Friday, November 22, 2013


I am happy to announce that on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Peace Corps founder John F. Kennedy, I became a
I am a whole mix of emotions right now. It has been over two years since I was in America and on one hand, I am very excited to leave, but on the other hand, I am dreading it. Most RPCVs will tell you that the hardest part of Peace Corps is returning home. When coming here, you are expecting everything to be different, so you are prepared. But when I think about life in America, it is almost like it should have just stood still and nothing changed. For this reason, I am very glad I am on the boat home with 8 other RPCVs. We will get the chance to enter an American environment, but be with people who we were with here who completely understand what the last two years has been about. I think it will make the transition a bit easier.

Things I am Most Excited for in America
  1. The obvious, friends and family
  2. It might be cold outside, but you have working heat inside that only requires the push of a button
  3. Not being starred at everywhere I go
  4. Being able to wash and dry your clothes in under three hours and the oh-so-softness of clothes fresh from a dryer
  5. People waiting their turn in line
  6. Going to restaurants and being able to hear people as the music is kept at a reasonable level
  7. Food variety: Going to places where every menu isn't identical
  8. Driving cars, rather than riding on long, long buses
  9. As silly as it may sound, the food I am most excited to get back to in America right now is soy yogurt and the rest of my non-dairy alternatives
  10. English being spoken everywhere
  11. No more weird meat products, or at least no one lying to me about what kind of "meat" they are trying to serve me
However, I am sad to say goodbye to this place. This country has been my home for two years. I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows here, but through it all, I have grown personally. As much as the Peace Corps experience is about skills transfer and bettering the lives of those you work with, you do have a whole lot of time to spend working on yourself (sometimes too much time!). And despite all the lows I have experienced here, I wouldn't have traded this for anything.

Things I am Least Excited for in America
  1. Everything costs so much more in America
  2. Here working 7:30-1:30 was a long day, I can't imagine working 8 hours a day anymore
  3. While you can only get what's seasonal and not too crazy, the fruits and vegetables here are just better
  4. People you have never met invite you into their homes here, that concept doesn't exist in America.
  5. American news is filled with all the negative things that go on. Macedonian news isn't. This is a very safe country. 
  6. English being spoken everywhere- Its been kinda nice not understanding everything people say to you
  7. Dealing with the "real world"- I can't escape it forever 
The countdown:
  0 days until I COS
4 days until I leave Macedonia
  20 days until I arrive in America
  21 days until I am back in Minnesota

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Not that long ago, I said my goodbyes to the people, my life in, and the town of Makedonska Kamenica. While I certainly had my ups and downs there, it was my home for the past two years and what a weird feeling it was to leave. I started saying my goodbyes about two weeks before I left as I knew the time would disappear much faster than I anticipated.

There are many times throughout this Peace Corps experience that I have questioned whether I have made any difference here because it is hard to know. My last few days at site, I realized just how many people there do care about me and I have made an impact on. Saying goodbye was a lot harder than I thought it would be. There were way more tears shed than I anticipated. My last day of school, I had students bawling their eyes out in the halls. My last na gosti to my former neighbours left the girls sobbing. And worst, my host mother. It is still a little hard thinking about. 

As I said a final goodbye to my host parents, my host mother burst into tears and told me it was the saddest day of her life. Her daughter moved to Italy 10 years ago and she said that was easier because she knew her daughter would come back, but she didn't know if she would ever see me again. As I climbed onto my packed Berovo bus with tears rolling down my cheeks, I was clearly the object of curiosity on the bus. I spent the entire ride to Shtip wiping away tears and listening to sad songs on my iPod while the man across the aisle spent the entire ride looking at me perplexed. 

