Life is so incredible! This second year of my service is so much better than the first. I’ve adapted and I can’t get enough of my amazing apartment.
The presence of a yin and a yang have never been so prevalent in my life as they have here. With every positive is a negative and vise versa. Together, the two create harmony and balance. With every challenge there is an opportunity, but it is up to you to discover the opportunity.
Yin/Challenge: Gossip is a huge part of this culture. It is a small community and there isn’t a whole lot goin’ on so it’s easy to sit around and watch others do their thing. I personally DESPISE gossip. I don’t give a sh*t who is banging who or what strangers are doing. I am me and I am happy with my life so I don’t need to talk about others. This makes me very cautious of my movements because I know EVERYONE in town is aware of what I am doing (especially because I am foreign). They talk about who I am hanging out with and quite possibly what I’m having for lunch. This can bother me, but…
Yang/Opportunity: I take it as a challenge in not caring what others think and to always stay true to who I am.
Yin/Challenge: I have had a really hard time relating with people here.
Yang/Opportunity: Embrace my uniqueness and appreciate even more the person that I am.
Yin/Challenge: My apartment was BEYOND freezing during the winter without central heat.
Yang/Opportunity: Exercise to stay warm. (This was tough to do considering I was wrapped in a million blankets.) I also learned to make a fire pretty quickly in my little wood stove in my room at my last house in Kriva Palanka.
Yin/Challenge: The children are really misbehaved at school.
Yang/Opportunity: Developing classroom management skills.
Yin/Challenge: There are no rules here.
Yang/Opportunity: I have the freedom to do what I want without the approval of others. There’s no such thing as a liability form with most things. I can bring in baked goods and give them to students and colleagues without people worrying if there are razors in them.
Yin/Challenge: People aren’t happy and are often very negative. Everyone wants to leave the country. This has been my greatest challenge since I always pick up on how others are feeling.
Yang/Opportunity: Teach a Positive Psychology course. Understand WHY the people are negative. Have empathy/sympathy, but learn how to separate myself and stay my true, happy self.
Yin/Challenge: Language barrier.
Yang/Opportunity: Learning and speaking Macedonian has been so fascinating! There are also volunteers that learn Albanian and live in Albanian communities, but I have only needed to learn Macedonian. Learning the language has really helped me to understand the people better and why they act the way they do based on how they say things. Fascinating!! Locals are always so surprised that I know their language too, which is really cute and helps us to connect on a whole new level, even if they know English. It is so different when you connect with people in their native tongue 🙂
Yang/Opportunity: I’ve been able to use my ‘loneliness’ to focus on myself. I have been able to accomplish some GREAT personal skills in my free time. I have developed a passion for baking and cooking (very healthily also!) and I must say I’m pretty good at it 😉 I also trained twice during my service for a half marathon. I’m also super close to being able to do the splits from stretching every day. This is something I’ve wanted to be able to do my whole life! I’ve also dabbled in learning how to play the piano, another dream of mine!
Yin/Challenge: When I go running, everyone stares intensely at me. I have had many annoying reactions from locals such as cars slowing down completely to stick their heads out the windows and just stare at me, people yelling “What are you doing?!” or “Where are you going?!” I have also had cars that drive CLOSER to me just so I notice them staring at me..? That’s a weird one. And yes, most of these reactions were from men of all ages.I am fully covered when I run.
Yang/Opportunity: Some days it’s just plain funny, other days it takes away from the meditative feeling I get from running. Some days were so hard to get out there and run when I just didn’t want to deal with everyone staring at me like I’m crazy. I had to do a lot of self talk, especially in the winter, but to get the strength to go out there and just do it felt AMAZING. And to continually go out there and train for the half marathon felt so good. The day I ran the half marathon I felt on top of the world and so strong that I made it. It was an incredibly beautiful day and fellow volunteers and Macedonian friends came to support me which made me emotional 🙂
Yin/Challenge: Macedonia is consistently inconsistent. There are lots of surprises and very often things don’t go as planned or things don’t work out the way you hoped.
Yang/Opportunity: So much of it is out of our control as Volunteers, so just embrace the ride, have patience, and learn to laugh at it. Just let it go.
I have encountered many other challenges on a daily bases, but I like to keep these posts short and sweet. Fellow PCVs can you think of any others?