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Obligatory DISCLAIMER: The contents of this Web Log are solely mine and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last post here - time to move on . . .

As mentioned previously, this blog had originally been created to chronicle my Peace Corps application process. Well. it is now 16 months since I submitted my application and I am two weeks from going to Staging in preparation for departure to Macedonia.

I have been on a several week-long farewell tour traveling around saying my good-byes to family and friends; some day-long emotional experiences and some rather brief, but poignant. Some one-on-one and some with groups small and large.

Last weekend Mary, my amazing wife, carried off a wonderful picnic:

Brother-in-law Dan brought two kayaks for everyone to take turns enjoying:

Mary and I had American and Macedonian flags to set the theme:

Mary had a terrific and huge chocolate chip cookie to cap off the festivities. I shared copies of the "Pauza" magazine (Written by Peace Corps Volunteers presently serving in Macedonia).

All in all a wonderful time.

Now, it is only two weeks until Staging. Therefore, I am going to discontinue posting on this Blog and will maintain documentation of my experiences from this point forward in a new Blog:

So, please try to find that new site and if you cannot and want to, feel free to send me an email at:

lew DOT hemmer AT gmail DOT com

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finally, some really SPECIFIC news!

At long last, the Peace Corps has sent email messages to all Invitees going to Macedonia.

We will meet for Staging on Friday, the 9th of September. Initial meetings for orientation and review of Peace Corps rules & expectations will go on all afternoon that day, with an evening break and completion of that day of meetings around 7PM. We will check-out the next morning at 8:45AM, board a bus and depart Philly at 9:15AM to go to JFK airport where we are scheduled to depart for Macedonia at 5:40PM.

Included in the email were attachments regarding Staging/Reporting Instructions, the Itinerary, a summary of the PC's Approach to Safety and Security, and a Baggage Advisory (We are allowed up to a total of 100 Lbs!).

So, there it is, at last, definite/specific information from the Peace Corps, after I have waited 16 months during which time I received a nomination with approximate departure dates to general regions of the world for vague work assignments. In addition, I did receive word of dental, medical and legal clearances, but without any specific follow-up plans/recommendations from the PC except to "wait". When an invitation to serve finally came, it did contain some specifics, such as Country Assignment, but the Staging date was still subject to change and my work assignment was still wide open within a general description.

Now I know, at last, that I will meet other Invitees on Friday, the 9th of September in Philadelphia.

We will receive initial orientation and leave the States on Saturday, the 10th of September. We will depart from JFK Airport.

Three months of training will begin within a day or two after after we arrive at the Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje.

I will try to add a posting during, or after Staging, but before departure. Then, as previously planned, I hope to discontinue posting within this Blog and will begin posting in a new Blog. I will post the web address for the new Blog site here at some point soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

38 Days Until Staging and we now have 60 members in our Facebook Group

The 60th person has joined our Macedonia Facebook Group today. Of that Group, we have slightly more than 20 who are Invitees; the other members are PCVs actively serving in Macedonia and are in either the end of their first or second year. Those of us who are Invitees have 38 days until Staging. Hopefully, we will hear from the PC in the next week regarding where we will be meeting for Staging.

It appears that we wmight be in Philadelphia,

However, we have heard that there is a possibility that Washington, DC might be the place.

At this point, we do not know. We just have to await notification and plan accordingly.

Now, new anxieties begin to build; What PC paperwork needs to be completed, what gifts to pack for the Host Families, what to decide to leave Stateside to be shipped after arrival at site, and so on.

I have begun a farewell tour, making trips to visit friends and family for a last in-person visit which will have to carry me for the next 27 months, unless any of them manage to visit me in Macedonia.

