Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 Things I Took for Granted in America

1. Heat
Especially heat in the bathroom. Heat is kind of a basic necessity and while I can heat my house, its a process, just like laundry. Every day making and maintaining my fire is pretty much a secondary job. I have to clean it out from the day before, empty the old ash and coals, find someone to cut me tenki drvo (kindling), go dumpster diving for cardboard boxes, build a fire, keep a close eye on the damper to monitor air flow, haul wood from my outdoor wood pile up the stairs to my house, add logs as the fire gets going, add more logs as it burns, smash the coals down, occasionally add more paper and cardboard and tenki drvo if I didn’t keep a close enough eye on it, haul more wood, and sweep the floor about 50 times. Let’s just say heating in America is no where near this extensive. However, without a fire, I would be a popsicle. There is absolutely no way I could live here without it and even with the fire, really only my kitchen and living room get warm, the other rooms get just above seeing your breath level.

2. Internet 
I was a frequent internet user in America….ok, I practically lived on it and couldn’t imagine not having access to internet. When I arrived in Macedonia, my host family had wireless, so my usage continued. However, I have now been at site for a month and a half and still no internet at home. I have access at school some days, but not always. I have been trying to get internet at home since day one, but well, that pesky ever-so-popular Macedonian phrase of ima vreme (there’s time) just keeps coming up. Surprisingly though, despite not being able to check emails when I want, update my blog as often as I want (that is my excuse for any infrequent updates….), or talk to my parents  (haven’t had a real conversation with them in a month and a half), I haven’t minded not having it as much as I thought I would. In some ways it has been good for me- it means I can’t hide away at home online.

3. Laundry
Laundry is much more of a production here. I have a lovely washing machine in my bathroom, however, I learned when I arrived at site that it is just a piece of decorative furniture. Often my landlady does my laundry for me (which does involve hauling dirty laundry up and down the hill on my 20 minute jaunt to her house which leaves me with lots of interesting stares), however I have also had to hand wash my clothes and its not a very fun process. Even if my washing machine worked, I don’t have a dryer. They don’t exist here. Everyone hangs their clothes out to dry on the line. You might be thinking, “how charming and quant”. Well, its not. Especially when it is freezing cold out so the clothes just freeze, rather than dry. Lucky for me, I discovered I can dry clothes quicker inside if I 1) bake  them in the oven part of my wood burning stove, 2) place them on my radiators connected to my wood burning stove,  or 3) place them in banitsa pans on top of my wood burning stove (only one slight casualty with a Smartwool sock, but its still wearable). All of these, of course, require me to keep my fire going nice and hot. Total hour count for getting half of my laundry clean- 9 hours of pretty constant attention. Let’s just say, I definitely took advantage of being able to have clean clothes in about 2 hours with very little effort.
Baking my underwear in the oven
And on the stove
 4. Shower Curtains
Many homes in Macedonia have them, many don’t. Mine did not... until this past weekend! Before, I had to crouch/sit in my bathtub to shower. The water pressure in my shower isn’t that great, but it is high enough that when I would shower, water would spray everywhere and my entire bathroom would be flooded with water, even with a 5 minute shower. Combine that with not having heat in the bathroom and showering was one of the most miserable experiences I had in regards to my house and daily life. I tried to avoid it and only showered every couple of days. However, now that I have a curtain, my world has been turned upside down. I can stand up and shower (I still have to hold the shower head which is a bit of a pain, but far less). My bathroom still gets wet, but now its like a gentle mist over everything instead of a monsoon. I owe a huge thanks to another volunteer, Paul, who bought the shower curtain for me in Kochani (not an item I can find in my town) and helped me put it up this past weekend. We had to do a little McGyver work and its kind of sketchy, but it stays up and keeps water in. I could care less if it looks like it belongs in a trailer.

