One year ago yesterday, March 17, 2010, I arrived in Albania. I am in absolute awe that I have been here for a year now. I can still remember events and even small details that happened last April, like it was yesterday. I really feel like the time has flown by. But the fact of the matter is I have lived in Albania for 1 year and have loved ALMOST every minute of it. At first living in Albania was work, now it just feels like home.
My Peace Corps journey has been absolutely nothing like what I had expected. Prior to my departure from the USA I thought about how hard, simple, long, and tiring it was going to be to live in a foreign country for the next 27 months. Is this what my life here in Albania has turned out to be? Absolutely not. Sure, it took a while for me to become comfortable enough with the language to relax and just 'have fun' when conversing with other Albanians, I have had to creatively come up with activities to occupy myself for the first few months in my site (it was summer = no school), and I constantly felt guilty about the lack of change I was accomplishing, but the reality of Peace Corps is completely different. At first everything is hard and a to-do, shall we say, but once you get into the swing of things everything starts to fit into place.
I finally feel like my life is 'normal' again. Actually, life has felt 'normal' for quite some time now. The things that once completely baffled me are now part of my everyday life and they no longer stick out when reflecting back on my day. I now love it when the old men in town say hello just so they can correct me on the mistakes I make when speaking to them, I know it means they care and want me to improve my Shqip. I no longer expect to teach 10th grade without the students acting like animals, and I know that trying to accomplish what I would on a 'normal' day in the US will take more like a week or maybe two in Albania. Nesër, it's always nesër (tomorrow). I am fully aware that these things will happen on a day-to-day basis, but to be completely honest, none of it really bothers me anymore. I no longer see or acknowledge the oddities as I once did. As one of my friends has described it, "I have fallen in step with the Albanian way of life." This lifestyle has become my new 'normal'.
What has been helpful when trying to understand why things the way they are here, in Albania, has been to just not ask why? When asking this question the answer always seems to be: "because it's Albania". Yes, this may sound close-minded or a complete joke (which it has become), but to be truthful it is wicked hard to come up with logical or sensible reasons for why things are the way they are. They just are.
Living here is difficult and there have definitely been lots of ups and downs throughout this first year of service. When Peace Corps says that "It's the hardest job you will ever have" they are 100% right. But life and my Peace Corps service now seems just a little easier because my life is back to 'normal'.