From Peace Corps Wiki
For the official Welcome Book for Macedonia see here
PEACE CORPS / MACEDONIA HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Macedonia
The Peace Corps received an invitation from the government of Macedonia in March 1996 to initiate and develop a program. By the beginning of June 1996, the first group of seven trainees arrived. They completed training in August and were assigned to the Ministry of Education’s secondary school English education program. Over the next three years, Peace Corps/Macedonia grew to include programs in business, environmental education, and municipal development.
Because of the political unrest in neighboring Kosovo, the Peace Corps program in Macedonia was suspended in 1999. The confusion and tension resulting from the sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Macedonia were simply too great to safely continue Peace Corps operations. The surprisingly quick return of these refugees to Kosovo meant that the Peace Corps was able to resume operations after only a six-month suspension.
Long-standing ethnic tensions, however, began to flare up in the spring of 2001. Grievances between ethnic Albanians and the Macedonian majority led to armed rebellion in several majority-Albanian communities. The conflict, which was isolated primarily to regions in the north and northwest of the country, became progressively more intense over the next several months. Finally, on July 5, 2001, events on the ground forced the Peace Corps to evacuate its Volunteers and suspend its program. Once again, the further development of the Peace Corps program in Macedonia was cut short by political instability in the region.
As the conflict in Macedonia continued, the parties involved conducted extensive negotiations and after several months signed the Lake Ohrid Peace Framework Agreement (Framework Agreement) on August 13, 2001. At the request of both parties, a NATO task force performed disarmament of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army.
The Framework Agreement was confirmed by the Macedonian Parliament on September 26, 2001, and continues to be implemented. The constitution has been amended and laws on local government and amnesty have been passed. Ethnically mixed police forces are working to reintegrate the territory of Macedonia, a task that was monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). National elections took place in September 2002, further confirming the future stability of Macedonia.
After a rigorous safety and security assessment of the situation in Macedonia, the Peace Corps determined that enough stability had been achieved to support the return of the Peace Corps. In November 2002, Peace Corps/Macedonia welcomed the seventh group of Volunteers to continue the contributions of previous Volunteers and their partners to the development of Macedonian communities.
The security situation has improved so much that in January 2004, the European Union’s (EU) military force, Operation Concordia, was replaced by an EU police mission, Proxima, composed of only 200 mostly unarmed EU police. Proxima, in cooperation with the OSCE, completed training and deploying the newly integrated and ethnically mixed Macedonian police force. Proxima officially ended its activities on December 15, 2005. The international community has assessed that Macedonia now has capable security forces that can solve the issues of the country on its own.
Decentralization reforms, especially the Law on Territorial Division that reduced the number of municipalities from the current 124 to 84, were passed in 2005. These reforms decentralized authority to local government for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other services. Financing these now local-level responsibilities will be critical to the success of this reform.
The peaceful municipal elections of 2005 and the parliamentary elections of 2006 took the country a step closer to membership in NATO and the EU. These memberships eventually will increase regional and international trade ties and political cooperation.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Macedonia
Macedonia’s objectives are to develop a multiethnic democracy; to provide economic opportunities for its citizens; and to move toward NATO and EU integration. Since the country gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it has made this integration a top foreign policy goal. A part of this strategy has been to encourage partnerships and cooperation with a wide range of international development organizations. The Peace Corps has worked closely with various government ministries in Macedonia to develop programs that will facilitate the attainment of this goal in several key areas. Since Peace Corps/Macedonia began in 1996, its program comprises two major sectors: English education development, and community development. The latter includes organizational development for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), municipal government, educational institutions, or other local organizations; business development; environmental improvement; youth development; and assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged group.
The objectives for each of these sectors are outlined in documents called project plans, which have been translated into Macedonian and are used as the basis for discussions with potential sponsors that have requested the assistance of a Peace Corps Volunteer. As in all Peace Corps programs, work is done in collaboration with counterparts to ensure the Peace Corps’ goal of assisting countries to meet their need for trained men and women.
A number of different tasks are listed in each project plan, and you are likely to become involved with several of these tasks in addition to activities in the community. Information provided in the Volunteer Assignment Description (VAD) can be matched with specific tasks of the project plan for your sector. Both the project plan and the VAD explain how you can work with both your hosting organization’s program and the local community. It is up to you, however, to take the first steps to become acquainted with, and involved in, the program.
English language teaching was the original Peace Corps program in Macedonia. There is a need for qualified English teachers at both the primary and secondary school levels, especially in small towns. Until 2005, it was illegal for a foreign national teacher to teach in Macedonian public schools. The law has changed, but the custom continues. As a “resource teacher,” you will be paired with Macedonian teachers to work collaboratively. It would be very rare for you to have your own classroom. Volunteers work with their Macedonian counterparts to promote applicable and current teaching methods and approaches, especially interactive and communicative techniques. Many of the schools where the Peace Corps places Volunteers have limited resources for materials. Volunteers work with Macedonian colleagues and others in the community to develop strategies to improve the educational resources in their schools and communities.
Overall, Volunteers focus on assisting students to improve English writing, reading, and overall communication skills through creative and participatory language learning activities. Volunteers and their Macedonian colleagues have collaborated in many areas. These have included developing supplemental materials to support English language instruction and forming clubs at schools that encourage the use of the English language (writing clubs, drama clubs, an English or American film club, a debate club, and even a music club). Volunteers have also helped develop links among schools, communities, and the world through pen-pal exchanges and by creatively using computer labs and the Internet to enhance the use of information technology (IT). Volunteers are also encouraged to help the community at large, and they have assisted their communities to develop and implement a variety of projects that seek solutions to environmental, health, gender, and other social issues.
