A really awesome and talented volunteer, Brenna, made this video for National Peace Corps Week (true to form, I never got around to posting about it, but it was last week). Peace Corps asked for short film submissions that answered the questions, "What would you like Americans to know about your host country?" Brenna did an amazing job:
As of today, I've been in Albania for 366 days. One year and one day. This is crazy. CRAZY, I SAY. And the new group (mire se erdhe, grupi 17!) arrived yesterday...which means we're no longer the freshmen. We're supposed to know things. I'm amazed that it still catches me by surprise, the realization that those ahead of us rarely know any more than we do, but are simply more accustomed to the fact. As a freshman in high school, I was terrified of the big seniors; as a senior, I felt just as clueless as I had at 14. The same thing happened in college, and I'm sure history will repeat itself when I return to school after Peace Corps.
The point is, I've learned a ton in the past year and I've enjoyed this
overwhelming challenging amazing adventure - but the biggest lesson so far is to accept the unknown and be at peace with the now. I'm sure you can find all sorts of decorative Etsy shit with the phrase, "If you're depressed, you're living in the past; if you're anxious, you're living in the future; but if you're living in the present, you're at peace." On one hand, it's total bull (hello, Depression, my constant companion and travel buddy!) but on the other, it's absolutely true. Peace Corps; Albania; my work; all have literally forced me to live in the present. And as much as I've hated it and bucked it and fought it and complained about it, I am grateful for the lesson.
My eyes are
literally figuratively bleeding from the sappy cute-ness of this.
A small selection of other things I have learned about myself in this past year:
1. I hate living alone. Hate it. Abhor it. Despise it. It seriously sucks. After living with ten girls for three years in college, this all-by-myself (don't wanna be, all by my seeeelllllllllllf) is no fun. I know that learning to be alone is an invaluable life lesson, and that someday I will be kicking myself for not appreciating this time alone more, but still. It sucks. I'm a people person. I like to cook for others, eat with others, read on the couch in silence, sing duets, laugh at the Daily Show, do the dishes, and fight about politics with others. Everything seems duller when I can't share it with someone I love. (cue the waaaaaambulance)
2. My brain can only process one foreign language at once. Hasta la pafshim espanjisht.
3. I'm literally certifiable. I never stop singing/humming/whistling/muttering song lyrics like an idiot. I'm constantly talking to myself and inserting lines from movies and books and songs and expecting appreciation...before I remember that I live alone.
4. I can look in a mirror and be okay with what I see. All girls and women deal with image issues, and although I've always been surrounded by loving and encouraging friends and family, hearing the old ladies always calling me "nice" and "put together" (literally, "regulated" - but it means dressed nicely, composed, etc.) is pretty great! Although when I last spoke with my host family, crazy neighbor lady Suzi told me, "Oh, you're so much prettier now that you've gotten fat!" o_____o
5. I'm a legitimate dairy snob.When I first tried dhalle (salty watery plain yogurt) I legit dry heaved. So I make Megan try out new dairy products before I do. Thanks Meg!
6. I cannot stand when people try to claim me as "theirs". At a church I attended for a while, some ladies literally started calling me "theirs" - and not in the sweet & funny way Lena does, "Oh, and here's my American!" but aggressively - and making huge deals out of kissing me and greeting me in public. And after a few months of grinding my teeth and biting my tongue, I just started avoiding the place. Similar with my host family (whom I now love and understand better): the first full day with them they wouldn't let me go anywhere. I was theirs and they needed to protect me by keeping me away from everyone (sweet but misguided). And yes, there is a bit of a paradox with the whole I-hate-to-be-alone thing, but really...some people just tick me off when they make over-familiar gestures, extreme even for Albanians.
7. Away from my sweet-toothed family, my love of sugar reveals itself to be a sugar obsession. Which really isn't something new, but when there are no other Quandts to compare me to, I seem like the craziest one of the bunch. (I grew up in a household where my father hid chocolate all over the place, and on one memorable summer day as a child, the ice dispenser spat out tootsie rolls instead of ice.) I mean, my nick name here is literally Meri Meri top sheqeri...Mary Mary the sugar cube/fat face.
8. I'm a horrible blogger and communicator. Whoops. Sorry!
9. But sometimes ignoring life at home makes missing it all a little less harsh.
10. And lastly, I'm still ocd enough that this list has to have ten points.
With Emily in Tirana...which is the next (real) post I promise!