As I was saying my goodbyes, I tried to make sure I took a photo with everyone. While I didn't get quite everyone, I took quite a few.
One of the Babas in my old neighbourhood
Keti, Ivona, and Martin, three of the cutest kids in my old neighbourhood. Keti's English is fantastic for a 7th grader, mostly because she isn't afraid to speak and make mistakes.
Marija was my neighbour at my old house and I spent many nights at her house
Sara was another neighbour girl at my old house
Some of my 7th graders with the gift they gave me
These girls are amazing English students!
Veneta and Karolina are two of my GLOW girls
Monika is another neighbour girl I would visit
Monika's brother Hristijan
Brankica was a GLOW girl and Oliver was one of my YMLP boys. I am hoping Oliver gets to study in America next year.
My host father, Blagoj
My host mother, Svetlana
My counterpart and I decided not to say goodbye to each other because neither one of us wanted to. This way, I have to go back and visit her. My camera batteries were dead when I went to Lozovo to say goodbye unfortunately, so I didn't get any photos with my family there. This just means I have to go back and see them again I guess!

Monday, November 4, 2013

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Peace Corps Volunteer Teaches Students about Halloween to Encourage Cultural Exchange 

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 31, 2013 – Peace Corps volunteers worldwide are teaching community members about American Halloween traditions, exemplifying the Peace Corps’ goal of promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of people served. Below is an example of how one volunteer in Macedonia shared American Halloween traditions with her students.

Peace Corps volunteer Sara Scholin of Pine City, Minn., recently collaborated with two teachers from the local primary school in her Macedonian community to host a three-day Halloween celebration for nearly 500 students in grades five through eight. During the celebration, students learned about the basic history of Halloween and participated in traditional Halloween activities.

“A few weeks before Halloween, a couple of the seventh-grade girls approached me asking if I could organize something for Halloween,” Scholin said.

Scholin and her fellow teachers decided to host a Halloween bingo competition during the first two nights of the celebration as an interactive way for the students to learn Halloween vocabulary words and practice their English.

“The bingo competition was standing room only,” Scholin said. “More than 175 kids came to play over the course of two days.”

During the final night of the celebration, students joined in a pumpkin-carving contest, costume contest and Halloween parade.
“I was very impressed by the costumes my kids came up with for the contest,” Scholin said. “They don't really sell Halloween costumes here, so the kids had to be extra creative. The celebration was a success!”
Scholin is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and has been teaching English to primary school students in Macedonia since she was sworn-in as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2011.

Macedonian students pose during the costume contest.
 About Peace Corps/Macedonia: More than 500 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Macedonia since the program was established in 1996. Currently, approximately 101 volunteers serve in Macedonia. Volunteers work in the areas of English education and community and municipal development. Volunteers are trained and work in the Albanian and Macedonian languages.

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Quick Trip Home

Home....I'm going home..... well, to Lozovo that is (was). 
The "Little Paris" of Macedonia with its Eiffel Tower shaped radio tower.
This past week I went back to visit my host family during PST. It had been (I hate to admit this) a year since I had been there. Too long for sure. I promised them I would visit twice before I left, so this was time one. It was a short trip- one day- but it was nice to be back in Lozovo. I spent lots of time hanging out with my brother watching horrible Macedonian TV. Then when my sister came home from school we watched hours of TLC in English! When my parents came home from work, we switched back to Macedonian TV, including Dr. Oz who is a new sensation here. Kinda sad that people here get their medical knowledge from Dr. Oz, but I guess it has to start somewhere. If you hadn't picked up on this, my family really likes watching TV.

