Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Secondary Projects

Peace Corps Volunteers have what are called primary projects and secondary projects. PCVs in Macedonia have one of two primary projects, working as a TEFL volunteer in the schools or as a Community Development volunteer in local opstinas (local government) or with local NGOs.

Outside of the primary project, PCVs often have quite a few secondary projects. Some of these projects are Peace Corps based, others are local projects done in the PCVs community. I have already started on several secondary projects and I know there will be lots more to come, especially since I don’t have as much work going on at my school right now. The five projects I have been working on so far are briefly detailed below and of course I included several photos from my biggest project, the National Spelling Bee.

National Essay Contest: Every year Peace Corps puts on a English language essay contest for students in 7th-12th grade. This year’s topic was “My Life, My Passion”. I read and judged essays in January and next year I am one of the coordinators for the project.

Camp GLOW: GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and it is an English language leadership camp for girls. This year I will be working as a counselor for the 10-day camp in July. GLOW is a worldwide camp put on by PCVs and Macedonia has the best camp in the world. From this, I am hoping to start a Club GLOW in my town to get the girls here to be more involved in leadership activities in their own community.

Young Men’s Leadership Project (YMLP): This is the boys’ version of Camp GLOW focusing on developing the leadership skills of the young men here in Macedonia. I will be teaching environmental education at this camp in June/July. Perhaps the largest goal of this camp is to work on bringing ethnically diverse young men together to show them that they share far more similarities than differences. In order to make this camp happen, however, the group is still looking for funding. Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, they are asking for donations from friends, family, and anyone who wants to help support this initiative. I told the guys organizing the camp I would put a plug for donations on my blog, so if you would like to help support YMLP camp, click here to donate.

Gradinka: In addition to working at the primary school in my town, I help out at the Gradinka or daycare/kindergarten one day a week. Some of the children there are working on getting a basis in English before they enter school. While there have been some challenges as the methods of teaching are quite different than the USA, it has been interesting work.

National Spelling Bee: This has been my largest project so far, which is why I put it last since there is a lot to write. This year PCVs with the help of some local partners organized the 3rd annual National English language Spelling Bee. I served as a committee member this year and next year will be one of the co-coordinators for the event. We just held the National Bee this past weekend and it was quite successful. Over 800 students in grades 5-12 from around Macedonia came to Skopje to compete for a chance to be the best speller in their grade level. Prior to the National Bee, PCVs and a few Host Country Nationals (HCNs) held approximately 60 qualifying bees in cities, towns, and villages across the country. In order to receive an invitation to compete at the Bee in Skopje, students had to spell 10 words correctly at a qualifier.

I held two different qualifiers for my students in 5th-8th grade and had 95 students show up, which blew my mind. The English teachers had told me they had a few kids, but I never would have guessed that many. Of the 95 students who tried out, 21 of them spelled their words correctly and were able to compete in Skopje. My kids were so excited, nervous, and determined. They studied hard too. After the qualifier we had what I jokingly referred to as Spelling Bee Boot Camp every day after school for a week. At the Boot Camp sessions I would give them words and they would write them for me. We practiced for at least two hours every day, with one or two days being four hour practice sessions.

Then this past weekend, on April 7th, we held the National Bee in Skopje. 92% of the kids who qualified attended the event, which is phenomenal since many had to travel several hours to get to Skopje only to incorrectly spell their first word. This year we were fortunate enough to have not only our Country Director come to the Bee, but also the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia. It was really cool that they both were able to attend because the committee had put a lot of time into the event and it was great to have their support and hear their feedback on the event. I am pretty sure National Spelling Bee is the largest Peace Corps event in the country as well, as we had over 4000 students participate at some point or another and probably 300+ teachers. I can tell that this project will be where I focus a good deal of my energy.
Practicing words with a student
5th graders at the qualifier
Some of the 7th graders who qualified to go to Skopje
One of my 6th graders who is phenomenal at English
Two more 7th graders who qualified
Students trying to qualify to go to Skopje
My first 5th grader to qualify
The National Bee, April 7, 2012- University American College, Skopje
Registration was crazy!
One of my students thinking hard about his word
A 5th grader from Kamenica
Gotta love the tongue- necessary for thinking
The US Ambassador to Macedonia graced us with his presence
Part of the committee this year
We found a few more committee members, but not quite everyone
The 2013 National Spelling Bee Committee Chairs

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Very Macedonian Easter

While America celebrated Easter on April 8th, for Eastern Orthodox areas, such as Macedonia, Easter or Велигден, was this past weekend. And Easter here is a multiple day event.

The highlights:
-       Got to check out some of Kamenica's most beautiful Easter eggs
-       Walked around the church with a candle at midnight
-       Woke up Easter morning to the sound of a pig being slaughtered outside my window (for those who have heard pig's being slaughtered before, you know this is not a pleasant way to wake up)
-       Painted my own Easter eggs
-       Lost my battle in the traditional Easter egg cracking contest
-       Spent 8 hours on a na gosti with some students of mine in a neighbouring village

While I could give more descriptions, the pictures captured the event much better.

The church in Kamenica
Inside the church

The Easter Egg Contest: The Opstina put on an Easter egg decorating contest for the first time this year. Below are the entries. Lots of beautiful eggs.
Hiking with my neighbour girl Marija
And neighbour girl Sara
At the church at midnight with neighbour kids
Breaking eggs...who will win!
My candle
Some of my students walking around the church
The clergy walking around the church singing
A couple more students of mine with their candles
Two of my Easter eggs this year- American and Macedonian

At the village of Todoroci

Monday, April 9, 2012


Life has been incredibly busy lately, hence the lack of updates. I could go back to my old style of updating where the post was about a mile long and didn’t include much detail, but instead, I think I shall try posting an update on each of the last few big things that have gone on, so please bear with me that while I take some time to recover from being gone for over a week and then try to come up with a creative way to represent my life as of late.