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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Couch

It's almost June, which means I've been here for 9 months. I can't believe the amount of time that has already simply amazes me.

In the 9 months that I have been here, I've accomplished a lot. My most proud accomplishment is certainly the construction and execution of the dance studio and classes. It's been so much work....from writing out the grant, to finding the appropriate materials, to installing everything, to introducing classes, and even to training new teachers. Shows, television, the local newspaper.....everyone! The dance classes are a community hit, there's no doubt.

The dance classes offer a lot more than just dance. They provide the most opportunity for the students to speak English in a formal setting...something that I think is more useful than what they can learn in class. I never thought I'd be able to form close relationships with students who dont speak fluent English, but that assumption has proven to be incorrect. I've built so many relationships with my dancers...boys and girls. I have dancers from every grade at the school. Some of them are shy, while some are very outgoing. Some don't like to perform on stage, while others love the attention. One thing is certain: I've built my own little home down there in the dance studio, as well as a mini family with my dancers. Life outside of that is basic and unfulfilling.

Recently, times at work have been difficult. There are differences and obstacles I've been trying to address, but sometimes it seems like you just have to "let things roll off your back," as PC loves to say. No doubt, I have that capacity. I also have the ability to handle stress, adapt to a new culture and country, and initiate sustainable change. Sometimes, however, I don't feel like these virtues go noticed. Sometimes, I feel a total lack of appreciation, respect, and acknowledgement of what I sacrifice every day in order to be here.

Sometimes, being here is like being a celebrity. People watch me. They talk about me. They know where I shop and what I buy when I shop. They know where I live, and they also know every single person I've ever talked to here. This kind of attention can be comical on good days and detrimental on bad days. This kind of attention makes you weary of every action you take. Eventually, people may cross you...because that happens in life. People offend you. They hurt you. They say things behind your back. They say something negative in Macedonian, because they don't think you understand their language. They may even want your attention so much that they may spread lies about you. You may also have people who reassure you that your presence is a positive thing. A smile, a hug, a hello, an invite to coffee, or someone who simply thought about you other than when you're just standing in front of them...these things can save a day or a mood.

At the end of the day, what have you got? Where's the support network? Is it your neighbors, your students, your fellow teachers, or the comfort of your couch?

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” 
 G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things have begun to slow down a bit ever since my momma left. The weather has also grown increasingly fickle. It's been raining for days, and the chill is bringing my mood down too. I just want it to stay warm and sunny, that's all. : )

This past week was my school's prom. Since Emilija is a homeroom teacher for a 4th year class, we got to go VIP style to the event!

Emilija and me

Me, Ivan (my dancer), and Beti

The event itself was fantastic. All my boy students stuck by my side the entire night!! Every time I sat down to rest or eat, they'd come grab me again for more dancing. It was a blast.
Me and Stefani (my dancer)

Me, Emilija, and our 4th year boys

Other than prom, I had a fellow volunteer, Enid in town this weekend. She came to teach a host ballet class. Even though 15 girls promised to come, we only have 4 show up. At first, I was pretty disappointed, but it actually turned out quite well, b/c she was able to really spend individual time with each girl. The girls did great too!! 

Look how great my studio is! High-five to me!!

I also had a fantastic night with Enid and Elena at the pub. I hadnt been out to the pub here in ages!! I ran into a bunch of local friends, and even made some new ones. Enid and I also got to share dinner with Arnaud and his girlfriend. All in all, it was a pretty great weekend for me.

I've completed the dance studio, and now all I have to do is get all the paperwork together. It's stressing me out more than it should, but once it's done, it'll just be done, and I'll feel much better!! I also have to fill out a huge volunteer reporting form for the Peace Corps. I've been trying to do it in small pieces here and there, but it's now almost due, so I need to get on it! I also have been asked to write two new articles for the Peace Corps magazine. I gladly accepted, but this is just another thing I need to get done by Friday. At least Im working!! :D

OH!! And in just 2.5 weeks, Chad will be arriving in Macedonia. I am so damn excited! We'll be in Struga for just short of a week while I complete a language training event. From there, we will be on the road until June 27th! I think this trip is really what I need. Lately, I've just felt really overwhelmed with work. I've also begun feeling isolated and lonely again, which isnt good. Right now, I have more local friends, and I've been spending time with some new people too. At the end of the day though, I still find myself missing home a lot. That being said, I think I just need to break away for a little bit, which is why I think this trip will be perfect for me. 

Here's your quote for the day:
“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”
 Christian Morganstern

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Adjustor

It's Wednesday night, and my momma went back to America today. It's been an excellent week...going through and telling you everything that my mother and I did wouldnt even do it justice!! But here a small recap in a few photos:

1. We saw a lot of beautiful sights with my good friend Arnaud.

2. We "na gostied" a lot....ate a lot of great food!!

(that's Emilija!!)