Peace Corps Volunteers in the community development program facilitate community development efforts in collaboration with local organizations. The program combines the knowledge and skills of Volunteers and their community partners in identifying common objectives, setting realistic expectations, and reaching informed decisions to address local needs. Volunteers are working with NGOs representing environmental, youth development, disadvantaged groups, women’s groups, and other grassroots organizations at the local level as well as educational institutions and departments of local government. Volunteers help these local organizations develop internally to become sustainable and capable of delivering needed services through organizational and managerial development, increasing project management skills, increasing grant writing and fund raising skills, and increasing networking skills.
In organizations focused on local business development, Volunteers and their local partners conduct market research, prepare business and marketing plans, build networks with the business community, apply better use of information technology, and provide information and advice for local businesses and associations.
In organizations focused on environmental activities, Volunteers and their local partners identify and distribute environmental education materials to schools, youth groups, and NGOS; develop environmental education programs for local organizations; develop and promote environmentally-sustainable practices in forestry, agricultural organizations, and local farmers’ associations; teach environmental classes in the public school system; work with eco-clubs to develop their capacity and improve their activities; participate in community beautification activities; organize community clean-ups; initiate programs for the collection, sorting, and/or recycling of waste; and organize community-oriented environmental awareness projects.
In organizations focused on youth development, Volunteers and their local partners provide information to youth via workshops and printed materials on topics related to social issues and physical and mental well-being, such as fitness, nutrition, prevention of violence, recognizing and handling substance abuse, self-esteem, gender equality, ethnic tolerance, and human rights. Volunteers and their local partners also organize activities that promote tolerance and equal opportunities for underrepresented groups, including those with special needs, the economically disadvantaged, and those from ethnic minorities; promote volunteer community service; and motivate youth to develop strategies and activities for the constructive use of free time.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: MACEDONIA AT A GLANCE
The Republic of Macedonia is a small, landlocked country in the Balkan Peninsula, bordered on the north by Serbia (which includes the Kosovo province, which is under the mandate of the United Nations until a final settlement status is reached), on the east by Bulgaria, on the south by Greece, and on the west by Albania. It forms part of the historical region of greater Macedonia, the rest of which is now in Greece and Bulgaria. The capital is Skopje. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, it became independent in 1991 and was admitted to the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) under pressure from Greece, which objected to the use of what it considers a Hellenic name. (The ancient kingdom of Macedonia, situated in the north of modern Greece, was established by Perdiccas I in about 640 B.C.)
Although a small country today, Macedonia was once the dominant power in the Balkans. In the Middle Ages, it competed with the Byzantine Empire and greatly influenced the cultural life of the region until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the late 14th century. In 1913 Macedonia was annexed by Serbia, and in 1918 it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia). From 1944 to 1990, the country was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In 1990 a coalition of reformist Communists and Macedonian nationalists took office, and in 1991, Macedonia, following the example of Croatia and Slovenia, declared its independence from Yugoslavia and adopted a new constitution. Greece, which controlled the southern part of historical Macedonia and feared claims on its territory by Macedonian nationalists, opposed recognizing the new nation under the name “Macedonia” and imposed an economic blockade. Macedonia gradually won recognition from most of the international community, however, and was admitted to the United Nations. A United Nations peacekeeping force was sent in to discourage the ethnic conflicts that were engulfing other new states of the former Yugoslavia. (The Republic of Macedonia is the constitutional name of the country [recognized by the United States and others] and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is the internationally-recognized name by the United Nations. The name FYROM is not popular with Macedonians and should not be used within the country. In Greece, FYROM is the only name they will recognize.)
In 1993 Kiro Gligorov of the Social Democratic Alliance (former Communist Party) was elected as the first president of Macedonia. Over the next several years, the young democracy made slow progress in developing a stable government. After the second parliamentary elections in 1998, Boris Trajkovski became the second president of Macedonia in 1999.
In early 2001, internal tensions resulted in an armed insurgency led by radical elements of the ethnic Albanian minority. The conflict spread throughout small areas of the largely Albanian-controlled northwest, which accounts for approximately one-tenth of the entire country. After six months of armed conflict, with negotiations conducted in parallel, the Framework Agreement was signed on August 13, 2001. The agreement was confirmed by the Macedonian Parliament on September 26, 2001, and is almost completely implemented. The provisions of the Framework Agreement included the reaffirmation of the multi-ethnic identity of the country, equitable representation, the use of language, flags, and symbols, and decentralization and municipal reforms. As a result of the ongoing implementation of this Framework Agreement, inter-ethnic relations became more relaxed, with isolated incidents of minor intensity and influence on the stability of the country. An incident during 2005, however, was the appearance of a paramilitary formation composed of ethnic Albanians from Macedonia and Kosovo which temporarily gained control over Kondovo, a small village near Skopje, demanding a new amnesty law. After the political solution of the crisis, supported by the leaders of the ethnic Albanian political parties, the group abandoned the village and the leader of the group is awaiting trial. He has remained politically active and was elected to parliament. This incident, though, did not deter the country from further completing provisions of the Framework Agreement. The law on the use of ethnic flags and symbols was passed without incident in the latter part of 2005.
Overall, there is a greater awareness of the need to accelerate the development of a more inclusive and pluralistic society. Macedonia is making great strides in addressing the many issues of concern within its ethnic minority communities. Although the government and people of Macedonia have been challenged by the crisis, they are well on the way to successfully reforming their country. The national elections in September 2002, the local elections held in March and April 2005, the departure of the EU police mission, Proxima, in December 2005 after the completion of its mission, and the peaceful parliamentary elections of 2006 are all seen as benchmarks of Macedonia’s progress toward a return to the family of stable European democracies. Macedonia seems ready to address the more important aspects of economic stability and opportunity—its path to EU and NATO membership and the justice reforms necessary to solidify the rule of law in the country.
Macedonia was hoping to receive NATO membership by the end of 2006, but the next NATO enlargement summit has been postponed to 2008 for countries in the Adriatic group, mainly Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia. Macedonia has been fulfilling NATO requirements and reforms, and has been given positive assessments to date, so it is expected that it will receive full membership at that time.
