Perhaps someone should say that to me the next time I let things get to me and I start ventilating about my frustrations. Then, they should remind me that there is always balance in life . . . eventually, if only by reassessing our perspective and counting our blessings.
This past week I asked a lot of several family members and friends when I unloaded my frustrations. The recent Thanksgiving Holiday week in America was another of the American holidays I was going to miss out on while serving in the Peace Corps this past year here in Eastern Europe. The Peace Corps does not provide for the volunteers to have time off to celebrate American holiday because, after all, those holidays are not celebrated in our country of service and we are expected to become integrated in the local culture. That is all well and good, but I became resentful and righteously indignant when I learned that while the volunteers, who do not receive paychecks, are not give the day off, while the host country nationals (HCNs, for those who are tracking the acronyms) who are employed by and DO receive paychecks from the Peace Corps here, are given the American holidays off with pay. Well, I was quick to express my frustration about that with several friends here as well as family and friends in the States.
It is important that I acknowledge the fabulous friends and family who unanimously and politely listened to my rants and offered no opposing points of view. Good listeners are ofter hard to find.
Now, just to be open and honest with everyone, I have had a more recent and unexpected experience which has taught me, once again, to be patient with life and allow events to unfold without me feeling compelled to make them happen my way.
As I said earlier, I had to work on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. It was going to be a long day, too; about 10 hours. Adding to my poor perspective was the realization that I had long ago committed to traveling to one of the training meetings for the new MAK17 trainees on the next day, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Okay, so I gritted my teeth and determined to get through these days of work which I would have off if I were back in the States. Then, while laboring under my burdensome thoughts, my counterpart interrupted a mentoring session I was having with other staff during behavioral treatment with a four year old child. My counterpart wanted to know if I would work on Saturday. I intuitively agreed while adding more gloom in the back of my mind. I was told that we would go to Skopje, “and meet with some representatives from Habitat for Humanity and some people from the US Embassy.” She reminded me that I had met with some of them not too long ago here in Negotino. I went back to work wondering to myself what might be expected of me at the Saturday meeting. I went home that evening and cleaned my shoes and laid out a dress shirt and necktie along with a sport jacket, hoping I would be appropriately dressed for the people from the Embassy and the Habitat for Humanity representatives. On Friday, as I was traveling back from my participation in the PST training session, I received a call from my counterpart who wanted to update me on the plans for Saturday. She advised me to wear old clothes and, “by the way, we will leave at 6am.” Okay, now I was totally confused and simultaneously somewhat annoyed at not only working on Saturday after working the holiday, but needing to be out on the street by 6am waiting to be picked up to travel to Skopje. When I arrived home home, I called my counterpart to confirm that I had understood her because I had been on a noisy bus when she had called me. Yes, she confirmed that I should wear old clothes and I would be picked up at 6am.
So, I managed to be out on the street at 6am. I was picked up at 6:20 by my counterpart, one of our beneficiaries and a contractor who does work for my NGO. He drove us to Skopje in his work truck. I recognized the building when we pulled up to it. It had been a group home we had visited a year ago in December. But it was not habitable now; the windows were missing, or in the process of being replaced, the roof was in the process of being restored and most of the masonry looked deplorable.
We were met by two representatives of Habitat for Humanity and they began to discuss their assessment of the structure and initial work on it.
Habitat for Humanity has become instrumental in helping my NGO provide improved and expanding services and resources so as to be able to help even more people leave the Institution at Demir Kapia and become integrated into communities.
This past Saturday, Habitat for Humanity partnered with PORAKA NEGOTINO to coordinate a huge work party for the rehabilitation of a building which will become another Daily Center as well as another residential group home. Many local citizens heeded the call by Habitat for Humanity and came to pitch in with the work.
Not only that, but the Mayor and his wife came and personally assisted with the work. In addition, the “people from the Embassy” whom I was told would be there turned out to be US Ambassador and his wife plus several folk from the USAid office and many others.
This was a big news media event organized by Habitat for Humanity in conjunction with my NGO. So it goes, that my limitations with the Macedonian language and the limited English language abilities of staff at my NGO have once again left me with little knowledge of what was actually going to happen. It was also a big media event with many news stations covering the event.
Then, to cap it all, after we had worked for a few hours, a terrific reinforcement was provided for everyone by the US Embassy. They had arranged with the Hotel Aleksandar Palace to cater a huge traditional Thanksgiving banquet complete with a real Butterball turkey and served it for us right there in the middle of the work site.
The US Ambassador, accompanied by the Mayor led us in reflecting on what wonderful experiences we were having and what wonderful opportunities we were creating for so many people and we enjoyed eating a delicious traditional American Thanksgiving feast while standing amid an enormous amount of work yet to be completed. We all became of one mind and shared a common motivation which made everything else so much less important.
Then, after the wonderfully delicious feast and camaraderie, it was back to work for a little longer.
Finally, after a hard day of work which included a wonderful Thanksgiving buffet, came time for cleaning up and everyone returned to their homes.
What a great day it had become and the ride time home gave me ample time to reflect on how things always seem to work out for the best. I need to remember to keep a positive perspective and be patient with things as they unfold in their own way and in their own time.
So, for those of you to whom I sometimes turn for a sympathetic ear, please feel free to remind me to “quitcherbitchen” and regain my perspective.
Above all, remember to always be thankful and expect the unexpected.