As human beings we like to pretend we are in control. In control of what goes on in our lives. How no matter what we do, we will be able to overcome the obstacles. Especially in America, success is measured by how much control we have and how we handle the situations with lack of control.
Three weeks ago, I realized that this entire experience in the Peace Corps rests on the fact that I do not have control. I may think I do, but honestly do not. I have less control here than I did in the United States. My life rests in the hands of the people that surround me. Now, how I handle each situation, and if I go to each thing I am invited to, is within my control. Yet, there are so many variables I have no control over and I think it is good concept for me to swallow and process.
I spent two weeks in Skopje. I won’t go into details why. But when I cam back to my community last week I realized this was my chance to have a fresh start. I will be able to build and rebuild the friendships and relationships with full force effort. I decided when I got back to be the yes woman. One of my great friend’s friend advised me to try to be a yes woman because the people that were like that had the greatest enjoyment and success. So the past two weeks I have been trying to embrace every opportunity to say yes even if I am tired or am checked out.
Thus far, this approach has really helped me to reintegrate back into the community. The past two nights, my host father and host uncle have taken my host sister, my host cousins and I out for ice cream. Both times I was really exhausted and not feeling it, but saying yes was the wisest decision. Those small moments of laugher about language, travels, and silliness are what I am here for. I am starting to realize that my service is about the grass root relationships. Taking a break from my community has showed me everything I have done and what else I need/want to accomplish in the next two years.
I remember coming to Palchiste and wondering, what have I signed up for? Well, my host sister’s English has improved leaps and bounds. I could almost cry from happiness. She was already a very good English speaker when I first met her, but now she can confidently talk about a lot of other random topics. As her language skills have improved, mine has also improved. I feel like a 2 year old child at this point. Putting odd amounts of information together and repeating phrases that people have told me. Fluency is a different concept for me now. I am not going to be fluent in Albanian. Ever. But I will be able to communicate different ideas within the language.
This week I noticed something absolutely amazing about the Albanian education system. This is something that has been eating up and spit out by the American education system, honestly a detriment in the American culture. There are lots of male primary school teachers. Now, we are not just talking about the physical education teachers or the junior high teachers. There are two secondary grade male teachers, one fourth grade male teacher, and one kindergarten/first grade male teacher. This, this is an amazing concept. These male teachers take their job seriously. They also do not have worry about being alone in a classroom with female students. I feel like I am going back in time and I am enjoying the fact that they have a comfortable atmosphere. In the United States it is a very toxic environment of fear and worry related to male teachers–especially at the primary level. I don’t see the US going back on any of this, but I hope my school stay in this healthy environment with male teachers.
Last night was my school’s matura (aka graduation ceremony and prom) for my eight grade students headed to high school. I got to go and chaperone the dance. It was honestly one of the best school dances I have ever been to. I know I have only been with these eight grade students since December, but they were the students that welcomed me to Dervish Cara (the name of the school) with open arms. Their English was good enough that we could have deep conversations. They supported my English clubs and helped start the basketball teams. Their positivity and dedication inspired me. I almost cried last night because I did not want them to leave me. This school dance was interesting. It started at 2pm and finished at 10pm. It consisted of a dinner, oro/valle dancing (Albanian traditional dancing), and pop music dancing (Albanian and Ameircan) with a dj. As I ate dinner with all the first shift teachers (the junior high teachers), I realized that these will be my coworkers for the next two years. Then, I looked over that the three sections of tables filled with all the 8th grade students. These wonderful students will be leaving me for high school. I have built some great relationships with them. I am truly proud of them.Then as I stumbled with the valle for an hour with my students, I realized there is so much of their culture and their lives I will never be able to understand. Accepting that is half the battle. Two hours later, I became a “pro” at the valle. This means I wasn’t tripping over my feet or having to constantly look down at my feet hahaha.
Then, for the next three hours we jammed out to American and Albanian pop music. I showed my students my great dance moves. (Okay they are terrible…but I know how to have fun). I found myself in the middle of a circle one time where everyone sat down and cheered for me as I grooved. These three hours it was a connection like no other. I was able to dance with ALL my students. The ones that could’t speak English and the ones that did not stop talking in English. It was a wonderful experience. I wish I could have this experience with them before they graduated because I feel like it broke down a lot of barriers. Some of the younger teachers joined me in dancing. It was fun to see how they danced and their crazy moves. That entire night I felt apart of the school community and integrated as much as an American can be in this culture.
The night before the dance I was thinking about backing out because I was tired and wanted some alone time. This “yes woman” approach has really helped me develop as a volunteer and feel apart of my community in a very different way.
My cousin, sister, and me with makeup on.
Dancing outside of the Restaurant.
Dancing inside the venue
My counterpart and the 5th grade teacher.