Macedonia commenced its way toward the EU by submitting answers to the EU questionnaire, which assesses a country’s readiness to start the accession process. In November 2005, Macedonia received a positive assessment and was recommended as a EU candidate status country. It is hoped that it will receive a date for negotiations for EU membership. Full EU membership, though, is not expected until Macedonia fulfills all economic and judicial standards.
A pending issue remains the solution of Macedonia’s constitutional name. A longstanding dispute with Greece over the name of Macedonia continues. The United Nations appointed a mediator to help Macedonia and Greece find an acceptable solution, but no agreement has been reached.
The final status of Kosovo will also impact Macedonia. The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has been administering the province since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999. The United Nations recommended that status talks concerning the future of Kosovo begin in 2005. A special U.N. envoy for Kosovo has been appointed for talks to determine its final status. This was hoped to have been completed by the end of 2006, but it is still in the technical phase. It is hoped that the final status of this province will consolidate stability in the region with its neighbors, including Macedonia, and bring a conclusion to the demarcation of the border with Kosovo.
The executive branch of the government is composed of the president, vice president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. The president and vice president are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. The prime minister chairs the Council of Ministers and is nominated by the president for confirmation by the National Assembly (after being proposed by the majority party or coalition in the assembly). Deputy prime ministers are nominated by the prime minister.
The legislative branch is composed of a unicameral National Assembly, or Sobranie, with 120 members. Major political parties include the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), Social Democratic Alliance (SDS), Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA), Socialist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, New Social Democratic Alliance, Party for Democratic Prosperity and several others. The national elections held in September 2002 resulted in the reelection of President Boris Trajkovski and the election of Branko Crvenkovski as prime minister. Trajkovski, however, died tragically in an airplane crash in February 2004. Branko Crvenkovski was elected president of Macedonia on April 28, 2004. Hari Kostov was elected as prime minister. Vlado Buckovski became prime minister on November 26, 2004, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Hari Kostov. After the last elections held in July 2006, the president of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, became the prime minister and established a government in coalition with DPA.
The judicial branch is composed of a supreme court chairman appointed by the president and a Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court addresses administrative matters and the Constitutional Court addresses constitutional matters.
Macedonia’s municipal government is undergoing major reforms. The successful local elections that took place in March and April of 2005 have paved the way for decentralizing authority to local government for public services such as education and healthcare services, as well as infrastructure. The financing of local-level responsibilities devolved to the municipalities as well as competence for carrying out services will be key aspects to monitor in upcoming years.
When Macedonia became independent in November 1991, it was the least developed of the Yugoslav republics, producing a mere 5 percent of the total federal output of goods and services. The collapse of Yugoslavia ended transfer payments from the central government and eliminated the advantages of inclusion in a de facto free-trade area. With the absence of infrastructure, UN sanctions on Yugoslavia, and the Greek economic embargo, economic growth was severely hindered until 1996. GDP has subsequently increased each year, and successful privatization boosted the country’s reserves to more than $700 million. Although the government demonstrated a commitment to continued economic reform, free trade, and regional integration, inflation jumped to 11 percent in 2000 largely as a result of higher oil prices. The economy was adversely affected by unsettled political conditions in the region, especially during the crises in Kosovo in 1998 and in northwestern Macedonia in 2001, and by the republic’s troubled relations with Greece and Serbia. With improved political stability in Macedonia and the region, inflation is now relatively low, under 3 percent, and there is price stability.
Ten percent of Macedonia’s GDP comes from agriculture, 32 percent from industry, and 58 percent from services. A World Bank report in 2005 reported that 22 percent of the population live in absolute poverty, being unable to meet their basic needs. Sixty percent of this population is concentrated in urban areas and 40 percent in rural areas. The unemployment rate has remained unchanged at about 37 percent over the past several years. Unemployment, low salaries, and improper social policy are the main reasons for poverty in the country. The major industries are coal, metallic chromium, lead, zinc, ferronickel, textiles, wood products, and tobacco. The major agricultural products are rice, tobacco, wheat, corn, millet, cotton, sesame, mulberry leaves, citrus, vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, and mutton. Exports include food, beverages, tobacco, iron, and steel. In October 2006, $1 (U.S.) was equivalent to 48 denars.
People and Culture
According to the Macedonian Bureau of Statistics, of the total population of 2.05 million, 66.6 percent are ethnic Macedonians and 22.7 percent are ethnic Albanians, although Albanian politicians claim that the real figure is much higher. Ethnic Turks and ethnic Serbs make up the remainder. The dominant religion is Eastern Orthodox, which has at least the nominal adherence of most Macedonians, Vlachs, and Serbs. A separate Macedonian Orthodox Church has existed since 1967. The Turks and most Albanians are Muslim. The primary language is Macedonian, a Slavic language. Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, and Albanian are also widely spoken. Since the constitution was amended in 2001, the language of any ethnic group that constitutes more than 20 percent of the residents in any given community is treated as an official language.
The country has a total area of 25,740 square kilometers (9,900 square miles). Sometimes called Vardar Macedonia (after the Vardar River that flows southeast through the country into Greece), Macedonia consists mostly of highlands and mountains, with elevations reaching 2,751 meters (9,078 feet) in the Korab range on the Albanian border. The mountains are separated by the Vardar River Valley and by a number of lakes, the largest of which are Ohrid, Prespa, and Dojran. The mountain slopes are covered by mixed forest and shrubs to an elevation of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) and by steppe meadows above that level. Earthquakes occur frequently in Macedonia. The climate in Macedonia is influenced by the Mediterranean and Continental climates, and is characterized by hot and dry summers and cold winters with rain or snow.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
A list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Macedonia, or to connect you to returned Volunteers, is provided below. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A note of caution: As you surf these sites, be aware that you will find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to give opinions and advice based on their own experiences. The opinions expressed are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government. You may find opinions of people who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. As you read these comments, we hope you will keep in mind that the Peace Corps is not for everyone, and no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Macedonia
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Skopje to how to convert from the dollar to the denar. Just click on Macedonia and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Macedonia and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information about countries around the world. Each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, which contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This Yahoo site hosts a bulletin board where prospective Volunteers and returned Volunteers can come together.
