Money

“The best things in life are free
But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees
Now give me money (that’s what I want)” — The Beatles, Money (That’s What I Want)

So … money in the Peace Corps. There isn’t any. The end.

No, just kidding. Oh, not about the no-money part. That’s true. I just meant I have a little more to say about it …

I mentioned I am in PST (pre-service training) for the Peace Corps. Here’s how the money situation works right now. The Peace Corps gives me:

  1. Rent money, which they give directly to me, and which I give to my host family. This is to cover the cost of my expenses (feeding me three times per day, water and electricity I use, etc.).
  2. Transportation money (I take a taxi to training every day, 1 Euro each way)
  3. And … 2 Euro per day as “walking around money,” which I receive as a monthly lump sum.

I know! 2 Euro per day doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let’s break down the cost of some common things I buy:

  1. Macchiato — 50 cents
  2. Chocolate croissant — 40 cents
  3. Piece of pizza — 40 cents
  4. Chicken sandwich from our favorite chicken sandwich place — $1.50 Euro
  5. Postage to the United States (per item) — about $2.50, depending on what it is
  6. Package of gum — 40 cents
  7. Pack of travel tissue — 9 cents (Seriously, when was the last time you bought anything for 9 cents? Never?)

Here is a receipt from lunch at a nice restaurant. The total cost was 7 Euro for 3 people. We all had a bottle of water. Charlie and I each got a hamburger and fries, while Sierra got a margarita pizza. (This sounds like the beginning of a textbook math problem, but I promise, no math is involved.)

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For those of you who are all like, “I can’t visit you in Kosovo. It’s so expensive!” My response is: “Yes, it’s expensive to get over here, but once you’re here, you can live like a king!”

Think about it.

First Full Day

The windows in our hotel are similar to those in the dorm room I stayed in while I was in Beijing. So my first thought upon awakening was, “I’m in China,” followed by, “No, I’m in Kosovo.”

(I realize I misspelled Mariah Carey’s name in my last post. I was deliriously tired when I wrote that). I went to sleep around 9:00 p.m. At 2:30, my roommate and I awakened by the call to prayer. I had trouble getting to sleep after that, maybe because I was jet lagged, or maybe because I tend to be a bad sleeper in general. When my alarm rang at 8:00 a.m., I struggled to get out of bed.

We had a full day of training today. It was held onsite, in the hotel conference room. I got to meet my Albanian language coach, with whom I’ll be working for the coming three months.

Ramadan has just begun. People throughout Kosovo will be fasting on different days throughout the month. They don’t consume food or water when the sun is up, which means dinner is after 8:00 p.m. and breakfast can be as early as 2:30 a.m. Peace Corps volunteers are not expected to fast. We were also told it is not rude to eat in front of someone who is fasting, nor is it rude to ask our host families for something to eat.

Below is the view from my hotel window. I took a video of our hotel room to post, but the Internet connection here has been reeeeallly slow today. I’ll upload it later if I’m able.

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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. 😦

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.

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