This past week I met my new host family and the school I am going to be working at for the next two years. It was a very chaotic and overwhelming experience. I met everyone in the school and the satellite school (a school that is the same school, but just in a different town). I don’t think I can say anyone’s name from the school besides my director and my main counterpart. There were so many names. It would be one thing if these names I was familiar with. These names are in Albanian, Arabic, or Turkish. I may be in language class 5 times a week, but these names are completely foreign. I will need to practice their names a thousand times in order to get them accurately and confidently.
My host family: I have one host brother, one host sister, one host mother, and one host father…and apparently a grandmother who hops from one house to another. My host brother lives in Austria and I skyped him for several minutes, his english is absolutely amazing! I will see him come summertime. My host sister is 15 years old and treated me like a sister from the very beginning. I see movie watching, painting nails, and late night conversations in the future with her. She is eager to have a sister and I am eager to have a friend and sister. My host mother has a huge job. The house is massive and so her time is occupied in keeping up with the size. My host father is a construction owner and so wakes up early and is wearing outfits I am very familiar with in the manual labor professions in America.
My host family’s house is absolutely amazing. It is large and very elegant. They gave me quiet a large room and I am going to savor that space come winter!
The Albanian dialect in Tetovo is extremely different to the dialect spoken in Rromanli. I honestly did not know what my host family was asking me or telling me…most of the time. My Albanian teacher in PST–Edi–reassured me with time I will be back on my feet gliding in the language. I sure hope he is right because I felt downright stupid during the visit. My Albanian is very little at this point, but at least with my current host family I feel like I understand a little.
My school is extremely excited to have a volunteer. I went to every classroom and introduced myself in Albanian and English. I can’t wait to get started!
It felt weird to be without the volunteers for a couple of days and this is just the beginning. I will need to go months without seeing some of the close relationships I have developed over the past couple of months. Its amazing what great friendships I have made and it really does take me back to my wonderful time studying abroad in Ghana. My travel buddies in Ghana I still think of and I only wish they could join me now in my journey. 🙂
Athletics. Women in my new placement don’t exercise. There is no time for them to exercise. They have to cook and clean constantly. I want to change this perspective, but I have to do so in a way that is safe. There are violent dog packs in my area and men that see women running as flaunting what they have. It is going to be a daily battle, but I want to be able to take care of my health and sanity. During my placement interview they asked what I valued. My health and well-being will always be number one. If I am not well, then nobody around me will get the successful impacts. I will keep you updated on this fitness journey. As a collegiate athlete my health is important.
In preparing for the transition to my new host family I have been going on a couple of hikes to get a taste of nature before the winter weather engulfs my everyday activities. This past weekend I went on a hike in Lake Matka. It was absolutely paradise. I plan on going back as much as possible because the relaxation and peace I felt fill my body was priceless.
I only have three more weeks with my current host family. They have been everything and more. They treat me as one of their daughters/sisters and I truly will cry when I leave. I know I can lean on them for support and I know I am always welcome in their home. My host brother is hilarious. He is a ball of energy that can take on the world. My host sister is going to be a brilliant dentist soon. Sunday night her and I had a wonderful heart-to-heart. We watched The Secret Life of Bees, one of my favorite films, as we ate chocolate and I braided her hair. I teared up during the film and she did too. I truly love them. I would give anything to stay with them because I know them. I know what they like and I know how to act appropriately and they understand how much I know and how I learn successfully. Its wonderful to know I have a family here and that through the thick and thin I can turn to them and they will remark on how much I have learned when I visit–these mental boosters are so reassuring and needed throughout Peace Corps.
I am nervous and I a bit on edge about my two years. It is not going to be easy, but I never wanted it to be. I just don’t want to leave the family I have established and I honestly don’t wait to learn a third language.
I will learn and adapt. I will grow–and I have already.