My apologies to those of you that enjoy a vicarious Peace Corps experience through this blog for being silent for a while. Several important things have occurred in rapid succession in my corner of the world.
1) My $4000 Grant got approved to renovate
the Kriva Palanka Fire House, implement fire Safety and Prevention classes, and create community space. This is called a SPA Grant (Small Project Assistance) and is funded through USAID–yes I’m talking about our mutual tax dollars as I publish this on April 14th. We Peace
Corps folks go through a grant-writing process that is normally reserved for much larger amounts and the process includes an overview, situation analysis, goals and objectives, implementation plan, time line, measurements, line-item budget, (3 bids
for anything over $300), contingency plans, and population impact. Suffice it to say that it was quite a bit of work for $3999 (I tried to max out the opportunity)! But as frustrating as it was sometimes, it was a good learning experience. The SPA money will buy things
like paint, electrical supplies, new tile and fixtures in the bathroom, hot water heater and cabinets for the kitchen, and laminate floors. The firefighters will do all the labor valued at $2000 in-kind contribution. And the courthouse for which I work will kick in the finishing touches like new mattresses and chairs rounding it out to a total $7000 project. Once complete we will have a grand-opening celebration for the community and weave in the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. I found out we won the grant on March 28th, and early on March
29th I left for……..
2) Munich to visit my former exchange-student family. Both of my honorary ‘sisters’ are currently living in Munich and ‘Mama’ took the train down from Dusseldorf to see me. It was awesome being in a western European city after 7 months in Macedonia–I don’t mean that as a
complaint, only an observation that there is a significant difference in the overall quality of life. We visited Castles, ate in beer gardens and restaurants, walked around picturesque lakes and to the 1972 Olympic Complex, and just generally spent time with each other. The only grandchild has grown into a fine young
man, handsome and thoughtful. Mama looks great for 86 and her sense of humor and generosity of spirit are strong as ever. It’s difficult for me to believe sometimes that they welcomed me into their family 36 years ago, and still we all cherish the love. For the first 2 days every
time I tried to speak German, only Macedonian came out, but by the 3rd day, something sort of shifted and my fluency returned… Yeah! Juliana took me shopping for a couple hours one day (My sizes are difficult to come by in Macedonia!) Gabriela and her partner Delia were incredible
hostesses, and even sent me home with clean laundry and a care package of my favorite German foods. Which was a good thing, because 6 hours after returning to my apartment in Kriva Palanka I was back on a bus to……
3) Ohrid for a Peace Corps Training event. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’d already booked the flight and had my vacation approved before the meeting information arrived in my e-mail. So I arrived back in my Kriva Palanka apartment at 1 AM, emptied my suitcase, repacked and was on a 7 AM bus to
join my PC cohorts and my Macedonian counterpart in the garden spot of Macedonia–a day late, but happy to see everyone. The training was good, but being able to spend time with my PC friends who are going through the same experience as I was awesome. It was so
awesome that I decided to stay for the weekend. Several of us ‘older volunteers’ shared a 2-room suite at a hotel right in the center of town overlooking Lake Ohrid. The city is the most beautiful I’ve seen so far in Macedonia and boasts of several historical churches, an ancient amphitheater
that is sometimes still used for concerts, the Fortress of Tzar Samuel (which was at one time surrounded on 3 sides by Lake Ohrid) and of course, the 300 meter-deep lake. There are also several archeological ‘digs’ underway–a country rich in history, but short on resources to explore
it. On Saturday afternoon 17 of us piled into 2 boats and made a 2+ hour trip to the south east end of the lake to visit the Naum Monastery. It was a wonderful day, if a little choppy, and the trip was worth it. The Monastery sported a flock of peacocks and peahens–supposedly
early symbold of Christianity. I’m prejudiced, but I think the Monastery in my city is prettier. Still it was a great day, I came home tired, and was happy to head to bed that night. Sunday we went to Samuel’s Fortress which was amazing, but lucky for you (and the length of
this blog) I forgot my camera. It took abut 6.5 hours by bus to get home on Sunday afternoon, but when I arrived back in my little 2-room apartment, I was very happy to be ‘home’. I will do my best to understand Easter traditions in the next couple weeks, but it seems that this year the Catholic/Protestant and the Orthodox Calendars coincide for this holiday. The only thing I know about it right now is that we get Friday and Monday off of work. I’m sorry for the length of this blog, but I miss you all, I miss the interaction when I DO blog, and I’m thinking about my friends and family in the States!