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, a membership organization for returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of ” groups for most countries of service. The groups include former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups which frequently get together for social events and local Volunteer activities.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Macedonia
Current events in Macedonia from many sources
The site of Macedonia’s official information agency, in English, German, and Macedonian
Unconventional news about Macedonia
A site hosted by the Macedonian American Friendship Association
Current issues with some emotional overtones
Well-rounded site about all aspects of Macedonia
A site (in Macedonian) with some entertainment value
A site featuring electronic literature and other arts
International Development Sites About Macedonia
Information about the U.S. Agency for International
Development’s work in Macedonia
The United Nations Development Programme in Macedonia
Site of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which runs the USAID-funded Democracy Network Program in Macedonia
Site of Development Alternatives, Inc., which operates a USAID-funded local government reform project in Macedonia
Site of the International Organization for Migration
It can be difficult to find texts specifically about Macedonia, but because its history and culture are intrinsically bound with Balkans history, other books about the Balkans will provide insight into Macedonia.
- Andric, Ivo. The Bridge on the Drina. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.
- Danforth, Loring M. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997.
- Evans, Thammy. Macedonia: Bradt Travel Guide, London: Bradt Travel Guides, 2004.
- Fonseca, Isabel. Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.
- Kaplan, Robert D. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.
- Kita, Sapurma, and Petrovska Pandora. Children of the Bird Goddess. VAE Enterprises, 1997.
- Pettifer, James (ed.). The New Macedonian Question. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.
- Phillips, John. Macedonia. Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.
- Silber, Laura, and Allan Little. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.
- Townson, Annabelle. We Wait for You: Unheard Voices from Post-Communist Romania. Lanham, Maryland: Hamilton Books, 2005 (paperback).
- West, Rebecca. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. New York: Penguin Books, 1995 (originally published in 1941).
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service expected in the United States. If you expect U.S. standards for mail service, you will be in for some frustration. Mail takes a minimum of 10 days to arrive in Macedonia if sent by airmail. Packages sent by surface mail can take up to three or four months. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Letters may arrive with clipped edges because someone has tried to see if any money was inside (again, this is rare, but it does happen). Tell your correspondents to number their letters and to include “Airmail” on their envelopes.
We encourage you to write to your family regularly and to number your letters. Family members typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Macedonia would notify the Office of Special Services at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, which would then contact your family.
Your address during training will be:
Telephone service in Macedonia is generally good. If your residence does not have a phone and you would like one, the Peace Corps will have one installed for safety and security purposes and will cover the basic monthly service fee; any additional calls will be the Volunteer’s responsibility. Alternatively, you may choose to purchase a cellphone. Service is good and most Volunteers opt to purchase “prepaid” service. The monthly phone allowance from Peace Corps may be used to pay for cellphone time.
Long-distance calls outside Macedonia can be quite expensive. Services such as AT&T permit collect calls to be made from Macedonia to America. The AT&T access number when calling from Macedonia is 00.800.4288. AT&T calling cards can also be used, and it may be possible to connect to a call-back service.
Almost all communities of reasonable size have post offices (look for the yellow signs that say “PTT”) that provide telephone services as well as postal services.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
If you choose to bring a laptop computer and related equipment, note that the Peace Corps does not provide e-mail accounts or technical and repair support for Volunteers. While many Volunteers find computers useful, especially laptops, the Peace Corps does not consider them to be essential and cannot replace them in the case of loss or theft. If you do bring computer equipment, insurance is recommended.
Some, but not all, Volunteers have access to computers at their work sites, which may or may not have Internet and e-mail capabilities. Such equipment, however, is intended to be used primarily for work-related activities, and you should not assume that it can be used for personal purposes. Internet, including wireless, and e-mail access is available throughout Macedonia, and Internet cafes can be found in most major cities and towns.
Housing and Site Location
Housing must adhere to Peace Corps-defined standards and the Peace Corps staff visits all proposed living arrangements to evaluate their suitability. Most Volunteers live in small, modest apartments, either a studio or a one-bedroom with a kitchen, with basic furniture and provisions for security.
Volunteers should be prepared to serve in any region of Macedonia.
Living Allowance and Money Management
You will receive a monthly living allowance that is designed to enable you to maintain a modest lifestyle. This allowance is deposited in your bank account in denars every month and is intended to cover food, household supplies, local transportation, recreation, entertainment, and incidental expenses such as postage, film, reading material, stationery, 15 hours of Internet use per month, and toiletries. Rent and basic utilities are paid for by Peace Corps.
Lifestyles are different here than in the States, but most Volunteers who adopt a Macedonian lifestyle find their living allowance to be sufficient for their needs. In other words, the lifestyle you adopt while serving in Macedonia will largely determine the adequacy of the living allowance. If you choose to eat in restaurants daily, make long and numerous phone calls to friends and family in the United States, spend weekends visiting other Volunteers around the country, and insist on imported toiletries, foods, and other consumables, you are not likely to be able to survive very well on your living allowance. You may also have a harder time becoming a part of your community. If, instead, you adopt a more typical Macedonian lifestyle, your living allowance should be more than adequate.
The Peace Corps also provides a one-time settling-in allowance (approximately equivalent to $110 in denars) that will help you set up your home. It is meant to cover basic household items such as dishes, towels, sheets, and the like.
