When Kosovo Becomes Home

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By Joan Shock
Oct. 18, 2019

One of the most daunting things about joining the Peace Corps is leaving the comforts of home for the unknown of a new culture.

Theirs new food, daily routines and even a new language (or languages for Kosovo) that you have to adjust to.

And believe me, it’s an adjustment.

Everyday is a challenge. You are constantly learning and making mistakes, but you learn to laugh at yourself. Like when I accidentally called my brother’s son a “Demon” in Albanian or when I learned the Albanian word for “butt” by trying to get “both” my host brothers to play a game. You miss the Kombi to school and hike an hour up a mountain to be there or you accidentally greet someone wrong. You just gotta roll with it and learn to laugh it off!

Eventually, you adjust to the routine. You know which words to avoid because you can’t say them (like brother, boy or son for me), you know when the Kombi comes and where to stand so they don’t pass you by (again) and you know where to go to buy the cheapest stuff. You can have a decent conversation, make tea the correct way and can greet people correctly. It’s finally something close to second nature.

And then comes your freedom after 6 months. No more Pre-Service Training, no more 3 month travel ban. You are ready for a break from daily life, so it’s off to another country for winter break.

You go and have a wonderful time! You see new places, eat lots of good food (you will miss Mexican food and good burgers, trust me) and meet new people. You have the time of your life.

However, you realize you still say words in Albanian, because they come naturally. You accidentally say “me fal” instead of “I’m sorry” when trying to get someone’s attention. Eventually, you start missing being able to understand the foreign language around you and knowing how things work. You start to get a little homesick, but not for America, for Kosovo.

Somewhere, amidst all the fumbling for words, the constant daily struggle and the long walks up to Hotel Jehona, you adjusted. You started to fall in love with the beautiful daily views, the crazy kids who bombard you whenever they see you and the frustrating, everyday little aspects of life. You adjusted to the crazy amounts of bread in the diet and the constant flowing of tea. It has shifted from your place of service to home, no matter how temporary.

For everyone, this shift can be different. It can come early in service or it can come late. For me however, it took leaving to another country to see that Kosovo had become home and I had become comfortable in the struggle, in those constant daily unknowns.

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Me with some girls in my school
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Face painting with my students
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A ride home from school
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Village in summer
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