For as long as I serve, and beyond.

This week has been completely insane in the best kinds of ways. We finished our language classes, had a final group field trip to Tikvesh Lake and an epic finishing PST party, spent our last night with our family in Vatasha, officially became Peace Corps Volunteers, and moved to Sveti Nikole where we’ll live with our new family for the next two years.

Since we found out we’d be living in Vatasha in September, I’ve been wanting to go to Tikvesh Lake. When Zoki first told us he’d be taking us there, I was afraid it was going to be freezing cold and not at all fun, and that I’d be too stressed out with everything going on that week to enjoy myself. Thankfully, even on December 3rd, the weather was sunny and beautiful, and as we watched the sunset from the lakeshore I felt all of my stress melt away. The mountain of food we ate at the little restaurant by the lake and ensuing food coma may have played a role in that though.

I can’t stop thinking about how lucky I am to have been placed where I was, and it almost didn’t happen. If Kyle hadn’t spoken up for me when he was sitting with the Program Managers in Tetovo at lunch, and if we hadn’t convinced them that letting me change from TEFL to Community Development was an amazing idea, we would have been in a different town with different people and I would be having a completely different experience right now. Serving where you’re most needed aside, I was still holding a seed of regret about PC placing me as an English teacher, with their sole reason being that we were married and couldn’t be in the same sector and I had more teaching experience, which felt very unfair to me and even though I know I would have been good at it and that it’s such a valuable skill for students to have, I was essentially talking myself into being content with it instead of being excited and motivated about my assignment. It just feels like since making that switch, every piece of what I’d hoped this experience would look like has fallen into place, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Being in Vatasha gave us so many opportunities that I hadn’t ever anticipated (awesome field trips courtesy of the municipality, the chance to really get to know all of the PC families and become their friends, loving my баба and сестра and our whole family and especially our little dog Doodie, beautiful mountain hikes through vineyards, saying hello to all of the school kids every day, naming all the village dogs, I could go on forever). We haven’t even been gone a day, and already I have a little village-sized hole in my heart.

On Friday, we had our Swearing-In ceremony in Skopje. Baba and Dedo, all of the PC staff, all of our work counterparts and families, the Turkish Ambassador and the US Ambassador (almost 300 people all together) came to watch us become official Peace Corps volunteers. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I don’t remember most of what was said because I was too busy being preoccupied by my own role – giving a speech on behalf of the MAK20’s in Macedonian! It was a huge honor to get to do it, and I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I though I would be (this is mostly due to my partner, Maria, who gave the same speech in Albanian and is one of the most upbeat and encouraging people I’ve ever met, and basically makes you feel like you can do anything. She is wonderful.) Anyway, not to brag, but I TOTALLY NAILED IT which is the best feeling in the whole world. And then there was food and cake and live music and lots of picture taking and hugs. Overall, a great day.

And now we’ve packed our bags, said goodbye to Vatasha, and moved on up to Sveti Nikole. Our new family is wonderful and I think we’re going to love it here. Work starts Monday and we’re working on getting settled (since we’ll be here for two years, it’s important to us to make it feel like a home rather than just a room we’re living in). Mostly, we’re really just super excited to get started! Plus we have three adorable little chubby puppies to play with, how could it get any better?!?

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