Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Comfort VS Integration

American Girl Problems

Integration. Integration is a funny thing. When representing yourself as an American PCV, how strongly do you hold onto your American ways of living VS adapting to a new way of life? How much of your personal comfort should be sacrificed to make host country nationals like you more?

Living with a host family forces me to face these problems every day.

American Girl Problems: 
1) The curtains in my room are see through and my window faces the school yard.
2) I have thought I was going to coffee with my sister only to find out I've been tricked into having a date with a potential husband-to-be. The family had already set me up for a 2nd date at the beach the next day.. I obviously didn't go.
3) When nobody is home, they send one of my student's to come babysit me because they feel I would be too scared to stay home alone
4) I am expected to do their laundry and clean their dishes
5) They serve me goat head on the reg, but also call me a vegetarian
6) My host brother is allowed to drink straight from the bottles in the fridge. He is also allowed to treat me terribly, and my family just laughs when he gives me the finger
7) People touch me all the time, and people constantly come into my room. No privacy here
8) I am not allowed to have any male guests over

So some of these things are easier to fix than others, but the point of my blog today is to discuss the issue that keeps reoccurring in my Peace Corps life which is: When it comes to integrating, when do I put my foot down?

Peace Corps constantly reminds us that we agreed to be flexible and adaptable. We need to hold true to these commitments unless they affect our safety. Does doing other people's laundry affect my safety? No. It just pisses me off. Does eating brain compromise my health? I suppose it could, but probably not. My issues are not exactly things that are dangerous, they are more things that affect my level of comfort and sanity.

Also, I did not come here to be Albanian. I am an American. I don't marry someone after just meeting them. I am not scared of being alone in the house for a couple of hours. I like personal space. I like having the company of plutonic male friends. And I definitely do not like doing other people's laundry. 

It would be easy to say "Eff this S" and give them a piece of my mind, but then I would not be doing a good job of integrating. There are always 2 sides to a story. They probably think they're being sweet by treating me like a family member. I guess they think I'm good enough to marry one of their men..which is flattering in a weird way. They are trying to make me feel more comfortable by constantly sending people to check out me. What they don't realize is that I don't work like them.

If only I could smooth talk my way into explaining all this to them, but oh yeah.. we don't speak the same language! And trust me, Google Translate does not make that smooth of a translation. I can see it now, I type in: "Please knock before you come into my room because I am American, and I am used to this act of privacy." would translate to "Knock when in my room, before I am American and I use privately" ...confusing and useless.

I am currently searching for my own apartment, but I don't know that one will be available. Milot is a very small city, and everyone thinks it is very strange that an unmarried girl like me would want to live alone.

Summer in Milot is weird because everyone leaves to the nearest beach towns. It kind of turns into a ghost town. There is no school, so I do not have regular work. It is really hot, and I spend most of my time indoors in my room. The good news is, Milot has mountains in the back of the city, and I often hike there to find hidden little treasures. I also have formed relationships with various families and shop owners, and am starting to feel a part of the community. The boys in the city all know me as "The running girl from America" because I was running every night in the school yard (often with my host dad and my students). I currently am not running or hiking because I tripped over a giant rock while running. I didn't see it because it was pretty late and dark out. I think it's just a sprain so hopefully some RICE will get me back out there in 2 weeks. 

Some things I am looking forward to:
-Launching my Youth Center project --I've started the ground work for the grant
-My ankle getting better so I can keep running with my students and make Miranda's Milot Running club a big thing--It's good for the community to get out of their houses, spend time together, and exercise! 
-4th of July! --so I can see my awesome volunteer friends
-Next week--the results of the election in Albania
-Camp in Shkoder!


  1. Hi Miranda,
    As an RPCV (Zambia 03-05) living in the Netherlands, I'll be visiting Albania soon together with my wife and two kids.

    I'd love to see and learn more about Albania from a PCV. Would you possibly be able to meet up?

    1. I would be able to meet up. I live pretty close to Tirana so it would be very easy for me. What dates are you thinking of coming?