Today is the day. I am supposed to write this amazing blog post about the last two years of my life; the last two years I spent in Albania with an organization called Peace Corps. Today is the day; the day I reach deep down into the depths of my soul and bare it to you, the audience. Today is the day.
Then why do I find myself speechless? At a loss for words? At a time like this…shouldn’t I have all of the words? Or at least most of them? Today is the day…
I am on a minibus from Librazhd (the city where I stayed with a host family for about three months). Librazhd is also the city where I learned the Albanian language. It is the city where I trained to be a teacher. It is the city where I learned to make the traditional Albanian pie byrek. It is where I looked in the mirror and saw the first glimpse of the woman I was becoming, the woman that I am today. I love this woman.
1. This is a reflective writing because I am less than a month away from leaving this country and moving on with my life. I want to cry. I want to bawl. To sob. But one thing I’ve learned from this experience is that my tears are welcome. When I was younger, I was called a cry-baby and sensitive and I hated being called those things. They made me cry even more because I wanted to be strong and not cry anymore. But I still cried. As I got older, my tears fell less. I came to Albania at age 21 and it seemed that my tears were at a standstill at that time. My tear ducts were stopped up. But when I did finally cry, the tears never seemed to stop flowing. I’m okay with that now. A good cry for me is relief. I wouldn’t be the same without my tears.
And I say it again for emphasis: people. These people have changed me. For better. For worse. I’m different. But that is what I longed for. I lived in a bubble before and I wanted to reach out. I wanted to reach out so that God could reach in and change me from the inside out. And He did. He has. I’m different. I don’t think I’ve understood grace more than I do now. I have learned not only to receive grace, but to extend it.
For more see:
Albanian Adventures, Gruaja fut shejtanin me shishe (A woman puts the demon in the bottle) , My Albanian Summer [Camps and more Camps], Gëzuar Thanksgiving!, It’s the little things, God sets the lonely in families
I love food. I was with a group of friends the other day and we were each sharing one of the most meaningful things about our Peace Corps experiences. I actually shared three. My little spiel was about how I had grown because of the people I’d met and how my cooking skills jumped to the next level. I am not one for boasting in my own abilities. I just love to cook and it delights me to know that living in a foreign country forced me to expand on my cooking skills. I also enjoyed being able to try different foods from not only Albanian culture, but foods derived from the cultural backgrounds of fellow volunteers and friends. I look forward to this being a reality even in the next chapter of my life.
Favorite post in Albania about food: Byrek or Bust
Throughout my Peace Corps experience I had the opportunity to visit some amazing places and see some amazing things, but I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves:
This final photo has the most meaning. One can travel far and wide, but it means nothing if you don’t have a home. I guess you can say that I have many homes. One of those homes is and always will be Albania. The photo above was taken on top of a mountain overlooking the Berati region of Albania.
And because of all the reasons above, memories were made; the tears, the people, the food, and the travel made it more than worth it. There were a few times that I wanted to walk away from it all and call it quits, but I am glad that I did not do that. In fact, I’m sure given the opportunity, I’d do it all over again. I am a different person because of this experience. Perhaps I can even say that I am a better person because of it, but only time will prove that. Before I came to Albania, I read a quote talking about the Israelites crossing the Jordan, the means of entering the land that God promised them, and how we as Christians will most likely in this life, be forced to cross our own “Jordans”. Now that I think of it, some of our Jordans will probably be this life itself before we make it to a beautiful place called paradise to dwell with the lover of our souls. But in a lot of ways, I feel like Albania was my Jordan. For the first time I was forced to live alone. I did not know anyone I came to Albania with, nor did I know anyone that lived in Albania. I went from dwelling in a thriving and loving community to living in what could have easily been considered a strange place for me. But I made it. I made it through my Jordan and it feels mighty good. And now I wait. I wait for the next adventure. I wait for the next thing that will expand my mind and open my heart. So until then… I guess the next chapter in my story begins with, “To be continued…”
Until next time Shqipëria…