As creatively hung as it is (that is rope going between two nails and a piece of wire from the ceiling) I love it!
5. Food Variety
I didn’t think of myself as a picky eater in the US, there were just foods I avoided because I didn’t like them. However, I can’t do that here. The food selection is more limited. The diet is based around lots of vegetables, beans, meat, oil, and sugar. While I like that it isn’t super dairy based, I do miss the variety. However, because of this, I have had to adapt my diet. There are many things that I now enjoy that I didn’t in the US. Coffee- I don’t care if it is instant or Turkish (with the grounds), I drink it and enjoy it. When I was visiting another volunteer a few weeks ago, she had a French press and American Christmas blend coffee. If that was any indication to what coffee is like in America, why did I not drink it sooner! Onions- While I still can’t bring myself to just take a bite out of a whole raw onion like I have seen many Macedonians do, I do enjoy them fried and added into food. Mom, you were right all along, they do add a lot of flavour. Tomatoes- Like onions, I wasn’t a fan. I started to be ok with smaller pieces, but now, you cut a tomato in quarters and I will eat it. Beets- This one is subject to preparation. I have had some bad beets here and some amazing ones. My landlady makes the best beat salad I have ever had. Its simple, shredded beets, oil, water, vinegar, and salt, but it is delicious. Cabbage- There is lettuce here, but cabbage is much more common and a whole lot cheaper. Beans- Ok, I wouldn’t say I enjoy them, however I eat them now. There is a very common dish, manja that is like a bean soup and its kind of a staple here, especially in the winter.

6. St. Peter Food Coop
This kind of goes along with food variety, but more so it is about having access to healthy food and non-dairy alternatives. I question if either of these things exist here! There certainly is lots of healthy food, however, most of it gets prepared with lots of oil, salt, and sugar, which takes away a lot of the healthiness. I consider myself to be doing pretty good when I cook as I have only gone through 1 liter of sunflower oil so far and I did have mnogu na gosti at Christmas. Pretty sure my family in Lozovo went through about 2-3 liters a week of that stuff. As far as non-dairy alternatives, I have seen one box of soy-drink pellets, but I somehow have not been able to bring myself to try those, as appetizing as soy-drink pellets sounds. Forget the non-dairy yogurt, cheese, and ice cream that I had become accustom to.

7. Advanced Plumbing
While I am now used to throwing my toilet paper in the garbage and don’t even usually think about it now, when it comes time to take out the garbage and I have a bag full of soiled toilet paper, I really wish I could just flush it all and be done with it, but not the case. The plumbing in most of Macedonia isn’t advanced enough to be able to handle toilet paper, so into the garbage it goes.

8. Unlimited Texting
Pretty much everyone has unlimited texting in the US. Not here. We pay for every text we send. The phones the volunteers have are pay-as-you-go, so there is a constant adding of credit to them, which requires going to a prodov that sells T-Mobile credit (T-Mobile being the least popular cell service here, so some people don’t have access in their villages). It costs 2.9 denari (6 cents) to send a text and about 10 denari (21 cents) a minute to make a call so it isn’t cheap. However, when its my only form of communication with other volunteers, I have add that credit weekly. Luckily, there is a deal where if you add 150 denari of credit, you get 150 free texts for a week. That sounds like a lot, but it can disappear quickly sometimes. Life would be much easier if texting were just unlimited because I spend a good chunk of my day trying to shorten messages down to the 160 characters allowed in one text.

9. Big Boxes of Kleenex
I have yet to see a normal box of Kleenex. All I have found is the mini packs that make it easy to carry with you, but not very practical at home. I think due to the cold here (yes MN is cold too, but it’s a completely different kind of cold here), my nose is constantly running. It started in October and has been going strong since and the mini packs of Kleenex just don’t do the job like a big box would.

10. Target
There aren’t stores like Target or Walmart here. Maybe in Skopje, but not most cities. You go to the market for food, the hardware store for hardware needs, the small prodov for other things, the apteka for medicine, and the pazar for the cheapest deals on a wide array of things. In the US, I could get pretty much everything I needed under one room. Not the case here- you have to make 3 or 4 different stops to get your errands done.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Среќенa Нова 2012 Година!

