Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mak-17 Swearing In and a Journey to the capital of the former Yugoslavia

After a few angry Facebook messages/emails, I am finally getting around to writing a blog post. It's not that there has been nothing to write about or even that I haven't had time, I just couldn't quite bring myself to write a post (or 10 that could have been written). So we need to travel back in time a little bit.

November 29- The new group of Volunteers (Mak17s) were sworn in and transitioned from being Trainees to official Volunteers. This was a very bittersweet moment as it really signaled the end of the Mak15s. We have a handful of 15s staying around for another year, but most of them had already left and the ceremony made that very clear.
Kaitlin is one of the new Mak-17s and the first Mak-17 I got to know.
Sisters (minus one)- Erika is the Mak-17 who lived with my host family, Bojana my host sister in Lozovo, and I celebrate Erika becoming an official PCV!
That night we celebrated the end of some Mak-15s service and had a good-bye party at the Irish Pub in Skopje. This included saying good-bye to my Minnesota companion, Marlys. She is headed back to the frozen north, but is hoping to meet up with my parents and left me quite a few Minnesota things she had here. Because of all the MN gear I have now, I did put in a request with our Country Director for a Minnesota Mak-18 so I have someone to pass it all onto.
Saying good-bye to Marlys!

After a sad good-bye, we parted ways, some to America, some to Italy, and a group of us headed to Belgrade, Serbia- capital of the former Yugoslavia. We hoped on an overnight bus and after an hour and a half at the border crossing, one bathroom break, and one "sandwich", we arrived in Belgrade early in the morning, ready to find our hostel and dump our gear before exploring the city. Well, finding the hostel turned out to be a little harder than we thought and I think we ended up wandering around a 5 block area (containing our hostel) for close to two hours. Eventually, we found it, had some Serbian rakija, coffee, a quick nap, and were ready to hit the town. As always, pictures show it best, so here is a short photo compilation of our three days in Belgrade.
Supposedly this is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans, however it is unfinished on the inside.
My favourite piece of art from the trip- of course there should be a dinosaur peeking out of the corner of this mountain scene.
Enjoying some coffee and hard cider
The Nikola Tesla Museum
We got to see a bunch of his experiments work- Phil even participated in a couple.
Czar Dushan's tomb- only significant to me because prior to coming, I was working on editing a book for a Macedonian about the local history and Dushan was mentioned a lot.
The parliament building
Anna likes to take artistic shots of the group, but that means she gets left out of the photos.
We went on a free 2 1/2 hour walking tour (that was really good) and got to see the Bohemian quarter. Our guide was great and liked to add in little language lessons, but because Macedonian and Serbian are so similar, we were "those people" answering all of his simple questions before giving the others a chance- good thing he liked the fact we could speak the language!
We got to pass by the Macedonian Embassy in Belgrade and might have broken out into the MK national anthem.
Our guide pointed out the bullet holes above some of the doors from the break up of Yugoslavia in the '90s.
At Kalemegdon- the old fortress
Where the Danube and the Sava Rivers join together as one.
There was a US States photo exhibit going on and of course all of us and the American International teachers from Kosovo had to take pictures in front of our state!
The oldest kafana (bar) in Serbia called "?". They served the BEST honey rakija.
We made a journey to the Yugoslav History Museum and to the grave of Josif Broz Tito- one of Phil and Jason's favourite people- Чичко Тито
Tito's grave
Anna, Jason, Phil, and I decided to take the train back, instead of the bus and we had a grand ole time in our quite dirty and old train cabin. The bathrooms were to be avoided at all costs as it really was a free-for-all, but we played a series of games, got a little sleep, and those who had been to Kosovo got their passports anti-Kosovo-ed at the border crossing (Serbians are not at all in support of Albanian Kosovo and do not recognize it as an independent country).

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