Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I am Finally a Peace Corps Volunteer!!

The last two weeks of PST went by so fast. Once we returned from our site visits we facilitated community projects, had our language exams, attended exit interviews, and had to learn about the administrative side of being an official Peace Corps Volunteer. These past two weeks went by in a flash!

The community project that my PST site group and I worked on was a talent show at the local high school. Students are not exposed to any of the fine arts during their time in elementary or secondary school. We figured that a talent show would be a great way for students to be exposed to and show off their talents in other mediums other than the classroom or a sports field. Luckily, most of the students wanted to participate and were excited about the event.

Our project turned out to be a great success! There was a student interested in being the M.C. and all the performances were really wonderful. After all the acts had gone we put on some Albanian music and all circle danced in the school yard. Students, P.C. Volunteers, and even teachers participated in the circle dancing. The whole event was lots of fun and the students seemed to have a blast, which was one of the main goals. What was also great about our projects was that even other community members were interested and gathered around the school yard to watch the performances and the big circle dance at the end. I don't think this project could have gone any better.

Another hoop that P.C. Trainees have to jump through before becoming full fledged volunteers is the language exam. After 10 intensive weeks of learning and studying Shqip, we were tested on how much we actually learned. I thought my language exam went horribly wrong. Apparently I did very well because I was told that I was at the intermediate level. I am just amazed that I have been able to learn, understand, and comprehend such a difficult language in such a short period of time. I know you all remember taking a language in middle and upper school and some maybe in college. I have studied Spanish for a large portion of my life and I am better at Shqip after 10 weeks than I have ever been at Spanish. How is this even possible?

Once we had completed and passed all the requirements of Peace Corps Albania, we were ready to be sworn-in. This ceremony took place in Elbasan last Thursday, May 27th. Ambassador Withers, the PC Country Director, the Mayor of Elbasan, and 2 of my fellow group members all spoke. It was nice, but not too long and there was a short reception afterward. This day was definitely bittersweet because it was super exciting to be sworn-in and be one step closer to starting work in our sites, but we were all being scattered across the entire country of Albania.

During the first 10 weeks of PST my group became very close, which I'm sure happens with most groups. At first, we all started out not knowing anyone, the language of our host country, and our host country's culture. We all were placed with host families and began to learn the language. Going through these experiences together made everyone in the group closer to each other. Because we were all living through these difficulties together we understood and could sympathize with what people were feeling and why.

It has been a little hard moving to my new site, not knowing anyone, and without a site mate. I am confident, however, that I will be able to successfully integrate into my new community. I know that I have the support of my PC group and if I was able to live with a host family who half the time I was unable to communicate with and endure freezing cold showers for several weeks, I will be able to make it on my own in a new town. I mean how could I not be happy living on the Ionian Sea were the water is bright blue and the beaches are clean and white?!

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