In the last two weeks of Pre-Service Training, I hit a slump in my service but continue working hard until the very end. I try not to dwell on the “last‘s” and enjoy my time with my Peace Corps friends and Librazhd host family!
Monday, May 1, 2017, 9:50pm
11 DAYS TO SWEARING IN
We’re finally able to count down the days to Swearing In.
- Only four more language classes.
- Only four more lunches in Librazhd.
- Only one more weekend.
- Only two more projects (hopefully).
- Only six more Hub days.
- Only eleven more days.
The morning passed slowly. But I perked up as class ended because we took a field trip to the treg (market). The rest of Albania had the day free (May 1st is an Albanian holiday), so the treg was filled with people and vendors selling everything from produce to machetes and athletic wear. It was a lot of fun to browse through the stalls, try on sunglasses, and look at the pretty jewelry.
I’m definitely going to miss my host family and I want to spend as much time with them as possible.
I came home around 5:30pm, and I had the house all to myself since the family had gone into the village for the holiday. I’m definitely going to miss my host family and I want to spend as much time with them as possible before I leave.
But at the same time I know that I’m probably going to be pretty swamped once I get to my permanent site (or at least it’ll be weird if I lock myself away like a hermit in the very first week), so I’m trying to enjoy my little bits of alone time as much as possible. Continue reading Countdown to Swearing In
As an Asian in Albania, I’ve had to learn how to deal with unwanted attention. I share three stories of truly overwhelming days, but for the most part I’ve learned to accept the extra stares as a part of everyday life here in my new home.
One of the things that’s been most difficult for me to adjust to in Albania has been the extra attention that comes with being a racial minority in a very homogeneous society.
I took my ability to blend in for granted when I was in China, and now I’m experiencing a brand new culture from the perspective of an obvious fish out of water.
In my time here in Albania, I feel like I’ve been through it all:
- People randomly saying hello to me in Chinese or Japanese
- People whispering “China” or “Kineze” (which means Chinese) behind my back or saying it directly to my face to try and get my attention
- People saying “ching chong” as I walk by (which has only happened once)
- People asking me about my origins or where I’m really from (even after I tell them I’m American)
- People pulling back their eyes to make them more slanted when describing something about Asia or China
- People telling me that my eyes are beautiful
- People reacting positively to my background because China and Albania used to be friends
- People asking if I will be in their picture or trying to sneakily include me in their selfies
- Groups of children following me around
- Extra stares on the street
- Extra catcalling
Still I’m able to shrug off the majority of unwanted attention because I know that the comments and staring because I know that this unwanted attention doesn’t come from a place of malice.
From 1946 to 1992, Albania was ruled by the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. The country was largely closed off from the outside world, and “travel and visa restrictions made Albania one of the most difficult countries to visit or to travel from.1”
After 50 years of isolation, foreigners still receive a great deal of attention.
As a result of these almost 50 years of isolation, foreigners still receive a great deal of attention, especially in rural areas of the country. Albania is a relatively homogeneous society, and minorities make up only 2 percent of the total population.2
So when I travel around the country, people are understandably curious about me and where I came from. My experience in Albania is actually really similar to my Caucasian friends’ experiences in China. I’m instantly recognized as a foreigner, treated with curiosity and (more often than not) respect, and assumed to be a tourist. Continue reading An Asian in Albania
In one of our last weekends before the end of Pre-Service Training, volunteers and trainees old and new came together for the annual Librazhd Tree Hike. It was a great way to get in my steps for the day and a good opportunity to get to know everyone a little better!
Sunday, April 30, 2017, 8:53pm
Whew. What a day. I woke up early, excited for the Tree Hike, and sat on the balcony with my host grandmother and our neighbors. We drank coffee, ate biscuits, and as we watched the people go by in the qender, it started to rain. Not a great sign for an outdoor activity.
As I left the house, it started to rain. Not a great sign for an outdoor activity.
Still I packed my backpack (and included a poncho), and met the Librazhd crew outside at the lokal (coffee shop). We chatted for awhile and the other volunteers and trainees slowly began to arrive around 9:00am. It was so exciting to see everyone in Librazhd, but it was also kind of like having your family at college – two different world colliding.
We got on the road around 9:30am, and we didn’t really stop or take any major breaks until we made it to the infamous tree. Despite the morning rain, we didn’t have even the lightest of sprinkles during our entire hike. It was truly the perfect weather – overcast and cool with a slight breeze. Continue reading The Annual Librazhd Tree Hike
Language learning isn’t easy, but all my hard work throughout PST was definitely worth it! I describe my tips for learning a new language and also share stories of some up and down moments from training.
Learning a new language from scratch isn’t easy, but with the support of great teachers, encouraging friends, and a patient host family, nothing is impossible.
Throughout Pre-Service Training (PST), I really dedicated myself to learning Albanian. I spent hours pouring over flashcards, speaking with my host family, and studying grammar. And by the end of PST my spoken Albanian was evaluated at an Intermediate High level.
I think my success is due to a combination of:
- Having the language learning infrastructure in place (I know how I learn languages best after struggling with Chinese for so many years)
- Having a good memory
- And just practicing a lot
Also here in Albania, I’m very obviously a foreigner and no one expects me to know the local language.
When I was in China, I felt really self-conscious about making even the tiniest of mistakes with my Chinese because everyone took for granted that I’d speak their language.
But every Albanian that I meet is always pleasantly surprised when I can say even the most basic of greetings in Albanian. I get much more of a pass when I make mistakes in Albanian than I did when I studied abroad in Shanghai, and overall I’m able to speak the language with less fear! Continue reading 3 Essential Tips for New Language Learners
We finish our practicum experience with a community event in which we teach students how to play Ultimate Frisbee! I’m not the best player, but I do love taking photos and got some good action shots! We all had fun being outside and active!
Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 9:46pm
What a day. We had language in the morning, which crawled by at a very slow pace, and then we finally had our Sports Day in the early afternoon.
Here in Albania, the most popular sport by far is football (or as we call it in the United States, soccer). Football arrived in Albania at the beginning of the 20th century, and since then it’s taken then country by storm. Albania has a number of professional teams, and most cities and towns have their own amateur leagues.1
As an alternative to football, we wanted to introduce a new sport to the students that both girls and boys could enjoy.
Football is a pretty male-dominated sport. Men young and old gather around the television set to watch the competitive matches and teams of students play in formal and informal leagues. While other sports are co-ed (like volleyball and basketball), only boys can be seen running around the football field.
So as an alternative to football, we wanted to introduce a new sport to the students that both girls and boys could enjoy. We chose Ultimate Frisbee because it was easy to learn and because it was distinctly American, which is how we found ourselves with a few handfuls of frisbees on a beautiful April afternoon. Continue reading COD Practicum Part 2: Ultimate Frisbee