Site name: Ohrid (Red Cross)
Sector: Community Development
How big is your site? What’s something that makes your site special or different?
Ohrid has about 40,000 to 45,000 people. Ten years or so ago Ohrid used to be much bigger, closer to 100,000 people. When the factory shut down many people lost their jobs and had to leave. You can still see the consequences of the economy with the lack of youth in the area.
Ohrid is famous for once having 365 churches, one for everyday of the year. It is not known now how many churches Ohrid does have currently. Ohrid is the tourist destination of Macedonia. Beautiful Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest in all of Europe. The lake and city of Ohrid are both designated by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. Also based on the beauty and importance of Lake Ohrid NASA declared one of Titans lakes after Lake Ohrid.
Where are you from?
How did you react to getting assigned to Macedonia?
First thing I had to do was turn on Google Maps and figure out where Macedonia was. I was first just excited to finally receive my invitation into the Peace Corps. I didn’t think too much about the placement for a little bit. The more and more I started to learn about it the more excited I was. There was some hesitation, because I had this image of serving in a destination that you could visually see the need. Eastern Europe was not on my radar when applying for the Peace Corps, but I was quickly able to get past that and start preparing for my new life.
What were you doing prior to Peace Corps?
I was working for an alternative school in Portland as a college prep counselor for a targeted group of students who were the most under privileged. Before that I was working as a Behavior Interventionist at a charter school in New Orleans.
What is your living situation like? (i.e. homestay family, separate floor, independent apartment/house)
I live with a homestay family here in Ohrid. I have a 73-year-old Baba. I have my own bathroom but otherwise we share the living space. Her son lives upstairs and she has a daughter that lives elsewhere in Ohrid.
I was definitely nervous to move in with a host family before coming to Macedonia. My PST experience helped ease this transition. I am very happy to have my Baba in my life and to learn from her. I do miss having my own space, being able to cook and clean on my own, and not have to be always on, but I am more grateful to have this family right now than to not. They are a great source of knowledge and add a family atmosphere when it can be a very lonely experience.
What was one of your best moments or memories in your service?
I was having a conversation with someone from the area. It wasnt about work, it was just a friendly conversation. She told me that I was starting to change her perspective of Americans. It showed the importance of the two other pillars of our service that had nothing to do with our main work assignment.
What was one of the hardest days of your service? Why?
I have two. The day my godson was born. It was really hard to not be there to see him born, but to also be there for two of my best friends. It was also the realization that I will be missing out on its first two years of life. I love seeing photos of him on a daily basis, but it’s not the same.
It sounds corny, but the other hardest day thus far was the day that my favorite soccer team opened their season back home. It was the weekly event me and my best friend had. It is one of my favorite times. It was hard to be watching the game here at 4:30AM and not being there with him. I am not missing home much, but I am missing experiences.
Tell us about some of the projects you’re working on outside of your primary job?
Currently I am creating curriculum to teach early intervention trainings at a special needs organization in Struga. I am going to start teaching TOEFL classes at the American Corner in Struga as well.
What do you do to fill your time when you aren’t working?
When I am not working I am loving exploring the areas around Ohrid. There are many sites and places to visit. The history in this area is outstanding.
A couple of the other volunteers in the area have organized a book club. Reading has become a very important part of my time away from work.
Learning the language is something else that takes a good chunk of my time as well. Even though it should take more.