Volunteer Job Shadow: Take Two

In mid-February, I welcomed two new volunteers to Permet for their volunteer job shadow! Just like I visited Berat when I was in training, the new volunteers had a chance to come see Permet, including Ali Postivan and Benje, the bashkia, and my apartment!

Sunday, February 18, 2018, 8:32pm

Happy first day of volunteer visits! My Sunday has been completely busy from shopping in the treg to trips to Ali Postivan and Benje and finally a large dinner with my host family! I’m sure the trainees must be exhausted!

Meeting the New Volunteers

Barbara and I rode the 9:00am bus over to Kelcyre to meet the new trainees, and the road was rough and wild from the get-go. But we made it to the city in good time, and before long I was greeting my friend Brianne and heading over to the local Sunday market (or treg).

With five new faces, it was a rush of activity!

By the time we’d finished shopping, the new volunteers had already arrived! We met them at a cafe and made our introductions. With five new faces, it was a rush of activity, but we quickly settled down to enjoy our coffee. After we’d taken some time to relax, we migrated over to the pizza restaurant for a quick lunch.

Everyone chatted together and became more familiar with each other over our meal, and it was fun to answer the new volunteers’ questions while also learning more about them and their background!

Once we felt somewhat full and ready to explore, Tim hired a furgon to take us to Ali Postivan, the bektashi temple at the top of the mountain (which I’ve written about in greater detail in previous posts). We piled into the van and off we went on the bumpy, twisty road up the mountain. It was a big undertaking, but Tim seemed to know what he was doing.

Exploring Ali Postivan and Benje

The view from Ali Postivan

When we arrived at Ali Postivan, the air was crystal clear, the sky was a tad bit overcast, and the view was even more spectacular than the last time I’d seen it. The mountains were capped with snow, and they looked imposing and beautiful against the lush green valleys and grey sky.

Once again, seeing my new home through someone else’s eyes made me appreciate it more.

All of the new volunteers ooh-ed and aah-ed over the gorgeous scenery, and once again seeing my new home through someone else’s eyes made me appreciate it more. We explored the buildings for awhile and took some photos before making our way back down the mountain and over to Benje!

Our trip to Benje was brief, but it was a long enough visit to get a good sense of the unique and lovely scenery. There were a few people swimming in the pool, despite the chilly weather, and while I wanted to join them as well, it was probably for the best that I just walked around the thermal waters rather than jumping in. We crossed the bridge, felt the warm temperature of the water, explored the caves, and then packed up and went back home in the van.

Posing at the top of the mountain

Dinner with My Host Family

Finally back in my apartment, we ate some snacks and relaxed in my chilly living room, just chatting about our lives, PST, and Peace Corps. When we’d rested for awhile, we went back out into town and walked around a bit before getting drinks at Funky Bar. Later we grabbed more groceries and came back home. Then we went upstairs for dinner!

My host brother and sister were excited to talk to new Americans, and they had lots to share about their experiences working with Peace Corps volunteers and the activities they’d participated in. It was great to see them animated and engaged, and I hope the volunteers found their stories helpful.

My host mom served a huge dinner, and I enjoyed the delicious food, happy and content.

My host mom served a huge dinner with potatoes, chicken, soup, Russian and mixed salad, and cornbread. Yum. I enjoyed the delicious food, the warm living room, and the comfortable atmosphere, happy and content.

Now we’re finally back downstairs for the night. I’m exhausted, the volunteers are exhausted, and I’m more than ready for bed. Overall, I really like Jhena and Ellen, the volunteers who are shadowing me, and I’m excited to show them around Permet and give them a glimpse into my life.

Seeing the new trainees makes me realize just how far I’ve come. I truly have changed and grown over these past ten months, and I’m not the same person I was when I first arrived in Permet.

Monday, February 19, 2018, 9:45pm

Lovely spring blossoms at Ali Postivan

Whew. It’s been another long day of volunteer job shadows, but I’m really pretty pleased with the way the day’s turned out. Ellen and Jhena have both been such troupers today, despite all of our meetings and changed plans.

Work, work, work, work, work

Our first stop of the day was the bashkia. My coworkers had both already made it to the office, so I got situated at my desk, pulled over two chairs for the new volunteers, and then helped my counterpart translate a very brief introduction to the bashkia.

Ellen and Jhena have both been such troupers today, despite all of our meetings and changed plans.

With our intro to my work out of the way (Jhena asked what I did at my desk all day, and I said honestly, “Some days, not much”), we went over to have a coffee at Deja Vu, where we met up with some of my friends. Finally, we went into the cultural center where I had a brief but productive meeting for an upcoming activity, and then we visited CESVI, the local non-profit.

One of the staff members gave the new volunteers an introduction to the organization – all in Albanian, so I had to really work to pay attention and translate into English. It was actually pretty gratifying to know that I could understand and communicate in a totally different language, even if it meant I had to really focus.

