On the left is the Deputy Chief of Mission Brian Aggeler (#2 at the US Embassy) and on the Right is our PC country Director Steven Kutsy. Both are former PC Volunteers. Apparently the Ambassador will be attending our swearing-in ceremony, but he was out of the country this week. The session was interesting and informative covering topics such as what Macedonians generally think of Americans (pretty positive) to ‘do they have a military force’–yes, very small army, but some are supporting our efforts in Afghanistan. There are 70 Americans and ~200 Macedonians working in the US embassy here. Although we are technically US Government ‘Volunteers’ we have no diplomatic status and are not protected by any government immunity…..so we all agreed we would try to stay out of jail here!
Today we learned to count to 10 in Macedonian. The picture here shows only 4 people/teacher so there’s lots of interaction and plenty of opportunity to make a fool of one’s self. But I have to say, the training is excellent. Tonight is our last night here. Tomorrow we are introduced to our host families and dispersed in groups of about 8 to five different communities in Macedonia where we will continue ‘Peace Corps School’ and language training in the mornings. We’ll live with these families and absorb the language and culture to the best of our abilities until we get our final work assignments. All this to say that I have no idea if my family will have internet access…..so this MAY be my last post for a while. Each town reportedly has internet cafes, but obviously it will be less convenient. So tomorrow I meet my family. Imagine how impressed they’ll be when I say hello, ask, ‘how are you’ and count to 10….it’s going to be a long evening!
Today we also had a field trip into Kumanovo–to an Eastern Orthodox church and a Mosque. The Church was very ornate with some of the icons dating back to the 15th century. It was amazing to me they weren’t behind a bars, but there in the open for people to potentially touch–whoa! Sorry–no pictures allowed inside. The Mosque was the first I’d ever been in! It was incredibly ‘simple’. The carpet was marked out as prayer ‘spaces’ for each person to pray and the rooms were separated for men and women–but at the end of the day–they were just ………rooms. The fanciest things in the place were the chandeliers and they were almost exactly like the ones in the Orthodox Church (sale on chandeliers some time during the last century?).
Ahhh, and another highlight of the day…I now have a Macedonian cell phone! It’s more for us to communicate in-country, but if anybody REALLY wants it please e-mail me. (It could be very expensive for you depending on your carrier.) But the best way to get me by voice will be my SKYPE number: 813 321 5340. Now in order to receive that call I have to be connected to the internet and my computer ‘on’ so please remember that I’m 6 hours ahead of East coast time.
Oh my dear friends and family….this has been an incredible, intimidating, exhausting, fascinating week, and it’s only week one! Your responses, posts, prayers, thoughts and well-wishes have sustained me and encouraged me. I am grateful for all of you that have communicated with me and for those that have simply wished me well. Dobra NoK’ (good night)