I’m SO grateful it’s not winter anymore. The last snow was May 5th and people here are saying how hot it is…I’m in heaven. Keep in mind that I’m in the mountains so it’s probably 10 degrees cooler here than most other places we PC Volunteers are serving. But all I can think about is how grateful I am that I’m warm enough all the time, and it’s still daylight as I type at 8:00 PM. I understand the equinox is approaching (as is my daughter’s 28th birthday–how can that be?) but my Macedonian friends think it’s hot while I’m thinking,”It’s about like WINTER in Florida.” But the promised spring fruit is here…cherries, strawberries, peaches….and I’m not talking about what we Americans buy in the supermarket. My landlord cuts a small branch from the backyard cherry tree and presents it to me and I’m in heaven. The strawberries are so small and sweet and bursting with flavor it makes my FL strawberries pale in comparison. (But they ARE smaller, so I figure I can eat 3X as many…my waistline argues with me, but hey…when in Macedonia….) Peaches are yellow and white, and sweet, and I haven’t peeled and sliced them into a bowl since I was…..OK, never! But I’m looking forward to eating MORE of them.
The kittens are doing GREAT and we are well past the scary stage of bottle-feeding and litter-training. Vesna continues to be beautiful, if a bit aloof. Vince has passed the ‘Ewok’ stage and is actually looking like a cat. He’s more handsome every day and is by far the more affectionate & cuddly one….although they both sleep with me on my bed. They are also great company for each other, and I’m grateful for the teenagers I work with in the community who kitty-sit when I need to travel.
I just got back from a week of language classes in Struga. I LOVE that town of poets! It’s right on lake Ohrid but with a smaller-town feel and it has…….wait for it……an American DOLLAR STORE!!! Ok, it was a 99 Macedonian Denari Store with American Stuff! And just for the record 99 Denari is about $2.30…..but who’s counting. I bought index cards, duct tape, candles, and a perfume birthday gift for my former host-mom’s birthday. And I WOULD have bought a bunch of other stuff, but I am on a PC budget and have limited return-on-the-bus backpack space. All in all a beautiful town…please come visit me and I’ll take you there!
Language week was a model of great continuing education. We were able to sign up for classes we wanted with a max of 6 participants per class. I was both encouraged and humbled…I’m doing great on the overall language proficiency scale (especially–dare I say it? for my age-group!), but there are some that are ‘smoking’ me and even learning 2 languages at once. I continue to marvel at the ‘process’ that is in place as we Peace Corps Volunteers continue to serve in a program 50 years in the making! Additionally, some of us ‘older’ volunteers had a meeting with the training coordinator in hopes to help make the process more mature-age-friendly. We learned so much about what they are hearing from Washington (Mandatory 4X the technical training, same budget! Different focus for recruitment–last Federal Appointee’s vision was the last one’s, and now there’s a new one… ) that it reminded me how lucky I am to have this opportunity to serve. These are OUR taxpayer dollars at work, and I’m a testament to my readers that every dollar is maximized in the Peace Corps program. Did you know that the annual Federal budget for military musical BANDS is larger than the entire Peace Corps budget?
Now this blog is not intended to proselytize the Peace Corps program, but even my incredibly wonderful military son said to me before I left that he hoped I would do my (peace) job here so that he would never have to do his (military) job here. I try to do my best every day to represent the American people. People of good will, people of service, people of tolerance, people of strength, and a whole lot more. But most of all, I continue to wonder how dollar for dollar MY tax contributions should be spent.
Speaking of which, my firehouse renovation project is moving right along. I’ll post pictures and brag a bit in my next blog. The best thing is that it’s going so well that my municipality (structural) boss is giving it some attention and paying visits in my absence. And the Mayor has agreed to kick in extra funding to provide light fixtures, grout for the tiles, and some other items that we missed in detailing the original budget! The municipality was already kicking in $1500, but they are very impressed with the work being done here and are willing to increase it a bit. It’s ALL GOOD!