Monday, October 29, 2012

Best Present a PCV Could Ask For

So there are millions of things right now I need to blog about, especially since it has been awhile, and I was all set to write a post today. I had picked out my topic and started thinking about what I was going to write while I was getting ready for school this morning. However, this is Macedonia, and things change last minute all the time.

When I got to school today, my head was busy spinning with a list of things I needed to accomplish today, but I was stopped in my tracks by a package at my spot in the teacher's lounge. I had received a package from America. I saw that it came from St. Peter and got very excited. While I love packages and letters from anywhere, getting one from the St. Peter Rec is extra exciting because you never know what will be included, but it is always awesome.

I couldn't contain my enthusiasm and ripped into the package right away.

I feel so lucky to still be a part of the Rec Staff even when I live 5000+ miles away!
They made it Anders. You beat the Rec Staff and they didn't eat my treats.
I haven't tried them yet Cado, but if you like them, I am sure I will too! In the process of writing, I got hungry. They are delicious Cado! Good choice.
Seemed only fitting to show off my new MN stapler next to my MN Twins pennant that was passed down by a MN PCV who is leaving shortly.

It took me a little bit to figure out what it spelled (in my first attempt I spelled the words: women, is, and Sara, but there were letters left over. Then I realized there was a sheet of paper included telling me what it spelled.)
I have new door decorations courtesy of Create-A-Camp (or that's my guess!)
I am sure to stay healthy now.
Kids' writing is the best ever. Thanks Cado. I miss you and wish you could come hang out in Macedonia with me!
 I discovered all of this while I was at school. Totally great care package. However, there was also a flashdrive in it and I didn't fully discover the greatness this package contained until I got home and opened up the flashdrive. On it, was a letter from a friend, some audio books and a new CD, and the most amazing folder ever: "Friends at Home and Abroad".

I received photo messages from about 30 of my best friends and family back home. You couldn't ask for a better gift. To any PCV parents/friends out there looking for an idea to send your PCV, this tops the list as best things ever.

I would love to include all the photo messages on here, but there is at least one that contains a secret. But I will include a few examples so you understand just how awesome these were to receive.
St. Peter Rec Staff- Part A
John and Lindsey in Florida
Siu On in Australia
Anders: Creator of this
Lindz: No longer an Austin resident

Part of the Pizza Pub Family
This is just the start of my thank you to you all.
- Anders: Thank you so much for putting this together for me. It really is the best gift I could have been given. I am hoping to avoid having to eat too many organs this year.
- Dad: Well, you have come and gone and hopefully the pivo was cool enough for you!
- PC Pizza Crew: You guys are the best family a girl could ask for. I promise that while I may not stay in Pine for long when I return, I will come enjoy a Friday night with you all.
- Carly and CJ: Glad to see you are filling your desire for children with cats until Car has finished school! If you don't make it to visit me here, we will see each other when I return.
- Chris and Erin: While returning home through Seattle isn't exactly convenient and practical, perhaps Chris can make me a special airplane so I can do that!
- Heidi: Hooray! I need details (well not too many details) soon.
- Jake and Sarah: Thank you so much! I hope married life is going well and am kinda looking forward to when there are little Jacobs running around.
- Jane: My summer wasn't the same without the Rec either. My goal is by next summer to have my own Rec Dept up and running here. I think you need to talk to Todd about having the City pay to fly you, Lance, and Heidi in to help get it started.
- John and Lindsey: I think you two just wanted to show off your gorgeous sunsets down there in Florida!
- Mom: You just reminded me that I really should dust my new place. more thing for the to-do list!
- Lance: The hello looks about right! With all your facial hair you would fit in as a PCV. Say hello to your kiddos for me. Also, is it your fault Snake is dead?
- Lindz: I hopefully will have better internet soon and then we will chat for hours as we have a lot to catch up on.
- Riley and Laura: Thanks for the well wishes. Congrats Laura on the new Esq. title!
- Siu On: I am so glad you are out exploring the world too. If you end up in Eastern Europe in the next year, let me know! Also, I highly recommend Istanbul to put on your travel list.
- Rec Girls: I hope you held a funeral for Snakezilla. What did y'all do with the body? Throw him in the garbage? Flush him? While I wish you had a better summer, I am glad you all survived. I miss you all greatly and hope your school years are going well. Unfortunately, while I have vacation days, I don't think I will be back for the wedding. Flights are a little expensive. But I will definitely look at pictures on Facebook!

