Saturday, November 21, 2009
As I've probably said before, there are 37 of us who came over to Macedonia as PC volunteers this year - we're the 14th group so are called Mak 14. After the first week, we went to live in different villages - 6 or 7 to a village. These are my compatriots from Cherkeze on Halloween - the 5 other volunteers and our two language and culture teachers. It's a good group - all very different personalities but, as you might expect, everyone has a sense of adventure. I will miss seeing all of them every day when I move to Gostivar, but expect to see them periodically on visits or official PC functions, and we've had an experience together that has created a bond like no other. Yesterday was our last Albanian class. Eventually we will need to pass a language proficiency class and yesterday we also had a practice test to see what it was like and what they were looking for. Hana, who tested us, said I used a lot of gestures to get my message across, which really wouldn't count on the test, which is taped, but would help in everyday life. Everyone who knows me is probably laughing, because not only do I use a lot of gestures in Albanian and Macedonian, I use a lot when trying to speak English! Nor is anyone in my group surprised that Kacy's first 'words' weren't words at all but animal sounds. I haven't treated them to a donkey bray yet, but they've heard goats, chickens and turkeys. How could we not come to Halloween as animals - animals in boxes, mind you.
I've also included a picture of Gostivar. You can see the little mountains that are on one side of town - the bigger ones are on the other side but it was cloudy and hard to see them. Yesterday my counterpart from the sheepbreeders association came and picked me up to go up to Lipcove to meet the Mayor of the municipality. Hmmm, a word about municipalities. As part of the 2001 framework agreement that I've mentioned before, the government agreed to decentralize some functions of government to make it more accountable to the people. The country was divided into municipalities where there is usually one big town or city and a number of smaller villages. Kumanovo has 48 villages as part of its municipality. It makes me smile to remember New England and how decentralized it is - essentially Marlow was its own municipality with a selectmen's board, its own police, fire, road, and school department. It would blow the minds of Macedonians. But I digress. The mayor was sick, but we met with two other municipal officials to discuss the centrality of agriculture, what kind of life the citizens wanted, and putting up billboards advertising seminars we're giving in February before the lambs come. Luli, my counterpart, is an agricultural engineer and is fantastic. He has a vision, and I only hope I can be of help to him. The meetings were conducted in Albanian, with Luli translating some, but some I could understand at least the gist of. It is a long way from when we moved in with our families and had only been taught the Albanian alphabet. Communication is definitely still a challenge, but at least we have some words, and our families have learned what we know and don't know as well and how to get things across to us.
Once I get to site I can get tutors in both Macedonian and Albanian. So I won't stop learning, but it won't be as intensive as it has been. Every now and then I have a conversation with someone not associated with Peace Corps, and it still is a thrill to be understood, although I am most expert in Macebanian. I have my Macedonian practice test on Tuesday, so this weekend will be a cram session for that, and hopefully I will not use too many Albanian words - I used several Macedonian words for my Albanian test! I encourage all of you to learn as many languages as you can when you're young - it's crazy, but crazy fun, to be doing this at 63!
Posted by Candice Wiggum at 12:34 AM