2006.08.31: August 31, 2006: Headlines: COS - Macedonia: Blogs - Macedonia: Personal Web Site: Macedonia Peace Corps Volunteer adam writes: Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Macedonia: Peace Corps Macedonia: The Peace Corps in Macedonia: 2006.08.31: August 31, 2006: Headlines: COS - Macedonia: Blogs - Macedonia: Personal Web Site: Macedonia Peace Corps Volunteer adam writes: Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-129-41-31.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 - 10:02 am: Edit Post

Macedonia Peace Corps Volunteer adam writes: Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

Macedonia Peace Corps Volunteer adam writes:  Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

"don't weigh yourself down with books. bring a couple favorites, but not a whole library. they're heavy and there are many books to read in-country. the PC office has a library with a couple hundred books and volunteers are constantly trading them back-and-forth."

Macedonia Peace Corps Volunteer adam writes: Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

Suggestions for incoming Peace Corps volunteers

Thursday, August 31, 2006: 21:16 CET

I've thought about making a little list of suggestions for incoming Macedonia PC Volunteers. The new group (MK 11) will be here sometimes towards the end of September. There are 51 of them, the biggest group ever, and they will almost double the number of volunteers in-country (assuming they all last through training).

So, here's my list. some packing tips and attitude-related suggestions.

Packing -

* bring your hobby. and i don't just mean backgammon (ok that probably won't be a hobby until AFTER you have come here :)). if you love your nintendo 64 or x-box, why not bring it? like movies? bring them. a frisbee (regulation size, please -- the kids in our training village loved throwing the frisbee once they got the hang of it). running shoes. a football.

* bring a sleeping bag. i didn't bring one, but about 90% of the other vols did. i felt pretty left out and cried many nights about this. i ended up ordering one from the US and having a friend who was going home for a wedding bring it back for me. if you get a new fancy one, it will stuff up all tiny and not take much suitcase room. you probably don't need it to be safe in arctic temperatures, since mostly you'll use it in other volunteer apartments.

* don't weigh yourself down with books. bring a couple favorites, but not a whole library. they're heavy and there are many books to read in-country. the PC office has a library with a couple hundred books and volunteers are constantly trading them back-and-forth.

* measuring cups and spoons. if you like to measure, that is. macedonian recipes tend to roughly measure sugar, flour, butter, etc, in grams and liquids in 'cups,' as in, a cup that you drink out of, approximately. somethings are measured in 'spoons' but that just means a spoon from the cupboard. while this method works great for some, we americans tend to do things like measure a 1/3 cup and then carefully scrape the top with a butter-knife.

* digital camera/laptop/ipod if you like these things. most volunteers bring them and consider them vital to their sanity. if you're buying a new laptop, i'd recommend getting a reliable one, because if it breaks, there is no way to get it fixed under warranty without taking it to the US or Western Europe. The latest consumer reports survey has Apple, Toshiba, and Sony as producing the most reliable laptops, ranked in that order. Something to consider.

* i wish i would have brought a nice sharp cooking knife. every one i buy seems to be crap. could be that i haven't looked hard enough though.

* don't bring anything that requires an electric TRANSFORMER (sometimes referred to erroneously as a converter). over the course of two years, it will get plugged in by you or someone else without the voltage transformer and then pop! it's all over for that device. Guaranteed. Seriously. Only bring electronics/appliances that need a simple ADAPTER. If this is confusing, then see footnote 1.

Your 'tude:

* yes, i just said 'tude

* try not to 'compete' with your fellow volunteers. for some reason, the training period brings out some bizarre competition among some people. in washington, this can manifest itself as a game of who-has-travelled-the-most-and-makes-the-most-references-that-no-one-can-relate-to, who-has-studied-macedonian-before-coming, etc. just try to relax as best you can and enjoy the company of your fellow volunteers, who will come to be some of your best friends in the world. keep this advice in mind as you go through training, and do your best to avoid passive-aggressive language-learning-speed competitions and my-training-site-is-tougher-cause-i-don't-have-a-toilet competitions. this kind of stuff just adds to all of the stress you'll be going through.

* relax, relax, relax. you won't be in control of your living situation and you won't be able to communicate with people. it's okay. if you're a type-A personality, start thinking of your coping strategies, because you won't be able to control 95% of what goes on around you.

* language learning is different for everyone. if you're good at it, don't ever, ever passively or actively put down people who aren't so good. if you're not so good, it's not the end of the world. you can be an outstanding volunteer even if you only speak the basic phrases. language learning can be very personal and sensitive, so try to keep that in mind.

* try not to define your peace corps experience by your living conditions. you will probably have indoor plumbing and you will definitely have electricity and internet access. you'll be able to eat at McDonald's and buy soy sauce. after you've been a volunteer for 8 or 9 months you won't think so much about these things, but at first they tend to dominate our thoughts since we haven't quite figured out what we're doing here. you won't be able to afford to pay someone to do your wash and fetch you water, but on the other hand, it isn't that hard with a faucet and washing machine.

When this story was posted in October 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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