This made one little saying that the Gusties will know come to mind (it may be used for cheers-ing while drinking, but I think it still fits).
Friends may come and friends may go
Friends may peter out we know
We've been friends through thick and thin
peter out...
or peter in

Ви благодарам многу. Јас имам најдобрите пријатели.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sometimes Others Say It Best

Sometimes other PCVs write posts that are just so perfect. They say exactly what you want to say, but in a way you wouldn't be able to say it. I stumbled across a post by a PCV in Ghana that seems fitting for this coming weekend. This weekend, all of the PCVs in Macedonia will be getting together. It is the first time all of the current volunteers will get to meet the trainees. And what better time to categorize the different types of volunteers.

The following was taken from a PCV in Ghana's blog and despite Ghana being very different than Macedonia, PCVs everywhere are the same!

The Different Types of Volunteers 

Posted on by girlfawkes

Volunteers come in all different shapes, sizes, races, ages, and days out of college. I want to give you a cross section of the Peace Corps Volunteers you might meet, especially since Peace Corps isn’t filled with 8999 people just like me (unfortunately, obviously). Disclaimer! PCVs who may perchance be reading this. These are my versions of ridiculous generalizations, none of these descriptions characterize anyone in particular – except for probably me.
And I’m going to do it my way. Think of them like superlatives. Emphasis on the super.

Zazu – The Obnoxious One
There is always that one person who just drives everyone insane. Whether they are just straight up annoying, full of themselves, or have grating “local” English, this person always gets an eye roll. Secretly, of course. (By the way, we have these birds here! – Just sayin)

peter pan
Peter Pan – The Over-Achiever
Oh you know, that person that holds a training every day of the week. The person that is simultaneously weighing a baby, teaching about malaria prevention, instructing kids how to add in the local language, planting a forest, and showing locals how to keep proper records. You know all in the same breath.

Alice – The Wanderer
This Volunteer’s concept of “site” is hazy. Site is more like the entire country, and sometimes the neighboring countries too. The concept of staying in your own home for more than a week is baffling.

Chip – The Just Out of Colleger
Graduated in May, serving in the Peace Corps in June. So full of hope and enthusiasm and a strong dose of naivety. If nothing else, they bring their communities a smile and an able body.

Carl – The Senior Citizen
What else is there to do when you are retired? Join the Peace Corps! Share your years of knowledge and wisdom with hoards of adoring fans. And prepare yourself for intense arthritis.

evil queen
The Evil Queen – The Diva
Smallsmall mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the cleanest of them all? No power today? OMG I AM GOING TO DIE. Spider in your room? Call a neighbor to kill it for you. Ran out of mascara? OMG I AM GOING TO DIE.

Lefou – The Alcoholic
Ooo, touchy! I know, I went there. Breakfast beers, afternoon shots, and evening night caps followed by more night caps. Isolation and difficult living conditions tend to breed self-destructive behaviors. Everyone knows who they are, even if they don’t.

Hercules – The Superman
Excuse me while I swoop into the country, save thousands of lives from life-threatening illnesses and poverty. Oh don’t worry, I’ll move on to another place in two years, saving babies there. Kryptonite? Reality.

Crush – The Bum
It’s alright dude, I’ll just sit over here, attend some festivals, drink some local brew, and integrate myself. Maybe I’ll do a project at some point, but until I feel like everyone in my village, the next village, and my market town knows my name, personal history, favorite sports team, and lucky t-shirt, I’ll just hang out.

the govenor
The Governor – The Capital Hog
Every once in a while, you need a bit of respite and solace from your lonely life in the village. So you trek yourself the many hours to the capital for good food, expensive everything, and to restock on personal items (aka go watch a million movies). Some people tend to do this a lot more than others. They are sippin the good life gatorade a little too much.

sleeping beauty fairies
Fairies – The Token Gay
”Oooo girl, that dress is fabulous, who’s your tailor?” Loud, proud, and somehow silenced by cultural stigmas. The locals are really just willingly blind to the fabulousness that exudes from these volunteers, because every Volunteer, expat, and random white person’s radar is going off the charts.

