10:39pm, 11:27pm, 12:42am, 1:16am, 3:48am, 4:02am. The minutes tick by as I lay here on my pull out couch with the gentle snoring of my father in the background. Today I ended my sabbatical with Turkish coffee and now I am paying the price. That combined with this retched cold makes for the perfect no sleep combo (and the perfect time to write a blog post of course!). Despite this I know I will awake early in the morning to start another action packed day with my American family.
My parents and Sloans only arrived this past Friday evening but have already experienced so much Macedonian culture. Their trip started with an afternoon visit to my first Macedonian family's house in Lozovo. They got to meet the first people who took me in. My host mother prepared my favourite meal they make, musaka, along with quite a few other things. In typical Macedonian fashion, the glasses were never empty, the plates filled with too much food, and the words "ручи, ручи" (eat, eat) were uttered over and over again. I clearly hadn't prepared these American stomachs for jut how much food they would be eating as even they were pleading with my host mother not to eat any more. The combination of massive quantities of food and jetlag proved to be deadly as eyes started to close. It was time to hit the road before our driver, my father, drifted off to dreamland.
Upon arriving in Kamenica we took a quick walk around the town center to see the church, town square, and buy a few groceries for the morning. Then it was Christmas for Sara with all the American treats that were packed and an early night for all.
Sunday we awoke and relaxed for a short time before we made another trip to the grocery store, this time with eyes open further and minds more curious. On our way down, they got to observe a few of my neighbour ladies making јуфка for the winter. Јуфка is a very thinly rolled dough that is dried and stored. It is then cooked in a large pan with a little water or milk to saturate it somewhat, leaving some of it with the texture of pasta when cooked.
At the store we picked out some typical snack foods that are unique to Macedonia, including: gazoza (a pear/bubblegum flavoured soda), some smoki (peanut flavored puff chips), ham flavoured chips, and an assortment of 5 denari candy bars.
Next we had a quick stop at the police station to get everyone registered (aka. Sara filling out five sets of forms and my parents and Sloans checking out an old Macedonian map).
The day continued with lunch at my new host family's house. We were welcomed into the house and seated around the kitchen table already ladened with several traditional salads and kifli (homemade bread rolls). Before the meal could start, they opened the gift from my parents and then presented each of us a gift (Macedonian flag keychains for them and a gold and pearl broach for me). Then everyone was served rakija and the feasting began. I ushered a reminder that more food was coming after the over eating yesterday, but I am not sure it helped. The meal continued with everyone eating and talking and my head switching back and forth between English and Macedonian needing to translate everything that was said, which was, for the most part successful. Following the main meal was dessert with homemade baklava and three types of slatko (a syrupy sweet dessert with fruit chunks which this time were cherry, fig, and blackberry).
We got a little break from food and drink as my family was shown first my new bedroom and then my host parents downstairs house where they do all the canning for the winter. It's typical for Macedonians to make lots of food in the summer and can it for the winter, but these people take it to a whole new level making hundreds of jars of ajvar, pinjur, slatko, ketchup, juice, rakija, honey, and more. After viewing all the jars, we went out to see everything in the garden and got to view their water powered flour mill. There used to be four flour mills in Kamenica, now they said they are the only one.
Arriving back to my house after lunch, we stopped to see how the јуфкa was coming along and were invited to sit. The lady tried to convince us to eat again by bring out homemade зелник (leek filled phyllo dough). It took some convincing, but finally she accepted that we couldn't eat any more so she packaged some up for us to take home.
After a rest, my mom, Sloans, and I went for a walk up the hill. My mom turned back part way, but Sloans and I continued up to one of the cemeteries that overlooks the town from above and had a chance to get in some good star gazing- the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, the Milky Way... It was very relaxing and calming just sitting up there in the dark looking at the stars.