Two blog posts in a day- it’s a big day/I feel guilty when I haven’t updated for awhile but I get messages from people saying they enjoy my blog! That is how you get me to write if its been a little while!

I have now been at site for over a month. Christmas Day marked our one month anniversary as PCVs, so we had all the more reason to celebrate. A lot has happened in this past month. I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, something my fellow MAK-16s can easily agree with. I am still trying to figure out my place here both in the community and at school.

This month I have spent shadowing all six English teachers at my school and one of the village schools. Most of the time I have just sat and observed the class, occasionally read a text or two in American English (which the kids prefer and find it easier to pronounce- I can see it now….in two years there will be a whole bunch of little Macedonian children running around with Minnesotan accents!). Now after our big break (we have a break from December 31-January 20 or so due to the many holidays- Нова Година (New Years- December 31/January 1), Божик (Eastern Orthodox Christmas- January 6/7), and Стара Нова Година (Old New Years- January 14) my schedule will change and I will be working with fewer teachers and focusing on the younger grades (right now I have been in 1st-8th). My counterpart is great and really enjoys teaching. She wants to improve her English and teaching and is really curious about how things are done in America. She is a good teacher and uses methods more similar to the American system than the others. I have loved being in the 3rd and 4th grade classes the most and will be spending more time with them. Hopefully after the break I will be able to help more in the classroom and start some secondary projects because right now I am not very useful. However, today I actually got to help with the 4th and 6th graders. I talked to the 4th graders about American Christmas traditions and helped the 6th graders write compositions about their good and bad habits. I also will start helping out at the kindergarten with the English teacher there (even if I go when they aren’t learning English, the Macedonian of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds is much more at my level).

Here in Macedonia, I am an expert on a multitude of topics, simply because I am American. I have been an expert on global warming (which doesn’t really exist in Macedonia of course) to haggis (why yes, every American knows about the traditional Scottish dish) and British laws (again, because we speak the same language, I must know everything about the British government). I was an expert at addressing Ambassadors and ribbon cutting ceremonies (the Swiss Ambassador to Macedonia came to Kamenica on December 23rd to open a brand new playground that they helped fund with the Opstina (government) and a local HBO (NGO) and I was there with my counterpart to help provide English translation (because after studying Macedonian for 3 months I can certainly translate for the Swiss Ambassador- lucky for me his personal assistant was fluent in Macedonian, English, Italian, and German). I was an expert on drawing Christmas trees and the internet (I often am asked to translate error messages for people since they show up in English).

As far as my house, I have made it more my own. I will try to post pictures soon. I have learned how to build fires in my wood burning stove and haul wood 2-3 times a day. When I get a good fire going, it heats up all of the radiators in my house and makes every room warm (even my forbidden room- the room Peace Corps isn’t paying for me to have, but I can really use it anyway if I want). Without a fire, it is dreadfully cold and I can barely stand to be outside of my down sleeping bag. I constantly can see my breath if I don’t have a fire going and my shampoo and conditioner freeze. I still don’t have internet. This has been quite the battle. I was promised internet by Lucia and was looking forward to Skyping with people back home then, didn’t happen. Then by American Christmas, didn’t happen. Now, I was told after the new year (that is the big holiday here, Christmas isn’t a big deal, but New Year’s Eve is huge). It is starting to get a little frustrating since I really haven’t talked to my parents in over a month when they were in California with Anna. But soon, hopefully (although I am not getting my hopes up). I recently have really gotten to see what my water distiller takes out of my water. Previously it was just white crystallized sludge, now it has started to be more of a reddish (I am assuming suddenly the iron content from the mine has increased, but I am still waiting to see what medical has to say about this).

