Anticipation and speculation ran rampant leading up to site announcements yesterday. “I think I’m going (here)”. “I heard she was going (there)”. It was all bull Sh!t. None of us knew, we just pretended to.
Our last session ended. The time had come. They warmed us up with some music: “I wont give up” by Jason Miraz. We cleared the tables and chairs in the room. One by one we formed ourselves into a circle, arms around each other – sixty-eight arms, thirty-four bodies. We swayed together to that strangely sad song. Albanians love sad, sappy songs. In that moment we were one. Soon we would be ripped apart, at least on paper. The music stopped, the circle was broken. We crowded together staring anxiously at the screen. A number of Group 14 and 15 Volunteers were gathered in the back of the room, reminiscing, speculating, and taking bets. First up, Don – Elbasan. It went on like this. I stood fixated on the screen, smiling like an idiot, clapping mindlessly as the other Volunteers received their respective site placements – all the while wearing my prescription sunglasses so I could see the screen.
People were happy. But there is always someone who cries, and there was. I could have cried easily and remain outwardly emotionless thanks to the sunglasses. Luckily there was no need for tears. Anywhere would have been wonderful. Albania is a spectacularly gorgeous country. “Tyler”! And then something else. My site placement had been announced. But it was more than halfway into the presentation and the room was unbearably loud. I searched for my picture up on the screen. My eyes darted to the bottom of the map as the word I had missed was promptly repeated: “Gjirokaster”. I went numb. The smile I had been wearing remained permanently fixed in place. I struggled to process the news. A few of the Group 14 Volunteers had made a guess as to where I might be placed. I didn’t want to buy into the speculation so as to avoid adopting lofty expectations. They had been right. I couldn’t believe it. I had really lucked out.
In six weeks I leave for “The Land of A Thousand Steps” to begin my two years of service. I don’t know much about the city yet, but what I do know excites me tremendously. It’s potential is great. I hope I can play a small part in that potential being realized. Check out Gjirokaster on Google Images and at http://www.gjirokastra.org. More about what I’ll be doing there to come.