With the realization that in just over ten weeks I will be back! in! America! (after 26 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer and 9 as a Fulbright), a selection of things that most frighten me about returning to my homeland.
- Go on a date. I have not been on one since August 2009.
- Go on a job interview. I have not been on one since October 2008.
- See hipsters.
- Speak to people who won’t be understanding of the fact that my English is messed up for reasons out of my control, or that “opa!” has become my standard exclamation. (I can’t even remember what it replaced. “Oh”? “Ouch”? A shriek?)
- Rent an apartment from any landlord whose vetting process is anything more than me taking a walk around the apartment, then taking the keys. No lease required.
- My suspicion that I will be so excited to see American magazines again that I will end up with subscriptions to People, US Weekly, In Touch, Rolling Stone, and dozens more.
- Related fear: that I will spend as much money on magazines during my layover at JFK as I did when I was flying back to Macedonia last summer. (See: $40.)
- Ordering beer in any situation where I have to say more than “I’ll have a dark beer.” (See: how many Yuenglings I drank last summer because it was less confusing for me to ask for a lager than to parse beer lists that are now all but indecipherable to me.)
- Learn that, apart from Breaking Bad, I missed everything about American culture, 2009 – 2012.
- Own a “phone” with a touch screen. (I don’t really feel comfortable calling something a phone if it does not have T9 and Snake xenzia.)
- That being an American will no longer make me the weirdest/most special person in the room.
- That my host sister will no longer be a four-hour furgon ride away from me.
Why, hello there!
I’ve failed, yet again, to blog like a normal person – I guess that when I moved to Albania I didn’t realize that 95% of my blog material came from inspiring Simon Says sessions with my students, or baking with my host sister. Things have been getting a little busier here, which is nice. Thanks to my parents I have a couple boxes of new materials for my project and now have so much reading that I’ll be lucky to finish it by the time my grant runs out. I went to Greece for a Fulbright conference in Thessaloniki, then for a few days in Satorini – I’ll put a few photos of this up, but since I only took thirty photos the whole trip (pathetic), and a shamefully large percentage of those were photos of Greek dogs, I don’t have much to offer. Since then I’ve been back in Tirana, working on the project and getting to do the occasional side efforts that are open to you when you don’t work a 9-to-5, like judging a public speaking contest and doing a presentation for local teachers.
Like I said...
I’ve been doing some posts on my reading over at my other blog, writing on books about Albania seeming like one of those things that doesn’t really have a place either here or there. Still, I put up reviews of Ismail Kadare’s Chronicle in Stone and The Accident (and there’s also a post I have to work on about The Pyramid), and more recently Edith Durham’s High Albania. Especially with Kadare’s work, I’d like to do some more in-depth posts in the future, which will…to make a clear and exacting statement…go on this blog or somewhere else.
In other news, I have just over three months until I return to the States, which is (a) scary and (b) exciting and (c) probably going to show me that my English has gotten even weirder than I realize. It’ll have been 35 months since I left the States, which sounds a lot longer than I thought.
I’ve learned a lot of new things in the Peace Corps (how to kill mice, how to speak Albanian, how to speak Macedonian, how to wear high heels all winter long – well, maybe not the last) but sometimes I feel as though I’m mostly forgetting things. Tonight I tried to use paypal to pay $3 to download a magazine to read on my laptop, only it turns out that all my banking information has changed since I’ve entered the Peace Corps. My parents have moved, changing my home address; my credit card has changed; my checking account has changed. This is the sort of thing that sends up a red flag at paypal headquarters, so they froze my purchase. In America I probably would have straightened this out but here I just stared at my “frozen account” email for a minute before closing the screen and finding some chocolate, because I no longer have any idea how to solve even the most minor of banking problems.
In January, when I was about to leave for my trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel, I had to call my bank to tell them that I’d be on a trip and to please not freeze my account while I was traveling. Only, my parents had just moved and I couldn’t remember their address, but I tried and failed to give it to the woman anyway; then I tried to give her my family’s old address but couldn’t remember either the street name or zip code of the address I lived at for roughly seventeen years, and then I tried to give her my old address in Philadelphia but I couldn’t remember that either, and when I tried to sell her my sob story about how I was in the Peace Corps and hadn’t even spoken English in months she told me to call back when I could offer some information that I actually, you know, had ever banked with them. (I got my mom to call them for me.)
Other things I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to do: write cover letters; write resumes; use craigslist to find apartments that aren’t so creepy they make me want to cry; order coffee from a Starbucks imitator; drive; use the self-checkout at a supermarket; use any part of a supermarket; cross streets; ride a bicycle; buy train tickets; use gym equipment.
I’ve got six or seven months left so it’s a good time to think about these things. But one day soon I’ll write something about all the things I’ve learned here – and man, I bet you are looking forward to that!