Later I met with CESVI’s program manager to discuss a grant, and after we’d finally finished brainstorming, I looked over at the new volunteers and saw that their eyes were glazed over. At that point it was almost 12:00pm, and I felt really sorry that I’d dragged them from meeting to meeting all morning. Still, they did get a good sense of what I do everyday (granted, on one of my busiest days), so I don’t think it was a total wash.

The full group of volunteers and trainees

On our way back, I asked them, “What surprised you the most about the day?”

Jhena said, “Nothing much, but I guess if I had to say something, it would be that the bashkia doesn’t really have a lot of work for you.”

Which is true and false. There are times when I’m busier than I’d like and other times when I wish I had more work. But I think that’s the case in every host agency, not just Bashkia Permet.

Lunch, City Sight Seeing, and Cinnamon Rolls

Finally out of all of our appointments, we went out for lunch at TrifiliaThe rest of the volunteers arrived from Permet and Kelcyre, and all together we were a lively group of nine. We all ordered a variety of traditional and delicious Albanian foods. 

Once we’d wrapped up our meal, it was lightly sprinkling, so rather than take a walk around the city, we went back to CESVI and had another meeting with the program manager about a different project. It probably wasn’t super interesting for the new volunteers, but it was a necessary meeting for us current volunteers.

Whenever I get visitors, I’m always reminded how lucky I am to live here.

Once the Kelcyre group was on the road back home, the rest of the Permet volunteers took a walk around town to the hanging bridge then over to the top of the City Stone. It was nice to show the new volunteers the gorgeous panoramic views, and seeing Permet through their eyes made me appreciate the city once again. Whenever I get visitors, I’m always reminded how lucky I am to live here.

Finally done with sightseeing for the day, we headed back home. I started prepping spinach for tomorrow’s lunch, got a batch of cinnamon rolls in the oven, and then heated up tortellini soup for dinner while the volunteers worked on their Albanian homework.

It was relaxing to throw myself into cooking, and I enjoyed the company. The meal was delicious, and the cinnamon rolls turned out amazingly. It was really nice to finally take a break from exploring the city and to just chill for a bit at home.

The delicious cinnamon rolls – made from scratch!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 9:11pm

And just like that, the volunteer job shadow has just about wrapped up for the year. I’ll be sorry to see the new volunteers leave tomorrow. It’s been fun to shake up my routine a bit, but I also have a ton of work to do and truly not a moment to spare until March has wrapped up.

Coffee and Manicures

Still, this morning was relaxed and chill. Ellen, Jhena and I decided to take things slow today. Because the other volunteers and I had really dictated the schedule for the past two days in a row, today I let the new volunteers choose what they wanted to do. So we woke up late, had a slow breakfast, and then I went on a run while they rested in the apartment. When I got back, we went out for coffee at the Book House cafe.

We had a very slow and leisurely coffee, which the volunteers said was just what they needed.

I ordered green tea, which I sipped happily as I chatted with the girls and people-watched from our table near the windows overlooking the bashkia and the city square. We had a very slow and leisurely coffee, which the volunteers said was just what they needed.

Afterwords, we decided to ask my friend about a nail salon since Jhena was interested in a manicure. She led us over to the hair/nail salon near Barbara’s apartment, and I chatted with the salon owner while Jhena got her nails done. Because the manicures were taking awhile, I left early to pay my bills and get lunch started. While I cooked the lentils and spinach, Ellen and Jhena finished up avash avash (slowly), and they arrived just as the food was coming off the stove – perfect timing!

The gorgeous view of Ali Postivan

After our lunch, we all relaxed and took naps, entertained ourselves on our phones, or read books. Since none of the other Permet volunteers wanted to leave their houses, the girls and I had a very cheesy dinner at home. I served mac and cheese and grilled cheese along with the rest of our cinnamon rolls and some fruit. It was delicious and comforting!

We left the warm kitchen around 7:00pm for our last outing of the volunteer visit. I’d talked up the hot chocolate at Hotel Alvero so much that the least I could do was take them to give it a try. So we all walked into the city center and as we enjoyed our drinks, the girls asked me their assigned questions for their COD/language homework. Finally, we ended the night with a trip to the supermarket. Now we’re back at home, and I’m ready to crawl into bed.

Overall Reflections

It’s been really, really fun to have the volunteers here! Ellen and Jhena are both lovely, and it was so nice to get to know them both!

I was definitely able to reflect on how far I’ve come and appreciate all the hard work that it took to get here.

I wish I’d done a better job at being more open about some of the difficulties volunteers face, but my positivity keeps me from being as negative as maybe some new volunteers would like. Still, I don’t think I sugarcoated anything. I just tried to express that every experience would be different.

I hope that the volunteers got something from the trip – even if it was only a good night’s sleep or a small taste of freedom. From my end, I definitely was able to reflect on how far I’ve come and appreciate all the hard work and dedication that it took to get here. It’s always refreshing to see Permet, my work, and my language skills from a fresh perspective, and I know that I need to keep trying my best every day if I want to continue to improve.



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