room at once except for my bathroom, which is outside through a covered walkway. The clear plastic walkway helps with the rain, but not much else. Because my door does not fully reach the ground I get the garden critters, which I’ve come to handle with stride. Then there’s the electricity. I shower next to a bunch of wires taped to the wall; I’ve convinced myself it’s okay since the light bulb in my bathroom doesn’t actually work (thank heavens for Headlamp). Because my non-electrician landlord did all the electrical, my house has quirks, like my overhead light that flickers every time my fridge turns on, and my stove that likes to shock me. Now that I’m getting closer to going back to the States, I think more and more about the things I took for granted: dryers and insulation, clean running water and stable electricity among other things. But all the Lezha Commune quirks I’ve learned to deal with, and it’s the place I call my home.

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