Feelings of ups and downs are normal. I know there will be times where it seems impossible and that I have not done anything with my community or improved or grown myself. I know I will be enduring some of the lowest lows and the highest highs of my entire life thus far. This is what I have signed up for, this is my calling, my journey, my time to gown.
PST (Pre-Service Training) is a time where I am surrounded by volunteers that have passion and enthusiasm in what they are doing. They are my support network during training and for the next two years. They are going through what I am enduring, but not at all.
Something I have been trying to train myself thus far to keep thinking this is a completely different experience for everyone in my year and in the whole of PC Macedonia. I have done competitive sports my entire life. I’ve thrilled off of being competitive and making sure that I stay on varsity or that I win the race. This a completely different environment. I have to focus on myself: my sanity, my growth, my own goals, and my own happiness.
My goals before my site visit (my site visit is this next week):
1. To make sure I am always making myself a priority. I have a bad habit of not checking up on myself and making sure that I am okay before I help other people. I can’t effectively help others unless I am healthy and stable myself.
2. To create friendships. One COSing (Close of Service) volunteer told me that a realistic goal is making one new friend. So I set out after PST inspired to slowly chip away and make a new friend.
3. To find effective stress-relievers in my new environment. Running may not be an option at my next site, so finding a way to relieve stress as effectively as running has for the past 13 or so years.
4. Make sure I celebrate the little successes. If a student says hello, if a family member confides in me, or if I receive a hug or a laugh, then it is very successful.
These are the goals I hope to keep over the next two years. Although things are about to get really crazy and different, I am excited and ready.
There are moments where I feel like I am back in Ghana. The form of transportation is very similar and how the buildings are made is exactly the same. There are times where I get lost in thought thinking I am back in Ghana off on another adventure. Then I fly straight back into reality and remember, no this is not a study abroad experience, this is my way of life for two years.
I am committing myself for two years of being in a fish bowl. I have been trying to stay positive and optimistic at every turn thus far. There are times I have just needed to vent and complain, but overall my tactic has been: find the beauty, find the good that surrounds you.
I am known for my optimism. It is generally something that people constantly praise me on. I used to take that skill for granted, but now I find myself search for it to be by my side. People in this culture respond well to friendliness and smiles. While I was at the school the teachers loved that I smiled, tried to talk to them, and was positive.
The couple of times I found myself on struggle street riding the struggle bus I have managed to change my mindset pretty quickly by thinking of everything I am grateful for and I why signed up for this journey.
We worked with a very friendly teacher, but a teacher that learned a lot from us this week. I have co-taught before, thanks to student teaching, but our counterpart, this was the first time she had worked with an American, and co-taught.
The school was very rundown and the resources were very limited. There are chalkboards in every classroom, but the chalk in this country is of horrible quality and the boards are positioned so that half the class cannot actually see the board. Some of the classes were well behaved, whereas some of the classes were absolute messes. They were rude and would talk over a student trying to speak English. One of the lessons I co-taught I played the Linkin’ Park song “What I’ve Done” to review the present perfect tense. A lot of the students got really into that part of the lesson because they either heard of the song or got excited knowing it was popular in America now.
I learned throughout this Practicum week that change in the classroom is going to be a slow process. I am going to have to choose my battles and decide what I want to improve in their school system. The patience I obtained in Ghana, I am going to need to for the next two years–lots of it.
My amazing host family and volunteers treated me like a queen for Halloween celebrations and my birthday.Halloween celebrations consisted of carving a pumpkin, baking the seeds, lighting the pumpkin, and then laughing at me putting on “Albanain” worthy makeup. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday away from America for the first time. They treated me to cake, banana split, and flowers.
I honestly don’t want to leave this family because our personalities fit so perfectly and the overwhelming love of each other is really nice. I only have one more month with them. I wish I had 24 more. Hopefully in no time I will feel the love I feel with this host family.