Pinocchio – The Site Braggart
And I have running water and electricity and someone washes clothes for me and cleans my room and my job is perfect and my life is awesome and I don’t ever want to leave my village! Let’s get real, some stuff is awesome – like running water, but ain’t nobody’s Peace Corps life a giant heaping plate of cupcakes.

prince naveen
The Frog – The Surprise
Quiet, shy, and a little weird at first – there is always one person that everyone thinks either won’t make it or will go crazy. And wonderfully enough, that person always turns out to be an incredible volunteer, sometimes even extending for another year. Loved by their community, flourishing in the environment, always warms your heart – after you realize how heartless you were.

ruby red
The Ruby Red Slippers
Okay, not exactly in the same line as the others, but whatever. There’s no place like home, and sometimes people can’t last two years without it. Everyone has their reasons, but I’ll let you in on a not so nice secret. All Peace Corps Volunteers judge those who Early Terminate. There I said it, mean sassy cat is out of the bag.

Sneezy – The Infectious Disease’s Wet Dream
Germs, bacteria, viruses, blood borne pathogens, fungi, rabid animals – all things that somehow find some Volunteers more than others. Always sick, somehow dying, we are all hypochondriacs and for good reason here in the bush. Because what doesn’t kill you, actually just makes you super weak, delirious, and writhing in pain.

snow white
Snow White – The Everyone’s Best Friend
Nice, friendly, personable, always smiling, everyone wants to be best friends with this person. And we all are! Every time you see this person you just want to hug the living shit out them and then tell them all your problems.

Bashful – The Quiet One
Somewhere in a village that no one can remember the name of, there is a super sweet, quiet volunteer doing their job and minding their own business. When you run into them, you suddenly remember: “oh my gosh, I do know you. How is wherever you live?”

Cinderella – The One Everyone is Always Jealous Of
They have the perfect village, they speak the local language beautifully, their community loves them, blah blah blah. Someone is always doing something better than you, having a better experience. Maybe they have better amenities, a bigger town, an awesome counterpart – whatever it is, someone always wants it.

Gaston – The Creeper/Womanizer
Someone always has to take this title. No matter what. It doesn’t matter if it is their strange lust for locals, ability to hit on everyone in a 100 yard radius, or just plain sleeziness – someone always gets labeled the creeper.

Mulan – The Fight the Man!
I’m going to take on the system and come out swinging. Corruption, infrastructure, politics, all that good stuff Peace Corps Volunteers are told to turn a blind eye to. Take it all on! Fight the powers! Rise up locals! Yeah yeah, this person normally gives in eventually.

Ariel – The Whiner
My life is so hard! Bucket baths are gross. Eating with your hands is disgusting. There isn’t enough to do in this country. I want to see the world, not this place! I don’t have electricity. I hate my site. No one in my village will work with me. Yeah, yeah, we all experience these feelings – some people just vocalize theirs more often.

That Raccoon – The Cheeseaholic
Every Volunteer has some weird obsession with something from back home. Bacon, pizza, hamburgers, a grocery store, M&Ms, and cheese are some of the big ones. Cheese holds a special place in my heart. Volunteers can talk about food for hours on end. Someone always has some weird obsession with cheese and it always gets brought up.

Pocahontas – The Hippie
Come roll in all the riches that surround you, come taste the sunsweet berries of the earth. Yada yada yada. This is Peace Corps – one is bound to be around.

Woody – The Ultra Volunteer
Unlike Over Achievers and Supermen, the Ultra Volunteer does it all with finesse, humility, and humor. They are completely integrated, never on anyone’s immediate radar, accomplishing boatloads, and probably going to extend. They aren’t overworked, almost always happy and healthy, and tend to stay at site. This person is who everyone wants to be.

Beast – The Overly Hairy One
Mustache. Check. Beard. Check. Chest hair waving in the wind. Check. Toe Hair. Check. With not so safe razors far from site, this Volunteer blooms! Hair hair everywhere. Since we are in Peace Corps – why not go for crazy bush man?

Scar – The Power Tripper
Whether it is in a committee, with staff, or in their community – this Volunteer has the mindset that they are somehow superior to everyone else. Maybe we just aren’t worthy.

Genie – The Life of the Party
This Volunteer gets invited to all the parties in country. Everyone wants them to show up to entertain them. Something ridiculous will happen when this person shows up and YOU want to be around to see it. You know to tell your children about all the amazing life-changing things you did in Peace Corps.

And there you have it – the types of Peace Corps Volunteers you meet in country. I’m sure there are lots more I could come up with, but I think I’ve probably offended enough people Smile. It shouldn’t be too hard to guess which ones are me.

I do not claim to own the copyrights to any of these images. Remember that they are to be used strictly for non-profit purposes. The images are © copyrighted by Disney.

