Saturday, April 17, 2010

My permanent site is...

This Friday was the day we had all been waiting for. Ok, some of us waited two years to even find out we were coming to Albania, but that is beyond the point. Friday was one of the days we will never forget among all of our Peace Corps days because it was the day we found out our site assignments. For the last couple of weeks I have occupied my anticipation by developing various theories as to where I would be placed. All of them were completely wrong and I could not be happier. I will be moving to Pogradec (pronounced Pogradets) at the end of May to begin my service as a Health Education volunteer (assuming all goes according to plan and I swear in on May 27th). Go ahead, google Pogradec, Albania!

We were all so excited to receive our placements! Finally, so much of the unknown that comes with the Peace Corps is starting to go away. Now we can really figure out our approach to the tasks we have been assigned. They shared the big news by calling each of us up one at a time and revealing our location. They also had a huge map projected on the wall so that each of our pictures would appear at our site.

The only thing I knew about Pogradec at the time of my announcement was that Albanian youth go there to get it on with their partners. In Albanian culture, it is not appropriate for youth to date as we do in the states. Therefore, if they have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, they do so secretly. Pogradec is often used as a site where the youth can get away and, well, be together.

Pogradec is located in Southeastern Albania right along the border with Macedonia. In fact, from the city center in Pogradec, Macedonia is approximately 5 km. As luck would have it, Pogradec also has a huge lake called Lake Ohrid. Apparently, this lake has been formed by tectonic plates and these types of lakes have very unique species of fish living in it. The loch ness monster also lives in a lake formed by tectonic plates which means I will not be found taking a dip in Lake Ohrid during my service. Because of the scenery in Pogradec, it is a tourist attraction area and there are currently numerous efforts to continue to advance tourism there. Again, you are welcome to visit anytime…

I was elated to find out that I will have two site mates (at least for the next year). Connie is a current volunteer in Pogradec working in Community Development (COD) and has one year left in her service. She has actually been in Elbasan this past week helping with our pre-service training and was present when we received our site announcements. Once I received my placement, I introduced myself and immediately she gave me a great big hug and said “I’ve been waiting for you.” I think I am just as excited to have a current volunteer in my site as she is excited to have just any volunteer in the site. Also joining me in Pogradec from our group 13 is Matthew, he is also a COD volunteer. I am not sure how I got so lucky to have such great site mates, but I will certainly take this with a tremendous smile.

Introducing my group 13 site mate, Matthew:

I am only the second health volunteer to serve in Pogradec, and the first female health volunteer there. I have been assigned to the health education and promotion unit under the Directorate of Public Health. In addition to working within Pogradec, this department also works with rural health posts surrounding the city to provide health information to nurses and village residents. My counterpart at the Directorate is Rajmonda who is a nurse. I will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other nurses, epidemiologists, school personnel and community members for our various projects.

Here is the tangent for the day: In Albania, I have come to appreciate the completely random things that happen on any given day. Friday morning as we were all arriving in Elbasan, one of the other trainees sent us a text message saying there was a bear by the castle. To be honest, we sort of thought she had lost it. But, it was completely true! There was a man who was walking a small bear around on a leash. He wanted people to pay for the photos, but I have a rebellious streak and tried to sneak some free pictures (therefore I apologize for the poor quality).

Love and miss you all.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited for you!!!! The city that you're staying at looks really nice! Hopefully the PC will send me to Macedonia so we can be neighbors! And as always, you will be the first to know of my assignment if i get accepted.