Greetings from Macedonia!
In early September of 2013 I left Washington, D.C. to join the Peace Corps as a Community Development Volunteer in Eastern Europe. Prior to leaving the U.S., I was working at a law firm in marketing and business development and commuting between New York and Washington, D.C. With this background I thought that I was well conditioned to work in political and complex environments…until I came to the Balkans and realized how much I have left to learn.
I live in a small town located in the mountains of Macedonia – it is a place of incredible natural beauty and welcoming people, but little economic opportunity. In some ways, I am reminded of the small Pacific Northwest towns where I grew up; places where industry once boomed, and while only the memories of those times remain, people continue to take great pride in their heritage and have a deep sense of place. Most of the people who live here are Albanian and Muslim, with smaller populations of Macedonians (Orthodox Christian and Muslim), Turks and Roma. My work initially was tied to the Local Economic Development sector of the local government, with a focus on developing tourism of the area, but my work has mostly involved youth development activities.
There are many serious and relevant topics that I could focus on in this blog – ethnic relations, politics, etc. – but I decided to write this blog with the intent to capture my day-to-day life as a foreigner, a guest, and a volunteer. There are others who are far better qualified than I to address the region’s history, politics, and ethnic relations. Any comments that I may make in reference to these topics are based solely on my own experience.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy!