Stepping Stones

After high school graduation we are faced with a big world. College was the obvious choice and a no-brainer for me. The biggest decision I had at that point was choosing which college to go to and what to major in. A choice that floated between a Veterinarian, Interior Design, Culinary studies, Photography and ultimately, Exercise Science. Specialties that have nothing to do with each other but all passions of mine. At least you can’t say that I am boring!

When my last year of college began to creep up, I was in a foreign boat. I remember sitting there, dumbfounded on what my next move should be. Life is a strange thing when you think about it. We are suppose to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives when we are in our early twenties. A time when most of us have not had enough life experience to fall back on. How are we suppose to know what we want to do or how we want to do it or where we should start? The time old question continues to lurk up wherever I go and with whoever I meet. What exactly do I want to be when I grow up?

Peace Corps is my stepping stone between graduating college and whatever is going to come next. Spending time half a world away from your friends and family has forced me to learn more about myself. What I value, what I can live without and what it is that makes me happy.

Ask any Albanian if they would like to go to America and they would drop what they’re doing and pack their bags. I am reminded, sometimes daily, how lucky I am to be from the USA. As much as I complain about the shortcomings of Albania, we could learn a few things from them…

FOOD
The produce here is absolutely wonderful. It’s completely organic, something that you would pay through the roof for in America. If you know me, you can imagine my eyes popping out when I first arrived and saw the produce. I am a healthy eater, if you don’t count when my sweet tooth takes over. (Lucky for me, there is no shortage of dessert shops!) The availability of fresh fruits and vegetables continues to amaze me. I may just be in my food heaven here. Just hold the oil and salt please.
Fresh grapes clipped off the vines hanging over our heads. Perfect appetizer while we wait for our food.

Fresh grapes clipped off the vines hanging over our heads. Perfect appetizer while we wait for our food.

PUSHIME
Every day from 2-5 pm the town of Permet becomes a ghost town. It’s Pushime time and all of the shops close down. You can go home and take a nap, have coffee with friends or just hang out by the river. Those few hours can provide you with the time you need to get to know new friends or catch up with old ones. Sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s okay to slow down a little.
That's why I take naps for my health... :}
FAMILY
Families are of the utmost importance to Albanians. They make time for family on more than holidays or special occasions. When they are all home that means they are actually spending time together. Traditions are starting to change here, it’s not as common for three generations to live in the same house. Luckily though, the value of family has not faded. 
GENEROSITY
If you asked for it, an Albanian would give you the shirt off their back. Actually, you wouldn’t even have to ask it. If they knew you wanted/ needed it they would ask you relentlessly until you succumbed to their offer. Their hospitality continues to surprise me. Especially when half the town has marched through my apartment as they figure out how to fix my water heater. Or each week when I get a free bag of produce from the man selling veggies on the street corner.
Life is full of stepping stones and transitions. I am currently living in a culture that is vastly different from my own. Sometimes I am comfortable and find out I like this way of life. Other times it reminds me to be grateful for where I come from.There are ups and downs, but all I can do is try and learn a little something along the way. And hopefully it will help me figure out exactly what I want to be when I grow up.
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2 thoughts on “Stepping Stones

  1. Amber:

    This is really good! Sad but true story your mom and I are still wondering what we are going to do when we grow up. Might be a never changing life event. There is no question that Amber Jean has “grown ” a lot in a few short months. I think you will find that like Bartosi and me, growing up may be one of those goals you never reach! Probably as it should be. Anyway I am really proud of you!!!! You are making a difference not only over there but we are all having to grow being at home without you – you make a difference even in your absence – a good growing experience for Aiden, Kennedi, Layne… not to mention Bartosi and me. Keep on truckin as this experience will impact the rest of your life more than you will ever know! Love you more Amber Jean – I also miss you more!

    Can’t wait to see your smiling face next summer and your “home” next fall.

    Mohagen

  2. 8-31-2013 WOW again! Always love reading your stories. Also love all the photos. Little jealous over all the fresh fruit & veggies over there and sounds like a nice slow pace. always something to learn and so happy you are sharing life in Albania. We are all ONE when it comes right down to it 🙂
    Keep taking good care of each other 🙂 It is Mohagens birthday today. We got some decorating done over at Knut when they delivered a dresser. Your mama has to turn off the alarm so we can’t just be decorating anything except on the outside now! Maybe thinking of getting some plastic ducks, pink flamingos and have them ‘dancing’ outside mamas bedroom window!! cant find anything FREE yet!
    Love US 🙂 Hapy Labor Day. Auntie J.

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