The exchange rate at the time of this writing is 48 denars to the U.S. dollar. Traveler’s checks and credit cards can be used in some locations in Skopje, particularly those that cater to tourists. ATMs are currently available in Skopje and Ohrid, and many larger cities. However, Volunteers who live in communities outside Skopje will make almost all of their financial transactions in Macedonia through bank transfers or in cash. A few large banks exist throughout Macedonia where Volunteers can open accounts into which their living allowance will be deposited. All Volunteer accounts are nonresident accounts and can maintain separate balances for local currency, U.S. dollars, euros, etc. Some Volunteers have found it useful to retain their checking accounts in the United States to pay bills in the U.S. or to access U.S. funds. Hard currencies such as dollars and euros should only be changed at banks and legal change bureaus; changing money on the street is illegal.
Food and Diet
You will not find many frozen or prepared foods in Macedonia, but a wide variety of delicious fresh food is always available if you know how to cook. “Homemade” is the best word to describe the fare on a Macedonian dining table. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, onions, garlic, meat (pork, chicken, lamb, beef) and oil are staples in Macedonian cooking. The meat most often found in restaurants and shops is pork, though chicken and fresh fish are also available. Sirenje and kashkaval (two types of cheese), eggs, milk, and yogurt (not the typical U.S. supermarket-style yogurt) are also a regular part of the Macedonian diet.
Vegetarians will not have difficulty maintaining a healthy diet if they cook at home. Lentils, processed tofu, beans, and rice are widely available, as are peanuts and other kinds of nuts. Eating out in a restaurant may be a little more difficult, since most of the menu will consist of meat dishes. You will never go wrong ordering a salad, tavche gravche (the traditional bean dish), and bread. You will even find vegetarian pizza at most pizzarias.
Along with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits are plentiful in season. Southeastern Macedonia is widely known for the production of fruits and vegetables. If you are not inclined to make your own juice and jam from these, these products are always available in local stores. It might be a good idea to learn to make a few of your favorite dishes before you move to your site, and you might want to bring the recipe for your favorite spaghetti sauce from home. Spaghetti can be purchased easily here, but you will have to make your own sauce.
Macedonia has a large network of bus and train routes, which makes it possible to travel to practically all destinations by public transportation. A few previous Volunteers have experienced thefts while traveling. As you would anywhere else, you must be vigilant in protecting your valuables while using public transportation.
Geography and Climate
Macedonia is influenced by a Mediterranean and Continental climate with four distinct seasons. As in the United States, weather patterns have been changing in recent years, so it is difficult to describe a “typical” year. July and August can be very hot and dry, with temperatures staying in the 90- to 100degree Fahrenheit range for a two-week period or longer. In the winter, the whole country can be blanketed in snow, with more snow in the north than in the south. Long underwear, winter boots, and a warm coat are necessities because of the inconsistency of heating. Because of the scarcity of air conditioning, comfortable, lightweight clothing is important for the summer months.
You will find no shortage of entertainment opportunities during your stay in Macedonia. There are museums, concerts, theaters, athletic events, hot springs, outdoor markets, historical and ethnographic centers, coffee shops, bars, discos, and cinemas for you to enjoy. Most recently released American films are shown in theaters in English with Macedonian subtitles.
Macedonia boasts some of the most magnificent natural areas in eastern Europe, with a great diversity of flora and fauna. Opportunities for outdoor recreation include hiking, camping, rock climbing, and bird-watching. During the summer, Macedonians flock to Lake Ohrid to enjoy its pristine waters and beautiful scenery. During the winter, Macedonia’s several ski resorts attract skiers from all over Europe.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
One of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer is fitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and working as a professional. It is not an easy situation to resolve, and we can only provide you with general guidelines. While there is no hard-andfast rule, a foreigner who wears ragged or dirty clothing is likely to be considered disrespectful and possibly unreliable. Improper attire creates difficulties in gaining the respect and acceptance of your Macedonian and Albanian colleagues. You will have occasions to dress up regularly, so bring some more formal attire in addition to professional clothes appropriate for everyday wear in the office or classroom. Think business casual.
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Macedonia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Macedonia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
Although the potential for job satisfaction in Macedonia is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies may not always provide the support they have agreed to. The pace of work and life here is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and the local people may be hesitant to change long-held practices and traditions.
Volunteers are often given a high degree of responsibility and independence in their work, perhaps more than they have experienced in other jobs. Volunteers often find themselves in situations that require an ability to be self-motivated with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving any feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress more often comes after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
To overcome these difficulties you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness.
Macedonians are warm, friendly, hospitable people, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Macedonia feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
Before you are sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will participate in an intensive 12-week training program. The training uses a community-based approach, which means that you will live in small to mid-size communities surrounding a larger hub town. The training focuses on studying the Macedonian and, for some, Albanian language, in addition to cross-cultural adaptation, health and personal safety, and technical skills development. This period is a time for you to reexamine your commitment to be a Volunteer in Macedonia. It is also a time for the Peace Corps staff members to get to know you and be assured that your skills and attitude are a good match for the program in Macedonia. Throughout the training period, self-assessment as well as assessment by the Peace Corps staff will measure your progress toward meeting training objectives.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Macedonia by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff and Macedonian trainers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on project design and management; networking; organizational development; function and structure of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) sector and local government sector; theories, methods, and techniques for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL); and community and workplace entry skills. You will also meet with the Macedonian agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your host community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program. You must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Macedonian and Albanian language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of five to seven people. Language is also incorporated into the health, culture, and technical components of training.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
Depending upon your work site assignment, as part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Macedonian or Albanian host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of the pre-service training program and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Macedonia. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural training will help you to understand and adapt to life and work in Macedonia, to develop personal strategies to cope with cultural challenges, and to improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to historical and political topics, socio-economic overview, gender and diversity issues, culture at the workplace, and the multiethnic identity of the country. This training is integrated into all components of the training and is reinforced by your homestay experience and discussions with the training staff.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and major and minor medical issues that you might encounter while in Macedonia. Sexual health, alcohol issues, nutrition, mental health, and safety issues are also covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Training During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to increase their technical, language and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, cross-cultural, personal safety, and project development skills, share their experiences, and reaffirm their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- Mid service conference: assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service. Additional technical, language, safety and security, and cross-cultural training is also part of the mid-service conference.
