Social Sponsor Extraordinaire

Last month, JR and I volunteered to act as social sponsors for a new couple that would be arriving at post. I was excited to have something to do, and started e-mailing with them right away. As a social sponsor, you reach out to your people before they arrive to see if they have any questions, offer to get some groceries for them to have when they get here, pick them up at the airport, make sure their house is in good shape, and things like that.

I know that I asked our social sponsor about 200 questions before we came. K and L, our social sponsorees, seemed very laid back and relaxed, not a lot of questions before we met. I asked if I could pick up some food for them, and they asked for milk, yogurt, and fruits and vegetables. Now, I don’t really eat vegetables. So when I went to the store to shop for them, I stood there staring at the produce section for a while trying to think what they might want. A person doesn’t just eat a raw onion, right? It never dawned on me that you might just pick up a tomato and eat it. I bought them some carrots. And then I moved on to the fruit. I do better with fruit.

I coordinated with the Embassy’s Motor Pool to have a driver meet me at the airport to pick them up (to make sure we had room for all of their luggage). Since I didn’t know what they looked like, the driver made a sign with their names on it. I felt very official waiting for them! Once they arrived, we loaded the bags into the Embassy van, and I took them to their new home. They have an awesome house, and it’s located pretty close to us. That night, I took them out to dinner and some other friends joined us to welcome them to post.

We made plans to visit Skopje, Macedonia that Saturday. I’ve been through Macedonia when we traveled to Greece, but we did not have a chance to explore the city. We had a nice day just walking around, there are tons of little shops, cafes, and a strange amount of statues. Everywhere. One store had old military items like coats, helmets, and weapons. They also had a very cool collection of old currency. JR and I are planning to go back soon. It’s definitely a place where he could spend some time.

I’m glad we were able to sign up as social sponsors, and get some new friends out of it, too. It’s really nice to have someone helping you through the transition of arriving at a new post, and I’m happy we could pay it forward!

Two Weeks

We’ve officially been here for two weeks! Overall, things are going really well. I was telling JR on Friday that I didn’t expect to be having so much fun. I knew I’d be okay here. Kosovo was our top pick for his first assignment, we’ve had almost a year to prepare, and with technology, keeping in touch with family and friends is so much easier. But I’m happily surprised by how social everyone is here and the good times we’ve already had.

Before we left, JR was in touch with two co-workers from DC, who arrived to Kosovo months before us. They were excellent resources for questions about food, our cat, JR’s work, and everything in between. Two months before our departure date, our social sponsor contacted us. JR’s work assigns each newcomer to post a social sponsor who will pick them up at the airport, inquire about their housing, ask for a shopping list and have groceries waiting at the new place, and take them to dinner on their first night.

Katie volunteered to be ours, and she has been great. It’s awkward making a grocery list for someone else to shop for you, especially when you aren’t sure what’s readily available or the cost of things (we reimbursed her for the purchases). She got most of the things on our list, and after seeing a Facebook post of mine, she picked up Jif peanut butter and Diet Coke for me! She also took us out to dinner at what I’m sure will become our go-to restaurant, Pinocchio, close to where we live.

The first week we were here, we had dinner with some other co-workers (now friends), attended a Marine Happy Hour, and as I already posted, traveled to Albania. This past week, we went to a happy hour for JR’s office, went to a going away party, and a game night. It’s very cool that there are so many people that are around our age, and welcoming us into their circles.

Things are definitely different here, but many things are still the same. At the going away party, the hosts served hot dogs, burgers and chips (I ate like 7 hot dogs, I love those things), strawberry margaritas, and jello shots. Yes, jello shots in Kosovo. We also played flip cup and beer pong (JR ran the table, as expected). We had a lot of laughs with new friends, and said farewell to someone leaving post.

Two weeks in and we are happy and having fun!