In sports, practicing more than once a day can be a grueling affair. The term “two-a-days” is derived from and primarily used in reference to American football. Two-a-days are especially popular during spring training’s. These intense practice days demand tremendous effort and time. The same can be said of our training program for Peace Corps Albania. This ten week program challenges every intellectual corner of our minds and demands constant maintenance of our memory banks. Easter Sunday marked our first day off from the incessant two-a-day language and culture sessions. I awoke exasperated and exhausted, with no real comprehension of the time of day or the day in time. All I knew was that it was my day. I had so many plans. I would sleep in – check. I would exercise, review my notes for class, finish my homework, go on a hike…relax. No such luck.
After breakfast I joined my host family on an excursion to a nearby village. Just a short hike up the side of the mountain offered an amazing view of the surrounding landscape: rolling hills, and not too far off – white capped-mountains. We arrived at a quaint mountain-side farm which belonged to my host aunt (on my host mother’s side). There, we were treated to shortbread cookies, really strong raki (Albanian moonshine), and a wonderful lunch. We returned home in no time at all. A little buzzed, I retreated to my warm and inviting bed – located in the back of the living room. I slept for two and a half hours.
Feeling rejuvenated, I checked my phone and responded to a few texts. I had been invited to a birthday party. Aleandro was turning seventeen. If you knew him, you would have gone too. He is the man (well, not yet).
I stepped into the past – a high school dance party. A metal door closed from top to bottom behind me, blocking out any light from the outside. Inside was smoldering, musty, and filled with local high school students dancing to loud music in a dimly lit room, with very little room for dancing. It was awesome! Three hours later I emerged completely drenched in sweat. Those kids know how to dance. I learned the traditional Albanian circle dance and battled with a few of the kids on the dance floor. Not gonna say I won, but I definitely didn’t loose.
Standing in the brisk, fresh air, ears ringing, I starred up at the stars and took a deep breath. A few of the other Volunteers who had attended the party were talking about what they had done with their day off. Church. $h!t, I had missed Easter Sunday! Well, not so much missed as forgot. Instead of dressing in my Sunday best, taking communion, hunting for Easter Eggs, and hearing the story of the resurrection; I had danced with seventeen year old’s and drank hard liquor (only in culturally appropriate amounts, and not in concurrence with dancing with seventeen year old’s). Whoops. Here’s hoping God will forgive me. Here’s to new experiences. Here’s to you Aleandro – Happy Birthday. Here’s to a day off well spent.
And…here’s some pictures:
P.S. The gregarious looking woman having a big laugh is laughing at my expense. I slipped down the hill and got a little muddy. She thought it was hilarious – it was.