- Close of service conference: prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN MACEDONIA
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Macedonia maintains a clinic with one full-time Peace Corps medical officer (PCMO) and one part-time medical officer, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs.
Additional medical services, such as testing and some treatment, are also available in Macedonia at local hospitals. If a Volunteer becomes seriously ill, he or she will be transported to either a more advanced medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in Macedonia
Major health problems among Volunteers in Macedonia are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems are ones that also exist in the United States, that is, colds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Macedonia because environmental factors here raise the risk of or exacerbate the severity of certain illness and injuries.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information you need to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Macedonia, you will receive a medical handbook. You will also receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of minor illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to medical supplies through the medical office. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of any prescription drugs you currently use (including birth control pills) for the first three months of service, and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of these prescription drugs with you to Macedonia, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for new shipments to arrive.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Macedonia will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be cared for in Macedonia, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illness and injuries.
Many diseases that afflict Volunteers in Macedonia are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, amebiasis, giardiasis, hepatitis A, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Macedonia during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from your medical officer about this important issue.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Macedonia, the Peace Corps’ medical standards for continued service during pregnancy cannot be met. Volunteers who become pregnant and wish to continue their pregnancies will be medically separated.
Feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase on the local market. The Peace Corps medical office in Macedonia will not provide them. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a supply with you.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since the time you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it with you to Macedonia. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment shortly after you arrive in Macedonia.
Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If one pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age and/or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.
The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.
Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.—with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a "dummy" wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Macedonia as compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia (EMA) region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population.
It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps' classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
What if you become a victim of a violent crime?
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Security Issues in Macedonia
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime.
Macedonia is a relatively safe place to live from the standpoint of personal security. However, like anywhere in the world, it is not without petty crimes and assaults. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. But because you are a foreigner and will probably be considered rich, your home may be more prone to break-ins than those of your neighbors. Tourist attractions and public transport, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. Fortunately, violent crime is relatively rare. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you will reduce most risks.
Macedonia is a collectivistic society where people exist in a socio-cultural environment characterized by strong family relationships and a strong idea of being part of the group. Adjust to the culture, make local friends, and become part of the socio-cultural collective and you will reduce safety risks. Once you are accepted by the locals and you have local friends, you will no longer be perceived as a lone stranger that is an easy target in the eyes of criminals.
Carry valuables close to your body or under your clothing. Undergarment money pouches, the kind that hang around your neck and stay hidden under your shirt or inside your coat, are highly recommended. Do not keep money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Never keep your backpack on your back while on public transportation; place your arm across the zippers of your backpack and hold it in front of you. Hold small bags tightly under your arm. While in restaurants, place your pack or bag in your lap or next to you, not on the floor.
Be wary of overly friendly strangers, particularly near bus and train stations, and curious groups of kids near banks or ATM machines. Do not accept food or drink from persons you do not know. If you choose to accept an offer to share refreshments, go with the person to purchase the food and drink. This will prevent someone from attempting to drug you and rob you and avoid the danger of an adverse drug reaction.
Avoid dangerous places. Make inquiries before you wander off somewhere alone. Develop local friends and contacts; they are the best source of this kind of information. Try to stay out of underpasses, and do not linger in train stations. Do not carry any valuables or important documents in your backpack. Always secure your valuables while you are away from home: lock your apartment and bicycle if you have one. Use safety deposit boxes in hotels, and consider purchasing personal property insurance so you can replace valuable items if a theft does occur.
Women should not walk alone after dark. Suggestive comments made to women from men in the streets are common. While annoying, this is unfortunately part of Macedonian culture. You may have to adjust some recreational activities to daytime hours.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Macedonia, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, build a friendly relationship with your neighbors, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Macedonia may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they receive far more negative attention in highly populated centers than they do in smaller towns, where “family,” friends, and colleagues will look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to such negative and unwanted attention.
Politics is something that Macedonians often discuss over everyday conversations. Volunteers should try to avoid any political conversations and political gatherings. If you feel you need to participate in a discussion on politics, please remember to express that this is your personal opinion and that you are not representing the official policy of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Macedonia experienced an armed conflict in 2001. The Macedonian government and international community have made efforts in clearing the country of landmines, and from 2003-2006 there haven’t been any incidents reported related to landmines. There is still a considerable amount of illegal weapons left over from the conflict in 2001, particularly in the northwest area of the country. The Macedonian government continues its efforts to collect these illegal weapons by carrying out national collection campaigns.
Peace Corps/Macedonia also has an out-of-site policy that is strictly enforced. The Volunteer commitment is for 24-hours a day and seven days a week and Volunteer service requires a commitment to the community served. Thus, Volunteers are strongly encouraged to spend as much time at their sites as possible to enable them to meet the three goals of Peace Corps service. This includes working on community-based projects during school breaks, especially during the summer. Volunteers who are frequently away from site quickly lose the confidence of counterparts and community members. Also, excessive absenteeism from site has an adverse impact on the Volunteer’s effectiveness and job satisfaction.
Second, occasional trips from site are encouraged so that Volunteers can learn more about Macedonia, visit friends and colleagues, conduct business and participate in the projects of other Volunteers.
Third, Peace Corps is charged with the serious responsibility of ensuring Volunteer safety at all times. Thus, it is imperative that Peace Corps be able to reach every Volunteer in a timely manner for a variety of reasons such as:
- Emergencies in the U.S. or elsewhere
- Internal emergencies such as civil unrest, terrorism, natural disasters, etc.
