Meeting My (First) Albanian Host Family

After orientation in Tirana, I travel to Librazhd and meet my Pre-Service Training host family for the first time! Long story short, it’s a day filled with ups and downs as the reality of Peace Corps hits me all at once and I experience an embarrassing mini-meltdown.

Saturday, March 11, 2017, 9:26pm

Whew. It’s been such a long day, and there are so many things to write about that I hardly know where to begin. May as well start from the beginning of the day.

By 8:30am, everyone had eaten breakfast, gathered for a picture, and packed into the bus for our departure to Elbasan. The ride itself was very stop and start along twisty, narrow roads, and we drove up into the mountains almost the entire time.

When we arrived at the hotel in Elbasan, we headed straight into language training. I’m afraid not much of it really sunk in – I was way too overwhelmed to categorically put new words into my short term memory bank. After the language class, everyone filed upstairs to a dining area to meet our host families and share our first meal together.

Continue reading “Meeting My (First) Albanian Host Family”

First Impressions of Albania

After a long plane ride, I arrive in Albania! The first two days in Tirana are a whirlwind of sights, sounds, and emotions. From orientation sessions to our first language classes, we are kept very busy! In a nutshell: I love the food, the language is really difficult, and I’m at information-overload!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 7:45pm

Whew. The worst is over (for now)! After two plane rides and lots of napping, I’m finally in Albania! It still feels like a dream – like I’m not really here at all.

Our Peace Corps crew got going in the late morning. We piled onto the buses, said goodbye to our facilitators, and then headed for the airport. Check in was organized chaos, and despite all of the confusion no one got left behind in Miami.

I mostly slept for the entire nine-hour flight, and when we arrived in Frankfurt we had a really difficult time trying to find the right gate. We got turned around and retraced our steps – all while maintaining a very brisk “Amazing Race” pace. It was kind of intense.

The final plane ride was only two hours. When we landed in Albania we went through immigration, and then there was another flurry of organized chaos as we all tried to find our checked bags and board the bus for Tirana. Our staging manager greeted each of us at the airport by name (first and last!), and he could recognize us all by our faces!

Getting off the plane, I think everyone was in a state of extreme exhaustion – though adrenaline kept some people awake and energized. As I looked out the airport windows at the beautiful, scenic mountains I felt a burst of excitement – but that pretty quickly faded as I boarded the bus and exhaustion took over again. Continue reading “First Impressions of Albania”

What to Expect During Staging

So now that you’ve gotten your invitation, been medically and legally cleared to serve, and packed all your bags – what’s next?

Staging.

Staging is an an event that serves as an orientation to the Peace Corps and the general demands of being a healthy, safe, and effective Volunteer. While only a brief one or two days, staging is filled with an intense amount of activities and training. Also staging takes place in the U.S., which allows all the volunteers from the same cohort to gather and fly to their country of service together.

Here are some general things that incoming Peace Corps volunteers should expect from their staging experience: Continue reading “What to Expect During Staging”

The Night Before Peace Corps

On the night before the beginning of my Peace Corps service, I reflect on my upcoming journey – my emotions, expectations, and hopes for the next two years.

Welcome to the first post in my Peace Corps Albania series! I’ll be sharing my experiences these next two years through select journal entries and topic-specific posts.

I promise do my best keep things as real as possible. From the good to the bad, it’s all a new adventure for me, and I’m grateful for every minute!

Friday, March 3, 2017, 11:54pm

Well, the time has finally come for me to say goodbye to my comfortable vacation in back home. I tried to keep things as normal as possible today, so apart from a flurry of packing in the afternoon I mostly just lazed around the house like usual.

I’ve been hit by moments of anxiety randomly through the day. When I first woke up and took a shower, my hands were shaking. I felt almost short of breath as I began to pack. And now as I’m trying to fall asleep I can’t get comfortable until I write down my pre-Albania thoughts. Continue reading “The Night Before Peace Corps”