I was talking with a few other PCVs this past week and this was the topic of conversation- the differences between our sites. A few of the most noticeable differences are below.
- Some TEFLs teach from day one. They walk into the classroom the first day they are at site and they do an introduction lesson and get started planning with their counterparts for the lessons they will teach. I am not one of those TEFLs. Some of us have to take things at a much slower pace and feel out our counterpart and school before we can do anything. Some TEFLs have only taught one lesson in the three months at site, with no more lessons on the horizon. Neither way is right or wrong and both have their advantages in my opinion. In my case, I know my counterpart is really busy with grad school, teaching, and helping her family at home so I have had to move slowly and suggest ideas at a slower pace. While I have only taught once, I have seen my counterpart taking a few of my ideas and incorporating them into her teaching. I know there are other people here who would be frustrated by this because they came here to teach, but its how my counterpart and I work together and I am becoming more and more patient everyday.
- Some PCVs feel like they are really living the "posh corps" with very modern apartments with washing machines, heaters/air conditioners, high speed internet, 400 TV channels, shopping centers, etc. Again, I am not one of those. Some of us are just happy we have an indoor toilet! I don't have internet at home, my apartment is only heated with a wood burning stove, I can't drink the water from my sink because it is contaminated, I hand wash all of my clothing, etc. Again, neither is better or worse, just different. At this point, I think I would be frustrated by having all of those things. I like having a daily reminder that I am not in the US (however frustrating it might be at times) but despite that, I am still going to try and continue my pursuit for internet!
- Some PCVs don't really use their Macedonian because everyone speaks English to them. Yet again, I am not one of those PCVs. I only speak English with my counterpart and only when it is just the two of us talking. I am completely surrounded by Macedonian elsewhere. Macedonia has many different dialects as well, so I am not just learning more literature Macedonian, but also the local dialect, Каменички, which features quite a few Bulgarian words. I am also learning a little Italian from my landlady because if I don't understand what she is saying in Macedonian, she switches to Italian thinking I will of course understand that! However, I like that I am using the Macedonian that I learned and learning more. Yes, it does get tiring sometimes when I don't understand what people are saying, but I would say at this point at least 80% of the time I can figure out what the topic is through picking up words I know and asking questions.
- Some PCVs get a lot of attention, often unwanted, from their community. I am one of those PCVs. Others blend in and are kind of ignored. While I am still finding people who don't know that I am an American who will be living here for two years, most people know my name even if I haven't met them. I have received some unwanted attention here (from men and not only single men). At first it was very frustrating and I didn't necessarily know how to address it, but after a lot of practice, I know how to handle it tactfully and it makes me laugh now. One of the houses I na gosti often is always bringing over boys for me to meet and while sometimes I don't want to feel like I am on a set up, I just find it funny. I have told everyone here I have a boyfriend, but that doesn't seem to stop them because of course a Macedonian one is always better than an American one (in their minds at least).
All in all, my take (6 months in country) is that the way to win at Peace Corps is to always stay positive and find the good in any situation.