- Country evacuation
- To aid other Volunteers in trouble
In order to be able to reach every Volunteer in a timely manner, the following general policy is in effect:
Anytime a Volunteer is away from site overnight, the Volunteer must notify the duty officer or program manager of specific travel plans, including contact information. Failure to do so may result in administrative separation.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Safety Support in Macedonia
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Macedonia’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Macedonia office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memoranda from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network. Therefore, it is crucial that the personal contact information of every Volunteer be up to date at any given moment.
Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Macedonia. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection criteria are based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other support needs.
You will also learn about the country’s detailed emergency action plan in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Macedonia will gather at predetermined locations until the situation resolves itself or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps medical officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSSCULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Macedonia, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Macedonia.
Outside of Macedonia’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Macedonia are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Macedonia, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental, compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Macedonia
The Peace Corps staff in Macedonia recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture. You will also quickly learn that Macedonia is a country of rich diversity with various ethnic groups and religions represented. They, too, are coping with the challenges of diversity and learning to live with one another.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Macedonian women have historically been a vital part of the country’s workforce, taking on both managerial and supervisory roles and working as school administrators, business owners, doctors, local government officials, and members of Parliament. Nevertheless, gender stereotypes are more evident and accepted in Macedonia than in the United States.
Female Volunteers should not expect to be able to maintain all of their American habits in Macedonia. Adapting to local norms and customs is a necessity wherever Volunteers serve. Macedonians, especially women, generally lead more restricted lifestyles than Americans do. Women do not go out alone at night, and jogging or walking alone for exercise is uncommon. In addition, women in villages do not usually smoke in public. While these activities are not forbidden for female Volunteers, they may have to make some compromises. For example, Macedonians tend to speak more quietly and do not smile as much in public. Groups of Americans may seem too loud to locals. Female Volunteers should avoid eye contact with strange men, especially on buses and in the street. In addition, gender roles and acceptable behavior between the sexes may also change within the various ethnic groups represented in the country, which includes Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Roma, and other ethnic groups.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
You may be the only trainee or Volunteer within a particular project who is a member of a minority group. You may not receive, or be able to receive, the necessary personal support from other Volunteers, and there may be no minority role models.
Once you move to your site, you may work and live with individuals who have no experience or understanding of a non-Caucasian-American culture. Because of ignorance, stereotyped cultural perceptions, or Macedonia’s historical involvement with certain countries, you may encounter varying degrees of attention in your day-to-day life. You may not be perceived as being North American, in some instances, for those Volunteers who are of Asian American background, you may even be referred to as “Japanese” or “Chinese.” These comments are not derogatory, but derive from people in Macedonia focusing attention on the ethnicity of any individual. This might lead people here to think that you are really not an American but of the country of your ethnic background. In any community where you are not known, you need to be prepared for staring, pointing, and comments. Finally, you should be prepared to encounter comments that would be considered completely inappropriate in the United States. Such offensive terms, however, usually are uttered because people are not aware of acceptable terms in English and not because they are meant to be offensive. Macedonia is a country of ethnicities whereas the United States is a country of many nationalities. This emphasis on ethnicity will lead many in Macedonia to question Volunteers who may represent an ethnic group about their background and history.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
Respect comes with age in Macedonia. Younger Volunteers may have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. It is not uncommon for younger Volunteers to look to older ones for advice and support. Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their experience, while others choose not to fill this role. Overall, senior Volunteers are highly valued for the wealth of experience they bring to their communities and counterparts. Yet you may sometimes feel isolated within the Peace Corps community because the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s; they may have little understanding of the lives and experiences of seniors.
Training may present its own special challenges. Older trainees have encountered a lack of attention to their needs for a particular learning environment, including timing, presentation of materials, comfort level, and health. You may need to be assertive to develop an effective individual approach to language learning.
Before leaving for Macedonia, you should consider how you will deal with issues such as possible family emergencies, maintaining lifelong friendships, and deciding who will have power of attorney for attending to your financial matters.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
In Macedonia, any discussion of American sexual mores should proceed cautiously. Macedonian culture is not as open about issues of sexuality as is American culture. Although it is not against the law in Macedonia, homosexuality is not culturally accepted. Homosexuals certainly exist in the country, but hardly with the same level of acceptance as in the United States. Most are likely to have migrated to larger cities. Because of cultural norms, homosexual Volunteers may discover that they cannot be open about their sexual preference in their assigned community. Dress, particular hairstyles, or earrings on men which appear in communities in the United States, may be looked upon with question and suspicion in your community.
While staff and your fellow Volunteers will do their very best to support you, there may not be current Volunteers or staff role models who can personally relate to your experiences. Relationships with host country nationals can develop, but as with all cross-cultural relationships, they may not be easy. AIDS (SIDA in Macedonian) is a serious issue in the country, and though condoms are widely available, they are not widely used.
Lesbians, like all American women, are likely to have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex. Gay men may have to deal with machismo: questions about girlfriends, talk of sexual conquests, marriage, girl-watching, and dirty jokes.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
You are free to exercise your religious beliefs but you may not engage in proselytizing or other activities that are against the law or would impair your effectiveness as a Volunteer. Most Macedonians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The second largest religion is Islam, but you will also find small numbers of Roman Catholics, and Protestants.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
As a disabled Volunteer in Macedonia, you may face a special set of challenges. Macedonia has an old, poorly maintained infrastructure that does not always accommodate individuals with disabilities. Few public places, for example, have been made accessible to wheelchairs. Because sidewalks are uneven and cars frequently park in pedestrian areas, visually-impaired Volunteers may have a harder time walking around on their own.
Nevertheless, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Macedonia without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Macedonia staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Macedonia?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance.
