#PoshCorpsProblems

Posh Corps (n.): Peace Corps programs that are perceived to be “cushier” than the stereotypical Peace Corps experience, i.e. including accommodations such as running water, plumbing, electricity, internet access, etc.

Serving under conditions of hardship.

Serving under conditions of hardship.

Here in PC Albania, we often joke about living in the “Posh Corps” whenever we’re out at a fancy café or hitting up the 3G on our mobile devices or enjoying the cool breeze of an AC unit in the summer. Part of it stems from a sort of irrational guilt; we know that in other Peace Corps countries, Volunteers are squatting in latrines or hand-washing their clothes until their knuckles are raw and killing their own dinner every night, so we’re made to feel as though we “should” be suffering more.

But what I often compare Albania to is a lead ornament painted over with gold leaf. Everything looks pretty and shiny on the surface–flat screen TVs in the bars for watching sports and news, women in glittering 5-inch heels, Benz’s and BMW’s (some of them acquired less than legally) zooming around town–but as soon as you chip the surface even a little bit, you can see the harsh reality underneath. Poor infrastructure. Gaping holes in the sidewalks, half-demolished buildings, feral street animals. Corruption. Institutionalized sexism. Widespread unemployment and poverty. Pessimism accompanied by a mentality resistant to change, consequences of the oppressive regime that this country suffered under for 50 years. The problems are less obvious than, say, your classic voluntourism destination.

I’m all too familiar with the challenges of serving here. But one of the many reasons I like being a Volunteer in Albania is that it’s not, say, like serving in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu–one of the most isolated and resource-challenged posts–where my PCV friend Molly serves. I’d like to think that I’d be capable of serving under conditions like that, but here I don’t have to. I have a western toilet that works most of the time, I have water (although it is not potable) unless the reservoir on the roof runs out, the power outages in Kavaja are short when they do occur, and I have internet! (Commence streaming ALL THE MOVIES.) And while I understand that it’s much tougher to live in other parts of the world, I can appreciate that but at the same time be grateful for the resources that I do have here.

Albania is an up-and-coming nation. I know everyone likes to say that about their host country, but I really do believe that it’s true. This becomes more apparent to me as I continue working with the youth here, readying to take over as the rising generation. Albania is an open country now, a place that is still struggling to throw off the chains of the effects of communism and isolation, but a country I have witnessed getting better avash, avash, slowly, slowly. I hope that sometime soon Albania will not need Peace Corps anymore–that’s the goal of every PC program.

So the “problems” we PCVs have here might seem silly to some. They’re not quite #FirstWorldProblems, but not quite “real” problems either. (Well, some of them aren’t.) I hope you enjoy some of the ridiculous things I’ve had the pleasure of complaining about over the past 16 months:

  1. My internet is being weird today.
  2. They only have the fake Nutella at the store.
  3. My washing machine is wobbly.
  4. The fan is too loud.
  5. I have to go to the capital to get peanut butter.
  6. This $1 lipstick I bought doesn’t match my outfit.
  7. My mattress sucks.
  8. They don’t have blueberry tea at this café. Let’s go to the one across the street.
  9. I was Skype-ing with my puppy and the call got dropped.
  10. We had to pay $4 for chairs at the beach.
  11. The waiter won’t give me the wi-fi password.
  12. Cherries aren’t in season anymore.
  13. My laptop broke. What am I supposed to do all day?!
  14. My neighbors give me too much food.
  15. Her wedding dress is tacky.
  16. I have to wait for the water to heat up before I can take a shower.
  17. The fruit lady didn’t give me a free apple.
  18. I lost my bathroom slippers.
  19. I dropped my socks on the ground while I was hanging up laundry.
  20. My students made fun of me today.
  21. I can’t text people outside Vodafone Club.
  22. Nobody in my host family speaks English.
  23. Everyone thinks I am from England when I wear a backpack.
  24. I just want a real cheeseburger.
  25. I’m tired.

The struggle is real.

4 responses to “#PoshCorpsProblems

  1. It’s the third time I read in one month from foreign english-speaking websites that Mercedes Benzes in Albania are stolen. This thing with especially Americans and the British thinking that Mercedeses are like Ferrari and cannot be bought by normal people, and that’s why Albanians must have stolen them, is happening too often and it is really bothering me. How is it possible that you guys are so misinformed and you don’t know that Mercs don’t produce only luxury cars but also for normal users, and that those that are 15-20 years old can be bought for under 2000 dollars in Germany, regularly? And they can be shipped to Albania for just another 1000 dollars, and there will be just 400 other dollars of import taxes. A 3400 USD Mercedes can be afforded by Albanians, and old Mercs are much better than any other old car, consume less fuel and last longer in our bad roads.

    Now, in America or the EU, you have laws against old imported cars for pollution reasons, safety reasons, or for other hidden reasons (to make you spend more with new cars), and those old cars are either not allowed, or taxes are so high for every year of age that in the end for you it would be better if you buy a new one. In Albania they tried it for two years to use your same law, they put very high taxes on old cars, but the Albanian people couldn’t afford buying new ones so the import of cars dropped with 50% in the first year, and with 90% in the second year. People kept buying the cars that were already here. So the government was forced to remove the ban.

    So, why would anyone steal a 1000 EUR car and risk prison for it? Yes, there are stolen cars here like in every other country, but even people from the Guardian.com and on Top Gear are saying we steal cars just because they see too many Mercs, and they don’t have a single fact or statistic that they are stolen. They say it just because they cannot buy Mercs in their countries, and they don’t bother to make some researches, and they’re journalists. This is getting very boring.

    Here is a website where you can buy 15 or 20 year old Mercedes Benzes in Germany for 1000 to 2000 Euros. Please check them and tell me if they don’t look exactly like the ones you see in mass in Albania. And with 6000 EUR you can buy Mercs that are just 5-6 years old, which is still a price that an Albanian who owns a small business, a shop or something, or who has immigrated and worked hard, can still afford without a problem.

    http://suchen.mobile.de/auto/mercedes-benz.html?isSearchRequest=true&lang=de&scopeId=C&sortOption.sortBy=price.consumerGrossEuro&makeModelVariant1.makeId=17200&maxPrice=2000

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