Saturday, March 14, 2009

homeward bound

anyone need any cheap hair dye?! gaudy gold jewelry?! hurry tell me
quickly, time is running out.

sadly, it's true. I'll be flying out of Skopje sunday morning en route
through Vienna, Washington and finally Atlanta, where I'll arrive to
the open arms of my dad and a slightly fanatical friend, Sarah (oh,
how I kid you Sarah, but I will actually kill you if you bring a
sign). it's an unfortunante end to a trip and a mission that was
suppose to last longer, but every day I realize more and more that it
was the right decision for the circumstances. had I planned
differently, I'd hop over to the middle east and travel for a bit with
my pals Arjun and Ingrid, but I sadly did not pack for the life of a
vagabond. so I'll head homeward for an uncertain future, but there's
really nothing like spending spring in the south.

the hardest part about leaving was saying good bye to the kids; they
were always the highlight of my time in Macedonia. I adore them for
their openness, kindness and resilient spirit. I'd have stayed for
them in a heartbeat if I felt that the infrastructure of ambrela would
have allowed me to make more of a difference in their education. as it
were, though, my English classes were rescheduled and rearranged more
times than they happened on schedule. each week, a new program would
pop up that would take presidence over my classes so even when the
kids would show up on the right day and time, more often than not
they'd leave disappointed at some various reason for a canceled class.
ambrela, from what I understand, has had volunteers in the past but
none that stayed as long as I was planning on staying (even though it
was their representative who suggested six months). therefore, they
might have not been quite prepared for my rope there, or felt that
they could delay my projects since I would be there so long. for
whatever reason, it became clear to me this past week that six months
at ambrela would not be an effective use of my time or their limited
resources. as much as I'd like to stay, work post-housing debacle no
longer felt as welcoming and I no longer felt as necessary, or
passionate for that matter. I got as much accomplished in two months
as I was able to and feel that further time would not accomplish much
more. it's unfortunante, but it's good that I realized it when I did.

In between dramatic fights with my
landlady and breaking bicycles, I did manage to learn a few things
during my time here. I'll share a few things, which I'm sure you won't
care much about, but that hasn't stopped me before.

• I think the most effective Roma rights activists come from within
the Roma community. for as much as the director of ambrela and I
clashed, she is a fiercly strong woman who is passionate and overly
occupied (almost to a fault, I'd suggest) with Roma rights projects.
their unique culture along with their general seperate from and
distrust of non-Roma make fellow community members by far the most
effective proponents of change. a non-Roma would need the clear
support and perhaps even a partnership with a well-known Roma to gain
the trust of the community. therefore, if I am to pursue Roma rights
work in my career, it would be through a grant or similar large
organization that provides direct funding to Roma-led projects, such
as the Open Society or National Democratic Institute. that structure
provides the best distribution of talents, it seems.

• teaching is infinitely harder than I even expected. to all the
teachers out there, I have a new-found respect for your career and
your sanity. I'm glad it is your calling in life, it most certainly is
not mine.

• perhaps most surprisingly, my time in Macedonia has shown me that
not all former communist lands are equal in my heart. being in
Macedonia, learning the language, wandering around town, it all made
me miss Russia terribly. Russia carried with it a kind of magic that
grabbed me, I thought the langauge was absolutely beautiful and my
time there made me excited about all things Russian. I have not felt
the same affection toward Macedonian, it's langauge or it's culture
(and this is a bit strange, because we know how I love a good under
dog). shutka's unique feel and look were much more appealing to
me than Skopje, a city the combines the atrocities of soviet
architecture and a terrible rush to westernize. the combination leaves
the town feeling a little lost. so, part of my time upon returning
home will be to return to Russian, starting studying the lanaguage
again and see where a possible career path could take me.

so, exceedingly long blog entry short, I'll be stateside Sunday, back
in Tennessee sometime Monday, and happily unemployed and uninsured.
I'll upload some pictures then and then start the monstorous project
of lossing all the weight I've put on in my 'tour de Macedonian junk
food' I've undertaken since deciding to leave.


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