There are no uniform standards so the amount differs from airline to airline. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will pay any excess baggage charges providing the baggage does not exceed these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length width + height) and no single piece to exceed 62 linear inches. One carry-on bag is permitted with dimensions of no more than 45 linear inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag. Most airlines allow one personal item such as a purse or laptop computer. If you exceed an airline’s baggage limits, you may be assessed a fee. However, if your baggage conforms to the parameters stated above, Peace Corps will reimburse you provided you have a valid receipt. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/ permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, fireworks, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in Macedonia?
It is 220 volts, 50 hertz. If you plan to bring electronics with you, check with a good store to purchase the appropriate voltage transformers or plug adapters. There are two types of transformers—one for small appliances and the other for larger items. Electrical sockets in Macedonia fit standard European plugs, so if you bring an adapter shaped like a square, it may not fit into the socket. It is better to wait and buy 220-volt appliances when you arrive in Macedonia.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live modestly and at the same level as the citizens in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. (Note: annual leave may be taken during the last three months of service if it is within Macedonia.) Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance is available from various sources and we encourage you to consider it carefully. Volunteers are cautioned not to ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Macedonia do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Macedonian friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are officially assigned to individual sites during pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but will usually be within one hour from the nearest Volunteer.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2421 or 2422.
Can I call home from Macedonia?
International phone service to and from Macedonia is reasonably good throughout the country, but can be rather expensive. Calling cards can be used from some telephones; check with an international long-distance company to see if it provides services in Macedonia. AT&T permits collect calls from Macedonia to America. The AT&T access number when calling from Macedonia is 00.800.4288. You are likely to have ready access to a telephone while living with a host family during training and may be able to receive calls from home. Trainees are discouraged from making international phone calls from the host family telephone. Most Volunteers also have phones at their site. Volunteers with laptops have successfully used an Internet phone service available locally called Dial Pad.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Internet, including wireless, and e-mail access is available throughout Macedonia and Internet cafes can be found in most major cities. If you already have a laptop and do not bring it with you, you will probably wish you had. As with any valuables, you should seriously consider purchasing personal property insurance for a computer before you leave; it is not that expensive and well worth the price. If you choose to bring valuable items such as a laptop, or musical instrument, bring a sales receipt or other documentation of ownership. In the event that we have to send your belongings home as unaccompanied baggage, proof of ownership prior to your arrival in Macedonia must be presented to Macedonian customs officials to avoid excessive customs fees and/or export restrictions.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Macedonia and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 102pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Macedonia.
All Volunteers will need an assortment of clothing for work, play, and socializing. Suitable attire for male teachers includes slacks with a nice shirt and an optional tie. Community development Volunteers working in a municipal or NGO office may find a suit and tie de rigueur for everyday wear, but wearing nice slacks with a sport coat or blazer is fairly common. Community development Volunteers working with an environmental NGO fall somewhere in between, depending on the organization they’re placed with. Suits, dresses, and skirts that are not too short, or nice slacks with blouses are all suitable work attire for women. For both men and women, nice jeans (but not the grunge look), dressed up with a nice shirt and jacket, are also acceptable in many situations, especially social ones. For most places outside of Skopje, a more conservative approach to dressing is appropriate for women. Clothing is expensive because most of it is imported, so it is best to bring most of what you will need. Shipping clothes from the States is also possible but expensive. See further suggestions below:
- Two or three pairs of fleece or silk long underwear (available locally but not of great quality), in colors other than white (which is harder to clean)
- Several sweaters
- Scarves, hats, and gloves (Gore-Tex if possible)
- Winter socks
- Windproof and waterproof coat or warm jacket
- Clothing for warmer weather
- Hiking boots made of leather, waterproof, and lightweight (good-quality ones are available in Macedonia but expensive); winters are cold and very wet
- Work shoes
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
A wide variety is available in Macedonia, so do not pack extra toothpaste, toilet paper, dental floss, and shampoo.
Note that most items can be bought in Macedonia and many dried spices and herbs can be found here, especially in Skopje.
- Favorite recipes
- Plastic measuring cups and spoons
- Travel alarm clock
- The Peace Corps discourages you from wearing contact lenses and does not provide contact lens cleaning supplies. You may bring your own supplies or buy them here. Contact lens maintenance supplies can be found in Skopje, but are somewhat expensive (around $15 to $30).
- Backpack, small, durable, lightweight, and of good quality for overnight trips (suitcases are a nuisance and large packs may be cumbersome for short trips)
- Money pouch or belt (to hide your passport and other valuables when traveling)
- Cash (for vacation travel and long-distance phone calls)
- Personal checks from a U.S. checking account (handy if you plan to apply to graduate school; can be cashed at a bank in Skopje)
- Credit card (accepted in a few places in Skopje and other large cities, also useful for wiring money to Macedonia)
- Laptop computer (not required but could be useful; please see prior sections for tips and other advice on transporting this item)
- Flashlight (small and durable), an absolute necessity
- Compact sewing and tool kits
- Compact sleeping bag
- CDs (also available in Macedonia, except for country music)
- Colored chalk (if you will be working in a school)
- Family pictures or postcards to share with your host family and friends
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front booklet to family and friends.
- Forward all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas to the Peace Corps travel office.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan on traveling longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) that you are currently taking.
- Bring copies of your immunization record to Macedonia. . Report any changes in your health—physical, mental, or dental—from the time you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, to your screening nurse at the Office of Medical Services.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your healthcare during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Purchase short-term traveler’s or health insurance to cover yourself while traveling to, and during, Pre-Service Training events. The Peace Corps will cover any service-related injuries while you are in the United States, but will not cover further complications from such injuries or non-service-related injuries (such as while jogging).
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.)
- Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business. (Peace Corps suggests that you obtain a power of attorney signed over to your parents or a relative so that they can receive financial documents such as your W-2 form in order to submit your U.S. income tax forms.)
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.