Tuesday, August 7, 2012


42 степени (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Today is the hottest day in the past 20 years here, at least according to my neighbours. The Bureau of Meteorology said we are in a heat wave with "extreme temperatures". So not only in the past year have I been through the coldest temperatures in the past 20 years, but also the hottest. Something seems really unfair about that. To make matters worse, because of the excessive temperatures there is a water ration going on (at least in my part of the country) so I am now without water too. I managed to sneak out enough today to fill my distiller so I have an additional gallon of drinking water, but hopefully this whole thing doesn't last too long or I will have to break into my undistilled stuff or switch to soda as the stores have been out of water here. I have only been having to deal with this for a few days, so nothing major, however in this heat, a shower would be nice (but I guess now that I finally have slightly better internet access, something else had to give- wouldn't want this to be too much like America!).

Despite the heat I got a lot accomplished today. I decided this morning, that despite the heat, I had to go down to the bank to pay my electricity bill because the last thing I wanted was to be without water and electricity. I wasn't really looking forward to paying this bill because I had a 400 denari late fee on it since my landlords hadn't given it to me in time. I walked into the bank to a big line (at least the place was air conditioned and I had no where I really had to be) and two tellers- one the lady who HATES me because I am not fluent in Macedonian and the other the man who has always been pretty friendly with me. I stood waiting and when it was almost my turn, the lady looked up, saw me and told me I had to go to the guy's line because she clearly didn't want to deal with me. Fine by me. I don't want to pay my bill with you anyway! When it came to be my turn, he was so excited to see me and we chatted for a few minutes while he entered my bill info into the computer. He then decided that because I was an American, he would make that 400 denari late fee disappear and with the click of a few buttons, it was gone. I really should remember to bake that man cookies or something.

After the bank, I ventured to the post office to mail a few post cards from Istanbul that I hadn't mailed yet. Nothing too exciting happened there, other than the employee told me I was unable to buy one of the greeting cards that was sitting there for sale because she doesn't speak English. The card was in Macedonian and I asked in Macedonian, but she said no because she couldn't speak English. Ok, was that her way of passive-aggressively asking me to teach her English?

My next move was onto the grocery store to buy, well I wasn't sure what, but I figured I needed something since I have no food at my house. I wandered around the grocery store not really seeing much I wanted to buy, but ended up with some juice, napkins, tortilla-esque chips, and a chicken. While there Peace Corps called me to discuss my upcoming housing move. I had given them my new landlady's phone number, but it didn't work, so that meant one more stop on my in town excursion. I was told though that my current landlady was notified that I will be moving September 10th. This is when my parents are here- they can't even get out of helping me move when I live in another country! But at least this time, I will have a fraction of the stuff, pretty much everything will fit into a few suitcases and one or two boxes.

I stopped by my new place to talk to my landlady there and she was so welcoming again. The place I will be moving into is what we have deemed a quasi-homestay. Basically I have a little studio apartment in a family's home but I will share the bathroom with them. The room is rather large and has a small balcony, two couches for sleeping, a sitting chair, table and chairs, a wardrobe, and a mini kitchen with fridge, oven, sink, and about 3 feet of counter space. It is really all I will need. While I like the freedom of living on my own, in this town, there really isn't a fiscally feasible option. My current place costs way too much and after 5 1/2 months of searching, no one has come across any other options. I think this place will have a fair amount of perks that certainly should outweigh the cons, including a washing machine I can use, hopefully more reliable internet access, being literally 2 minutes from school, and it should be better heated for the winter and with that I should have some help with my fire, at least certainly if I need it.

Following my journey down into town, I was hot and wanted a few minutes to relax before I was going to go na gosti some of my neighbours. However, within just a few minutes of returning home, I had my own na gosti.  I have a regular group of girls (ages 7-9) who come over to play Uno for a few hours each day. You would think the game would eventually start to get boring, but I guess only if you are over a certain age (despite the box saying the game is for ages 7+). Even if I get a little tired with the game, it is a fun time. I am amazed at how easy it is to understand the kids here (due to their own more limited vocabularies) and how easy it is for them to understand me. I was talking with someone recently and they pointed out that kids are great to practice your Macedonian with because they don't care if you make grammatical errors or such because they often don't know it themselves. Today's conversation was about loosing teeth, during which I shared with them the American tradition of the Tooth Fairy and they were in awe. I wish I could have captured the look on their faces- eyes wide, almost like Christmas morning. The same was true when I shared with them pictures from home and they saw the gingerbread houses my sister and I made a few years back. It is funny what words can get said though and I sometimes grab my dictionary when talking with them and they can't think of an alternative word to use. However, often, when I look up the word, it doesn't necessarily help. Today's quizzical word came during a conversation about eating dinner with my family at home. One of the girls was trying so hard to ask me a question and despite being able to understand most of the words she was using, something clearly was lost in translation. She asked me, if you're sitting around eating with your mom, dad, sister and you with a spoon and there is only one spoon, then used the Macedonian word, "гат", which my dictionary translates as "pier, jetty, breakwater". Can you see where my confusion came in? Oh well, I don't think it was super important.

Another great thing about talking to children is that they are so complimentary. When looking through my photos from home, they were asking who everyone was and kept saying nice things about everyone. "She's so beautiful." "Wow, she has a beautiful shirt." "Oooh look at her hair. I want my hair just like hers." The she in all of these, was me, which I am not a big fan of compliments in any language, but somehow they were easier to listen to from cute little Macedonian girls. In the end they picked out one picture and said that when they grow up they want to look just like I do at.....bum bum bum... Prom. Even though they had seen lots of pictures of people, myself included, wearing normal clothing and I explained to them that our Prom is like their Matura (a one day event similar to Prom combined with graduation), they were fixated on Prom and decided that I always dress like a princess in the USA. I guess that is kind of a Goal 2 failure.

Once the girls left I did a bit more work on a project that VSN (the Volunteer Support Network) is doing as a welcome for the Mak-17s (who will arrive in September). I am not going to give away any more details as I know some of them are reading this now and I don't want to spoil the surprise!

And now I sit and wait for the weather to cool off and hopefully get some promaja (the feared cross-breeze) going to cool my house down even just a little bit. In my head I imagine what Garrison Keillor would say about this. I feel like he could have told this all much more poetically than I did- something to aspire to I guess.

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