Saturday, February 12, 2011


Quick note, wanted to let you know that I just sent my acceptance e-mail to the Peace Corps for my service in Macedonia as a NGO Development Volunteer.

Oh, and watch this cool video!

Good night.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just around the bend

A small break from Macedonia. I got approval from the Department of Public Works this week for the lots I requested for community gardens through the Adopt-A-Lot Program. This is the first major step for instituting three new community gardens in the Cramer Hill neighborhood of Camden. I hope to begin serious planning in March after my spring break, it's still too cold to do anything with the ground, but there will be some planning until then. Right now we are swamped with running a VITA Center in the office. I have become a tax preparer, though I am still fuzzy on where to put home mortgage stuff, oh yeah Schedule A.

In other news, I will be running my first ever half marathon in April. Our "team" will be running outside for the first time together on Sunday. This will be my first time running outside since Christmas. There are four of us ladies from the IPSD program, two of which are first time race runners!

Ok back to Macedonia. One of the volunteer letters in my Peace Corps packet talked about a local delicacy called ajvar, which is a type of relish made primarily of red bell peppers with eggplant and garlic. I think I would like it, hopefully someone will teach me how to make it.

I know I will easily fit into the culture there based on that fact that finding "a new friend is as simple as going to coffee, one of the most popular pastimes in Macedonia."

Here is a little bit more about the program in Macedonia. Along with doing my assigned job, Peace Corps encourages all volunteers to take on additional community projects around your interests and skills and the needs of the community. A lot of the RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) that I have spoken to did something with children, mostly educated them on a certain topic or did organized sports. I wonder what opportunities will await me. My main job will run normal business type hours (8am-4pm) and will be business casual dress, nothing that I haven't done before, which is comforting.

When I first enter the country I will be with other volunteers who will be serving Macedonia and we will all enter an intensive three month training session. The focus of the tree months will be language, cultural, and job training. During that time I will live with a host family which will also help me to quickly learn Macedonian and the cultural heritage. After the first three months I will be assigned a community where I will work for an NGO and call home for the next two years. Here are some non-profits I found in Macedonia through Idealist's website. Who knows I may end up at one of these.

More than likely in my community I will be living in some type of apartment situation on my own. I will have my own entrance, kitchen, and bathroom. The information also listed furniture, though every one else I have talked to mentioned having to buy furnishings. There is the possibility that depending on the community I may have to share entry-ways or kitchen and bathroom with another family, if my community does not have individual living space. So it's a toss up, but I think no matter where I am at it sounds like I will have good accommodations. It's mentioned several times that the Internet can be easily accessed, so I think I will be taking my computer after all.

For all you social media types, Peace Corps has a twitter.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Usage of words

"Your colleagues may expect that you will know exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be accomplished. At the same time, you are simply trying to understand how things are done, why they are done in particular ways, and why things take a lot longer to be completed. Given all this, open-mindedness, flexibility and patience are perhaps the most essential tools to a successful experience."

from Your Assignment, Peace Corps

This I think may sum up the majority of my "efforts" while serving in the Peace Corps.

History of the Program

The Peace Corps program in Macedonia began in 1996 with the first group of English teachers in secondary school. Today the program has grown to include business, environment, local government, and NGO development. Due to political unrest, Peace Corps service was suspended in 1999 and again in 2001. The Ohrid Framework Agreement peace agreement ended ethnic fighting in 2001 and international assessments have concluded that Macedonia now has capable security forces that can handle the country's issues.

I will be part of the sixteenth group of volunteers to serve in Macedonia that will work in English Education and the Community Development.

Macedonia has begun the process of decentralizing their 84 municipalities. Local government will be responsible for education, healthcare, infrastructure development, and other services. One of the many challenges of the country is its name dispute with Greece and it remains unresolved, holding up its entry into NATO. The country is advancing making partnerships with neighboring countries and now citizens have visa free travel to EU countries which marks a significant step in the EU integration process.

My Primary Duties

As the government moves to a more decentralized structure, I will be helping local organizations learn organizational development, networking, grant proposal development and grant management skills, and financial sustainability. I could be doing anything from developing mission statements and strategic plans, introducing the effective use of information technology, promoting teambuilding, and identifying community assets. I may, also, have a major responsibility in assisting with the financial stability of the organization, through grants or other means of fundraising. The Peace Corps repeatedly mentions environmental improvement organizations, which excites me and could be promising. I could very well be helping Macedonians recycle or help to organize clean-ups.

Camden in the snow earlier this year

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work

Sorry didn't get too much done on the research front today. I was at my internship all day helping people file their taxes and then it was off to family dinner. Here's what I have learned since we last parted.

Here is some basic info.

Program: Community and Organizational Development
Job Title: NGO Development Volunteer
Staging Date (Date I leave): September 9th
Pre-Service Training (in Macedonia): September 11th - November 24th
Dates of Service: September 11th, 2001 - November 23rd, 2013

Job Description:
I will be providing assistance to NGO members, municipality employees and other members of Macedonian communities interested in developing their skills focused in their area of interest, improving skills in project development, strategic planning, resource acquisition, and to improve their day-to-day operational capacities.

Here is the website for the Peace Corps' page on Macedonia

Also, Macedonia has its own Idol showcase competition.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little Blue Packet

There is it friends! I have my placement for Peace Corps. Wanna know where I am going? Well, it all started this afternoon while I was on campus finishing up a paper due later in the day. My cell phone rang and it was Cheryl telling me that I got a large package from the Peace Corps! Then she asked if I wanted her to open it, no way Jose! I would open it when I got home from school.

Of course a few of my classmates thought I was crazy for even waiting since my house is only a few minutes drive from campus, but I had school to do! I told them if I finished up I would run home before next class and get the packet. Well that's what I did. I got home with 30 minutes to spare before class (I know I know when am I going to tell you...I'm getting there).

I wanted to make sure that everyone got the best of the finding out experience, so I let Cheryl open it and see without me seeing. I wanted to open it and find out with my classmates who would also be going through the same procedure as I did today. After opening and seeing where I would go, I asked Cheryl some questions.

Is it Africa? No. Man that's where I wanted to go, my heart broke a little...ok a lot. I felt like I would cry. It took me a second to remember where this country was. Really? Man I felt confused, where could it be? Cheryl is smart and knows most places, so I was stumped. I jumped back in the car with 10 minutes till class and about to reveal where I would be spending the next two plus years of my life.

You know that moment on Wheel of Fortune, at the end, where the winner is finding out what their prize is by opening a shiny gold envelope? That's how it felt for me. I got into class and everyone was excited that I waited and there was this pause...when I almost couldn't open up the Velcro cover. Then as every one was cheering me on, I slipped my hand under the flap...

I am going to Macedonia?!?!?!?

Yep, I am going to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A country in Southeast Europe that is bordered by Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania. I country with more than 50 lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 6,562 feet.

Here is the flag:

It looks kind of cool right? I mean I am warming up to the idea more and more. It's not that I am against Macedonia, it's just I never had a real opinion on the place and now I am going to be living there. I wasn't really sure where it was when I read the name out. I know where it wasn't but I wouldn't have been able to go to it on a map.

The Peace Corps sent me a huge packet with all sorts of information I need to go through and I should do that and get back to them within a week's time, since that is the deadline. Yeah I'm going to go, it's an adventure and they tell you to be open to where ever you are placed. So I ship out on September 9th, with per-service training from September 11th - November 24th. I will be serving as an NGO Development Volunteer till November 23rd, 2013.

I plan (cross your fingers) to post something new about Macedonia and my service each day this week. As I learn information you too will be learning. Here's to new lands and new adventures.