Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation+Macedonia = Joy

So after months and months of anticipation and mental preparation for an assignment in my nomination continent of Africa, I finally received my invitation! I must admit that when I opened my letter and it said Macedonia, I wasn't sure exactly where that was. When I realized that it was on the northern border of Greece, I literally cried for joy. Not for joy of not going to Africa, I was incredibly excited about that as well. But Greece and Italy, and the Mediterranean/Balkan area in general have been at the top of my travel list for years. I have spent many many hours daydreaming about the beautiful streets, the old architecture, the art, the history, the FOOD, the wine, the community, the language, the natural beauty... everything about visiting that region of the world. And here I am, being handed a 27 month assignment to do the work that I live so passionately for, for free, in the land that I have subconsciously and vocally fantasized about for years. Whoever doesn't believe that life ISN'T as you dream it, can come talk to me.
In addition, I don't leave until September 10th. Which allows for one more month at the lake, time for me to go to the Gorge and see Dave, time to go see my amazing Teri in DC, and one more month with my loves at home. Then I depart for Skopje, the capital of Macedonia for 8-12 weeks of intensive language/cultural/government/program training. I'll be learning Macedonian as well as Albanian, and will be living with a Macedonian host family throughout my training. Again, hooray for the food! Once training is complete, I will be sent to my individual site and be living on my own in order to begin work with whichever organization(s) I'm assigned to. My work (at this point I'm told) will mainly consist of NGO (non-governmental organization) Advising/Development, which includes leadership training, acquiring funding, program implementation and development, and building infrastructure and sustainability for future mission success. There are also opportunities for side projects, which we have a bit more freedom with. My plan is to incorporate art of course, though this will depend on the need and situation. It could be a community art project, an art support type group for youth, or an art group for the elderly, I obviously won't know how I get to implement this until I arrive and assess the needs of the community. But I'm most definitely giddy with excitement about any and all of the above :) Peace Corps also does supplemental projects that any volunteer can become involved with if they choose to do so. There is a summer camp for boys and well as girls in Macedonia that Peace Corps does that involves leadership skills, female empowerment, arts and crafts, and many other fantastic things for disadvantaged youth. Joy! It is in my nature to be involved with as much as possible, so we'll see where that road takes me!
Regarding current affairs, my Masters graduation is here! My wonderful family and closest friends are all here (shout out to Danielle, who cannot be here due to her other best friend's enormous wedding - don't worry she is totally making it up to me), my most incredible Gpa is coming, cane and all, and letting me dress him up complete with bowtie, and the love of my life also arrives tomorrow :) There has been much celebration already this week, and there is more to come over the next few days! I never thought I would be so excited to wear that cap and gown, but this time I get to wear a hood, damnit! I nearly busted a tear in rememberance of everything that our cohort has gone through and accomplished to get to this day, and the amount of stress and chaos endured to reach this one moment of achievement and relief. The pride in my Gpa's eyes make every single moment worth it.
So here's to my 2010 graduate cohort - regardless of the many paths that we will take, we are all working towards the same goal. I deeply value and cherish each and every one of you and the contributions, experience and love that you have all brought to the table the past two years. I have made friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and created memories with you that I will treasure forever. Sunday on that stage, Chiew will eloquently speak us into the next chapter in our lives and it will take us not more than 6 seconds to walk across the platform and shake Father Sundborg's hand. Then it is up to us; to continue fighting the good fight, to forge as well as maintain the relationships that strengthen our movement, and to educate others in the matter of saving the world. So raise your glasses folks: to all graduates of 2010, to showing, giving and spreading love among humankind, and to the epic battle for the greater good. We CAN make the world a better place, and today is your proof. Continue to inspire and be inspired, and be the light for others to follow out of the dark. I am proud to know you, and proud to be a member of this amazing cohort.

*Cheers!* to you, and to this beautiful thing called life.
With love and gratitude,

Emily Jo