This is the hardest post to write--the final chapter. So what happened? Did I go back to Albania? Do I think I made a difference? I'm not cruel enough to leave you hanging. Here's how it happened.
I was medically evacuated in June 2011 to Santa Barbara, CA. When I arrived in Cali, I had an appointment with the countries top orthopedic surgeon. He recommended we have an MRI. The MRI showed that I had lacerated not one but two tendons in my foot. I had surgery to reconnect the tendons a week later. The recovery process was long. I was on crutches for 2 months, in a boot for another few weeks and had an awkward walk for a month after that. In that period of time I received a tremendous amount of support from PCV's, staff, family and friends. I feel so blessed to have had your support during that time.
The Peace Corps allots each volunteer who is medically evacuated 45 days to return to their service- no paperwork necessary. After the initial 45 day window a volunteer must reapply--it's not a difficult process, but during this time most volunteers run into the "I need a job" conundrum. Sadly, thats what happened to me. I wasn't getting better at the rate I had hoped- my foot was far from recovered and my bank account quickly depleting. At that I began to send out resumes. In one week I sent out over 50 applications. The next week I got a call from TOMS (The "One for One" company http://www.toms.com/). This was an amazing opportunity for me as TOMS is my dream company to work for. Needless to say I was stoked and confused. I struggled with the decision. On one hand I couldn't imagine not finishing out my PC service with the group of amazing individuals I started with, but conversely how could I say no to TOMS? Additionally there was the foot issue. At the time I received the call from TOMS, I had a "pimp walk" and there was no way that was going to fly on the rocky streets of Lezha. After many turmoiled hours and debate, I took the full-time, paid internship opportunity with TOMS. I miss Albania. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss my community. I miss the pace of life there. I miss my job. I miss the Albanian people. But do I think I made the right decision for me? Absolutely. I can say for the first time in a really long time that I am happy and healthy. But I am happy and healthy because of the experience, the people and my projects in Albania. I have a newfound respect for the luxuries I'm privy to in the United States. I appreciate my ability to go on a run at 8:00 PM without fearing my safety. I have earned a type of perspective that I cherish. One that keeps me centered and reminds me that it's not about the amount of money that we make, the clothes that we wear or even the iphone 4S. Life is about people, experiences, laughter, knowledge and making a difference.
I will be forever grateful for this experience. I am a better soul for having met the people I've encountered on this journey. I am better sister, daughter, friend and citizen. If you are someone looking at this blog, in hopes of joining the Peace Corps, here is my advice to you:
Know that sometimes you are going to look like an idiot, and thats ok. You will fail more than you succeed. In dark times you will wish with all your heart that you were back in the US eating a McDonalds burger (even if you despised the fast food joint while stateside). The successes you achieve during your service will change you forever. The kindness you receive from a total stranger will move you to tears. And you will never love and hate an experience more in your life. Do I recommend the PC? Hell yes. I have never met a person who regretted doing the PC-regardless of their experience- conversely I have met hundreds, yes hundreds of people who regretted not going into the PC.
Albania, friends, PCVs I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for challenging me and allowing me to rise to the challenge.
Here is some press I received while in PC
Here I am today- Me and my bro, at his wedding:
Thank you for reading and supporting me throughout my journey. Your views, comments and support kept me going through my darkest hours.
I encourage you all to go do something that scares the living daylights out of you, as the thought of being a pcv did to me. It will be worth it, I promise.