Meanwhile, I have finished reading "Bury Me Standing" and I must now finish reading "Balkan Ghosts" and get on with "Who are the Macedonians?" The Borders book stores have gone into bankruptcy and during their "Closing Sale" I snagged some great travel books for the Balkan region as well as nice large maps of the USA and the world to bring along. Arranging for a 'no international transaction fee' and 'no annual fee' credit card and completing financial matters here is more complicated and time-consuming than I had anticipated. The decision as to what computer equipment to purchase has been finalized and the winner was a laptop; no tablet and no smart phone. I'll make do with the phone my wife used while living and working in Germany. The sim card in it is easily exchanged. Skype is working for us Stateside (had a wonderful video chat with our daughter last evening between Philadelphia, PA and Jacksonville Beach, FL) so we hope to use that internationally.

In the coming weeks, there will be a shift in the posting of my blogs; I have decided to discontinue with this venue (Blogger) and to move on to a new venue when I depart for Staging. It appears right now that I will shift over to WordPress for the new stage of blogging. I hope that the new postings will be less cluttered with old 'stuff' in the margins that was important to me through the application process and more reflective of my service and experiences while serving in Macedonia. I will post a final notice here before doing so and the new blog address will be the last thing posted here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy World Population Day!

July 11th, 2011, is World Population Day. This is a day for us to look at the world we live in, realize we're about to hit the 7 billion people mark, and take steps to care more tenderly for this Earth we all share. (Maybe it means we need more wineries!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July - PAPCA

The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association participated in the 4th of July parade at the historical district ib Philadelphia, PA

Before the crowd flooded the entire area:

Preparing for the parade:

Participants included RPCVs and Invitees:

Representing Eastern Europe:

Getting going beside Independence Hall:

Leaders with the Banner:

All in all, a GREAT DAY

Monday, June 27, 2011

43 Members in MAK16 and still growing!

MAK16 - - - The Facebook Group site for Invitees and current PCVs serving in Macedonia has been growing at a fairly regular rate and now has exceeded 40 members. For anyone interested in seeing what this group is about, or wanting to join, the address of the site is:

Other exciting news is that the Peace Corps will have representation in part of a nationally televised 4th of July celebration.

"Welcome America!" is a week long event in and around the historic district of Philadelphia. The culmination of the week long celebration is an Independence Day Parade. This year, the route has expanded, winding through the nation’s most historic mile, featuring over 6,000 patriotic and multicultural marchers, musicians, dancers and floats. All five U.S. military branches will be represented.

Here is a picture of a part of the parade last year as it progressed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway amid the always displayed flags of many nations.

There will be well over 6,000 participants representing everything and anything related to our country and our relationship with the rest of the world. The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Peace Corps and RPCVs, along with Invitees, families and friends, will carry flags representing countries where the Peace Corps has provided services.

The Philadelphia Area Peace Corps Association has been invited to participate in the Welcome America Parade that will go through the historic district of Philadelphia on the 4th of July this year.

As an Invitee to the Peace Corps, I am fortunate in being part of the contingent of RPCVs and Invitees who will represent the Peace Corps in this Parade. I will have the honor of carrying the flag of Macedonia!

Friday, June 3, 2011

PC Toolkit updated - again

Well, now my Toolkit again appears as it did last April 5th.

So, now I am officially back on track headed toward Staging without any roadblocks in sight.

I am appreciative of the postings from other Invitees detailing resources and packing suggestions. At present, my biggest dilemma is deciding on a camera and a computer. I have a Canon DSLR, but do not think I want to lug that large camera body with two lenses and assorted filters. I think I prefer a pocket-size camera and I am leaning toward a Nikon S9100. In terms of computers, I already have a Sony Vaio laptop, but I think I will want to take something smaller; perhaps a netbook, or even a tablet. Recommendations will be appreciated. I am going to post on the Macedonia Group Facebook site to elicit opinions from other Invitees and hopefully get some recommendations based on experiences from PCVs already in Macedonia.

So, for now I am looking forward to joining with other Invitees & RPCVs and participating in the "Welcome America" parade through the historic section of Philadelphia, PA on the 4th of July. Those of us representing the Peace Corps will carry flags of the countries served by the Peace Corps. We have been encouraged to have friends and family members accompany us. It should be a wonderful experience.