A lot has happened since I put this blog on the backburner. On September 14th I said my final goodbyes to a small group of friends while eating breakfast before I caught my flight to Washington D.C. It was the last time I will eat in one of my favorite late night diners for two years.
I met up with another volunteer on my layover in Chicago and we had a brief chat about how we were feeling and what all we were bringing with us. We landed in D.C. at night and met up with 4 other trainees to take a shuttle to our hotel. Once we arrived at the hotel we chatted with a few trainees before going upstairs to put our luggage up. It was my first time traveling by plane on my own and wasn’t as nerve racking as I thought it would be.
After we got settled in I went with four trainees to meet up with some other people at a bar/restaurant. I connected with one of the girls because we both ordered the cheapest beer on the menu. We didn’t stay out for long and by the time I made it back to the hotel I had another drink at the bar with some other people and headed to my room. The next day I went with some other trainees to sightsee. It was my first time being in D.C. and I wish I would have had longer to explore. I did get to see a few museums and monuments before we had to be back at the hotel for our training session.
After a grueling all day session we were finally given some free time and I went to a tattoo parlor, to get a new daith earring, and then to my last restaurant on American soil for 2 years. I got back early and went to my room to catch up on sleep before our flight the next day. I had a wonderful roommate who came back late, threw up in our room, knocked all my things off the bathroom counter, and kept me up most of the night. I didn’t hold it against them though because I had been in that same boat before and well, it was our last night in America.
The next morning I hung out with another trainee before we left for our flight and thought I lost my phone. Luckily I found it on the floor next to our table at the hotel. We took two busses for the 49 of us, one girl quit before we left, and drove out to the airport. We were left on our own to make it from America to Macedonia which we did with almost no problems. We left on the 17th of September, had a layover in Austria, and landed Skopje (the capital of Macedonia) on what I think was Sunday. I didn’t sleep at all on the flights and was running on 3 hours of sleep. Thankfully I was able to sleep decently after we made it to our destination.
I spent a week in staging at a boarding school in the city of Tetovo. For a girl who grew up in cornfield land the views were amazing. We were allowed to go out twice with volunteers that had been here for awhile. I went to a traditional Macedonian restaurant the first night and the second time I went to an Italian restaurant. I got to know fellow volunteers, learn a little language, and be jam packed with so much information that I’m not even sure now what all we learned that first week.
After a week of being in Macedonia we again loaded onto busses based on our training sites. Thirteen other trainees and myself were headed to Negotino a “small” town of 20,000. After a two hour drive through hilly/curvy roads and feeling car sick (not sure why since I’ve never been prone to it) we arrived at our destination. I was so nervous to meet my host family that I would be living with for 3 months. My host mom helped me to gather all of my luggage and load it into a taxi for a brief ride to our home. Luckily, for me, my host mom speaks English decently and I didn’t have to worry about only knowing enough Macedonian to introduce myself, ask how she was, and say hello.
My host family ended up being wonderful. They took me in like one of their own daughters and I’ve loved living with them. These past weeks have been filled with 4 hour a day language classes, training sessions, and more information being jammed into my head than I can ever remember having in such a short period of time. The other trainees at my site are great although, I am closer to other trainees that were placed at different sites. I’ve eaten new food, learned about a new culture, and seen amazing sites.
I’ve had the chance to go to Skopje and explore for brief periods of times. I’m not allowed to travel on my own for the first 6 months so it was nice to get out for the Peace Corps events. Now the weather is starting to get colder and I’m starting to realize that even though I’m from Illinois and used to the cold I’m not used to it being cold inside. We have woodstoves in my host families house that keep us nice and toasty but, I haven’t asked my host family to start mine yet. I’m sure I’ll be begging them to a couple weeks from now. They think I’m crazy that it hasn’t gotten to cold already.
Tomorrow I find out where my permanent site placement is going to be, who my host family is, and what I’ll be doing for my two years here. It’s an exciting and nerve-racking time all at once. I’ll be going through meeting my host family all over again along with my working counterpart. Next week I travel on my own to stay with my new host family for 3 days and then return to where I’m living now. In a month I’ll be swearing in and will become an official Peace Corps Volunteer.
Although there have been some difficult times such as my boyfriend and I breaking up, language barriers, stressing over learning the language, trying to get over my social anxiety, and getting used to this life I couldn’t imagine not having done this. If I wouldn’t have followed my dreams and applied for the Peace Corps I wouldn’t be here now experiencing a new culture, seeing new countries, and living out one of my dreams. It has helped me to realize that I don’t want to live my life with regrets of things I didn’t do. There are so many more dreams I know I can chase after doing this and will chase once this part of my life is over.
All in all this has been one of the best experiences of my life. Go out and follow your dreams so you don’t regret what you didn’t do when it’s to late.