So yesterday I was taking a walk with my site-mate in search of a reservoir, and I realized it was exactly one month ago that I got off a ridiculously hot, stuffy bus from he late seventies-with the interior to match I might add – into this strange, wonderful town. I remember a few snippets of what went on one month ago. I remember getting off the bus in such a haze that I left my blazer with my Peace Corps pin fixed to the lapel on the bus. I remember collecting my bags and being overwhelmed by the number of introductions I was encountering. I had travelled so much in the last few days, said goodbye to my amazingly wonderful host family, parted ways with my site-mates, as well as left behind the weekly or twice weekly meetings with all of my fellow volunteers in Elbasan. This felt like the absolute worst time to be meeting people. I know that I somehow made it up the steps with some of my luggage-most of which was carried in by my landlord, counterpart and site-mate (thanks again for that!) into my new apartment.
At this point in my transition to ÇorovodeI remember thinking ‘what in the world have I done?’ Almost no one in this town speaks english, I know no one, I’m living in a cement box, and I speak only the most basic shqip…obobo.
But then something wonderful happened. I messaged my site-mate about my blazer, almost in tears (because it’s much easier to rationalize in your head that crying over a lost blazer is normal as opposed to admitting to yourself that this huge life decision has led you to a bathroom that has a faucet and a hose that leads to a shower head…and an enternally wet floor because the drain is situated in one of the higher points of the bathroom floor). He calmly informed me that we could check the bus depot to see if my blazer had been found. I was certain it was gone, sure of it really, but I felt like a walk would do me good. And you know what? Those crazy, overwhelming, wonderful Albanians had found my blazer with the pin intact and had set it aside for me. The shop lady on the ground floor of my building ushered me into her shop and introduced me to all her family and brought over her english speaking son; who learned english by watching movies! Then the couple that owns the pizza place near my apartment were so sweet and lovely and smiled to me every day as I passed their shop. One of the lokal owners informed me that if I had any trouble at all I should let him know and he would take care of it. The kids at school gave me flowers and waved to me in the halls like a was a celebrity. The Teachers took me around the school and had me sit in on their classes. My site-mate let me come over and ignore him while I reveled in his internet connection (I’m a hardcore addict and I had no Idea how to set up my own internet). Later that week my site-mate had me over to make fried chicken! And before I knew what had happened this place had become my home and I felt like I had lived here forever. I knew about as many of my neighbors as I had known in the states, and it took years to build those friendships. That’s the magic of Albania, you come as a stranger, and in less than a month you are family.
I have been enchanted by this magical place and I can’t wait to see what this crazy place has up its sleeve for the summer.