Friday, December 5, 2014

End Of Pre-Service Training Part I

          I apologize for not posting regularly the past few weeks but it was a very busy time as we finished Pre-Service Training, hosted a huge Thanksgiving dinner and then had our swearing-in as Peace Corps Volunteers.  Because there's so much to go over I'll post each even on it's own within a three part series. 
         First, let's go over the completation of Pre-Service Training.  PST is boot camp for Peace Corps.  It's 11 weeks of language classes, TEFL/CD training, cross-cultural classes and administrative seminars known as HUB days.  On those days all 44 of us rode in to Skopje, usually on a Friday, to endure the administrative requirements Peace Corps has for all trainies worldwide.  It was tough sitting through those long days and we were all happy when we finished each one.  
          Part of PST is that you're in a town with other PST's while living with a family.  In some town's it was only teachers, like mine, or Community Developers, CD's.  The other two host cities were a mixed batch.  A typical day had classes starting at 8-12:30 with another class or two of training or tutoring.  After that you were hanging out at home with your host family, watching bad Turkish soaps, the news or football/soccer. It was extremely intensive, overly structured and felt a mix of school, orientation and awful business seminars.  It was difficult going from a bartender's night schedule to all of that.  Essentially, I had my ass handed to me everyday.  I no control over my meals, my schedule and my learning absorption. 

It was exactly what I needed.

          PST forced me to let go of the less intensive lifestyle I'd acquired in Nashville.  It forced me to accept my weaknesses and work on improving them.  For example, it wasn't easy being the slowest learner in my language class then going home and not understanding a word, not a word, of what my host family said.  My previous experience of living in Korea didn't help when it came to the language.  To give you an idea just imagine moving to Long Island but they're speaking another language.  For the first month I was lost.  
          I'm sharing this because I want you to understand that there are plenty of low moments and difficulties no happy picture on FaceStalk or Instagram can convey.  However, that's why I joined the Peace Corps.  To be constantly challenged, to grow as a man and to gain some humility along the way.  
          With that, I will not say another word without thanking the staff of PST.  They were incredible.  They listened, guided and compromised with 44 different opinions without complaint.  There's a reason that they're ranked in the top 5 of all the Peace Corps training programs worldwide.  I'm grateful they were our staff and made sure to let them know.  

Our first day of language classes. 
Between the two language classes I bet 10 cakes were baked.  
Tome, our language teacher, loved his birthday cake.
Here we are getting ready for a day of TEFL training.
My breakfast.  Every day.
Making rakia together. 
Once a week the milkman came by.
          After the first month things started to come together.  I began to understand my family and we had some great conversations about their lives, what was on TV and what we did during the day.  Also, we had our Practicum and went to a local school to observe and teach for a week.  Again, I have to credit the PST staff, especially the TEFL staff, during that week.  They had us prepared for the highly bureaucratic environment in the schools and how the students would react to us.

My Practicum classroom. 
After Practicum we decided to climb the highest mountain in the area:  Bogoslavets.

Mike and Rachel.

Abby and Sarah.
I'm the little dot on the top left of the mountain.
It was pretty cold up there.
More classroom fun!
          My host family and I really got along the entire PST but the last 3-4 weeks we especially enjoyed each other's company.  We talked about my entire Azerbaijan fiasco, our travels and our families.
My host father's best friend photo album.

Pretty cool hu!
HUB day madness.
          Of course PST wouldn't have been what it was without the Sveti Nikola crew.   We had a couple of movie nights, exercise nights, lots of baked cakes and some entertaining classes.

Iris making class fun.

Tome the Tiger being a student.
Iris, Tome, Victoria, Crissy and Abby.
A well earned lunch and drink together after finishing PST.
          To close,  I'm grateful that PST and it's difficulties forced me to recognize my own weaknesses.  Again, it was a great opportunity to spend time with my host family, to get to know my fellow trainees and Macedonian Peace Corps staff.  Coming up will be part II and that's Thanksgiving.    

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