Now I am sure I will spend Saturday analyzing my fellow volunteers!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Finally Settled In

Well I finally feel like I am settled in my new place. While I technically moved in a while ago, I haven't had time to put stuff away and make my new place my own with my parents being here and life being busy. But I am now completely unpacked...well I have one box left, but it is stuff I don't really use so I put it in a corner and my thought is if I don't go into that box for at least 2 months, then I don't need anything that is in there and can get rid of it all.

My new host mother commented on how much stuff I have and said she had no idea how I managed to bring it all from America. I pointed out all the stuff I have been given from Peace Corps and what was food and such and she decided I didn't have quite as much, but I still have "too many" books. Ha. My goal when I COS is to have less than what I came with, which will be a challenge since there have already been comments about sending me home with a suitcase of ajvar and rakija.

I really do love my new place. It is so bright and airy and it really does feel like home. I think it will be a great place to live for a year. It is so close to everything. I am not literally 2 minutes from school, the bus stop, the market, and almost everything else in town.

I have one large room that has a mini kitchen in it and a balcony. I share the bathroom that is right outside of my room. There is a storage room and another bedroom on my floor, but they only use the room for guests and laundry, so I have the floor to myself most of the time. They sleep downstairs in the middle floor and we eat down downstairs in the garage/second kitchen that opens out to the gorgeous garden. 

Living room/Bedroom area
My bed
This door goes into the hall, but is locked, so its the perfect place to put a little bit of home
My host parents are AMAZING too! Words can not describe how awesome they are. My host mother is a marvelous cook, so I am paying her to make me lunch each day, something I will really enjoy. When we did our site placement interviews I was against living with a family for a few reasons. First, I did want to live on my own to prove to myself I could do it. I have always had roommates in the past, so this was the first time I really was on my own. I also wanted to be able to cook for myself. But now, a year in, I can say that cooking for one over here isn't a whole lot of fun and is expensive if you want variety in your diet. I chose to live cheaply, so I had little variety and almost no meat. With paying my host mother to cook for me, since she is already cooking for her and my host father, I will get lots of variety and lots of Macedonian food (aka lots of salt, oil, and deliciousness). She weighed me the other day (I don't know what it is with me and host mothers who like to weigh me!) and said when I go back to America, she wants me to be 70 kilos. I told her no. That is not what I want.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That... in Photos

I promised a photo update after the lengthy text one yesterday.

How I spent my August- decorating 40 brown paper bags and matching cards all differently for the VSN welcome packages for the Mak17 group.
The former Roman settlement of Bargala near Shtip
View from Isar in Shtip
I have always loved fireworks, but now even more after discovering the fireworks setting on my camera.

Pastramalijafest in Shtip- one of my favourite festivals in Macedonia
Celebrating Elena's birthday at Stobi Winery
The barrel room
If you want a humorous, but pretty accurate account of Peace Corps life, this blog has been circling around PC MK this week. We even were emailed a link from our Safety and Security Coordinator who came across it and wanted to make sure we all enjoyed it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Happy Ending

I have neglected to update not because of lack of material, but rather lack of time. I have two drafts of posts I started within the past two weeks, but somehow I never got around to finishing them. I will attempt to fully write this one to get something posted finally!

Warning, this is a big of a heavy post, but I promise, it has a happy ending!

In the last month, my life has been turned in a complete 180 from where it was. There were a lot of things that I didn't write about on here because 1) I didn't want anyone at home to worry, 2) I don't like focusing on negatives, and 3) I never really know who is reading my blog. But because of the changes that have occurred recently, I feel like I can now go back and fill in some of the gaps.

If you noticed, I never really mentioned work in my posts or told you what I do. I talked about wonderful things like na gostis, adventures with fellow PCVs, and minor quips about daily life, but I never really talked about real life. My first year here was tough. It was really tough. There were a lot of things I struggled with. I had many issues with my living situation. Obviously my heating was an issue as I mentioned being cold all the time, but there were other things too. I lived about a 15 minute walk from the town up on top of a hill where there were lots of families. 15 minutes walk is no big deal, but it does wear you down when you are doing it with 10 kilos of fruits and vegetables from the pazar in 100 degree weather or trying not to kill yourself on the ice and snow while going downhill to school each morning. My landlords were great, but they were quite busy and often in Skopje dealing with health problems so they were not always available to fix problems when they came up. My electricity bills were ridiculously high and I was going above my electricity stipend, which left me paying a lot out of my living allowance. My location was also quite isolating. I had wonderful neighbours that treated me so well, however, it was all families and I didn't really fit in with them. I was treated as a child by many of them and the adults often would leave me to just hang out with the kids. My neighbour kids were great and a lot of fun to be with, but there were many times I longed for an adult conversation. Because of not living right in the town, I didn't really know anyone down in town so my times not na gosti-ing were spent trying to occupy my time alone in my big house (this is part of the reason all PCVs should have an external hard drive and a large supply of books). There were little things too, such as no washing machine (fine in the summer, but horrible in the winter), very limited hot water for showering (max of 5 minutes even if the boiler had been on all day), and of course no internet! All of this was manageable, however, when added to other issues, it became too much.

School was also a challenge for me. I wasn't sure what my place was there or what I could do. My assigned counterpart is a wonderful lady and a fantastic teacher, but very busy. I struggled at times to know how I could help her in the classroom. The education system here is one that has a lot of problems (like any education system frankly) and politics play a large role in every aspect of the school. I wanted to do creative activities and games with the kids sometimes, but had to respect the fact that most of the teachers don't have tenure and they are very worried about their jobs, so they are cautious of what goes on in their classroom. Many of my games would have been too wild for the type of classroom they felt they needed to maintain. So I did a lot of sitting, staring, and not feeling useful. I knew that my counterpart wanted to involve me in class, but I think we were both unsure as to how that was supposed to work. I was also challenged with the fact that there is some dissent between the English teachers at my school and it was really hard being the monkey in the middle. I felt trapped. I didn't want to step on any of their toes and was trying to please them all. The dang Minnesota nice genes were in full force and did my best not to ruffle any feathers, which lead to not a whole lot being accomplished. I tried to focus on the little wins, such as getting my counterpart to use picture flashcards when teaching the students new vocabulary words and incorporating BINGO into class a few times.

Because of my lack of connection to projects in my town, I filled my time with secondary projects through several Peace Corps committees. I became involved in the National Essay Contest, National Spelling Bee, assisted with Model UN, then YMLP and GLOW, and VSN (the Volunteer Support Network). I figured if I had other projects to bide my time until I could get things at site figured out, I would be just fine. I kept setting small goals for myself, such as things will be better by the second term, then by March, then April, and finally the end of the school year. When I saw no hope of improvement, I reached out to my fellow volunteers and spent a fair amount of time with them as a means of obtaining happiness. I wouldn't say I was ever severely unhappy, but there were many days and nights that I just felt useless. I never considered going home and ETing as an option, because then I would have felt like I had failed. For some people it is the right option, but I knew it wasn't right for me.

In June, right after school got out and our Language IST, I set up a meeting with all the English teachers and the Director to share all of my ideas with them and work on figuring out how to involve me more for this next year. This was the straw that broke the camels back when only two teachers came, one 45 minutes late. This was the moment I really questioned why I was here because I didn't feel like it mattered- the people who wanted my help felt trapped by the politics and the others didn't care. I left for YMLP, GLOW, and Istanbul incredibly frustrated and completely unsure how to change my situation. The day we finished YMLP I received a call from my Program Manager at Peace Corps about my VRF (Volunteer Reporting Form that is the piece of paperwork that is hated by pretty much every PCV out there!) because it hadn't been emailed in right. After discussing that issue, I told her about everything at site because I really felt like I had tried every option possible given my current situation. She told me to not worry about anything at site right then and focus my energy on GLOW and that we would talk once that was finished. After returning from Istanbul, I went to the Peace Corps office and talked with many of the staff members there, including my Program Manager. She and I had a long talk that involved her asking me if I was hoping to stay where I was or move. At that point I realized I needed a big change and maybe moving sites was the only way to solve the situation. The Country Director wasn't in right then, but she and the Safety and Security Coordinator promised to talk to him as soon as he came back to the office. I left with a slight weight off of my shoulders knowing that at least I was no longer alone in dealing with all of it.

A week later I had a meeting with my Program Manager and Country Director where lots of tears were shed by me in complete frustration about feeling trapped. After talking about lots of different options, we set up a plan to give it one more try and if that didn't work, I would be moved. The Peace Corps staff made several visits to my town over the next couple weeks and we identified new housing and meetings were held with the Mayor and the School Director. The end of August I was excited about my new living situation and my parents coming, but still apprehensive about how school would go. But I had vowed to give it my all for one month to see if the situation could be improved. It was rocky at start with a school staff meeting where the Director called out the teachers for not being at school when Peace Corps came because they were supposed to be and I felt all the eyes in the room staring at me, some in anger, some in curiosity about my reaction. I was confused, had only kind of understood, and felt incredibly uncomfortable having so many eyes staring through me.

