Ask and you shall receive. Not really. Not always. At least if you ask, you stand a better chance of receiving than if you never ask at all. In this particular instance, my question took the form of a statement – less of an ask, more of a tell. I attempted to appear self-assured, matter-of-fact. “I’ll go anywhere but Eastern Europe”. Of all the places I could end up as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Eastern Europe seemed the least appealing. I saw myself living in a mud hut, hunting lions with the Maasai Warriors of Tanzania. Or perhaps, traversing through the Amazon with the Achuar people of Ecuador. Eastern Europe seemed far less magical – cold, grey, mundane. I wanted to be somewhere warm, lively, and inviting. “Given your background and availability, I’m afraid the chances of placing you elsewhere are slim”. My heart sank as I thought, in a moment of particularly violent disappointment, that I would surely freeze to death. I had not received what I asked for.
My placement interview ended. I pulled up the Peace Corps website, clicked on the “Where Do Volunteers Serve” link, and moved my cursor over Eastern Europe. There, I was presented eleven options. The same options she would be forced to choose from: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan), Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine. She would deliberate, and ultimately I would be assigned to one of these countries. Disregarding my school work, I scoured the internet for information on Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Albania looks warm, I thought. Actually, in my brief study of the region, I found each country beautiful and unique in its own way. My perception of the region had clearly been mis-perception. Another axiom came to mind: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I followed up with my placement officer by thanking her for her patience, reiterating my willingness to serve wherever I was needed, and asking her to place me in Albania. In the end, my perseverance paid off. I guess I got what I asked for. Not really. But I guess I had not known what I really wanted. I do now, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Albania lies ahead. More specifically, due East. Looking at a map, you can find Albania just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, and directly north of Greece. The adventure begins 03/18/2013.