First Four Days in Kosova

What has only been four days in the beautiful country of Kosovo (at the time I originally wrote this post) seems like five weeks! Not necessarily in a bad way at all, but because other Peace Corps Volunteers and RPCVs weren’t lying when they said you hit the ground running at orientation. It really has been nonstop bombardment of information since we stepped off the plane in Pristina but I understand it is mostly everything I need to know to set myself up for success here in Kosovo. I won’t talk too much about the details of orientation (it really isn’t all that interesting to read about), but I am happy that I’ve made so many good friends that I am excited to share this service with. When you’re forced to live with 39 other strangers in a hotel for half a week you quickly make some pretty strong bonds, it turns out.

But this is a blog to keep my family and friends back home updated on what I am up to so here’s a bit about what went down in Gjilan. We all shared hotel rooms with other trainees (I was unlucky enough to be on the top floor with two 50 pound bags and no elevator access). I took part in a lot of workshops about safety and security, gender, culture, language classes, and some other stuff. Exploring the city by myself and with my new friends was my favorite thing I did there. Just experiencing Kosovo for the first time with others was a great bonding moment.

I’ll leave this post with some pictures because they tell a better story than I can. And plus, I have way more to share about my time so far in my Pre-Service Training homestay; and I’ve only been here for three days!

P.S. I think I drank about 6 macchiatos a day while in Gjilan!

A Boy in Washington D.C.

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a little while since my first post but so much has happened since then and I’m just lying in bed in my hotel room anyway so I figured it’s time for an update!

If you really know me then you know I am the king of procrastination. So it’s only right that I finished my packing at 3 AM knowing full well I had to be up at 3:45 AM to catch my flight to Washington D.C. (One day I’ll stop the nonsense…but probably not any time soon!)

I arrived in Washington D.C. for my Peace Corps staging on May 30th and since I was a day early I decided to explore the capitol a bit. I figured I would just walk the couple miles to the White House, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial (and what a bad idea that was!) My new shoes hadn’t been broken in yet and cut up the back of my ankles pretty bad, which has caused me a lot of pain today!

A very pretty house… I wonder who lives here

I think Abe here and I would have been great friends!

As you can probably tell, I was really happy to see some really cool places and monuments—even if I did only stay for a short amount of time! But hey! I’ll just have to visit again.

Today (at the time of writing this) I officially became a Peace Corps Kosovo Trainee!!! Three exclamations!!! That’s how you know it’s serious business! The fact that I not only joined but am leaving for the Peace Corps for the next two years still hasn’t really hit me, but when I heard we were officially trainees my heart stopped a little bit. (Because of the realization and also the excitement)

All forty of my fellow trainees met together in a hotel conference room for a couple hours of orientation, which is what we call “staging,” and I got to meet and talk with some really interesting and great people. In fact, I even met a girl in my cohort from Fresno! It was a strange moment to hear her tell me she was from there as well but a good thing because now I will have that connection to home that I can share with someone during my service. I don’t know what all of our feelings are going to be like towards each other after we spend the next full day traveling to Kosovo together (because exhaustion + hunger + travel + 40 personalities probably isn’t an equation I want to solve!) but I’m really getting along with everyone here! I can see some great friendships forming in the coming months during PST.

By the next time I post I’ll have arrived in Kosovo! And hopefully I’ll have more interesting stories to tell by then!

For now, naten e mire.

How a California Boy Found Himself Moving to the Balkans

If you’re reading this then you must have just found out I will be leaving soon to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosovo! (or someone who stumbled upon my blog because you’re interested in joining the Peace Corps yourself!) No matter the reason, I want to say a big thank you for taking the time to be here!

Whenever I tell people I have decided to join the Peace Corps it is usually followed by two things: I am congratulated… and then I am asked what the Peace Corps actually is and does. In short, the Peace Corps does a lot. The organization has a strong presence in all sorts of sectors (including economic development, health, youth in development, agriculture, education, and more) and in over sixty countries! However, what I’ll be doing is teaching English in the beautiful country of Kosovo! After people start to get a general idea of what the Peace Corps is they ask me why I decided to serve—but that’s an even harder question to answer. I’ve always loved learning about other cultures—about people, their languages, their food, their music, and their religions. I was an anthropology major in college because I could never learn enough about humans throughout history and the evolution of culture. When I graduated from university I wasn’t quite sure of myself—unsure of who I was outside of a structured school environment—but I knew I wanted to continue learning and growing and challenging myself in ways I had never considered before. I wanted to experience life in ways that would challenge my liberal, twenty-two year old, Mexican-American, and male perspective—and would also allow me to contribute to society in an impactful way.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our beautiful country and what it could look like years from now. I have so many hopes and dreams for an educated, healthy, and prosperous America—and then I think about the countries and people out there who don’t have the same privileges and opportunities as I do and I want nothing more than to be a part of that change and growth in the world. I want to promote a better America and be a positive influence in the world. I know that change and progress begins from the ground up—and that’s why I decided to serve my country with the Peace Corps in Kosovo. It is my greatest privilege as an American to use this platform to help educate the youth of Kosovo and shape them into the critical thinking leaders of tomorrow’s unified world. And maybe… just maybe, I can help fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s dream of promoting world peace and international friendship along the way.