I am debating if my language has gotten better or worse. A lot of people lost language skills when we stopped having 4 hours of Macedonian language a day, however I speak only Macedonian outside of school, so I don’t have a choice to practice. It is no big deal now to walk into a prodov and ask for some item I want to buy. Even if I don’t know the exact Macedonian word, I can usually describe what I am looking for and they understand (Trying to explain shower curtain was an interesting one- кого јас се туширам, многу вода сел бања. Треба голема пластик крпа- When I shower, lots water whole bathroom. Need big plastic towel- complete with gestures- And after all of this, I found out they don’t sell shower curtains in my town). I translate what I want to say when talking to younger kids at school without much difficulty. Once I get internet, I will be able to start my Skype tutoring with Dushko (my LCF from PST) which will help too.

Tomorrow is the last day of school until the new year. I still am not sure what I will be doing for New Year’s Eve. Another volunteer is coming into town and we will na gosti somewhere, either the girls next door, the teachers at school, or my landlady. Tonight I am going to the old cinema to see my student’s New Years performance and tomorrow I was invited to go to the kindergarten to see their holiday performance which I am really excited about as well.

Среќенa Нова 2012 Година!

Christmas in the Rock

Well, American Christmas has come and gone here in Macedonia (we still have Macedonian Christmas to look forward to on January 7th). It was the first Christmas away from home for many of the MAK-16s, but we celebrated together and had a good time. There were several Christmas parties going on around the country, but somehow I think Kamenica ended up having the largest, and certainly the longest (we started Friday and went until Monday) party. There were 11 volunteers in my house at one point, which my house is larger than most here, but still meant we had some interesting sleeping accomodations (especially when you have to take into account the snorers and those who have violent nightmares). Several people traveled over 6 hours by bus to get to Kamenica and their presence was much appreciated.

Some of the highlights:

Going in search of an Божик елка (Christmas Tree). They brought back not one, but four.
Julie decorating the tree.
Kenzie and Morgan enjoying some holiday drinks.
The start of the White Elephant gift exchange. Check out the sweet bag I found with race cars and fast cats. That in itself was a gift!
Paul's White Elephant from Enid: A whisk and a pack of spaghetti sauce mix from America
Julie's White Elephant from Sara: A mushroom jar, a Saint portrait, and a fake metal weapon.
Faron received a Macedonian Children's Concert video from Paul
Enid opened a White Elephant from Morgan that was wet. It was a yellow plastic bottle with knobs and some sort of liquid inside.
Kenzie opening a White Elephant that had "popular" American star posters, a used loofa, and a mystery Macedonian homemade wall hanging
Anna's White Elephant gift went to Dale: A glass cockatoo statue.
The most coveted White Elephant gift, prior and post opening, was Faron's. The recipient was Dan. Apparently Faron has 3 or 4 of these lovely framed pictures in his house and decided to share.
Building Gingerbread Houses
Dale using part of Paul's White Elephant gift
Christmas Stockings from Дедо Мраз (Santa Claus)

Paul and Julie
Christmas Day Dinner- Roast Chickens and Vegetables
Andres bobbing for cookies with the ones that were stuck to the pan.

The boys were in charge of decorating the cookies. This is the cookie they made for me- three layers and about a pound of frosting, sprinkles, and red hots. AKA: A handful of diabetes.
Clearly I am a 2 year old and wore more of the cookie than I ate.
The Kratavo Group: Paul, Dale, Dan, Faron
The Girls: Anna, Julie, Morgan, Enid, Sara
Team Lozovo: Anna, Julie, Kenzie, Morgan, Andres, Sara

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life in "The Rock"

Well life here in Kamenica keeps ticking along. School days are a little long some days since I am still trying to figure out what my job is/where I am useful. In talking with previous/current volunteers this often takes 3 months to a year, so I guess I have lots of sitting and observing left to do. However, I am going to try a new approach and try to figure out just what the school wanted when they requested me. I have yet to figure out who exactly did- whether it was a specific teacher, the director, or just a general thought that I could be a useful addition for a while. Once I get this figure out hopefully I can figure out more what I should be doing. I have been emailing with an RPCV who lived in Kamenica and he has been a good resource. He was a MAK 7 back in the early 2002/2003, however was only in Kamenica for about 8 months due to the mine flooding/pollution incident everyone here seems to not talk about at all.

