As the work day was coming to an end on Friday, my counterpart received a phone call from the European Union. It was just the three of us plus the mayor hanging out in the office chatting about the New Year’s events (I got to design the posters!) and practicing English/Macedonian with each other. All of a sudden there was yelling, bouncing, cheering, smiling and incredible amounts of high-fives. The mayor and I were both slightly confused at first, but it turns out the EU was calling to tell our department that they had been awarded a ridiculously large grant towards our aim of sustainable tourism development. It is similar to the grant that we are working on currently, but on a much larger scale as far as the number of involved participants in all the partner towns. So in a matter of about 20 minutes, my 2011 went from somewhat busy and exciting to this:
January – Chernomelj, Slovenia
February – Week of Wine, Negotino
March – Greece (for Women’s Day)
May – Mirnovino Del Lecce, Italy
July – Camp GLOW! and Campulung + Bucharest, Romania
August -- Dve Mogili, Bulgaria
August -- Dve Mogili, Bulgaria
September – Negotino Fair
October – Popovo, Bulgaria
All due to the amazingness of my site placement and colleagues and their incredible hard work. How does this life keep happening to me? Its beyond words at this point, I feel like I have exhausted my vocabulary when it comes to trying to express the amount of gratitude and humility I feel for the path that my life has taken. I never in a million years dreamed that this is the kind of Peace Corps experience I would be having, nor did I expect to be doing this type of work in so many beautiful places. I know this kind of schedule is going to make this two years fly by, but I’m going to make every possible effort to savor every single minute of it. I only hope that I can provide for this project as much as I’m going to be getting in return, and I promised my department that I would be the greatest volunteer that they had ever seen, as they were dancing and pouring Rakija like water into all of our mugs. They claimed that I was the luck that brought the grant, and I strongly contested that I was the one receiving the luck, they earned this through their research and efforts.
On another wonderful note, my secondary project is moving forward, as I have met a lovely young artist who is currently helping me recruit the girls for the artistic expression class supplemented by the Chill n’ Spill journal from Art with Heart that I’m going to teach every week starting in January, though probably February now with the Slovenia trip. I’ve been wanting to teach this class for a very long time and have been crafting ideas and curriculum since I got to Macedonia, and now it is slowly coming to fruition. I’m incredibly excited about this and looking forward to giving a group of young girls another outlet in their adolescent lives, as well as being in a position to foster their creativity and expression on a weekly basis. They are excited to also use this as a chance to give back to their community, by holding an exhibition at the end of the class and donating the proceeds from their artworks to a local charity of their choosing. If all goes as dreamed, I will be able to ‘teach teachers’ as well so that the class is sustainable and can continue to make an impact after I leave Macedonia. Hooray for ART!!!
I know I’ve written in the past about happiness and joy increasing exponentially as life moves forward… and how I can’t believe the amazing things that continue to happen and the incredible amount of love, beauty and joy that has bestowed itself upon my being… but seriously, sometimes I feel like my face is going to break from smiling and the constant ball of emotion in my throat is going to set my head on fire. I keep waiting for somebody to show up at my door and tell me I just won a free teleportation device. Oh snap, it couldn’t get any better than that…
It’s going to be an incredible year.
To the Eternal Light,