As I said, my life is a complete 180, so clearly something else has changed too! The first day of school we got in not one, but two new teachers. One a young female German teacher and the other, a young female English teacher! Right from day one this new English teacher took an interest in me and demanded that I help her in class. She was outgoing, full of energy, and full of ideas to make class fun for the kids. Plus, she has this "I don't care what the other's think as long as I am doing what is best for the kids" attitude about her that I love! I was a little sad when my parents came and interrupted this new budding site as I moved into my new house and immediately left to be with them, not even spending one night there, and when I had only been able to be in 2 or 3 of this new teacher's classes.

I can now say, one month in that I LOVE my housing and I LOVE the teachers I work with at school. Both of the teachers I work with are extremely focused on doing what is best for the kids and their learning and both are excited to have me in their classes. I now am in almost every fifth grade and sixth grade English class each week and get to spend one class in first grade and one in fourth grade. I have worked with all but the fourth grade class before as quite a few of the first graders were in my class at the kindergarten last year. I have also been able to go out for coffee with the new English teacher several times and can honestly say I have my first local friend who is about my age. I have also started teaching an adult English class two nights a week for a few employees at the Opstina (local government). I have only had one class so far, but I think it will be fun. It is nerve wracking and puts my Macedonian to use a lot, but the three guys I had come this past Monday were all very respectful and nice and supposedly I will get another 2 or 3 students tomorrow too. I am working with the two girls from my town who went to Camp GLOW this past summer to start a Club GLOW in our town and they are both very passionate, intelligent, and wonderful young women and I really don't feel I could have a better two to work with on this project. I have several activities in the works too including two English Clubs for 4th-8th graders, possibly another adult English class, and hopefully finally getting World Wise Schools going where some of my students here will be able to be pen pals with American students. I also still have all of my Peace Corps committees going and wanting to spend time with my new host family, so there isn't a whole lot of "me" time left!

To make this all come full circle, I want to finally share a few last thoughts.
- The Peace Corps staff here is wonderful. Everyone complains about their bosses on occasion or the rules or whatever, but ultimately, it is so clear that they are all there to do whatever they can for each and every PCV here. I know it is their job to support the volunteers here, but they really do an amazing job at it and I don't think get enough credit.

- I remember being told during PST by a current volunteer that the first year can just plain suck, but they then encouraged all of us to stick it out, no matter how hard it is, because the second year can be completely different and so wonderful and that is something I can personally attest to.

- It is very important to find your allies in Peace Corps, whether they be Peace Corps staff members, HCNs, or another PCV. I know if I hadn't had my VSN member/friend/dechko Phil here, I would have had a much harder time. Everyone needs someone, at least one person, that they can completely rely on. While friends and family in America are nice, they can never really understand what it is like, no matter how hard they try. This is one of the things that drew me to becoming a VSN member. You sometimes need someone to just listen to you grip about things that only another PCV can understand.

- One thing that this all has made me really think about is that sometimes no matter how hard you try to change something, you can't. You sometimes have to wait until it changes itself a little and then try again. If my housing had changed, but nothing at school had, I don't think I would be where I am now. It took a change in the teaching staff to shake up the status quo enough to where I could step in and make a few changes.

- I can also say that I have reached the "I don't care" phase of my Peace Corps service and it is a wonderful place to be. It doesn't sound like it, but let me explain a little more. I finally feel like I have reached a point where I have given up caring about what people will think about the small things. I have given up playing polite all the time and getting no where. While believe me I am not stirring up any trouble, I have reached a point where I do what I need to do to have the best experience. Example: Teachers are supposed to stay at school until 1:30 even if they don't have class. Last year, I did that everyday. Sometimes I would be done at 11, but would then sit for the next 2 1/2 hours doing nothing just to play by the rules. Now, I leave when I am done with class. My time is put to much better use planning for my adult class or getting things figured out for National Essay Contest, or spent sitting talking to my host mother. I know that the time I used to spend just sitting there was a great source of frustration for me so to take that away, all the better. That said, I do 100% believe that I needed to put in the time just sitting there until 1:30 everyday last year. I strongly believe that the first year, as hard and frustrating as it is sometimes, you need to play by as many community rules as possible. I think that because of that, I have finally gained the trust of a few more people to the point where I can now put some of my ideas into action.

Ok, enough of the deep post full of revelations. Hopefully I will have a little time to get a photo post up soon to balance all of my text here!

I put a dollar in one of those change machines.  Nothing changed.  ~George Carlin
*Good thing I use denari not dollars!