Meeting the host family of my dreams.
Picking up where my last post dramatically ended in a cliffhanger:
How Peace Corps Kosovo revealed our host families to us reminded me a bit of Big/Little reveals in sororities (I was in a sorority in college, so I’ve witnessed something like it before) but in an immensely different context.
While about 5 minutes away from the school in Kamenica, we were each handed a paper with a picture on it and told that our host family would have the same picture on their paper and come to find us and take us home. My picture was Spider-Man (which I was very excited about):
Once we were at the school, PC Kosovo told us that the families were inside waiting and that we should spread out in the field so the families can find us easily. My heart was racing and I was sweating up a storm, but I was ready to get the dramatic reveal over with so I could reassess how my Peace Corps experience would start based on what family walked out the doors to the school holding a Spider-Man picture.
Literally as soon as the school doors were opened, a girl with a Spider-Man picture came running down the steps and across the field towards me and gave me the biggest hug. I almost burst into tears. When she said: “We are so excited to have you in our family” in English, I almost burst into tears again. She introduced herself, said she was 15, introduced her parents, and her little brother who is 6.
I instantly fell in love and soon learned that I would be right next door to another volunteer who was staying with more of their family. It was all shaping up to be my ideal scenario for PST.
After a mesmerizing car ride to their village filled with twisting roads and endless mountains, my host dad pointing out things and my host sister translating to me, we were finally at the place I would call my home for the next few months.
Here is the gorgeous view to the left of my house:
I had been warned (?) that coffee culture here is a very very real thing, and I honestly would have been a little disappointed if I wasn’t immediately offered coffee. But, much to my delight, I was immediately offered Turkish coffee after being shown my room and putting my stuff down, offered multiple things to eat, and then promptly introduced to the grandparents who live next door (to the right of my house when walking out the door of my house) before walking to the family of my host dad’s brother (to the left of my house) and being introduced to more family members (and offered more coffee (which I accepted) and food to eat (which I also accepted)). I also learned that my host family had hosted a volunteer last year, so they were used to the PC scheduling and were a little more familiar with American culture. Score.
To my (pleasant) surprise, after being hurriedly introduced to multiple family members, my host sister told me it was okay if I showered and laid down since I was probably really tired. I graciously accepted her suggestion and proceeded to shower, unpack, and lay down in my bed for a while, updating my friends and family via frantic texts about how happy I was with my placement.
After I got up, I was offered more coffee (which I accepted…), food (which I also accepted…), and was told that my family would be waiting to eat dinner until around 8:15 for Iftar (Iftar is the meal eaten by practicing Muslims after sunset during Ramadan) but I could eat earlier if needed. I insisted that my family often ate that late at home and that I would be more than happy to wait to eat with them (I also needed some time to digest the mountain of food I had eaten in the few hours since being there).
I then walked with my host mom to the store (my first exploration of the small village), was offered fresh strawberries and cherries from my family’s garden (and graciously accepted), and then it was time for Iftar.
My family sat me at the “head” of the table, insisted that I made myself feel at home (my host parents then motioned to me how chill they were when sitting at the table with their legs crossed), and we were all treated to my host mom’s amazing cooking. After dinner, I was offered coffee again (…and accepted it…), sat on the porch with my new family, and then went to bed.
Though I didn’t sleep much that night due to the new environment and 4 cups of Turkish coffee (I would like to say I’ve learned my lesson since the first day but I have not), I could not be happier with my host family. Words like sweet, accommodating, caring, and hospitable don’t even begin to describe how I feel living here with them. I’m beyond excited for the weeks to come.