On this day last year I began my Peace Corps journey as a, then Peace Corps Trainee (PCT), by heading off to Washington, D.C. to participate in a process called Staging (kind of like a pre-orientation, orientation). Now, I’m sitting here in site in a beautiful country I’d never even heard of before Peace Corps, two days away from celebrating my one-year anniversary in country. Wow…just wow. I’m totally being nostalgic here, but I’ve experienced so many things this past year, that I don’t even know how to begin to put them into words.
I have about a week and a half left of school. After that, I’m flying home for two weeks on vacation to see some family, hug some necks (as my grandma would say), and half chill/half go crazy trying to do everything. It is vacation after all. Even now with a little less than two weeks left, I’m ready to go back and then I’m not ready. Though my reasons for going back are clear (to see family, cause most of my family members seem to be allergic to travel), I’m not exactly sure how I feel about stepping back onto American soil and the possible reverse cultural shock and all that goes with it.
What I do seem to be sure of, surprisingly, is my dedication to the Peace Corps, the people of Kosovo, and my hopes and aspirations for my service in the coming year. I remember talking to my mom about this in iMessage, telling her that even though I’m happy to be coming home to visit, my work here in Kosovo is still not over and I’d feel thoroughly discontented with myself if this were to be me coming home for good. And that’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished anything here yet. Change and development are slow and steady processes and being the first group in country is mostly about connecting with people and relationship building, as opposed to coming in thinking we’re going to save the world right out of the gate.
What I went on to explain to my mom is that, while I had an idea of it before, I completely understand now why Peace Corps is a two year committee instead of just one. This last year was all about learning and growing and making mistakes. I did a lot of things right, but I did a lot of things wrong too and I’ve learned from those mistakes. I’ve sat in a classroom for a year now, saw how my students learned, what motivated them and what bored them to tears, what was least useful, and what had them begging my co-teacher and I to stay a little longer even though the bell had rung five minutes ago. I know those things now and it’s not to stay that this coming year won’t be trial and error all over again, but what I will have on my side is familiarity, knowing my students, knowing my school, knowing my colleagues and co-teacher. I’m excited for my next year in service and really hopeful about the prospects. I’m ready to see my family and to stuff myself full with all the foods I’ve missed over the year, but it’s also really amazing how well I can see past those two weeks in America, to the tasks at hand I’ll have waiting for me when I get back to Kosovo.
Life can be real simple here. It can also be challenging beyond belief, but the simple things are sometimes the most beautiful things about life. Just yesterday I was looking through my Notes app on my iPhone trying to find where I’d written the names of all the peoples I’ve been, when stumble over this gem below (which inspired the title of this post). I wrote this list back in October, when I was still relatively fresh in my Peace Corps service. It’s amazing to read back over it now and realize how many of these things remain true and how it was ultimately living in Kosovo that made me consider, with intentionality, all the little things in life that make me happy. The list is by no means exhaustive and I don’t have favorites within it, but the last one really did make me smile.
The Many Loves of My Life
Soul-binding relationships (platonic and otherwise)
Silver handmade jewelry
My name necklace
Sharing what I’ve cooked
Being praised for my cooking
The pursuit of minimalism and simplicity
The English Language
The study of the English Language
American Chinese food
American Japanese food
Being a Peace Corps Volunteer
“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is the change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~ Mary Ritter Beard