January 10, 2014 by theloneblonde
I really wanted to write a nice article about both the holiday season and the people who support me here in Albania, but I guess time got the best of me. So it will be more of a here’s to a New Year in the Peace Corps kinda thing.
This past year has been one of the most interesting that I have spent in my 24 years of life. I had the opportunity to visit 11 countries, start an entirely new life, get a “real” job, learn a new language, climb a few mountains, etc. Sounds like a bucket-list all crammed into one year. It was great, it was an adventure, and I am still an awful blogger and run out of time to type out my stories. If only this year brings 25 hours in the day, I would be much more productive.
Though overall I could have never done these things without the support that I receive everyday as a volunteer (I am only really referring to my new life here in Albania). Feeling supported as a volunteer is one of the best feelings of satisfaction; it is what in the end you are working to achieve. Being supported as a volunteer can bring you just as much satisfaction as bigger ideals. It’s a sign of integration into the community and a sign that people are working with you and down the road you can support them to change the face of Albania.
So this post goes out to all the people who support me here. Be it the staff in the capitol, my neighbors, my amazing aunts and cousins who send me care packages to support my ever lasting need for bacon, and most of all my parents who always supported the idea of me joining the peace corps in the first place. This is a very welcome thank you in so many ways I am grateful, because without support I very well would not be writing this.
There are two antidotes in particular:
My site mate and I have recently found solace in a local café, home to a great wood burning stove to keep us warm in the coldest days of winter. The owner is a local man who understands what it is like to be a foreigner in his own home. Bedriu (pictured below) is one of the most amazing souls who make me incredibly proud to call Corovode my home.
During the time of communism Corovode was hit hard. We are isolated, far down the main roads and rural. It was a trap but it was home for Bedriu. Though from our conversations detailing the days before he tells me that even though communism was in place throughout his childhood he knew there was a better life out there. Whispers would get you killed but that did not stop him and his family from locking there doors and night and discussing them what they had heard. Right at the fall of communism he took off, endangering his entire family, to try to make a better life. He walked to Greece, and was jailed for his escape. Though he persevered, and he knew he had reached freedom when he bought his first coke-a-cola. He knew it was a sign of the west and described that democracy tasted incredibly sweet.
Years later he made Italy his home, and worked various jobs to be able to earn a considerable amount of savings. After some time he decided to return home to spend time with his parents and return to his birthplace of Çorovodë. Though he was born here, the city had changed, the government was free, and the people were different. But now he owns several properties and a few local cafes in both Çorovodë and the capitol city.
Today he works long hours to support the members of the community with many of their endeavors. He will sit with me for long hours listening to my crappy Albanian and sharing a glass of raki conversing of topics ranging from books to travels. Learning Albanian really is one part raki, one part confidence, and one part willingness of everyone else to listen. He teaches us how to make the perfect pasta, and cook like a real Italian. But most of all he thanks us for the service to his country, which is something that not everyone understands. His support is invaluable to my service, just that thank you for being here and thank you for making Albania a better place will ever ring in my ears as a success. Not to mention he makes the best cup of coffee on this side of the Osumi River.
The other story is one that I don’t know much about honestly, but it seriously came at the best moment.
There are some days when you think you are invincible in Peace Corps and everything goes right, then there are some days where everything goes horribly wrong. It was one of those days where everything went horribly wrong. I was trying to get out of town before heading out to Turkey for vacation (more on this soon). All of a sudden I had a million and one things to do, and I had to sit on a bus for 6 hours and my headphones had just broken. Then I realized I had been sitting in puke for 3 hours and it had soaked through my jeans, then I got to my destination and no one was there. But then I got a text from another volunteer (Jill) that someone who was a Peace Corps supporter had sent a package with a bunch of awesome things from the USA. Your random act of kindness could not have been conveyed to me at a better moment in time. If you find this to be a little random, Jill wrote a nice blog about it here: http://jilljustine13.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/random-acts-of-kindness/
For all the supporters of Peace Corps this is for you. Thank you for all you do and all that you have shared and given to the program. I can only hope that one day (real job and life pending) that I will be able to pay it forward and encourage Peace Corps Volunteers because it is a life changing experience that requires support and encouragement. It really may be the toughest job you’ll ever love.