Sometimes Peace Corps volunteers might not feel like they were effective during their service. They feel like they could have done something more. Maybe spend more time out in the community rather than binge-watching Netflix in their apartments. Maybe starting more projects or whatever.
My Peace Corps experience was more than I could have ever hoped and dreamed for. It changed me for the better. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I am stronger because of joining the Peace Corps and I am happier because of the time that I spent in Albania. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t reflect and smile about all the wonderful times I spent there.
There were times that I wanted to pull my hair out and just give up. There were times that I wanted to hole up inside of my apartment. But there were also times that I laughed with good friends over coffee. There were times where people invited me inside their homes and showed me what true hospitality is. There were times that projects were successful (despite many of the “failures” along the way).
I still talk to many of my Albanian friends everyday. I have even received a few phone calls from them. Luckily Albanian phone plans are pretty great and many people I know have at least thirty international minutes a month that they can use (to call me!). Every time I receive a call or a message I feel eternally grateful to still have these people in my life, even though we’re not in the same place anymore. I was really worried that when I left Albania I would lose a lot of the relationships that I created during my service, but thankfully that is not the case.
Today my friend Joan called me and was telling me all about how he has been spending the summer. He is currently with his family at his beach house having a bonfire next to the sea. They are BBQing fish that they caught yesterday. I can imagine it as if I was there and that makes me homesick for Shqiperia. Joan began telling me about how my presence in Kavaje changed him and the others that I worked with for the better. He said he is more “American” now (which I take pride in). His family has noticed a change in him and even they have begun to interact differently within the family. Joan said, now “we work together and mind our business. We’re starting to reason like you do. We plan things out. We can’t forget you. You’ve been here during a very delicate part of our lives.”
It’s the little things that really matter. I’m so happy that I was able to help influence my friends and students to take small steps to change their lives. I miss them so much, but I know someday we will all reconnect.