The past few weeks have flown by, and I am now more than halfway through my Peace Corps training. I’ve had many recent opportunities to participate in cultural activities with my host family and discover new places. Below is a brief recap:
Three weeks ago was the Muslim holiday of Bayram (Eid al-Fitr). Bayram marks the end a Ramadan, a month when observers abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. People celebrate by visiting the homes of extended family and friends or, inversely, hosting others in their home. My family visited six homes and hosted two groups of family in ours on the first day of Bayram. Although I found this busy, many of my friends made significantly more house calls. This was a great opportunity for me to interact with more people and practice my Albanian. I only wish I had paced myself more in the beginning as I was served coffee, baklava and cake at every stop!
My family taught me how to make flia, a traditional Albanian food which takes over two hours to prepare. It has many crepe-like layers and is baked using cinders, as can be seen below. It’s hard work spreading the batter and tending to the fire, especially in the heat of summer. According to my parents, flia is reserved for special occasions like large family gatherings and celebrations, so I felt honored that they did this just for me. We made our flia in a beautiful lot where my family has a corn field, and I enjoyed the view as well as the cooking lesson.
My training group has twice visited Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. I’ve had a little time to walk around and sightsee in the city center. Below is a shot of the city and it’s landmark ‘Newborn’ monument. Newborn was created to celebrate Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, and its design is changed each independence day. This year the N and W are flat and help to spell “No Walls.” Although I’ll be living on the other side of Kosovo, nothing is far in such a small country. I hope to post more on Pristina in the future when I have more time to explore it.
During the latter half of training, I will continue to live with my Albanian host family but primarily take Serbian language lessons in preparation for my two-year site placement. I’m happy about narrowing my focus for the time being, since I was starting to feel held back studying two languages and was increasingly confusing my vocabulary. I’m especially motivated by the fact that I have met my permanent home stay family and can’t wait to communicate with them better. I will share more about my site placement closer to the end of training, but for now I will just say I’m incredibly excited about my home and the opportunities ahead.
The next few weeks will also provide more teaching training and practice. Surprising even myself, I’ve been looking forward to actually preparing lessons and teaching. The Peace Corps training is very different from my CELTA program where I was teaching students from the second day. I appreciate that Peace Corps prepares us by teaching us language, giving culture-specific trainings and fostering an environment which supports our integration into our communities. Still I’m becoming anxious about starting to teach (especially since my students will be younger than what I’m used to), and I feel like it’s time to start thinking about this now.
In case anyone didn’t notice, tofreshwoods now has an Instagram account where I post many more photos (at least once a day as long as I have internet). I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with everyone in the weeks and months ahead.