On Thursday, we finally found out where our permanent sites will be. And my site is … well, I can’t tell you publicly. (pppeeewww … Imagine the sound of air rapidly leaving a balloon.)
It’s against Peace Corps policy for us to name our cities or villages on social media. (If you are a friend or family member, I can tell you via phone or email.)
Here’s the most surprising thing about my placement: My new village is Catholic, NOT Islamic. Catholic Albanians are in the minority in Kosovo. (But perhaps you’ve heard of Mother Theresa? 😛 She’s the world’s most famous Catholic Albanian.)
I had zero say in where I was placed. The Peace Corps staff claims the only factor for placement consideration was our resumes. (I don’t know what on my resume said, “Put her in a Catholic village!” Maybe the fact that I attended a Catholic university? But then, so did other people in my group.)
Anyway, I am getting WAY ahead of myself. Let me walk you through these last few days, because they have been emotionally exhausting. I am tired of having emotions. Could someone take them away from me, please?
Last Thursday morning, we were given the name of our permanent cites. Then we returned to the hotel where we first stayed upon our arrival in Kosovo. This is where we all met our “counterparts,” meaning, our professional points of contact for the next two years. Since I’ll be teaching English as a Second Language, I was paired with a teacher who teaches in the village where I’ll be living.
My counterpart is named Dardan. He is a 23-year-old man who’s been teaching for the last two years. He and I spent an hour chatting, and then we had lunch, and then we had coffee afterward. In total, we probably spent an hour and 45 minutes together. At the end of our meeting, Dardan said, “So, tell me more about your life.” (And I was thinking, “Uhhh … do you want to hear about the first time I ever kissed a boy? Because seriously, WE’VE COVERED ALL OF THE OTHER TOPICS.”) This is not a criticism of Dardan, who is lovely, but more a criticism of the awkward situation into which we were both thrown.
Friday was an all-day teacher training with our counterparts. Then on Saturday morning, I met Dardan at the hotel, and we departed for my new village via bus. After meeting Dardan’s family and the director of my school, Dardan drove me to my new host family’s home.
My new host family is similar in structure to my current host family: two parents with grown sons. The new fam has a son in Switzerland, and a son who attends university in Pristina. (He was there, and his English is fair. My new parents don’t speak much English.)
Their house is huge and very modern. When I joined the Peace Corps, I did not imagine I would be living in such a nice place. I thought I would have to adapt to bathing in a wooden tub in the middle of the yard or something.
My new home has a large room off the garage that functions as a second kitchen/informal dining space/pantry. It feels very familiar to me. It reminds me of the Christmas party we have with my (real) dad’s cousins in Michigan every year, which is usually held in someone’s basement. All weekend, whenever I would enter that room, comfort and homesickness would roll through me.
So, Saturday was overwhelming. I was homesick for my current village and host family. I was homesick for my real family. The idea of moving again and bonding with a new family seemed daunting.
But then I got a good night’s sleep (not really the norm for me). I woke up Sunday morning feeling better. As I washed my breakfast dishes, I began to think about the kindness and hospitality I’ve experienced since moving to Kosovo. My new host family agreed to let a stranger live with them for two years. I can’t imagine doing something like that. I feel undeserving of such generosity.
[Here’s something funny: I got to experience a new interpretation of my name. (My current host family calls me, “Ah-preel.”) When my new host mom shouted through the front door, “Preela! Preela!” it took me a while to realize she was calling me. :)]
I returned to my current village yesterday. I thought, “Home,” stepping off the bus. As I walked up the driveway, I saw my host parents sitting in the garden. Mace and the kitten were both at their feet. It was a nice picture to come home to. I will be sad to say goodbye to all of them next month.