Albania, my home. These past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit throughout Albania, mainly on the weekends, and this country has never felt more like home.
Although my language is less than spectacular (I’m in a post-schooling lull), I know enough to get by and feel included in the culture. Finally. I even helped a tourist find out where, when and how much a bus was from Tirana to Saranda. It’s a good feeling to know that my Shqip is good enough to help people out. I have friends in my office; over coffee or break-time we exchange musings of life in Lezhë and they teach me knew Shqip words as I correct them on their English basics. Laughter follows. I have connections at the markets around town, finally know where to get the best kos, and have people to say my miremengjes’s to.
One of the worst feelings is getting on the furgon five minutes too early before takeoff. Granted I get a better seat, without the movement of the mini-bus I’m without air, and I swear I could not be sweating more. The gjyshi sitting next to me smells as if he’s slaughtered a pig and hasn’t showered in a year. I put my ear-buds in, shove my nose into the clean-smelling backpack on my lap, and dream of winter. The perfect playlist to start you off on a long, stifling hot furgon ride:
And let us together put some hope into the world, into our countries, into our smallest local towns, so that another young child out there somewhere — whether in Gjirokaser, Albania, or even in Mississippi — can see it, recognize it, and, for the first time, know what it is like to feel it.
Summer is upon us. As I sit here at 8pm in my 35°C apartment, watching my new friend, the gecko, crawl slowly towards the colony of daddy long-legs above my desk, I contemplate my next move. Should I go outside draped in my PeaceCorps issued mosquito net and risk their attack? Should I cook dinner and risk melting onto the floor? Nope. My best option will be to continue this afternoon’s event – sitting on my cooler tile floor reading.
I walk up my hill panting heavily as the Lezhën heat sticks to me, open the gate to my commune as Onyx greets me with his new kitten friends (a couple weeks old maybe?), climb some stairs and sneak past my landlord/third mother Gjyli (it may sound terrible, but if you knew how much she likes to talk you’d be on my side), enter my studio-shtepi and crash. Here ends my first official week as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
So much transition has occurred in this week, I hardly know how to process it. I have made the move to Lezhë, have slowly and methodically unpacked all my possessions, and have started my work in the Departamenti i Shëndetit Publik (D.Sh.P.).
The coffee culture is alive and well here in Lezhë, which means a very caffeinated and underproductive Emily. “Avash, avash” – The most important term for me to repeat these days. “Slowly, slowy” things happen in Albania. For now, I go into work for a couple hours, sit like a helpless puppy as Flora and Mirela chat about their families and maybe discuss for a brief moment something related to health promotion. I spend the rest of my time walking around Lezha, meeting people who invite me to coffee like Nickolla, the local farmacist. I buy groceries, attempt to cook, and long for mama Xheni’s food. I clean my house, talk to Onyx like a mad woman as I watch the sun set over the Adriatic, and plan for the next day, the next month, the next year.