I am now a Peace Corps Volunteer. It’s a title that’s really interesting to use and that we’ve all been working toward for the last 11 weeks. The distinction was made very clear throughout Pre-Service Training (PST), that we were Trainees until we took the oath even though we were considered volunteers, for volunteering our time to travel halfway across the world to serve in another country. I understand the distinction now more than ever and I’ll continue to understand it in different ways the further I progress in my service.
I don’t really know how to explain yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony other than it was very emotional, more emotional than I’d prepared myself for. The ceremony itself was very straightforward, very nice. A lot of people gave very moving speeches about their hopes for Peace Corps in the coming years including the Ambassador to Kosovo, Tracey Jacobson and Kosovo’s President, Atifete Jahjaga. We had the honor of being sworn in by the Peace Corps Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet and of being the first group she swore in as the new director (a lot of first in Kosovo). One of my favorite parts was when two of our very own gave amazing, very well practiced speeches in Albanian.
The hardest part came during the informal reception when I had to say good-bye to my PST host family. Kosovo’s a small country so it’s guaranteed that I will see them again, but even if that is the case, the dynamics won’t be the same. I don’t live there anymore and even though I was always kind of a visitor, I’ll be a visitor for real whenever I go back. Internalizing that was the hard part and the part that made the tears flow. It was amazingly ironic having my host sister wipe away my tears telling me not to cry in Albanian as tears fell from her eyes. I could tell my host brother and sister were happy for me. I was happy for myself and I wanted to express that happiest, but it was a hard thing to do knowing that I wasn’t returning to the comfort of the home I’d known for the past two months. Instead I’d be traveling to my permanent site in the Peja municipality to begin my Peace Corps service not even an hour after swearing in (well maybe an hour, I was too emotional to keep up with the time).
That’s where I am now, in the Peja region meeting my new host family members (I have a big family here in Peja), getting a feel for my site, and trying to mentality prepare myself for the toughest job I’ll ever love (Peace Corps should seriously consider bringing that slogan back). It’ll take awhile to get used to my new environment, but I’m up for the challenge. I’m also comforted by the fact that even though I’m the only volunteer in the Peja area, there are 24 other awesome volunteers walking this Peace Corps journey together with me in Kosovo. We came in as 25 and we swore in as 25, which is so reassuring. I’m positive that great things are going to happen in the next two years and I’m so proud to be a part of Kosovo 1.