3. Spent a lot of time with my fantastic DANCERS!! I love these kids like they were my own.

(this one looks like Bobi is possessed!!)

(their new dance)

4. Visited Matka lake for Mother's Day!!

I mean...we did A LOT. Mom met nearly everyone that's ever met me in Macedonia. We ate a lot. We traveled a lot. She met Lozovo and my host family. She met the whole PC staff. It was great. It was definitely sad when she left this morning, but she is almost home now, so I feel ok. 

I won't get into work or anything, bc it has been stressing me out a lot lately. I really wish some people at my school would appreciate what all I've done...anyways, here's two videos to tie you over!! On of them is kind of old, and mostly involves food. Here it is:

The next video is of one of the recent performances my Zumba girls did. I loved it!! It was for an event my mayor put on. Check it out:

Other than that, here's your quote of the day:

If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't.
Chuck Palahniuk

Thursday, May 3, 2012

House of Leaves

I love being back at work. 

I also love that it feels like summer outside.

This weekend was perfect. Two other PCVs from Kumanovo came into town with some of their friends and surprised me on Sunday. I was already preparing a HUGE dinner, complete with pasta, salad, and some tasty drinks, so we had plenty t share for everyone. We ate early, so we had time to sit around and chat about everything under the sun. Sunday felt like a perfect Sunday to me. It felt like Sundays I've had back in America....good company, good food, and having that one person who manages to stay after everyone else has left, just because the conversation is that good. Even better, was I was really able to share my new house with everyone. GOOD GOD, how great it is to have room for people. I mean, I can comfortably fit 8 people in my living room!!

Monday was a national holiday, also known as "May Day." It is like the Macedonian Labor Day. Everyone goes into the mountains. And I mean EVERYONE. It's picnic time, and people load up their cars with food and drinks, and everyone finds a mountain to setup camp on for the entire day. My lovely friends were still in town, and they picked me up first thing in the morning to join them for their picnic. It was really hot outside. I's like 90F lately, no kidding. They'd already setup blankets, so we sunbathed while the food was prepared. A Roma band found us and decided to play music for us, which was the highlight of the day. By the late afternoon, the heat and exhaustion was getting to me, so we called it a day. All together, it was a great way to spend the holiday. I love getting the opportunity to explore the wilderness here. 

Since I've been back at work, I have been BUSY. 

Today, work began at 9am for me. I had a big long meeting with my Director this morning, and he is totally loving the idea of the dance camp. Furthermore, he is interested in ways to expand on the idea, which is great. Later, I had two dance classes. My dancers have a show this Friday night, and we've not had a lot of time to practice. Fortunately, we have many new girls performing this time, which I am so pleased about. I love meeting and working with new girls. I wish I could work with all of them!! We also had Zumba today, which was great. I still can't do all the moves, nor can I "go all out," when it comes to dancing, but I am taking it slow and being careful. I cannot afford to injure myself again. Being back in the studio made me feel at home.

I cannot find words to describe the utter chaos...seriously, chaos...that happened this afternoon. Emilija and I had a meeting at the Mayor's office, because they are interested in using my dancers for a show on Wednesday. It was a great compliment to have their interest. From there, we began to work on the new construction of the dance studio. We got our grant money this afternoon, so we went into action! Bank #1, Western Union, fast food, appliance store, bank #2, appliance store, post office, home, eat, 30-min break, back to work, hip-hop class till 8:30pm, shower, and done. Thankfully, we got most everything purchased this afternoon, and they will be delivering things such as the air conditioner and the TV tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, we should also get the new dance floor installed into the room. From there, I'd like to drill the ballet bars into the ground and maybe even tear the titles off the walls, so we can paint some kind of mural on them. There's a lot we can do, and with people like Emilija and myself running everything, our possibilities are endless!!

I would like to add that Emilija and I are a damn good team. We can bargain and make friends with just about everyone. We spent so long in that appliance store today, waiting for the paperwork to get done, and at one point we were even enjoying a coffee with the shop owners. I could not ask for a better person to rely on when I really need it. I would not have been able to accomplish so much today without her. 

Finally, I'd like to say this coming week is going to be huge for me. Monday, I will have a new dance group beginning choreography. We will also begin a new ballet class! Tuesday, MY MOMMA COMES INTO TOWN!! Wednesday is the Mayor's big EU show, and Thursday is the day where I want to bring my mom to school so she can meet everyone. I cannot wait for her to meet my kids.....I might cry, cant lie about that!

Here's your quote for the day:

"I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it." - Frank A. Clark