Giving Thanks, first thanksgiving in Peace Corps

CamiWeddingI’ve been living in Albania for almost 9 months now. Past blogs can demonstrate the thoughts that pass through my mind of failure, unhappiness, and downright depression at times. These aren’t things any of you necessarily want to know about. I set myself up with this objective with high hopes and big plans, I’m learning still that the cookie cutter idea of Peace Corps is nonexistent. We do what we can, as we can and those wonderful stories you here afterwards back at home, those are the best of the best times. They don’t talk about the completely desolate feeling of living alone surrounded by people who don’t understand what you’re saying.  The frustrations I have felt in the past months still rise up at times and most definitely will more in the future as I get back to working more and trying to do something here. But this blogpost isn’t like the others I have been doing.
I just got back from the trip to Jamaica with my whole family for my sister Cami’s wedding. It’s an astonishing weirdness to being so suddenly transplanted from this culture I’ve so drastically been swearing at in this blog, my diary, to my family, and friends to home, America. Living in America we forget that we are one of the most privileged countries in the world. Coming home I’m starkly reminded that this glorified idea that the Albanians I work with hold America to is not always correct. So frankly I was reminded of this when I went to Walmart in Streator. And then we went to Jamaica which is a site that Peace Corps is placed and which is also strikingly poor and struggling in parts.
Well the first day or so I was in America I spent the majority of it working on goal 2 (?) of Peace Corps, sharing with Americans information about the country I’m serving in. Meaning, I just kept talking on and on about things that hit me as adversely different from what I’ve been seeing in Albania. But I found myself complaining about both of these cultures, I’m a bit of a cynic (as though that is not obvious). But there are so many good times I’ve had here and I do not give the adequate praise for both of these civilizations. Long term I hope that the more positive aspects of the culture of Albania will come through in my posts but today I’m mainly reflecting upon the impacts and the thankfulness I feel for those supporting my service.
So Mom and Dad, I’m extremely indebted to you two. Thank you for keeping me going here in Albania with the numerous care packages. At times, rather random things that pop into my head that I thought I needed in order to survive, well maybe they’re obviously unnecessary and silly in retrospect but the thought that people overseas haven’t forgotten me and are still wishing to make things go better is so highly appreciated. But not only material comforts but this great adventure of 32 hours of plane rides and 16 hours on a bus; was definitely this drastic undertaking that empowered me to believe that set with a grand task I was able to accomplish things. But then being there and being provided everything I needed and not scrounging to cook something, get somewhere, cleanup something, do my laundry, andhave enough money to get something; well thanks Mom and Dad for being parents and taking on the stress of caring for me and letting me be young. And though I still verbally kick and complain when offered advice about the situation I’m facing, as I have always been your most obstinate daughter, I’m still listening. I’m terrible at accepting praise and criticism but I am listening and am trying to work on practicing, “prudence, patience, and perseverance.”
I had an amazing time in Jamaica. It is such a wonderfully beautiful place free of post-communist cold buildings and cuddling up to space heaters with 5 layers on. It wasn’t only the all-inclusive resort with a never ending bar and food that I enjoyed, but a shumebukur wedding. Cami and Jake thank you for getting married in Jamaica. Thank you for giving me a big reason to come home AND to go there. When you decided to do this Cami I thought, this is the weirdest thing you have ever conceived. Who would think cut off t-shirt, workout freak, bus driving Cami would want this type of wedding? Not I for sure but I guess it’s in the releasing the control of the details that made it such a fantastic experience for all of us. I, as maid of honor, sure didn’t have a lot of time to make the little do dads called for in more traditional weddings. We all merely showed up, partied, and then celebrated. You of course set the bar pretty high, and probably the only way to beat it is a wedding in Albania (C’armendonti R?). Just kidding, the experience of trying to teach Jake, John, and Chris traditional circle dancing has shown me otherwise.
In a larger sense all of those that support us, myself and other PC volunteers, are highly appreciated. Kara, the French press you sent me is fueling my caffeine drive right now to get this completed. The other day my friend Alana posted a status in reference to an evening her mother helped create for us. She had received a care package of materials necessary to make hot wings and being the completely amazing cook that she is whipped them up for some of us. We spent that evening singing, dancing, watching Ryan make a fool of himself, laughing until we were crying, and spending time with friends. I have to agree with her that it was one of the best nights I’ve ever had in Albania. Brought together by a care package to remind us of what the simple pleasures of what wing nights in America were like and going above and beyond that experience to become a glorification of our culture.
Thanksgiving2011I’m not to the point of extreme culinary skills that Alana has achieved, but I’m working on it. It’s with the help of my family that I hope to be a better person here, even if it is in the smallest of ways, being a better cook. But it’s not only my family that I need to give thanks for here. How much religion has been a part of my life is debatable; how much Park Church has been is not. I have some great memories in Park Church and some very sad ones as well. This was the place I was able to be privy to large scale musical programs, dynamic illustrated tales, and an extension of family. And since I’ve been here, the number of cards and personal notes from church members was unanticipated but remarkable. So thank you to all those that are keeping me in their thoughts and prayers, if so inclined. It is the gift that I received from the church that made this coming holiday possible for many of us here, as I put the money towards our feast.
This Thanksgiving our southern Albania PC tribe is getting together to give thanks together. For me and perhaps some others at the table, this is the first Thanksgiving away from home. However, without a doubt, the goodwill shared with us from all the people we’re tied to will be present at our table. Ten people may be sitting down in Tepelenapasneser but indeterminate amounts of people brought this together. Thank you to all of you, you are present and active in creating the best of the best times of our Peace Corps service.

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