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