Guest Blogger: Valeriana Dema

Hi, everyone! My friend Val graciously agreed to write today’s guest post, where she shares her unique experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. –April

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April and Val at Novo Brdo

Thank you April for asking me to write a post which helped me reflect on my time in Kosovo. I’m very happy to contribute in a small way to April’s wonderful blog 🙂

The other day my host sister said to me in Albanian, “You are the border” — “Ti je kufi.” She was talking about the split in generations in my Albanian-American family, and how I was in between the two generations. For example, most of my older family members speak Albanian fluently, while many in the younger generation are losing the language. My language skills place me somewhere in between those two generations, and like a lot of children of immigrants, I’ve always felt in between two cultures, but not fully accepted by either. However, in many ways volunteering with Peace Corps Kosovo has helped alleviate that feeling for me.

The past couple months of having a group of Americans experiencing all the joys and maladies of Albanian culture along with me has been a wonderful experience. Being in between cultures can be alienating, so it felt very acknowledging that a bunch of my new friends, who had been immersed in Kosovar culture and living with Albanian host families, understood how both the warm love as well as the tight grip of a close-knit Albanian family feels. It also was really meaningful for me to make connections with Kosovar natives and hear their perspectives on issues and their stories and struggles. As an American, who in many ways has a comfortable life, I’ve had a hard time even imagining what my parents’ and my grandparents’ lives were like. So spending time in Kosovo and with Kosovars helps bridge that gap, helping me understand and making me feel closer to my own family.

Yet being an American volunteer in Kosovo also strengthens the feeling of being at the border. I’m in very close proximity to two different cultures, but I’ll never really know what’s it’s like to have grown up in this part of the world, and I’ll always have different experiences than an American whose family has been there for generations. Part of my experience in the Peace Corps has been accepting that I’ll probably always feel a little bit in between. In the Balkans, borders are constantly being disputed, controlled by foreign powers, cut, and renamed. Being at the border makes me vulnerable and self-conscious, always trying to define myself and defend attacks from both sides. But I’ve also realized the border is a blessing because I have a unique view of both sides.

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