By 7pm, I had had enough TV (9 hours of it!), and left to meet up with the Mak-18s in town. They had just found out where they would live for two years and wanted to celebrate. I got to meet five of them, including my biggest blog fan, Chris (here's your shout out), who referred to me as the “JK Rowling of Peace Corps Macedonia”- I will never be at that level, but I shall take that as a compliment. He has read, studied, and memorized every blog post I have ever written, and was able to tell me things about my life I had forgotten. Normally, that would be red flag creeper alert, but I will let it slide since he had three months before coming to do nothing but learn about Macedonia and the life of volunteers here and my blog is one of the only ones that has continued to be updated the entire time (if you look on the side where I list other Mak-16 blogs, you will see may that say: Last updated 6 months ago, or Last updated 1 year ago). One of the first comments someone in the group made was, "Your Minnesotan accent isn't that bad!" I guess my Minnesotan-ness had preceded me, however my accent didn't quite live up to their expectations.
Chis, myself, and Dan at the "hotel" in Lozovo- it still has yet to build the rooms, but they have improved the restaurant a lot in two years.
Hanging out with some Mak-18s in Lozovo- Emily, Ted, Dan, Dan's host father and my host uncle, me, Chris
The 18s just found out where they are going to live for two years. This group will be heading to Skopje, Bitola, Ohrid, and Prilep- all very larger cities in Macedonia. I guess Lozovo has prepared them for the village life they wont have.
Ted, Emily, and the Sara(h)s
I then trekked all the way across the country to Andres' house for one last Mak-16 Lozovo get together, however, I happened to make that journey while I was sick and spent most of the day and night miserable waiting for my fever to break, which it thankfully did. From Vratnica, we headed to Skopje for one final all PCV get together called Field Day. Not sure why it has such a name, but its basically the new group's (Mak-18) coming out party and the outgoing group's (Mak-16) goodbye party. I got to meet the Mak-18s who will be moving into my region (only a few and no one coming up into my area), however they will arrive after I have left, so we won't really see each other. Following this, it a lot of goodbye's to the Mak-16s as the first people leave next Thursday. Two years really has gone by fast.
Mak-16s at Field Day- there were more of us, but they refused to be in Julie's picture.
Michelle, Julie, Shannon, and Me
As always, Julie yelled, "hands up"
My female other half here, Lori. Definitely going to miss this girl.
Mak 15s, 16s, 17s, and 18s in Skopje posing on one of the newest bridges.
Andres decided to dance into the photo.
The countdown is in full swing:
31 days until I COS
35 days until I leave Macedonia
51 days until I arrive in America
52 days until I am back in Minnesota

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekend of the Seven Deadly Sins

In case you aren't familiar with the seven deadly sins, they are (simplified):

Lust: an intense desire for something
Gluttony: over-indulgance and over-consumption
Greed: desire for material possessions
Sloth: laziness
Wrath: rage or extreme anger
Envy: jealousy towards something someone else has
Pride: desire to be better than others

You might be asking yourself why I am writing a blog post on the seven deadly sins, especially since I am not the most religious of folks. I promise, keep reading and it all will make sense! 

This past weekend was Pastrmalijada in Shtip. Pastrmalija, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a canoe shaped dough filled with seasoned meat. It is quite delicious, however, it is also quite unhealthy. Phil and I have been on a healthy kick lately involving both diet and exercise and the thought of this festival and all of its artery-clogging properties was starting to stress us out. However, this festival, and food, is something uniquely Macedonian and with only a few weeks left here, we are getting rather nostalgic. To alleviate the stress and really enjoy ourselves, we decided to turn this weekend into a game- seeing just how much sinning we could do in one weekend (disclaimer: we only wanted to commit legal sins). 

Before I dive into talking about our game, let me say, it is pretty easy to accomplish most of the sins above. If you have never thought about how much you sin, I suggest you try- it is incredibly easy and kind of interesting. I noticed I was doing it even when I wasn't trying. That said, some were much easier than others for me. 

