Thursday, December 29, 2011

Среќенa Нова 2012 Година!

Two blog posts in a day- it’s a big day/I feel guilty when I haven’t updated for awhile but I get messages from people saying they enjoy my blog! That is how you get me to write if its been a little while!

I have now been at site for over a month. Christmas Day marked our one month anniversary as PCVs, so we had all the more reason to celebrate. A lot has happened in this past month. I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, something my fellow MAK-16s can easily agree with. I am still trying to figure out my place here both in the community and at school.

This month I have spent shadowing all six English teachers at my school and one of the village schools. Most of the time I have just sat and observed the class, occasionally read a text or two in American English (which the kids prefer and find it easier to pronounce- I can see it now….in two years there will be a whole bunch of little Macedonian children running around with Minnesotan accents!). Now after our big break (we have a break from December 31-January 20 or so due to the many holidays- Нова Година (New Years- December 31/January 1), Божик (Eastern Orthodox Christmas- January 6/7), and Стара Нова Година (Old New Years- January 14) my schedule will change and I will be working with fewer teachers and focusing on the younger grades (right now I have been in 1st-8th). My counterpart is great and really enjoys teaching. She wants to improve her English and teaching and is really curious about how things are done in America. She is a good teacher and uses methods more similar to the American system than the others. I have loved being in the 3rd and 4th grade classes the most and will be spending more time with them. Hopefully after the break I will be able to help more in the classroom and start some secondary projects because right now I am not very useful. However, today I actually got to help with the 4th and 6th graders. I talked to the 4th graders about American Christmas traditions and helped the 6th graders write compositions about their good and bad habits. I also will start helping out at the kindergarten with the English teacher there (even if I go when they aren’t learning English, the Macedonian of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds is much more at my level).

Here in Macedonia, I am an expert on a multitude of topics, simply because I am American. I have been an expert on global warming (which doesn’t really exist in Macedonia of course) to haggis (why yes, every American knows about the traditional Scottish dish) and British laws (again, because we speak the same language, I must know everything about the British government). I was an expert at addressing Ambassadors and ribbon cutting ceremonies (the Swiss Ambassador to Macedonia came to Kamenica on December 23rd to open a brand new playground that they helped fund with the Opstina (government) and a local HBO (NGO) and I was there with my counterpart to help provide English translation (because after studying Macedonian for 3 months I can certainly translate for the Swiss Ambassador- lucky for me his personal assistant was fluent in Macedonian, English, Italian, and German). I was an expert on drawing Christmas trees and the internet (I often am asked to translate error messages for people since they show up in English).

As far as my house, I have made it more my own. I will try to post pictures soon. I have learned how to build fires in my wood burning stove and haul wood 2-3 times a day. When I get a good fire going, it heats up all of the radiators in my house and makes every room warm (even my forbidden room- the room Peace Corps isn’t paying for me to have, but I can really use it anyway if I want). Without a fire, it is dreadfully cold and I can barely stand to be outside of my down sleeping bag. I constantly can see my breath if I don’t have a fire going and my shampoo and conditioner freeze. I still don’t have internet. This has been quite the battle. I was promised internet by Lucia and was looking forward to Skyping with people back home then, didn’t happen. Then by American Christmas, didn’t happen. Now, I was told after the new year (that is the big holiday here, Christmas isn’t a big deal, but New Year’s Eve is huge). It is starting to get a little frustrating since I really haven’t talked to my parents in over a month when they were in California with Anna. But soon, hopefully (although I am not getting my hopes up). I recently have really gotten to see what my water distiller takes out of my water. Previously it was just white crystallized sludge, now it has started to be more of a reddish (I am assuming suddenly the iron content from the mine has increased, but I am still waiting to see what medical has to say about this).

I am debating if my language has gotten better or worse. A lot of people lost language skills when we stopped having 4 hours of Macedonian language a day, however I speak only Macedonian outside of school, so I don’t have a choice to practice. It is no big deal now to walk into a prodov and ask for some item I want to buy. Even if I don’t know the exact Macedonian word, I can usually describe what I am looking for and they understand (Trying to explain shower curtain was an interesting one- кого јас се туширам, многу вода сел бања. Треба голема пластик крпа- When I shower, lots water whole bathroom. Need big plastic towel- complete with gestures- And after all of this, I found out they don’t sell shower curtains in my town). I translate what I want to say when talking to younger kids at school without much difficulty. Once I get internet, I will be able to start my Skype tutoring with Dushko (my LCF from PST) which will help too.

Tomorrow is the last day of school until the new year. I still am not sure what I will be doing for New Year’s Eve. Another volunteer is coming into town and we will na gosti somewhere, either the girls next door, the teachers at school, or my landlady. Tonight I am going to the old cinema to see my student’s New Years performance and tomorrow I was invited to go to the kindergarten to see their holiday performance which I am really excited about as well.

Среќенa Нова 2012 Година!

Christmas in the Rock

Well, American Christmas has come and gone here in Macedonia (we still have Macedonian Christmas to look forward to on January 7th). It was the first Christmas away from home for many of the MAK-16s, but we celebrated together and had a good time. There were several Christmas parties going on around the country, but somehow I think Kamenica ended up having the largest, and certainly the longest (we started Friday and went until Monday) party. There were 11 volunteers in my house at one point, which my house is larger than most here, but still meant we had some interesting sleeping accomodations (especially when you have to take into account the snorers and those who have violent nightmares). Several people traveled over 6 hours by bus to get to Kamenica and their presence was much appreciated.