I have learned though that in this country, I can’t be passive and unopinionated like I was in US. If I don’t like something, I can’t just go with it/hope it will change. I need to address it right away and be blunt. This is really hard for me to do since it isn’t my way. If I am tired and just want to go home and relax, I need to say I am tired instead of sitting at one more na gosti not enjoying myself/thinking about how I wish I could be home sleeping. I would like to think this will a) get easier over time and b) get easier when I have more stuff going on. I think I need to be blunt and after observing a little more, tell the teachers that I am not a decoration for their classroom. If I am not going to be used by a certain teacher/grade, there is no point in me being there.

Despite not having language class anymore, I can tell my Macedonian is still improving. When I introduce myself to new classes, I do it in English first, then Macedonian and between that and a few other things, I have been doing lots of translating, which is good practice. My task now is translating my chocolate chip cookie recipe into Macedonian for the teachers who have been asking daily for it after I brought in some cookies. As soon as I get internet I will start Skype tutoring with my Macedonian Language Teacher from Lozovo, Dushko, and he sent me a message yesterday in Macedonian and I understood it and responded back in Macedonian, to which he said he was impressed because I was 90% accurate on it all. I still don’t quite know when to use which prepositions and direct and indirect objects are still the bane of my existence, however I am using over half of the long form direct objects on a regular basis now.

Highlights of Today:
·  Built a second fire all on my own! It still takes me a while (longer than a Macedonian) and a lot of paper (I was scolded today for using plain paper, but that’s all I have right now- you don’t just walk into a store and buy old used paper, so I don’t exactly know where to get other stuff this time of year), but I eventually get it.  It is amazing how natural hauling wood several times a day is now and its only been a week and a half.
·  Watched fish being scaled and gutted (Yeah I know I am from MN, but believe it or not I have never been fishing). It was gross as is, but I kinda freaked out a little when they started scaling the fish that were still alive. Please can someone start cutting off my outer layer of skin while I am alive!
·  Met the final English teacher at the school today and she is AMAZING! She teaches the first, second, and fifth graders. She had me working with them from the start, helping the first graders cut shapes to make masks. A huge plus with her too is that she has experience working with the last few volunteers, so she understands much more than most why I am here. I am hoping to work with her a lot.
·  I killed a bug (like a giant box elder bug) with my bare hands and only slightly flinched.
·  I messaged back and forth briefly with my host brother and host sister and Kenzie’s host father in Lozovo and I am very excited to go back and visit in January. While I know Kamenica is my new home, right now Lozovo is still my Macedonian home to me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week One in Kamenica- Check √

Just a quick update because I am still at school using their internet since I don't have it at my house yet.

1) Today I will attempt to build a fire on my own. My fingers are crossed that I can do it. My landlady showed me again last night, but we will see how it goes.

2) Here are the links to Lozovo's video from Swearing-In. It is our tribute to the many soap operas of Macedonia.
 The Video:
And the out takes:

3) I went to one of the village schools today and the English teacher I was working with had to leave early. Thus, I was left with her class of 7th graders all by myself. I wasn't really told about this, she kind of explained it, but told me to just do what this other lady said. Well that lady didn't speak any English, so there I ended up- with a class of my own. It was good practice for me translating from English into Macedonian, however the students either struggled to understand or more than likely, they just didn't want to do anything.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Amazing What A Little Heat Can Do For A Girl!

Written at 11pm on Monday:

Tonight is a special night in Macedonia. It is the night I have finally have heat! When I came home from school around 2:00, I ran into my policeman neighbour. We talked for awhile, as much as we can talk with only slightly speaking the same language. He once again told me if I have any problems, to go to him. I got his phone number (I figure its always good to have a policeman on speed dial). 

