Above is a picture of my amazing host brother, Vullnet, and host sister Densia during Bajram.
The past two weeks have been really crazy! We have been running from class to class to session to session to HUB Day (training days where all the MAK18s are together) to bajram (Muslim Holiday) to misafir (very common social event where you go to someone else’s house).
It has been wonderful to be busy, but my immune system and brain are grateful for a break. My family invited me on another misafir today, but I declined because my language homework and rest have been put aside for a bit too long.
This past week I found out where I am going to spend the next two years of my life. I am going to be in the northwest region of Macedonia right next to the Kosovo border. I am going to be with a conservative Albanian Muslim family in a very conservative Albanian Muslim village about 20 minutes by bus from Tetovo one of the larger cities in Macedonia.
Due to safety reasons, I cannot tell you the name of my village, but if you come and visit I can let you in on my little secret. 😉
What to know, these insights are from current PCV and PC staff, I have NOT BEEN TO THE COMMUNITY YET (I will in 2 weeks):
*I am right next to one of the HIGHEST mountains in Macedonia in the Šar Mountains. They are drop dead beautiful. I saw them during the orientation week and I can’t wait to go backpacking in them. Looks like bringing my gear was a perfect idea. The mountain right next to my village is about 9000 feet above sea level.
*All the women in my family AND community cover. They are all very serious about their faith and I will need to follow some guidelines when I am in the village. I will need to NEVER show any part of my arms or legs when I am in the public eye. This will show my respect to their culture and religion. I will not need to cover my head, but the Peace Corps always encourages flexibility incase not covering causes too much attention towards me.
*My main counterpart covers (like the rest of the women in the community), but has a very boisterous personality. She will align with me in energy and positivity. She has very little experience with student-centered, multiple teaching styles, and critical thinking. The sky is the limit with this school. This is a primary school 1st grade through 8th grade with 300 students: 4 English teachers (3 I will be working with). The school also want to be to run after school sport programs–boy did they pick the right person for that!
*My host family has applied for a volunteer for three years and is REALLY REALLY EXCITED. They have never had a volunteer, so it will be a learning process for everyone.
*Running may not be possible in this village because the dogs are scary mean! They have attacked locals and volunteers alike. I will probably have to do a lot of after school sports and yoga in my room.
*I am 5 minutes from one volunteer, 15 from another volunteer, and 30 minutes from two other volunteers. In the Peace Corps world I scored support system HAVEN. I think the Peace Corps really wants me to succeed here and they really have given me some of the tools I need.
My dual language will continue for another 5 weeks and then I will swear in and become an OFFICIAL PCV! My Macedonian will only be used when I travel to see other volunteer, whereas my Albanian will be used in my community, in Tetovo, and in the two neighboring countries: Albania and Kosovo. There are so many layers to my experience thus far.
My host family here in Romanoli (Romanovce in Macedonian) has been absolutely AMAZING! They took me through an amazing experience of bajram! This Muslim holiday is a combination of Christmas and Halloween. All the children get brand-new clothes and everyone goes from family house to family house eating candy (Turkish Delights), Baklava, tea, and turkish coffee. We had a large meal of beef, potatoes, eggs, and bread. I probably ate 20 lbs worth of food that day.
Each Misafir (go see) I go on, I feel like my Albanian improves leaps and bounds. I am starting to pick up on words and read into gestures. When I meet new guests I am about to ask where they are from, how old they are, and what they do for work. My exciting as increased as my language as developed. Each word I know, I know how to use in very effective ways.
Yesterday the entire Macedonian PC family had a huge get together. We had a picnic, went to the PC office, and celebrated over drinks. I got to meet all the MAK 16s and MAK 17s (and some MAK 15s and 14s who have continued for more years). We are the newbies, the MAK 18s. All of this celebration was done in Skopje, the capital. It was a very surreal day because it was the first time I felt like I was in Eastern Europe, in the Balkans. This city is very modern with rich amounts of history. I was fun to walk on cobblestone that had been in place for YEARS. In the middle of the square was a statue of Alexander the Great, the countries pride and joy. Now if you ask someone from Greece it’s just a warrior on a horse, but everyone else knows who it truly is.
Also yesterday I went to the Peace Corps Office and SCORED ON SOME AMAZING CLOTHES! I got a winter jacket and two light jackets to prepare for winter and teaching in the schools. The Peace Corps Office in Skopje is small and modest, but it does the trick. There is a ritual where once we get swear in, a picture of our group will hang in the office, pretty neat history.
Me with a picture of my new site.
I am so grateful to be apart of supportive and loving host family, peace corps family, and MAK 18 family.
Fellow Volunteers and I with Alexander the Great in Skopje.