Back in October I applied for a Fulbright grant to study in Albania. Ever since, I have been dreading learning that I maybe actually got the grant. I don’t want to say I’m ready to leave the region because that just doesn’t sound good – but I have felt this winter and spring that Macedonia has beaten me.
Last week I checked my email after a long day of spelling bee semi-finals to find a message from a woman from Fulbright asking me to give her a call. I applied for a dual-country grant, and when I spoke with her learned that Macedonia rejected my grant (to study Albanian culture – so, maybe I should have expected that) but Albania still wanted to award me the grant. My initial reaction, something like, “Why is my life so unfair? Why did I have to win this grant? Why me? I want to go back to America and eat a burrito a day for the rest of my life” faded over the weekend, though, and I started to feel – I guess happy, a lot happier than I have been here recently. Things turned for me when I looked up photos of Elbasan and realized that (a) Elbasan is a city and (b) it’s a pretty city and (c) if I live in a city I’ll have a lot more privacy and draw a lot less attention than I do now.
After lobbing a healthy number of questions at the organization, I’ve accepted the grant. After I finish my service in Macedonia in October I’ll be heading straight over the border to Albania, where I’ll be studying and doing my research in either Tirana or Elbasan. I’m excited, and I also feel more present here in Macedonia than I have for a while. Knowing that I’m going to be in the region for a third year, I feel inspired again to study Albanian; tomorrow I have my first language lesson in months, and I’ve been finding myself doing nearly-forgotten things like downloading Albanian subtitles for movies and reading the newspaper, Koha.
Another advantage of the Fulbright? I’ll be taking the rest of my vacation days to visit America this summer. I am already making lists of all the foods I am going to eat and things I am going to do. I can’t wait.
What I’ve got so far:
* eat a giant cookie from Reading Terminal
* go to a Phillies game
* get a beer and veggie burger from Nodding Head
* go to a grocery store
* eat edamame
* buy a burrito on my way home from the airport
* ride my bike
* go to one of those Indian restaurants (I’ve forgotten their names now) in Old City
* get my teeth cleaned
Smiles, smiles, smiles.