The easiest sin to commit this weekend was gluttony. We could have gone to the festival and eaten pastmalija just once, but that wasn't how we wanted to play the game. We ate not one, but three pastrmajlijas each over the course of the weekend. They aren't small little guys either, so that is a sizable amount of food. When I say unhealthy, I mean unhealthy- To make those three pastrmalijas, an entire bottle of oil was probably used. We also chose to over-indulge in wine as it was 50 den for a 1/4 liter, which is about $1.00. At prices like that, they are asking for gluttony! To stick the final nail in the coffin on gluttony, I also consumed a copious amount of chocolate- almost all of it dark chocolate, but still, not the healthiest of foods.
This is the size of a personal pastrmalija. Yes, one person eats the whole delicious greasy thing.
The other sin that was incredibly easy for us went hand-in-hand with gluttony and that was sloth. We spent a lot of time sitting around the festival with other PCVs who had come to enjoy the celebration. Sitting and socializing is a big part of the culture here, so we embraced that and walked from booth to booth sitting and eating and talking. We slept late and shortened our workout to only abs. 

I experienced envy the very first night of the festival when we went to eat at one of our favorite restaurant's booths. I was so excited to eat pastrmalija since I hadn't had it in months. However, when we were served, our pastrmalijas had been sitting there for a little while and were cold. Almost immediately after we were served, the restaurant made a delivery and the table next to us was given hot fresh pastrmalija. I was very jealous of the fact that we had the old cold stuff, but they got hot fresh stuff. I was also envious of Phil this weekend as he slept like a baby. The second he laid down, he was out, whereas I laid there for a long time trying to fall asleep. 

I was hoping wrath would be a hard sin for me to accomplish, but it turned out to be much easier than I thought. One night, one of the other volunteers had a bit to much to drink. As someone who often doesn't drink much, I became upset about his/her actions. The longer we sat there and the more the other volunteer had to drink, the more angry I became and the more I proved to myself that wrath really wasn't as hard to accomplish as I had hoped.

While riding the bus on Thursday, I definitely was lusting after some pastrmalija. I also would say by Saturday night, I was lusting after going to bed early and going back to sloth phase of sitting around and watching T.V. I also would say I was feeling lustful Saturday night while we were having a drink at the Irish Pub. Our table was next to the grocery store and I sat there lusting after some dark chocolate- the perfect dessert to pastrmalija.

I think in this case, greed, goes right in hand with the extreme amount of food we were eating and not sharing with anyone else. There are several homeless people in Shtip who were wandering around the festival looking for someone to share some food, but I never saw anyone willing to share, ourselves included. And let's quick jump back up to that dark chocolate I was lusting after, well, I went in and bought some to share with the table. Dark chocolate with almonds- one of my favorites. While I did share it, I greedily took one more piece than I wanted simply because it was filled with almonds and those are the best parts.

For me, pride, is by far the hardest sin to master. I am not a boastful person to begin with and I think my time here has made that even truer as I don't have the same "big accomplishments" that other PCVs have and instead have to rely on the "little things" to make it through. While I can't come up with an example of where I was full of pride, I know it occurred this weekend. I don't think it is possible for anyone to spend a weekend with a group of PCVs and not commit pride. 

I suspect some of you now expect me to write about what I learned from sinning and how bad it all is, but instead, I would rather end with saying that this weekend was a lot of fun and was a delicious weekend. I think choosing to approach the weekend as we did kept me from feeling guilty about all of the unhealthy behaviors we were exhibiting and while I could never permanently live like this, it was a delightful weekend- sometimes sinning is a whole lot of fun.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Writer's Block

I keep starting posts, however, nothing really seems worthy enough to post/ I lose internet and am unable to post then I forget/ it is hard to know what to write about now.

I could write about the horrible cold we already are dealing with (I saw my breath in my room this morning), but that seems repetitive. I could write about being excited to return to America, but that is mixed with sadness about leaving here. I could write about the fact that I am finally getting an X-ray on my leg that has been bruised, swollen, and with some pain since February (it only took 7 months for the  doctors to decide maybe they should see if I did any serious damage back in February rather than just telling me, "You have a bruise..."). In reality, there is a lot I could write about, but none of it seems good enough. None of it seems interesting enough. But alas, I will give it a go.


