I know I’ve been away for a while but I have a great reason: I was doing Pre-Service Training (PST) training. For some (Amazing, wonderful, and motivated people that they are!), that translated to writing post after post to share everything that was going on, for me I was FREAKING OUT. Basically all the time. And for some reason the very idea of writing a blog post seemed like I was asking myself to write the next great American novel. So I just didn’t write…as you can see by the giant gap in blog post publish dates.In PST I would be indescribably tired after 6 hours of language and culture training. I would get frustrated at little things and I’m sure I wasn’t my best self..certainly not the best student. And there was a lot of work. There were daily language homework assignments, sector work requirements and inexplicably extra work that was piled on top of that.
So I checked out hardcore. (and that’s okay).
And that’s totally fine. What you need to do to make PST survivable is your call. I’d stick to healthy outlets if you’re debating but i’d be lying if the few times I was offered Raki i wasn’t exceptionally grateful for the little bit of calm that it achieved….still it has to be the second worst alcohol I’ve ever endured (Potching you’ll always have a special place in my memory…as the most awful potable beverage I have had).
So what did I do? I ran most mornings for the first half of PST. Getting up at 06:30am did feel pretty early but the sun also came up at 4:40am, so it wasn’t actually THAT early. Not to mention that in my small town of Pajovë everything was pretty much closed to women at 8pm and I would generally go to bed at 9:30pm.
My favorite part of the morning run, aside from feeling warm for the first and only time in the day, was getting to meet up with the other training village who was about 20-30 minutes walk from Pajovë. However, if we both ran to each other we could meet in about 10-15 minutes. It was so nice to get to see the other volunteers! Getting to run into their sweaty arms like a cheesy romance flick is one of the best, most needed things in PST! Never, ever underestimate the value of an over the top but nonetheless authentic greeting. As my lovely friend Barb said on several occasions ‘any touch is a good touch’ at this point. let’s be real, everyone gets a little tired of each other in PST. It’s a fact, be prepared for it. I promise you that you will also find people in your town that become your rocks, your confidantes, and your Netflix binge buddies! My other favorite thing to do to combat the stress of PST.
45 Minutes of America at a Time
As for my love of binging on tv shows I was one of the lucky ones! I had internet in my host families house. I know, I know, ‘was I even really in the Peace Corps if I had wifi?,’ Well, just because I had a ‘wall’ in my upstairs that giveth wifi if you snuggled RIGHT.UP.TO.IT. Doesn’t mean that my wifi worked well for anything other than specific functions. Skype-Naw don’t even try, WhatsApp call-HAHAHAHAHA nope, Spotify-only if the device playing it was paying its respects to the great ol’ wall. For those of us who wanted real internet we had to go to a local, order a small token drink, and endlessly scroll through the internet we had missed so dearly. But this had obvious drawbacks: there was no way to truly sit back and binge-watch a series in our sweats and check out for 30-45 minutes at a time (unless like me you had a lokal right below you and you were living with the owners and, therefore, didn’t care because you could sit in the back and only my host fan could see you were wearing sweats).
My official advice: download all the movies and shows that you can because I promise you, you will want/NEED them! OR bring an empty external hard rive and hope your fellow volunteers have the same taste in movies as you do. Also, if you have a special human that you’re leaving behind, make sure they know what shows you love and are willing to send you the new seasons as soon as you have a shipping address.
You know all that stuff on pinterest about self care? Here in Albania you have the time to do what you need to make yourself feel okay at the end of the day. And trust me, there aren’t a million articles about self-care because people want to spoil themselves, they’re around because it’s necessary to live a healthy, happy life. The upside to everything dying down at 9 means that as long as you can stomach the food your host family gives you, afterwards you can go to your room and choose what would make you happiest. Sometimes for me it meant just passing out and going straight to bed, other times it meant I could put on some saved playlists and workout for a bit in my room. Other times I would use the data on my phone to call friends back home and feel like I was semi-connected to my former life. And still other times I’d just talk with my host family as much as I could with the limited shqip I had.
Also Chocolate. I used it as my drug of choice..and it was a pretty easy choice since you can randomly find a lot of your home country favorites like snickers, twix and m&m’s. My personal choice was the dark chocolate Bounty bars which are (for the many Americans who wouldn’t know) essentially a mounds bar but with cuter/palm tree island-y packaging…my favorite purchasable escape (well for now, because I can’t actually travel yet)! Health is always something you should prioritize but sometimes you just need a little sugary pick-me-up. Of course I balanced it with a banana, which really helped diminish the sugar crash and allow me to boost my mood! According to my PC Cousin (so named be cause our host families were related and we lived on the same street) this is a scientifically proven thing in nutrition, and she should know since she has a degree in it (I miss you being so close to me B, all those candy and coffee days were the best)!
One thing I wish I had done in PST was to use my agenda more. I have loved using it since I got to my permanent site and it has helped me so much with productivity! The one I have has a page for every week that allows you to set work/ fitness goals, decide what you need to buy, who you need to call/email, and set what the three most important things to do are this week. Then on the other side it’s more of a typical drop down of the week. And to be honest without the goals and To Do List’s I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now. My agenda also has a monthly goal/planning page and it’s the best! For those of you that are super into this description and want to get one for yourself my agenda is made by Pop Sugar for Target! they usually pop(hehe) up around the holidays and you can find them because they’re surrounded by pretty metallic poke-a-dots and as sense of aesthetic calm that only Target and pristine paper products can produce….Sometimes I mentally shop in target just to feel that feeling again…I wish I were kidding. #peaceCorpsProblems.
And lastly, I should have written. After the initial panic subsided and I realized I’d even saved myself some posts (Seriously past Jenn was really looking out for stressed, overwhelmed PST-Jenn) writing has been a wonderful outlet and I hope to never again go 3 months without writing down and documenting my experiences! And if I’m the only person this ever benefits that’s fine! If you’re reading this and getting something out of it as well that would make me smile to the point that my nose crinkles a little bit in one of those grateful, lovely smiles that doesn’t happen nearly enough in life. So if you read this post and are smiling along, by all means ‘like’ it or comment and spread those smiles around!
Have a great day…I should get up and start mine!