I was sitting here at home freezing cold because all I had was my Peace Corps issued heater. I was huddled wearing about 10 layers- including my fleece, my down jacket and my hat inside my down sleeping bag and I was still freezing. My heater was smelling bad and the smell was giving me a headache. I pulled out the heater my landlord had left in the house and tried that, but it smelled like burning. Here I sat, freezing and sad. My landlord’s friend (on the sheet from Peace Corps it says she is his spouse, but she keeps saying her friend and doesn’t wear a ring) was supposed to stop by tonight to check on me, but hadn’t yet. I figured I could ask her then about the radiators and try to figure out a way to stay warmer. Come 7:30 I was near tears because I was so cold (for your Minnesotans, picture sitting in a fish house without any kind of insulation for hours on end). I thought about something the Country Director had said, the reason people ET is because they don’t ask for help soon enough. Well, Stephen (if you are reading this), I listened to your advice and I asked for help. I texted my kind of landlady/kind of not and in horrible Macedonian said (or tried to say), “I don’t think the heating is working because the house is cold and so am I”. She immediately called me and said she would come over shortly.

When she arrived, she brought a posse with her, a friend (who has come with her almost every time) and my landlord’s nephew. The nephew graduated from the university in electrical engineering, so he was ripping apart the heaters like there was no tomorrow trying to fix them. The Peace Corps one needs a new part and the one the landlord provided works after a lot of tinkering. I asked about the radiators throughout the house and was told they are run through the fire. I asked if it would be possible to buy wood so I could have a fire and they told me Peace Corps said no (previously volunteers in Macedonian were not allowed to have wood burning stoves as a safety precaution, however, after several fires caused by the heaters the policy has changed recently). I tried to explain it was alright for me to have one and after some convincing, my landlady (I am going to call her that for lack of a better term) and her friend rushed outside and came back moments later with their arms full of wood. They had a fire going in no time. They told me that my landlord supplies all the wood for Kamenica, so if I want wood, I will have wood (still trying to figure out if I have to pay for it or whatnot). I was shown how to make it all work and within a matter of an hour or so, my entire house was heating up, even parts I hadn’t planned on heating because the radiators are all connected and I figure if I am building a fire to heat one room, I may as well let it heat the others while it is at it.
While my landlady was tending to the fire (she wouldn’t allow me to help get wood) and the nephew was ripping apart and putting back together heaters, I tried to show my domakinka skills. I offered them coffee or tea, which they declined, but when I pulled out the chocolate chip cookies I had made on Saturday, they were delighted to try to see if I really knew how to bake. Much to their surprise, they loved them and I promised my landlady I would bake them with her sometime so she knows how.

During all of this (they were at my place for 2 ½ hours), the nephew was attempting to do some translating, as he knows some English. Sometimes I wish I could play dumb and not understand when I do, but when it is English being spoken, that isn’t really an option. He asked me how old I was (a typical question) and I told him- he is also 24. When the ladies heard that, they started winking and doing the “We are going to set you two up because you need to marry a good Macedonian man” show and I knew what was coming. He asked me if I would go to coffee with him sometime and, in the off chance that he was just being polite, I said sure. However, to safeguard myself against any unwanted romances, I have decided I suddenly have a boyfriend in the US who I care deeply about and will marry when I return. Or at least that is the story I am going to portray. I figure this is a good solution, because it keeps potential suitors/green card seekers at bay, but if I decide in the next two years someone here sparks my interest, said boyfriend can magically disappear because the distance was too much.

Long story short, I am a much happier person now that I have warmth. I still plan on asking for more long underwear and wool socks to be sent, but I no longer worry about Peace Corps calling my parents to say they are sorry but I was frozen alive.

