In Shqip (Albanian for those of you who haven’t caught on yet), this phrase means “slowly slowly.” Supposedly, that is how business is done in Albania. Avash, avash. The Peace Corps warns us to adjust our American standards of the workday and workplace environment, because here in Albania things are done at a…shall we just say, slower pace. Your office may open at 8am, but if you stroll in at 9am no one thinks twice. Mostly because by 10am everyone has left for a coffee break. They may stumble back into the office around 11am, or they may not. Then everyone goes home for lunch from noon to about 2 or 3pm. By 4pm everyone who actually came back to the office after lunch has gone home for the day. If only, if only that was how things worked in the U.S.
Sadly, I think I’m one of the only volunteers in Albania who is not getting to benefit from this avash, avash lifestyle. From my very first day in Shkodra, I have been slaving away and enjoying every minute of it. Three times a week I teach a summer school course at one of my schools. Then in the afternoons I work with my debate team to prepare them for their competition in Tirana. On the days when we don’t have debate club, I’m helping the Model UN team prepare for this conference this fall. And in the evenings I meet with a book club once a week to talk about American literature and films. Somewhere in between all of that I squeeze in two Shqip tutoring sessions a week so that I don’t lose my language skills and a few hours at the gym so I don’t waste my month-long membership. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it all.
But for those of you who have ever had a class with me or seen my school life in the U.S., you know that this is my ideal atmosphere. I love being busy. Maybe not so much when its 95 degrees in the shade and no air conditioners in sight though. Days feel so much longer here because it takes so long to do such simple things. I have to leave an extra 30 minutes to get to work each morning because I always run into a friend on the way and am suckered into sitting down for a coffee. God forbid I run into 2 friends. Plus things have a way of never turning out how you expect…the bartender who keeps the key to the school in the summer may have gone to the beach the day before and not left the key with anyone and you have to hold class in the hallway. Or the cellphone company’s store may be closed for no apparent reason and you need to add money to your phone to let your students know what time book club is. There is always something. Good thing I have 2 years to figure it all out.
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”