A rundown of my new site and my living situation for the next 2 years.
Not included: village name or specific details… because ya girl is following safety and security procedures.
For reference, my Pre-Service Training site was in Eastern Kosovo. And by Eastern Kosovo, I mean my village was literal kilometers from Serbia.
My permanent site, however, is in Western Kosovo, situated by 5 different mountains (the views are unreal), a short bus ride to the nearest city (where my best friend, Eric, is conveniently located), but multiple bus rides / several hours away from where I was in Eastern Kosovo. There are some good things and some bad things about that. Since Kosovo is small, I’m still relatively close to the two major cities of Prizren and Pristina, but pretty far away from Skopje, Macedonia (where PC Kosovo shares our medical unit with PC Macedonia).
My village is pretty spread out. I’m a 20 minute walk to the “center” and to the school. “Center” is in quotation marks because there is roundabout, but the roundabout contains just a few things, including, but not limited to: a small market, a smaller market, a small bakery, a small clothing store, a very small traditional clothing store, a very small barber shop, and, my favorite: a theater/cultural house. I am pretty excited about the cultural house, but not particularly enthused about the lack of cafes (I’ve seen one just off the roundabout – but it seems as if it’s more of a bar, so is best to be avoided).
In terms of my village’s location, I’m a little less than a 40 minute walk to the biggest town in my municipality, which has all the big stores / supplies / food / cafes I could ever need… which I’m thankful for.
And, my favorite, I’m about a 30 minute walk to the main road where there are buses going to and from the city near me every 20 minutes or so. From there, I can essentially go anywhere in Kosovo (and some surrounding countries, too). It’s an unbelievable asset. Some volunteers have to strategically plan their in-country trips due to their limited bus schedules, but I’m very fortunate with mine.
Aside from my location, living arrangements are a huge factor in any Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience.
That being said, my host family at my permanent site is very different from my PST host family.
My PST host family had 4 members: dad, mom, sister, brother. My dad was a history teacher, my mom had her own salon and worked there, my sister was 15 and spoke English fluently (she also spoke Turkish… and is currently learning German. She’s unreal), and my host brother was 6 (recently turned 7) and a ball of unpredictability. My PST house had WiFi, an enormous amount of TV channels, and was a 3 minute walk from school and the village center.
My host family now has 9 members: dad, mom, sister, sister, sister, sister, sister, sister, brother. My dad works as an electrician (I think? I do know that he works on houses), my mom is a homemaker (and is killin’ it with how spotless the house is and how great the cooking has been), my oldest sister is 16 and works in the town over at a salon (I’m seeing a pattern here with salons in Kosovo), the rest of my sisters are scattered between the ages of 12 and 5 (including 5 year old twin sisters), and my brother is 3 or 4 years old (he is super adorable and absolutely knows it). No one in my family speaks English; they know German in addition to Shqip. My 12 year old sister knows a few basics in English (colors, numbers, “good morning,” etc.), but that’s about it. My house doesn’t have WiFi, has the basic network TV channels (including the channel that has my family’s favorite Turkish serial… which is all we really need, right?), and I’m a 20 minute walk to school and village center.
As to be expected with 7 host siblings, sometimes my house feels like a bit of a daycare. Sleeping in past 8 without any random wake up calls of crying children or loud footsteps running down the hall is nearly impossible, even with my earplugs I brought from home (honestly one of, if not the, most useful things I packed). The bathroom can feel like a free-for-all at times; you have to be on a mission when using it before someone starts banging on the door. There’s a lot of random hitting, pushing, mom scolding, toy stealing, crying, screaming, etc.
But it feels like home, and it feels like a family… a family that I’m actually a part of.
I get plenty of hugs and kisses from my siblings. I get hugs and kisses when they see me first thing in the morning, when I’m going to bed, when I come home from being gone all day, when I come home from being gone for an hour, and whenever else they see fit. I hold my siblings’ hands when we’re walking around the village, and have endless couch cuddles.
Though it can be a bit much at times with the screaming / crying / mere amount of bodies living under one (small) roof, I feel so incredibly loved and wanted here, and I can’t wait to grow with my family for the next 2 years in my new village.