The Third Culture of Peace Corps – Allison Meredith Smith, Macedonia 14-16
Photos from Allison Meredith’s Service
Allison Meredith Smith’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I was a Community Development (CD) Volunteer from the Fall of 2014 through the Winter of 2016 and was stationed in a small town in the east of Macedonia near the Serbian and Bulgarian borders. Working with a non-government funded organization (NGO) I worked closely with the youth of my community creating sustainable projects primarily centered around eco-awareness and the arts. My secondary projects included an after school program that bridged the gaps between American and Macedonian culture, facilitating courses on college prep or the importance of volunteering, and co-lead the National English Essay Challenge (NEEC).
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Right to the meat and potatoes with this question, I see. Asking a passionate person to choose a favorite anything in my opinion is three ways to Sunday as my Grandmother would say. That just means crazy/impossible. There aren’t three ways to get to Sunday there’s only one. Two tops, depending on who’s up for debating it. The honest truth is there are far too many contenders in my memory bank for that prize. Every moment I challenged myself, failed forward, triumphed or felt vindicated all hold medals in my favorite moments line up.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
Anyone who knows me/served with me knows how severely I struggled to overcome the ungodly low temperatures of an Eastern European winter. As a San Diego native, regular sunshine is bread in me. Tolerating snow, is not. It was one thing to be away from the sea, Macedonia is a land-locked country, but I was in no way ready for what it would be like to live/work/exist in -17 degrees Celsius.
What do you miss about Peace Corps?
I miss many things about Peace Corps, most being that which most rpcvs would convey, the people, the food, the atmosphere, all of which encompass the culture itself. Thankfully, I am able to visit my host-country as a tourist as often as travel restrictions allow me so I am quite humbled to relive the Macedonian culture and continually feed those relationships that are most important to me from that historical time in my life. I can’t say that I miss my fellow pcvs because those select relationships tenderly formed during my service maintain a strong presence in my life post service. No, what I unequivocally miss about my Peace Corps experience is far more personal. Having lost both my Grandmother (expectedly) and Mother (unexpectedly) during my service time, what I miss most is the ability to share my cross-cultural experiences with each of them, especially my Mother, via phone or email. For the better half of my service I could, and did. But the last half of it, well…
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
Many life-lessons were had, indeed. One that hovers with me as I journey on, especially during this transitional period of my life of finishing my service, launching my travel blog and traveling the world whilst healing a heart shattered by the loss of a loved-one, is that you never fully understand the significance of your impact on people’s lives. The smallest encounter could be one held forever by someone else. Further still, I understand that there’s beauty everywhere if you only look for it and that there are a tremendous number of good people in the world.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
Without a doubt, Уживај. Uzivaj, in Latin letters and phonetically pronounced u-zhiv-ay. Depending on the context it means live, enjoy or relax. Either usage of the word sums up both Macedonian-living and my entire Peace Corps Macedonia experience. So much so I had it tattooed in Cyrillic on my body to commemorate my integration into the culture and the country’s impact on my life.
For more from Allison:
If you want to know more about Allison’s Peace Corps service and extended travels around the world, check out her blog at: www.bagladymeredithsandiego.com