Interview with Eric Rodriguez currently living in Cottonwood, Arizona, USA. He was Community Development Volunteer at Peace Corps North Macedonia and worked in The Office of Project Management at University of Tetova.

BiMedia: First tell us, how is life there after your Peace corp mission in Macedonia, did u missed your homeland?

Eric: Returning to The U.S. and trying to re-integrate has been challenging under these circumstances. Like my fellow Peace Corps and Fulbright colleagues, my departure was very abrupt and there was not an opportunity to prepare myself mentally and psychologically to re-enter society. I also did not have the opportunity to properly say goodbye to my friends and colleagues in North Macedonia, so lack of closure to my service and my life in Macedonia has been difficult.

I missed my life in America, and the more I spend time back in America, I am realizing how I missed my country, my state, and my city, not to mention my friends and family. But I also miss the life that I had to leave behind in North Macedonia and I am still processing in my mind how to move forward from the sense of loss that I am feeling.

BiMedia: Can you tell us a little bit about the situation there? How did this situation effect in your life (daily routine, work or school) ?

Eric: Upon returning to America, I had to quarantine myself. With social distance practices being enacted, I am still not able to properly re-integrate. I would describe my life, so far, as “being in limbo”. Mentally I have still not completely left my life in North Macedonia, but I have not fully rejoined life in America yet either.

I am used to being active, going out, and socializing.  Needless to say, my routine has been significantly impacted since I am largely confined to home. The prospect of finding work has been severely impacted. In terms of school, although I have already earned my graduate degree, I am considering continuing my education given the current situation. With limited opportunities for work, furthering my education seems to be a good way to spend my time.

BiMedia: How do you spent your time during quarantine?

Eric:  I have the good fortune to be currently living in a small town with lots of opportunities for outdoor activity (hiking, swimming, etc.). Since there is a small population (who are largely practicing social distancing), I have spent most days outdoors hiking and walking my dog. I have also spent a lot of time watching Netflix, gaming, and sampling new music.  There are some part time work opportunities in town (mainly in markets and hardware stores) and I am considering applying so that I can stay active and have some social interaction.

BiMedia:What would be the first thing you will do when all this situation is over?

Eric:  As soon as I can properly interact, I will be heading down to Phoenix (the capital city of my state) and have a proper reunion with my friends, whom I am very eager to see.

BiMedia: What message would you give to our readers about this situation?

Eric:  It is important to live your life as normally as possible under these circumstances. Get out and be as active as you can while being safe and responsible, and don’t spend all day listening to the news. Our lives will likely be permanently changed in some ways because of this pandemic, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Some good things will come out of this (such as improved air quality in many places), and there are lessons to be learned from having to adapt to these circumstances.

While it is most important to focus on our health and safety, and that of our family, friends and loved ones, it is also important to look at positive outcomes of this awful situation and use these to live better lives once we have overcome this pandemic.

By B I

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