This is a beautiful country. We’ve had only gorgeous days since we arrived and I keep being stunned again and again by the views as we move from one scheduled task to another. While I’ve been enjoying Kosovo, I haven’t had a lot of time or motivation to post here as I’ve been busy with sessions and language study. The pace is about to change again now, because this was my first evening with my home stay family—and it was wonderful! My ‘parents’ took me for a walk on a trail which overlooks our village. It was the perfect break from lesson books and gave me a great opportunity to appreciate the land. The evening got even better when we had our coffee outside watching the sunset and listening to the call to prayer echoing off the hills around us. It was a relaxing time full of many moments of comfortable silence. I feel bad for my family that I know so little Albanian, but I promised them (with the help of a dictionary) that I would be able to have good conversations with them by the end of summer.
That’s right! I can’t possibly post about my first week in Kosovo without talking about languages. My first language related realization was that the Albanian I tried to study months ago stuck better than I thought. Good. It’s not a lot, but at least I didn’t have to study numbers and greetings when I was overly concerned about repacking luggage and keeping up with paperwork. My second thought was, “why am I speaking Japanese?” Honestly, I hardly speak any Japanese. I would have expected to throw out some Spanish or maybe German when looking for words in the foreign language section of my brain, but the only accidental words I’ve said have been Japanese ones. A friend suggested that my brain is pulling from the “languages I know words in but don’t understand” shelf. I think she’s right.
Although my family doesn’t speak any English, we’ve communicated pretty well, in my opinion because:
1 – I’ve grown very comfortable over the years with not understanding what’s going on and my attitude is that spoken language (and yeah, I teach it) is really not that essential to basic communication. If I hadn’t taken the time to learn this for myself I would probably be pretty stressed now, but I’m not.
2 – I have been using a ‘traditional’ physical dictionary to say words I need and maybe find various things to point at if I suddenly feel the silence is too much. It seems to work well enough.
3 – I’ve understood my host dad a few times because he throws in German words. This is ‘cheating,’ but our levels are both low enough that it makes a fun game and I feel like we earned it.
Above is a photo of my language materials from Peace Corps. It’s a lot of books. Tomorrow I have my first class in Serbian! I’m nervous but very excited about taking on another new language now. I think it will be fine as long as I don’t compare my progress to others’ and channel my strong interest into studying. I look forward to reading my thoughts on language a month from now, because I can’t even guess where I’ll be, linguistically or emotionally, at that point.