I’m sorry I’ve been ‘dark’ for a while but I really have continued to write on my laptop and will post those blogs at a later date when I have better internet access and am not using a public cafe. The one I’m using has 7 desktops, 20 kids waiting to use them and if I beat them here before they all get out of school I can delay their game competition…or whatever.
Yesterday was our last ‘hub day’ in Kumanovo before we get sworn in on Thursday. Turkeys were pre-ordered from the US, each host family is making various side dishes, and everyone will be dressed in their Macedonian Best! The American Ambassador, members of the press, and (rumor has it) the president of Macedonia will be there. We have practiced the Macedonian National Anthem until we can carry off a plausible rendition. We will sing the American one as well, but that’s a lot harder to make sound good–beyond most of our vocal ranges. The swearing-in part is very similar to the military one…I, (state your name here) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…..
There will be about 220 people there including host families, some currently serving PCVs, PC staff, press, and invited guests. We were warned not to be too taken aback with the whole Thanksgiving dinner thing as apparently ‘buffet lines’ are an unknown entity over here, as is cranberry sauce which I’m told is missing every year. After the food-fest and the dignitaries depart each training town will do some kind of presentation or skit depicting life with the families during PST–should be fun as there is certainly lots to laugh about!
I will be kind of sad to see everyone for the last time, but I will be glad to move to the next phase of service. Friday I will help one of my fellow PCVs to move into her new apartment here in Kratovo as my host mom has to work all day Friday and Saturday and she wants to move me into my apartment Saturday evening. What’s one more day? She’s arranged for a coworker to pick me up in a moving van (just kidding) after work on Saturday to take the 2 of us to Kriva Palanka. If the way she sends her kids back to college is any indication I will really need the moving van. Besides my 2 suitcases and backpack I came over here with I have accumulated 20 lbs of books and paperwork from training, received 3 packages from home (thanks!) and bought a painting from a local artist here in Kratovo. I have jars of Ivar, jars of Shipkee Jam, and potatoes (see previous blogs) to move and that’s before people start to gift me with promised home made wine and other delicious items. As I have said many times, I’m very blessed!
On another note, I passed my Language Proficiency Interview which was last Friday. These are trained language interviewers who sit with you 1-1 and evaluate your language capability with a tape recorder running. It can be a little unnerving. There are essentially 9 levels of competency–beginner, intermediate and advanced, with 3 levels within each level. We are expected to reach low intermediate by end of Pre-Service Training and everyone in my training group got at least that level–yeah! One guy in the other group got advanced-low which is pretty unbelievable in 2.5 months, but he does speak 3 other languages including a little Russian. Even if we were to fail it just means you continue to work with a tutor–something most of us will be doing when we go to site anyway. The Peace Corps actually encourages us to get tutors and reimburses $X/quarter for X hours. It’s a really good system and one I will take advantage of when I reach Kriva Palanka. In the mean time, you’ll all be happy to know that I’m capable of getting around town, asking for help, ordering food, conversing about the weather, and describing day to day activities…if I don’t mind making a few mistakes along the way.
I really have had a pretty easy time overall. My host mom has done her very best to make me feel at home, well taken care of, and we’ve become friends. My core group of fellow trainees has been interesting and fun to get to know…some have become good friends, all have amazing hearts. The town has been friendly and welcoming, the language challenging and enriching, the PC training comprehensive. Even the weather warmed up and has been relatively warm since I wrote about that surprising October snow. (Thank you God!) But most of all I feel like I was ‘carried’ through this amazing experience by all of the encouraging posts, e-mails, and the occasional phone conversation I’ve gotten from so many of you. So thank you to everyone who has written, posted or skyped–I feel very loved and I couldn’t be doing this without your support!