Things I learned in Albania

I’m attempting to “reintegrate” into the American lifestyle, so in order to do that I will now proceed to post only in list form. Thanks to Buzzfeed for starting this trend of condensing our lives into lists and quizzes. God bless America.

 

Lessons I’ve learned from being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania:

1. I can do anything for 2 years.

The last 24 months have seriously flown by. And it wasn’t that bad either. As a matter of fact it was quite amazing. So yes, that’s some motivation for the rest of my life. 2 years just doesn’t feel that long anymore.

2. If you need more cups, buy more Nutella

Yes, all the glasses in my kitchen were formally Nutella jars that I ate, cleaned, and proceeded to drink out of. It’s a thing here, I promise.

3. All you need is the internet.

For the last 2 years I’ve used this little laptop as a cellphone, television, movie theater, sound system, radio, library, and all-around connector to the world outside Albania. Thank you inventor of the internet.

4. Carbs won’t kill me.

In the USA I was one of those people who only ate organic, fat-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly food. I must have been so annoying. And I’ve done nothing but eat potatoes, bread, fat and oil for the last 2 years. Haven’t died yet so I might just continue when I get home.

5. Showering is overrated.

In the USA I showered every single morning before work and sometimes twice if I went to the gym that day. But here laziness and poverty and cold temperatures impaired that habit just a bit. That’s what ponytails were made for. So take from a John Steinbeck book I just read, “When I bathed one a week I didn’t seem that dirty, but now that I shower every day I can’t stand the smell of myself.”

6. iPhones are overrated.

Peace Corps provided me with one of the original Nokia brick-like cell phones. Worked just fine for 2 years, come rain or hellfire this thing will never break. And I honestly enjoyed the hiatus from constant contact and ringing. Plus having to re-learn T9 was kind of fun.

7. Anything is single-serving if you try hard enough.

My sister taught me this one and I’ve test it time and time again here. Ordering a pizza and eating the whole thing is quite normal in Albania. And I can now add to my list of accomplishments, eating an entire batch of cookie dough, brownie dough, frosting can, jar of peanut butter, loaf of bread, boxes of cereal, the list goes one. You don’t want to know.

8. Slower is better sometimes.

I was one of those overachieving go-getters who wanted to do everything and be in five places at once in the USA. Life in American moves so quickly that sometimes you forget to breathe. Life in Albania is about 600 times slower than that. And I love it.

9. Chickens make great alarm clocks.

I used to hate waking up to the blaring alarm clock in the USA. But in Albania I wake up when the sun comes through my window, the chickens start cock-a-doodle-doing and the church bells start chiming. It’s awesome. Also gives me enough time to read my book and drink coffee before going to work, which makes me oh so happy.

10. I don’t need all that stuff.

American is a consumerist culture. Albania wishes it could be. But I really like that it’s not. In the US I was definitely a victim of “keeping up with the Jones” and was peer pressured into buying things I didn’t need just to have them. But here I’ve lived on relatively nothing and haven’t gone shopping in about a year and a half (back home I was quite a shopaholic). At first I went through withdrawal but now I have to admit I’m quite happy with what little I have.

11. You don’t need to wash you clothes so much.

In the US I used to wear something once then wash it. But in Albania I’ve learned the art of minimizing laundry loads by wearing the same outfit several days (sometimes weeks) in a raw. Community integration! And unless I fell in mud or spilled my lunch, no one can tell the difference between my freshly washed jeans and those I’ve worn all week. At least I think so.

12. The power of saying hello.

Albanians don’t walk around with headphones in or cell phones glued to their ears. They say hello to each other as they walk down the street and it’s awesome. Both a great way to practice the language and amazing way to make new friends. Plus it’s incredible how your entire day can change just by having someone smile at you and say hello. That is something I’m definitely bringing back home with me.

 

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”

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