Eileen Swinehart

eileen 3

Site name: Arnaqi, Saraj

Sector: TEFL

How big is your site? What’s something that makes your site special or different?

My village is in two parts: Arnaqi e perme and Arnaqi e poshte. (upper and lower). There are about 200 students who live in the village. There are very few commercial establishments here. We have one bus that serves the area and it only comes once an hour during the week and every two hours on the weekend. We definitely have the “men only” coffee shop which I accidentally went in one day. Boy did I get strange looks. Of special note is that we are incredibly close to Matka Canyon.

Where are you from?

At the moment, I am from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. My husband is always looking for the next great job so who knows where we may be by the time my service is over.

How did you react to getting assigned to Macedonia?

Absolutely relieved! I was scheduled to go to Ukraine and had the assignment pulled exactly one month before staging. They gave me the choice of Rwanda, Armenia or Macedonia. So very happy I selected Macedonia.

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What were you doing prior to Peace Corps?

I had retired from herding cats. Well, that’s what I called it. I ran the town’s largest law firm and getting all of the attorneys together at one time to make decisions was much like herding cats–difficult to say the least.

What is your living situation like? (i.e. homestay family, separate floor, independent apartment/house)

I am living with an Albanian family. There are the parents, three adult children, one spouse and a two-year-old child. However, on any given night there may be two or three cousins or their other daughter with her family spending the night. It is always a busy, noisy, lively house. The host father works at the same school as I do and his identical twin brother is there also. Very difficult to tell them apart.

What was one of your best moments or memories in your service?

So far my best moment has been something that occurs many days. As I prepare to leave school I am swamped with little arms being thrown around me and calls of “Good bye teacher” At times it has been so overwhelming that I feel like I’m about to be knocked over!

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What was one of the hardest days of your service? Why?

I was headed into Skopje and descended from the bus. We have many of the very old buses servicing our part of the country so they have the very high steps to get out of the bus. My coat caught on the door and the driver closed the door and started to pull away with me still tethered to the bus. Fortunately, a student saw what was happening and got the bus to stop, open the door and helped me release my coat.

Tell us about some of the projects you’re working on outside of your primary job?

I am one of the coordinators for GLOW and am frantically trying to learn the job so that I can do this effectively next year. I am also working with the American Corner – Skopje on a drama club for children and tutoring people in English so that I can keep up my Macedonian language skills.

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What do you do to fill your time when you aren’t working?

When I’m not working, I read, read, read. I am a voracious reader. Now that the weather is better, I also plan to get out and do more photography and explore the sites of the area. Despite living in Michigan, I don’t go out in the cold weather very much so the nice warm weather is being anxiously anticipated.

Learn more about Eileen by reading her blog at pigdeer.com.

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