#PeaceCorps MAK24: This is My City

This past Friday, we were given our permanent sites. Permanent sites are where PCVs spend the remaining 24 months of their service. And I have been chosen to remain in my training site! Everything I could have asked for, really. It’s big enough with lots of things to see and do, close to nature and with very good transport links to all over N Macedonia. I’ll be working at a school at which I’ve been doing my practicum, with people who I have already met. I’m lucky that my transition won’t be as difficult as some others.

Speaking of practicum, I will be doing solo teaching on Thursday and Friday. I have been busy writing lesson plans that are engaging enough and still fitting with the really important curriculum. It will be interesting to meet Macedonian students and have them doing things in class that they’re probably not used to. It will be a good introduction to students that I will be seeing often.

Honestly, I can’t wait to really dig into this town and become a “fixture”. I love that I will seen my current host family often, that I will get a new family and new contacts. I’m happy I’ll be able to travel easily to the capital city and visiting the new friends I’ve made. I know that I will definitely discover some difficulties, but I’m feeling great about this placement already. Optimism abounds!

#PeaceCorps MAK24: It’s all happening now

It’s week seven of PST (Pre-Service Training) and now everything is getting quite serious. Peer teaching is happening this Thursday, and Friday we receive our permanent sites: that is, where we will be for the next two years. Rumours, speculation and wild betting are definitely occurring as we all wait with nervous anticipation. I am definitely quite anxious. We can make some guesses: as I have been learning Albanian along with Macedonian, I will probably be placed somewhere in the western part of the country, possibly either in a majority Albanian or majority Macedonian place, or one that is fifty-fifty like my current training site. Otherwise, I have no clue.

Peer teaching is where two PCT (Peace Corps Trainees) co-teach some classes, whilst the counterpart observes us and gives us feedback. Next week, we will be solo teaching. I’m excited about both things, but as I have never co-taught, I am looking forward to balancing the classroom. The classes that I’ll be co-teaching are all final year students who are preparing for the ending exam called the Matura, and just like any final year of secondary school, they may be more than a little cynical and unwilling to play along. We shall see.

Autumn has FINALLY come upon us, and with it beautiful yellows and oranges. There was a hint of cold weather, but the 20s are still sticking around (20s = ~70 deg Farenheit). With the cold weather came all the wood burning stoves and a rise in air pollution. Living in a valley means that it settles on top of us like a smothering blanket. The rain has chased most of it away. Yesterday, on the 4th of November, our little valley experienced a 2.9 magnitude earthquake. Nothing was damaged: light fixtures shook and the metal blinds rattled. N Macedonia has a history of earthquake activity. Hopefully they all remain small and innocuous.

Small things of note:

  • The pizza here is delicious. When I think of pizza cultures, trust me that I never would have thought of N Macedonia.
  • Many of the grocery stores are run by Macedonians, even in majority Albanian parts of the city. Language switching throughout the day is exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.
  • Most Macedonians that I have observed do not frequent Albanian restaurants or caf├ęs, and Albanians do not frequent Macedonian ones. There being a distinct ethnic divide doesn’t really surprise me as a biracial person, but trying to navigate it with poor-ish language skills and a weak cultural grasp can be frustrating. My host family takes me to Albanian places, but many of the other PCTs have introduced me to Macedonian places. As a small rule of thumb that is not necessarily followed everywhere, Albanian places generally do not serve alcohol, whilst Macedonian ones do.
  • I am learning standard Albanian and dialect Albanian at the same time. The grammar stays the same, but pronunciation can vary wildly. I don’t always remember the standard when I’m speaking in class.