Today and the pass couple of days, my host mother has opened up her heart.  Her father is very sick, very, very sick with cancer. She is having a hard time because she wants to be with him for his last days, but she has to stay at her house to take care of her family and house.  I can only comfort and tell her that I pray for her father (even if I am not sure what is out there). I constantly tell her: “Une deshire per baba juaj mire shundet.” (I wish for your father good health.)  Although my language has progressed so much in the past two months in Albanian and Macedonian, I still don’t know how to culturally approach this situation.  The thing I can show, always, is compassion.  I can hug her, I can say I any praying for her father, and I also can tell her I am here for her–after all I am her daughter.

I want to show her love because for the past two months she has given me nothing, but love. What am I here for?  Why is the Peace Corps in Macedonia?  It was today I understood.  I may be here to help the school system, to help the ethnic tensions at times, but most of all I am here for the relationships and to share my compassion.

Some days are overwhelming.  I want to help everyone and help with everything, but ultimately I need to slow down and just really savor the relationships I make. I honestly don’t want to leave this host family.  They have been so kind to me and I truly feel like a daughter and sister.  Imagine trying to find families willing to host someone they have never met before in the United States.  It takes a rare and wonderful person to open up their home and embrace another human-being. 

My site visit was very eye-opening. The school needs me and my new host sister is sky high to have a sister in her life. I know it is going to be a challenging next two years, but I can’t get too ahead of myself.  I want to savor these relationships and savor them I will. My new family has a grand house and a grand view of the mountains surrounding the village.  I hope to have a positive, but challenging experience with this new family! View from my new house:

Last night I was looking through the photos I have taken throughout PST with my host family.  All the cookies, cakes, banana breads, and pies we have made together.  All the football games, basketball games, and card games we have played.  They have shared their tradition of Bajram and open their hearts to having Thanksgiving. 

Every time I learn a new word they celebrate my successes and always say how much my Albanian has improved. I can’t express how thankful I am for having such an amazing family.  No matter what happens in the next two years, I want to stay in touch with this family and visit them often.  They took me in–bright-eyed and bushy-tailed–and then saw me grow into the culture and language.  My family in Rromanli is the best.  Familja ima ne Rromali eshte me e mira. 


Me trying to do some yoga at Lake Matka:


The past two weekends I have spent exploring the outdoor world of Macedonia.  I hiked the highest mountain in the Skopje area,–Mount Vodno–which is about 3,000ft above sea level.  I also explored one of Macedonia’s jewels Lake Matka (matka is Macedonian for womb). This river and lake is absolutely gorgeous and gave all the volunteers with me a fresh break from the 24/7 job of being a volunteer. I am so grateful for my placement.  I have so much hiking and exploring and the end of my fingertips. Sometimes I wish I could have had an African experience, and then I remember how my I have learned about myself and the two cultures around me that I am slapped in the face with a thankful perspective.

In the woods I find my compassion. In the woods I find my patience. In the woods I find my love for this country.  And, in the woods I understand why I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.

A group of volunteers on top of Mount Vodno:




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