Other: Today was my first day at school. I will write more about that later because this post is long enough already, but I am super excited to start Adult English Classes tomorrow night. They are already running so when I was asked if I would help, I jumped on that offer. Since then, I have had three people ask me if I will teach them, so depending on how class goes tomorrow night, maybe I will spend many nights teaching Adult English. Lastly, I have a lead on how to get internet. Kamenica is trying to provide free wireless to all residents, however, I kinda live in the boonies of Kamenica, so the signal doesn’t reach me. Because of this, I have been struggling to find any information about how much internet will cost/what company to use/etc. But tonight, I made contact and my goal is to, by the end of the week, at least have talked to the company and have it figure out when I will get internet.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving America!

The Ladies of Lozovo: Julie was practicing her Macedonian smile!
Team Dushko: Claire, Me, Kenzie, Shannon, and Morgan
While all of you back in America are watching the Macy's parade, eating your turkey, watching football, and socializing with family and friends, Peace Corps Volunteers around the world are celebrating the day a little different. Here in Macedonian, 36 of us were sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers today by the U.S. Ambassador.
I,____________(name) do solemly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely. And without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. And that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps, so help me God.
The Swearing-In ceremony was great. A traditional Macedonian folk group played, sang, and dance. We had speeches from the Ambassador, the Country Director, the PST Director, a Representative of the Macedonian President's Cabinet, the Minister of Education and Science, and two of our own, Paul and Carly. They did a wonderful job with their dual Macedonian and Albanian speech.
Thanksgiving Buffet: It looks tame in the picture, but believe me, it was a unique experience!
After the ceremony, we had a feast. Peace Corps flew in turkeys from America for today and all of the host families brought food to share, so it was one giant potluck (be careful if you use this word in Macedonia as it means something very, very different in Macedonian). We had been warned that this becomes a feeding frenzy as the concept of lines doesn't really exist here. As soon as food was put out, there was a mad rush by the Macedonians fighting for food. We tried our best to jump in there and were somewhat successful. I talked with a few of the MAK 14s and 15s because they were fighting just as hard as the Macedonians and they said that by next year, I will be a pro at this sort of thing.
Julie, Shannon, Enid, and I
Then it came time for presentations. Each training community developed a movie of sorts to show at the event thanking our families. All of the movies were good, but I think Lozovo really won it with our Turkish soap opera. The video will be up soon on Morgan's YouTube page, so check it out for sure. Once presentations were done, almost every stood up and left, leaving almost no time to say goodbye. But as typical, Lozovo hung out and we ended up having a dance party with Evelina, the PST Director, Ivana, the Language Coordinator, and all of the female LCFs as well as some current volunteers.  
Claire and I
When we got back to Lozovo, we all went over to Julie's with our families so they could see all of the work we did on their garage. They loved it and were quite impressed with how well we had captured Macedonia. We celebrated with wine and more dancing before it was time to say our goodbyes amongst our group.
Cheers to Lozovo!
Shannon, Anna, and I
We came to Macedonia as 36 Trainees and we left Kumanovo today, 36 volunteers. It was, perhaps, the best way to spend Thanksgiving away from our families and friends back home. Tomorrow, while many of you are out there pushing through crowds to get the best Black Friday deals, we all will be pushing onto buses with 2 years worth of stuff, moving to site, to start our lives as Peace Corps Volunteers.

It really was a bittersweet day. There was much happiness and excitement as we are now official volunteers. We are excited to be moving to site and settling in, exiting the stage of limbo we have been in. However, we also had to say goodbye to some of the best friends we have ever had.

To my Lozovo group: You are all amazing and I couldn't have asked for a better training group. I know we will have our ups and downs over the next two years, but we have each other. Remember the pact we made on the bus coming home from Hub Day: If anyone of us starts considering ETing, you owe each and every other person a phone call. And Julie will be mad if you do, "so just don't."

Finally, Peace Corps posted a press release on their website about all of the groups that are Swearing-In this weekend: