I have not visited my host family in Pajove since the end of Pre-Service Training, so a visit back to my little host-village was long overdue. I decided to pair the trip up with our Group 16 Language Refresher conference because the conference was taking place in Elbasan and Pajove was along the way. I left my site Tuesday afternoon to have dinner with the family and spend the night. I made it Pajove in a little over an hour. The village is actually relatively close to my site. Once arriving in Pajove, I was ushered into the kitchen and offered chocolate candy and coke. So much for eating healthy. Albanians are always extremely hospitable offering guests something to eat/drink when arriving in the home. After the initial candy and coke, I presented the family with some gifts that I had for them. I got some pictures printed out from our times together during training and they seemed to really appreciate those. It was nice to give them something to remind them of all the fun times we had together. I also gave the neighbor children next-door some gifts. A hat for Arman and some princess posters for Siderela. My host-brothers fiancé, Lela (my second sister really), received some fun earrings from America that she really enjoyed as well. It was nice to finally give them something back! For dinner we had the usual Albanian meal – a plate with homemade bread, cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, some soup, and pilaf. It was amazing. I didn’t really appreciate my host-families cooking enough when I was living with them, but it is so simple and delicious (definitely a lot better than some of the random things I try to cook for myself). Of course, after dinner however, I felt about 5 pounds heavier because of all the salt, oil, and butter that is hidden in EVERYTHING. We also danced around the kitchen – I showed them the dance routine I have been working on in my dance class. And we even practiced some ways to work out in the home for better health.
The visit was everything I could have asked for and more. I was able to communicate with my family in only Shqip and we didn’t even need to use the dictionary once! They kept complimenting me on how much my Shqip has improved and how skinny I look. It was very nice! It made me realize how much my language really has improved the last six months, even though sometimes it feels like I can barely speak a word. And of course I am bound to be a little bit skinnier now that I am not eating mounds of bread everyday. 😉
The next morning I met up with a fellow group 16 volunteer Amber, for a reunion coffee in our old spot in Pajove. It was extremely nostalgic to be there together again eight months later in our service. Sometimes I can’t believe that it is coming up on a year that I have been living abroad. After our coffee, we caught a furgon to Elbasan for the training. And of course, being the two sexy ladies that we are, we had an admirer who happened to be the furgon attendant and had no shame in trying to chat it up with us. Not to sound cocky, but this tends to happen a lot. We finally made it to Elbasan and Amber dodged giving the guy her phone number.
There were several aspects to the training, but all of the sessions included the component of language. All of the volunteers were split into group based on language level and how much Shqip their classes would speak. I was placed into the 70% Shqip/30% English group and I felt good about that decision. I really enjoyed working with different volunteers again and learning together – plus my group was pretty awesome. My best friend Dan was in the group, so that was definitely an upside. In our classes we focused on Albanian culture and language. We had sessions about the famous Albanian poem “Mall” by Kadare, real life situations, unemployment in Albania, volunteer reflections on learning Albanian, the popular Albanian song “Nën një portokalle,” Mother Tereza, grammar, and different dialects. The training was extremely informative and really boosted my desire to continue my language learning at site.
Besides the sessions, the conference also allowed our group time to catch up. This was the first time we were all together since leaving our host-families during training. We got to go out to dinner together each night and just have some fun. Our group also put on a pretty amazing talent show one of the nights! It was awesome. Some volunteers put on comedy routines, plays, dance performances, and guitar and flute performances. We really do have a talented group if I do say so myself. I also did a little something for the talent show – hoop dance! It was so much fun and it was one of the first performances I have ever done live. I loved the energy that I felt from the crowd, music, and my hoop. It really was something special for me. You can check out the video of my performance here. During the down-time I also met with all the committees that I serve on including: the Volunteer Advisory Committee, the Anti-trafficking Committee, and the Outdoor Ambassadors Committee. I learned more information regarding the GLOW Outreach program that I hope to begin at site with Kate over the summer. It was a great time full of information, learning, friends, and fun!
My host brother and neighbor
I love her
Kisses for Arman
Hanging around in the kitchen before dinner
She is getting so big. Last time I saw her she couldn’t walk and now she is running all over the house alone!
I got her to smile!
Having coffee with Amber
Of course we were the only girls in the place
Amber and I on our way to Elbasan
More street art 🙂
Getting ready for the talent show
One of my favorite ladies
Getting my “talent” on – hoop dance!