I have been serving with the Peace Corps a week. I have only been in Macedonia for about five days and so much has happened in this little amount of time. The Peace Corps does an amazing job at easing you into the environment and try to make sure you feel safe at first and easy you into situations.
This week has been filled with informational sessions and discussions on different topics. I can honestly say I love each and every volunteer. They are in this to try to have the most powerful experience as possible and I feel like I will receive the support and respect I need from them throughout serve. The language classes are absolutely amazing! The teachers are positive, patient, and engaging the entire time. I feel like I am constantly learning and at the right pace.
The cultures and ethnicities in Macedonia are very complex and I feel like I will not understand everything until I have been in Macedonia for AT LEAST several years. The two most prominent cultures are Albanian and Macedonian. These two ethnic groups identify themselves with their religion. Albanians are generalized as Muslim and Macedonians are generalized as Orthodox Christians. There are exceptions to these generalizations, but the cultures rely heavily on these divides. Other ethnic groups are Roma, Turkish, and the surrounding countries (Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian).
Gender roles in this country can be considered “traditional” with the women making dinner and the men tending the fields. I am interested to step into two host families and understand why these gender roles are prominent and prevalent in Macedonia.
I am currently in Western Macedonia in a large town, Tetovo, about an hour away from the Albanian border. This weather and climate is spitting image of Colorado. The mountains are robust and tall. The weather right now is crisp, dry, and sunny. I will have to watch myself. It is challenging for Peace Corps volunteers that get placed in climates similar to home because they tend to get homesick because they make to many parallels to home. Right now, I am able to look around and really appreciate the beauty around me. I hope to take a step back and enjoy this beauty months from now.
EXCITING NEWS: I will be in the dual language program starting tomorrow. There are a total of 10 volunteers in this program. This will entail learning two languages in three months as a trainee. I will be learning Albanian and Macedonian and will most likely get placed in an Albanian family for my serve. This is a huge stepping-stone. I do not considered myself gifted in learning languages, but the way they teach languages here is very effective. I will have to monitor and adjust my abilities and figure out ways to learn both languages because I will need both in my serve and in getting around the country.
I am nervous about this opportunity but very grateful to think that the Peace Corps staff think I am capable of being successful. Being in an Albanian family will entail me acting as a woman of traditional nature: no drinking when I am around them and being respectful. This will allow me to take a step into a Muslim culture and understand the significant of their rituals and traditions. Part of my blood family is Muslim and I am really excited to gain a deeper appreciation of their spirituality and wellbeing.
This journey thus far is nothing I imagined it would be! Macedonia is a developed country in that it has running water, sanitation, and houses. Yet, his country has a tradition anti-progressive mindset in SOME WAYS and this is why the Peace Corps is present. My purpose is to support a teacher, teach people about my culture, and embrace their culture. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I am excited to pursue this adventure and I cannot wait to learn more about others and myself along the way.
Going into this I thought it would be “posh corps”, but is much more complex than that! The area I will probably be serving has not been served since 2001 because of the war in the Western region in Macedonia. There will be hardships and struggles that will be MUCH different than other Peace Corps Volunteers have endured.
What can you do help? If you could send letters, emails, and send good thoughts my way. The positive support will help me through my rollercoaster. The highs and lows will happen, so any encouragement throughout this process will be appreciated.