If you ever loose your faith in humanity, come to Macedonia and I can guarantee it will be restored. I don’t think I have ever met such a welcoming and hospitable group of people as I have met here. They truly open not just their homes, but also their entire lives to you. I had the fortune today of two such instances.
I was walking home from school and there was a baba (grandma) sitting outside her house getting wood for her fire. I had seen her before, usually on my way to school and she always said hi. Immediately, she said hi once again and then made me go into her house for coffee. She made me coffee, poured me a glass of the female fruity rakija, and placed a plate of sweets in front of me. We talked for the next hour or so while drinking and eating. She kept telling me how beautiful and nice and sweet I am and that she is going to cook me a special Macedonian specialty just because she likes me. She has a daughter who lives in Germany but is coming home in two weeks and said I have to come visit then (this is what I mean about their lives- she doesn’t just want me to meet her, but her daughter as well). As I was leaving, she packaged up some cookies for me to bring home.
Setting: Sara has been running low on wood. Her landlady said they would bring her more wood, over two weeks ago. Despite Sara reminding them, there has always been an excuse as to why it can’t happen that day (“It’s too cold today”, “Looks like snow”, “Its 5 degrees Celsius, not 6 degrees”, “It’s Thursday”, etc.). Sara has just gotten home from school and is gathering wood to start her fire for the day.
Enter Neighbour lady (NL)
NL: Здраво Сара. Како си? (Hello Sara. How are you?)
Sara: Добро. А вие? (Good. And you?)
NL: Супер. Што правиш? (Great. What are you doing?)
Sara: Јас треба да правам оген сега. (I need to build a fire now.)
NL: Ладно ли? (It’s cold, isn’t it?)
Sara: Да, Денис е многу ладно. (Yes. Today is very cold).
NL: Има тенки дрво? (Do you have starter firewood?)
Sara: Малку. (A little. Real translation: I haven’t had any for days but I am not going to just come knock on your door and say make me some wood despite you telling me to do so, so I have been digging around finding stuff that just barely gets my fire started)
NL: Сакаш уште сега? (Would you like more now? Or this is what I think she says.)
Sara: Да (Yes)
NL: Добро (Good)
Neighbour lady disappears. Sara starts collecting wood from her sad, sad woodpile and hauls one load around the house and up the stairs to outside her front door. When Sara turns around (literally a minute and a half later) two boys are standing in the yard next door looking at her.
Sara: Здраво (Hello)
Boys: Здраво (Hello)
Sara: Како си? (How are you?)
Boys: Добро (Good)
Sara continues back down her stairs and around the corner. Suddenly she hears neighbour lady order the boys to go to my yard from out a window.
NL: Сара, мојот син ќе сече дрво за тебе. (Sara, my son will cut you wood.)
Sara: Фала (Thank you)
Clearly Neighbour lady went into the house and told her son something along the lines of, “The poor helpless British girl (everyone always thinks I am from England) next door doesn’t have any more wood. You are going to go cut her some now.”
Boys, with axe in hand walk around and into Sara’s yard and start chopping wood. They chop a few pieces and then realize the wood left in Sara’s woodpile is junk. The boy who lives next door walks home and comes back with a few pieces of wood that is поубав (more beautiful). In the process, Neighbour lady’s son alerts his father, Neighbour man, about the state of my woodpile. Neighbour man appears and shakes his head. He starts barking orders at the two boys. An hour later, I had a box full of starter wood, a wood shelter filled with wood that was dug out from under the junk my landlord had dumped on top of usable wood, a sore back from all the work, and the mission to bake the best chocolate chip cookies ever just to start to thank you to the neighbours for saving me from becoming a popsicle.