Life is clicking along here at a very fast pace. It is already October and I feel like there is so much left to do in these last few weeks. However, at the same time, I am back to feeling useless. I am less involved in classes now than I was (hard to believe, I know!) as the teachers and the students have to start to transition into me not being in class. I am no longer heading up any committees so I don't have that work to focus on either. The Mak-18s have arrived and are settled into their PST host families  (no one is with my family this year, so no new sister for me), however, I wont ever really get to know them, which is odd. I was talking with another COSing volunteer about this and we agreed that they are here, but in many ways, they aren't really that important to us because they don't play a role (or much of one) in our service. We may only meet them once or twice before we leave. The Mak-17s are holding strong, having only had one ET (early termination) and life seems to be moving along with them too.

In this period of nothing happening, however, there is actually a lot happening. We all have started thinking about the transition back to America and trying to find a job and place to live and all of that fun stuff. Everyone here asks me what I am going to do when I leave and I can talk about activities only until early January. Once Phil and I head to Arizona for Christmas, there is no plan in place for life post-Christmas. I have no return ticket to Minnesota. I have no ticket elsewhere. I have no plans. It is exciting and incredibly scary at the same time. I know I could head back to Minnesota, as my father has so nicely offered up his shed, however, the idea of having to continue heating my "house" with a wood stove doesn't really excite me.
My new house? I think not!
I have started searching for jobs, but it is hard not knowing where to look or I what I want to do for a job. This has always been a problem for me. Yeah, I got my degree in Elementary Education, but I don't know if I could go back to a regular classroom. I was hoping to discover what I wanted my "career" to be while I was over here, but that is one thing I haven't accomplished. I keep waiting for it all to just click and make sense and for me to know what I want to do.

Instead, I have been trying to focus on the short amount of time left here. Now is the time for goodbyes, not just to locals, but to other PCVs. A couple weekends ago I went to Skopje to spend the night with my Lozovo PCV family. While we were all together at IST, there were lots of other PCVs there, so this was probably the last time the eight of us will be together.
Walking to Sushi Co for dinner.
Andres took a lot of photos- a lot!
With the newly married, Amy!
We all showed up matching in black. Guess we have been in this country too long- our colour has been stolen from us.
We may live about as far apart as possible in this country, but I am super excited to end this journey with the girl I started it with. From Philly to Macedonia to Spain to the middle of the ocean to New Orleans.
Trust Kenzie to decide to dance through our picture.
I think this sums up our relationship pretty well.
- 50 days until I leave Macedonia
- 51 days until I set foot on the largest boat I have ever been on
- 67 days until I arrive back in the land of no federal budget
- 68 days until I realize that Minnesota isn't as cold as I thought it was because at least there the houses are warm

Saturday, September 21, 2013

GLOW Reunion at the Skopje Zoo

This is how close we could get to the animals.
Julie was demonstrating how zebras eat as she was feeding the zebra.

Lori and I were shocked that we could touch the zebra.
Julie also somehow managed to get her hands on some baby chicks to feed the owl.
Julie was the queen of feeding the animals, however, we were happy to see that she chose grass and leaves rather than chips and cookies like some kids.
In case you didn't know, sunscreen can be used to turn yourself into an animal.
This goat was standing on a ledge and we wondered if people have ever been tempted to push it off. Note: despite wondering, we did NOT try.
Julie used her magic leaves to summon the giraffe to come play with us.
This was the closest I have ever been to such animals.
When we said cheese, the giraffe listened!
The hippos were very lazy.
We watched the bears for a good 30 minutes as they kept playing together. The whole time we had little 4-year-old narrating the whole thing for us in Macedonian.
Anna was excited the bear decided to stand just when the picture was taken.
Love these girls!

This train may have been meant for children, but we decided it was our job to drive it too.
Some of the group outside the zoo.
After the zoo, we headed to the center to grab a drink and catch up.
All in all, it was a great day and a great way to catch up with all our friends from camp. The campers and HCN (host country national) staff at GLOW really are AMAZING!