Some of the highlights:

Going in search of an Божик елка (Christmas Tree). They brought back not one, but four.
Julie decorating the tree.
Kenzie and Morgan enjoying some holiday drinks.
The start of the White Elephant gift exchange. Check out the sweet bag I found with race cars and fast cats. That in itself was a gift!
Paul's White Elephant from Enid: A whisk and a pack of spaghetti sauce mix from America
Julie's White Elephant from Sara: A mushroom jar, a Saint portrait, and a fake metal weapon.
Faron received a Macedonian Children's Concert video from Paul
Enid opened a White Elephant from Morgan that was wet. It was a yellow plastic bottle with knobs and some sort of liquid inside.
Kenzie opening a White Elephant that had "popular" American star posters, a used loofa, and a mystery Macedonian homemade wall hanging
Anna's White Elephant gift went to Dale: A glass cockatoo statue.
The most coveted White Elephant gift, prior and post opening, was Faron's. The recipient was Dan. Apparently Faron has 3 or 4 of these lovely framed pictures in his house and decided to share.
Building Gingerbread Houses
Dale using part of Paul's White Elephant gift
Christmas Stockings from Дедо Мраз (Santa Claus)

Paul and Julie
Christmas Day Dinner- Roast Chickens and Vegetables
Andres bobbing for cookies with the ones that were stuck to the pan.

The boys were in charge of decorating the cookies. This is the cookie they made for me- three layers and about a pound of frosting, sprinkles, and red hots. AKA: A handful of diabetes.
Clearly I am a 2 year old and wore more of the cookie than I ate.
The Kratavo Group: Paul, Dale, Dan, Faron
The Girls: Anna, Julie, Morgan, Enid, Sara
Team Lozovo: Anna, Julie, Kenzie, Morgan, Andres, Sara

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life in "The Rock"

Well life here in Kamenica keeps ticking along. School days are a little long some days since I am still trying to figure out what my job is/where I am useful. In talking with previous/current volunteers this often takes 3 months to a year, so I guess I have lots of sitting and observing left to do. However, I am going to try a new approach and try to figure out just what the school wanted when they requested me. I have yet to figure out who exactly did- whether it was a specific teacher, the director, or just a general thought that I could be a useful addition for a while. Once I get this figure out hopefully I can figure out more what I should be doing. I have been emailing with an RPCV who lived in Kamenica and he has been a good resource. He was a MAK 7 back in the early 2002/2003, however was only in Kamenica for about 8 months due to the mine flooding/pollution incident everyone here seems to not talk about at all.

I have learned though that in this country, I can’t be passive and unopinionated like I was in US. If I don’t like something, I can’t just go with it/hope it will change. I need to address it right away and be blunt. This is really hard for me to do since it isn’t my way. If I am tired and just want to go home and relax, I need to say I am tired instead of sitting at one more na gosti not enjoying myself/thinking about how I wish I could be home sleeping. I would like to think this will a) get easier over time and b) get easier when I have more stuff going on. I think I need to be blunt and after observing a little more, tell the teachers that I am not a decoration for their classroom. If I am not going to be used by a certain teacher/grade, there is no point in me being there.

Despite not having language class anymore, I can tell my Macedonian is still improving. When I introduce myself to new classes, I do it in English first, then Macedonian and between that and a few other things, I have been doing lots of translating, which is good practice. My task now is translating my chocolate chip cookie recipe into Macedonian for the teachers who have been asking daily for it after I brought in some cookies. As soon as I get internet I will start Skype tutoring with my Macedonian Language Teacher from Lozovo, Dushko, and he sent me a message yesterday in Macedonian and I understood it and responded back in Macedonian, to which he said he was impressed because I was 90% accurate on it all. I still don’t quite know when to use which prepositions and direct and indirect objects are still the bane of my existence, however I am using over half of the long form direct objects on a regular basis now.

Highlights of Today:
·  Built a second fire all on my own! It still takes me a while (longer than a Macedonian) and a lot of paper (I was scolded today for using plain paper, but that’s all I have right now- you don’t just walk into a store and buy old used paper, so I don’t exactly know where to get other stuff this time of year), but I eventually get it.  It is amazing how natural hauling wood several times a day is now and its only been a week and a half.
·  Watched fish being scaled and gutted (Yeah I know I am from MN, but believe it or not I have never been fishing). It was gross as is, but I kinda freaked out a little when they started scaling the fish that were still alive. Please can someone start cutting off my outer layer of skin while I am alive!
·  Met the final English teacher at the school today and she is AMAZING! She teaches the first, second, and fifth graders. She had me working with them from the start, helping the first graders cut shapes to make masks. A huge plus with her too is that she has experience working with the last few volunteers, so she understands much more than most why I am here. I am hoping to work with her a lot.
·  I killed a bug (like a giant box elder bug) with my bare hands and only slightly flinched.
·  I messaged back and forth briefly with my host brother and host sister and Kenzie’s host father in Lozovo and I am very excited to go back and visit in January. While I know Kamenica is my new home, right now Lozovo is still my Macedonian home to me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week One in Kamenica- Check √

Just a quick update because I am still at school using their internet since I don't have it at my house yet.

1) Today I will attempt to build a fire on my own. My fingers are crossed that I can do it. My landlady showed me again last night, but we will see how it goes.

2) Here are the links to Lozovo's video from Swearing-In. It is our tribute to the many soap operas of Macedonia.
 The Video:
And the out takes:

3) I went to one of the village schools today and the English teacher I was working with had to leave early. Thus, I was left with her class of 7th graders all by myself. I wasn't really told about this, she kind of explained it, but told me to just do what this other lady said. Well that lady didn't speak any English, so there I ended up- with a class of my own. It was good practice for me translating from English into Macedonian, however the students either struggled to understand or more than likely, they just didn't want to do anything.