Hmm where to start…Orientation Week ended last Saturday and since then many many things have happened. I suppose the most important is that since then, I have been placed in a smaller group of volunteers (5 as opposed to the entire group of 35) in Sveti Nicole to continue Pre-Service Training for the next two months. I have also been placed with a home stay family for the training session. I was not placed in a multi ethnic community, and so my placement is predominantly Macedonian and I live with a Macedonian family. Because I was not placed in a multi-ethnic position, I still have to wait about a month until training is over to find out where my permanent post will be.
Training has been pretty challenging. Four hours of language lessons followed by community development sessions is enough to make smoke come out of my ears. In addition, next week we will begin our practicum sessions with local NGOs which will last throughout the training. I have been placed with a women’s group in Sveti Nikole, and I am actually pretty excited to begin working with them even though I am going to have some pretty full days.
Although the training sessions are pretty taxing, the home stay portion is pretty fun. My Macedonian family is hilarious and they really have many of the same traits as I do (read: had wine at lunch today). My host mother’s name is Biliana, my host father is Toshi and my host brother’s name is Ane. Everyone in the family speaks English at least at a caveman level, and Ane speaks pretty fluently. There have been so many ridiculous things that have happened trying to communicate in a wacky pastiche of English, Macedonian, German, Spanish and general charades that I certainly can’t recall all of them right now. One of my favorite bits is that my name in the Cyrillic alphabet looks like PEHE POPC, and because of it, my host family delights in calling me Pee Hee. I feel that this has advanced even further than most nicknames, as they even introduce me to strangers in town as Pee Hee.
Finally a fun anecdote that I think really demonstrates both the hospitality and closeness of my new community: The second day after our arrival, all of the volunteers went to each others houses to find out where in town each other lived. When we got to each person’s house we were invited inside to meet the host family, have a cup of coffee and visit. At each of the five volunteers’ houses, we were offered some food and drinks. Wait, offered isn’t really the right word. Hmm how to explain… being given food in Macedonia is alot like asking your parents if your friend can come over for dinner directly in front of your friend. Turning it down would be awkward and there may be some unwanted tears. So each of the families offered us their own “special” type of cake, and at each one all of the volunteers scarfed it down. After that I went to a birthday party with my host family where, you guessed it, they generally eat cake. PS, there were two birthday girls which equals two different cakes. So I ate SEVEN pieces of cake that day. My host mother thought this was frikin hilarious and told everyone about it for the next two days (in Macedonian and in front of me). So three days later I ran into another Volunteer from the year before whom I have met a few times and she told me she had heard about the Seven Cakes day from someone she works with. Ta Da! In Macedonia, everyone knows everyone else and they all know exactly how much you eat. And then I found ten dollars.*
*This is NOT true but it IS a very good way to end a story on a high note.