Saturday, June 29, 2013

Counting the Small Successes

Counting the Small Successes 

For a TEFL (English teacher) volunteer, the 1st couple months at site are not necessarily about the successes you have in the work place. Because it is Summer, and we are out of school, the 1st months are really dedicated to settling into your community. Today's blog is a reflection on how I've been doing settling in, and it really focuses on what I've done well..because this is my blog and that is what I want to talk about :) You may find some of the things I consider "a success" to be funny, but I guess it's all a matter of perspective. When you are far away from home in a developing country, surrounded by people who don't speak your native language, you really have to find different ways to look at yourself and what you are doing. Let go of a grading scale or resume, or even what tangible things you accomplish day by day and step into my little PC Albania world.

Keeping in contact with friends and family - definitely a success. It keeps me sane, and helps me establish a routine

Working out every day - Maintaining my health, keeping me sane, and also part of my routine (routine, routine, routine--can you tell I was a gymnast?)

Pushing myself to start speaking and listening to shqip when more than 1 Albanian person is present -- SO difficult, but I am hanging in there. Go me!

Forming better and more personal relationships with my family -- Flavio finally speaks to me and respects me more, my host mom really adores me, my dad respects me, and my sisters and I have finally found some common ground.

I have curtains for my bedroom! No more school students watching me do Yoga in my underwear! :)

I go hiking almost daily to get fresh water from the mountains.

Started showing people gymnastics videos so they could learn more about the life I came from

My host fam described me to Peace Corps as being extremely low maintenance, polite, and kind..their biggest worry for me moving out was my safety and if I would still come to my sister's wedding in September

Working with Peace Corps, my host fam, and the community to get another apartment! -- I believe I am almost there. I am going to look at one today, and my fingers are crossed.

Walking around my community, and having a lot of people say "hi"to me and call me by my name! -- So exciting. The community knows and likes me.

Yesterday my 19 year old sister was crying because some wedding plans went wrong. I was able to say to her in shqip "Wedding planning is crazy in every country. I understand" and she and the rest of the family all started smiling and laughing 

Now that I've patted myself on the back for minor things that make me feel awesome, I think I should share with you loyal readers, that I have been somewhat of a complaining bitch throughout this month. While I like to sit behind this blog, presenting myself as optimistic and stoic, I really have been just a stressed out, whiny girl, constantly searching for ways to get out of this situation. You should've seen me the day my host fam used up all my conditioner and hid my razor <-- PISSED. Or the time they tried to set me up on a date<--Ultra mega pissed. I complained to just about everyone I knew..other volunteers, PC Staff, friends and family back home, my counterpart etc. Everyone was really supportive, so thanks for that (Another success! hah). It helped me. It helped me to see that people care about me, and that things get better.  There were days where I stayed in my room for the entire day and pouted, and there were days when I went to neighbors houses and got coffee with new friends. I have formed relationships with various shop owners and cousins (everyone in Milot is a cousin of a cousin--I am not quite sure how they find people to marry here). I guess what I am saying is that I have had ups and downs, as everyone does in life. My time here just feels magnified. 

The cool thing is that I am doing it. I am here. I am present in Albania as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am surrounded by a culture that is not of my own, and I am slowly but surely sharing my life with a new community. 

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