The month of December has been full of adventures with the highlights being sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and Christmas dinner with my host family and friends. On December 7th, my fellow fourteen trainees and I officially swore the oath to become Peace Corps Volunteers. The three months were a remarkable journey covering intense training in language, culture, health, safety, and teaching strategies. We all met in Skopje for the ceremony, where many of our host families, counterparts, former Peace Corps volunteers, the Minister of Education, and the US Ambassador to North Macedonia came to the ceremony. The US Ambassador, a previous volunteer in Peace Corps, led us in our oath:
“I, Joseph Dodson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”
After the intense training and passing the language evaluation, I am excited to begin the next twenty-four months of my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer!
As soon as the ceremony concluded, I rushed back to attend a Winter Drama show at one of my schools. I was excited to go and knew I might be a few minutes late; however, I got a call on the way to the show that I was to be announced to the crowd. Upon arriving, I realized this was a more significant event than I initially expected. Several hundred people were there, and the teachers placed me in the front row. I was a bit nervous they would ask me to say a few words and I would have to dish out some of my broken Macedonian on the spot, but luckily, they did not. 😀 During the show, the students from the five schools I work with performed dancing, acting, and singing for the crowd. The students did an impressive job, and it was great watching the students I will have in my classes next semester. After the show, I was able to meet many of the parents and community members. Everyone I spoke with was welcoming and seemed excited to have me in their community. The evening left me inspired to perform my service at a high level but also left me apprehensive as I truly want to provide a positive experience to the communities I will be serving.
Since being sworn in, I have been in the classroom every day. I have enjoyed meeting the students and seeing the different locations of the satellite schools. I have been using the month of December to ease into the role of co-teaching. I have focused on building relationships with the teachers I will be assisting and learning their styles, and the levels of understanding of the students. I am excited to begin January with some new lessons and fun activities for the students.
For Christmas, I planned a dinner with my host family and several friends I have gained since living at my site. We had chicken, salad, sarma, french fries, and tres leche for dessert. It was a special time, and it was great to share some of my Christmas traditions with those here. For a day or two before the dinner, I prepared a “toast” in Macedonian: “До новите пријатели и семејството. Ви благодариме што ја направивте Македонија нов дом. На здравје!” (To new friends and family. Thank you for making Macedonia a new home. Cheers!). While short, my toast was heartfelt as those at the table have truly made this country feel like home. We enjoyed the food, had great conversations, and my host Dad pulled out his accordion and played some traditional Macedonian music!
The schools will start their break on January 2nd, and students will not be back in the classroom until the 18th. On January 7th, the Orthodox Christmas will be celebrated, and I am very excited to participate in their traditional celebration. Also, I have been in this country now for THREE months. Time has flown by, and I don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon. This might be a little late, but Среќен Нова Година! (Happy New Year).
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