First Impressions

“And I think it’s going to be a long, long time
til touchdown brings me round again to find.” — Elton John, Rocket Man

Hello from … Kosovo! We touched down today around noon local time. My first thought when I saw Pristina (the capital) from the plane was, “Home!” I’ve been thinking about Kosovo for over a year now, and now I am finally HERE!

First impressions: It’s beautiful. Here’s what I saw when I walked out of the airport:

view-of-kosovo-from-pristina-airport

The second thing I noticed is that the houses are spaced … differently. In the States, you know how suburban house are close together, while houses in rural areas are spread out? Here, the houses aren’t close or spread out … They seem randomly spaced. Also, the houses are HUGE. Many of them are three stories high. As we were driving to our hotel, we’d round a corner and come upon a cluster of houses, along with a few little shops (auto repair, beauty salons, gas stations, etc.). And then there would be a long stretch of nothing.

My architecture vocabulary isn’t great, but if I had to describe the houses, I would call them Spanish style? I saw roofs that reminded me of those found in southern California, stacked orange tiles that look like cylinders cut in half.

My life for the last day and a half has looked like this: check-in at Dulles airport, a flight to Vienna, a brief layover, an hour flight to Pristina, a bus ride to the hotel, hauling luggage up four flights of stairs, a quick meeting, a nap, dinner, a walk, and now an updated blog.

Peace Corps staff were at the airport in Pristina to greet us. It had been strongly suggested that we change out of our “travel clothes” and into something more presentable during our layover. (Years ago, I saw a picture of Mariah Carey stepping out of an airplane wearing a bikini, a full-length fur coat, and stilettos. While I think this would’ve been an awesome getting-of-the-plane outfit [especially if I wore an American flag bikini] I opted for a more┬áconservative look.) I swapped my t-shirt and hiking pants for a blouse, dress pants, and a string of pearls. I bought the pearls on a graduate school trip to Beijing and almost didn’t pack them due to their sentimental value. But, pearls are a fast and easy way to class up any outfit.

Tomorrow starts a full day of training. Until then, I’m signing off to catch some zzzz.

[Side note: Yes, mom, they do have chocolate in Kosovo!]

Hello, Goodbye from Washington, D.C.

I made it to D.C. last night! I arrived 3 hours late, waited 30 minutes for the free airport shuttle (now that I’m in the Peace Corps, I have to be frugal), wolfed down an overpriced and under-satisfying meal at the hotel restaurant (so much for frugality), and managed to swim at the hotel pool for 20 minutes before it closed.

Did I mention I also wrangled 118.5 lbs of luggage by myself? I didn’t even use a cart! I just bungee-corded my carry-on suitcase on top of one of the larger ones, and dragged everything behind me. It was a Herculean feat.

My parents drove me to the airport yesterday. My dad drove around the airport in circles while my mom helped me haul my luggage to the United counter. When we hugged goodbye, I said, “Thanks for not crying.” She said, “Of course. I’m excited for you.”

I don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine how it feels to put one on a plane, knowing you won’t see her for a long time. But my parents have been nothing but supportive. After my mom and I parted ways, I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder at her. Mommy. ­čśŽ

Now I’m off to the airport again, to officially register for the Peace Corps and get back on a plane. The next time I post, it’ll be from Kosovo.

IMG_2663