I’ve been in Kosovo for three weeks now, so it’s about time I’ve written something about my experiences here. The problem is that so much has happened these last three weeks that if I were to give you a minute by minute post of everything, I’d have a novel length post. To generalize things a bit my opinions on Kosovo haven’t really changed all that much since writing my “Kosovo First Impressions” post. If anything they’ve gotten better. I still think that Kosovo is an absolutely beautiful country. Just when I think that I’ve finally gotten use to all of the natural beauty around me, I take a walk down an unfamiliar road or a hike up a hillside, and I’m blown away all over again by the beauty that’s before me. There’s probably a part of me that will never get over the fact that I walk out the door to the sight of rolling hills every morning .
The view from my house in Kosovo.
People are so amazingly pleasant as well in Kosovo. My host family is amazing and they’re so patient with me as I completely destroy the Albanian language or struggle with explanations of cultural concepts. They’re quick to tell me that my Albanian is improving when I get a particular word or sentence structure right and are very delighted when I take interest in learning about their culture, like how to make Turkish coffee for example. I pretty much have that down so if I ever have guess in my house in the next two years I’ll probably offer them Turkish coffee or Turkish tea. I haven’t learned how to make Turkish tea yet, but I’m eager to learn. I’m very careful to watch my host mom and sister as they work in the kitchen. I’m really determined to learn how to make different Kosovar dishes, because I think it’s some of the best food I’ve had so far. It’s definitely not as easy as it looks though. Sometimes my host mom will start cooking at around 4:00 and the food won’t be ready until around 5:30 or 6:00 when we all sit down to eat. Other times they can have a meal prepared within the blink of an eye, which is nothing but skill to me.
My host sister and I the day we were introduced to our host families.
Strangers are very pleasant as well and that has a lot to do with Kosovar and American relations, which is a entirely new topic of its own. The general consensus seems to be that people want us here, that they’re happy that we all like and are taking an interest in their country. I’m asked all the time how I like Kosovo and when I say that I like it here and that Kosovo is beautiful people’s moods seem to lighten. It’s like a point of pride for them to have a foreigner praise Kosovo, which is totally understandable. And the Kosovar people should definitely be proud of what they have here. No country is without its ability to improve, but at the point I’m in right now, I feel like there’s a lot more that I’m learning than I’m imparting on the community. That’s really what PST is all about though, integrating, language learning and technical preparation so that we can be effective volunteers once we swear in and enter service. I’m really looking forward to it, my two year service as well as my next eight weeks of PST. I want Kosovo to become my home, but I also want to think of each day I’m here as an adventure.
The view as we’re riding from Prishtina to Gjilan
I think it’s important to reflect over the moments just after you’ve experienced something novel, especially so that you can look back over it sometime down the line to see how your opinions and perspectives have changed. I came into Kosovo having no expectations of what to expect – it was kind of hard trying to form any opinion – because we’d be the first volunteers to ever work in Kosovo. Not even 24 hours in country and I’ve already managed to discover so much beauty and hospitality in Kosovo. From the VIP welcome we received at the airport to the warm offer from Kosovo Albanians to pull up a chair and have a drink with them in celebration of the elections that just took place today, I’m just blown away over and over again.
The food is great, the scenery amazing, and the people just as nice as they can be. I’m really eager to see what the next 27 months is like living here. Even as I write this post there are still tons of people celebrating on the streets. Everything that happens in this country is history in the making and I have the great pleasure to be right in the middle of it all. It may not seem possible, but I’m already attached to this place. I can’t wait to start learning Albanian so that I can interact with people in a way that I know will show them that I respect their culture and that I’m as happy to be here as they are to have us. When US Ambassador to Kosovo came to meet us at the airport she put it best when she said we were the luckiest Peace Corps Volunteers in the entire world, because Kosovo is an amazing place with very nice people. Even after less than a day I think she was absolutely right!
The people who will be having each others’ backs for the next 27 months. I’m so happy to be serving with such like-minded people. It makes me feel a whole lot better that we are all in this together.
Today was my last day with family and friends and surprisingly I’m not as freaked out about leaving as I have been these past few weeks. I think it’s a mixture of having support from my family and the actual date being so close. There’s no more time to be nervous or freaked out. At this moment I just have to be ready and I think I can say that I am. I’ve done the whole leaving and coming back before, so at this point it doesn’t seem like “Good-bye forever”, but just a really long “See you later”. Two years will fly by in no time and at that point I’ll probably be sitting here writing about how Kosovo has become my home and how, even though I’m happy to be going back home, it’s really hard to say good-bye to the family and friends I’ve made in Kosovo. At least, I hope it turns out that way.
Bittersweet moments are a part of life and just because I’m calm and collected now, doesn’t when I won’t become a big ball of tears when my family finally sees me off at the airport tomorrow morning. I’ll be in Washington, D.C. for a day before flying out together with the other volunteers chosen for Kosovo. I think it helps a lot that we’ll have a chance to meet each other here in the States before heading out. We’re the first wave of Peace Corps Volunteers to head into Kosovo and while the notion is exciting, none of us know what to expect, because no one has ever gone before us. Joining the Peace Corps is already a scary endeavor without having to add novelty to the equation, but to be honest, I think that’s why I was so drawn to this particular program. Either way this will be my life for the next two years and I hope to share as much as possible of it with you. Look for new pages that will answer questions like why I chose Peace Corps, acronyms the Peace Corps uses, what I packed and what I should have packed, and specific situations that are unique to my particular story. Also if you’re in the Peace Corps, thinking about joined, an RPCV who’s finished their service, or you just like traveling, then I’d love to hear your story as well.