I have started to think that my Peace Corps service is beginning to look like my failures and successes with the delicious chocolate chip cookie. These amazing cookies seem to be a slight addiction that is reasoned in my head because it is a “cultural exchange” when I make them. In actual reality these cookies are a treat for me and something I can eat that tastes like America.
When I first came to Macedonia I thought I may be giving up this delicious cookie for the next 27 months. I ate oodles and oodles of cookies in hopes of overdosing on them–I tried this approach with Mexican food too. Neither were successful because deep down inside I am addicted.
Drawn to the baking world for stress-relief, during my first month in country I scrambled to find all the ingredients (with creative thinking) for these delightful desserts. I braved my host family’s kitchen and made cookies that were hard as rocks. Something was wrong with this recipe or the oven or something. The ingredients still made a tasty treat, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong. After all, I am a baker at heart that wants a warm, out-of-the-oven cookie.
I was determined to master the mystery of the “ingredient” in these delicious cookies.
Two months later I tried another batch in my pre-service training family. This was the end of my stay with this family so my emotions were high. I was anxious and nervous about the future family and site. What is a great solution? Eating cookies of course. These cookies…melted into one big odd monster cookie. My host family took it with stride and we just treated the cookie like an awkward cookie cousin. Cutting up parts and devouring what we could.
Two months later, five months into service, I braved yet another kitchen my host family at my permanent site. I remember and reflected on my mistakes hoping that I could impress this new family with delicious desserts. These cookies got burnt because I was so distracted with everything else going on. The third batch and an epic fail. I was completely and utterly embarrassed. I know my way around a kitchen and an oven, but somehow here I failed in a brand-new house.
I took a break from this seemingly insolvable relationship i developed with the cookie Gods. I focused my attention in the cooking world with banana bread, no-bake cookies, Mexican, and Indian. All were great successes, but seemed to be greatly off task for what I really wanted.
Three months after the burnt cookie incident I received a package from a great friend’s mother, Mrs. Gardner. (I still cherish the items in this package daily.) This package had chocolate chip cookie mix! I could taste the ever so delightful cookie in my mouth finally, eight months after being in Macedonia. I made these cookies at my site mates house in order to avoid the “burnt” problem and they were a glorious celebration. This seemed to time well with what was going on at site. I accomplished at that spring with extra curricular activities for the school, but I was completely exhausted everyday from the different culture and trying to find my rhythm with my teachers, students, community, and family.
Three months after this success, nine months into site I attempting making these cookies yet again. Now, you would think the successful cookies from a mix would have satisfied me, but I did not think it was fair to settle for a mix being the success. I made these cookies at my counterpart’s house. These cookies were a gooey mess. I didn’t know what cooked and what didn’t cook. I was having some person struggles at the time, so this situation, looking back on it seemed to mirror my life in the Peace Corps.
Then the summer crazy created no time for cookies or for baking.
The whirlwind of life hit me and I wound up in a new family.
Yesterday I attempted to make chocolate chip cookies, thinking to myself this will be there very…last…time, if I don’t succeed. I would like to say with all my pride and happiness. These cookies are by fair the best cookies I have ever made in Macedonia. Now, as my good buddy Jake asked me, are these the best cookies you have ever made ever? No, not quiet, but I will settle for the best in Macedonia.
This has been one of the hardest 14 months in my life, but the most rewarding 14 months. I have made the best chocolate chip cookies yet because I do believe I have hit my stride. I am supporting my teachers; I have wonderful students that are engaged; I have a wonderful family supporting me in America and in my village; And I can only hope that the next 13 months will be powerful and amazing, if not more intense then the last 14 months in my service.
To cheers for me, have a chocolate chip cookie today and remember how hard I worked to make that cookie become a reality in Macedonia for me.