Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's been a long, long time....

Once again, I feel like I am falling behind on my blogging- sorry. Life has been pretty busy. Since my last post:

- School started up and this second half of the school year has proved to be much life the first

- Phil came home after 5 weeks in America, where he flew all over the country visiting friends and family and taking, and passing the Foreign Service Oral Assessment. He now moves onto the security and medical clearance stage and is hoping for a spot in a January or March 2014 A-100 class, as they are the first ones he can do after finishing up in Macedonia.
We have started a new tradition of writing a short message on each bottle of nice wine we buy. The message has to give the time in which we are to drink the bottle. We got to have our first bottle as Phil passed the FSOA! It was a lovely Vranec from Popova Kula*

- I celebrated my 26th birthday, and last birthday in Macedonia. This was the first year in 7 or 8 years that I haven't been sick on my birthday. Perhaps finding the coin in the bread at Christmas is bringing me luck.
Two of my 6th grade classes decorated the classroom for my birthday and I walked into them singing a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday
Some of my 6th graders. After they sang to me, each class even gave me a present. From one class I received a box of Milka chocolate and from the other, the popular perfume deodorant spray. They were very sweet.

- Phil and I perfected the art of veggie pizza
This was our first attempt (and this does have a little meat on it because it was left in my fridge). We since decided to spend some time slightly altering our recipe and making it even better. The pizza now contains a ton of fresh spinach, onions, garlic, green onion, roasted red pepper, and lots of spices.
The pizza is best if matched with some lovely Popova Kula black label Vranec. Delicious!*

- The National Spelling Bee has started consuming most of my life again. But it is ok with me as it is a job I love! This year's National Bee will take place on my sister's birthday, April 13th.

- I will also now get to start planning my classes for this summer's Camp GLOW. I am very excited to be heading back for a second year, this year, however, as an Instructor rather than a Counselor. I won't have my own group of girls this year, but I will get to meet them all while I am teaching classes ranging from Sex Ed to Stress Management to Women in the Media (I don't know what classes exactly I will be teaching yet, but should find out in the next couple weeks).
Camp GLOW 2012 was great, I can only guess what exciting adventures await at GLOW 2013!
- I am headed to the Embassy this week to have a chat with Diplomatic Security helping to move along Phil's security clearance. I am actually quite excited to see the Embassy because, as Peace Corps Volunteers, we don't really get the chance.

* DISCLAIMER: I promise Phil and I aren't spending our Peace Corps service just sitting around drinking wine, despite wine making its way into my blog twice this week. February 14th, happens to be the Day of Wine here in Macedonia, so one must partake a little!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So back in mid January we celebrated Epiphany, known here as Vodici. To celebrate, hundreds (or at least a bunch) of crosses are blessed and then thrown into bodies of water, with the largest celebration being in Ohrid. Here in Kamenica, it is thrown into the shallow river that flows through town. Once the cross is thrown, participants can jump into the river with the goal of trying to be the first to grab the cross (sort of like polar plunge, although as you can see here, we don't have any snow- writing this two weeks later, we still don't have snow). 

Most of the pictures below were taken of the Municipality's Facebook page as their photographer could push in front of the crowds to get the best pictures, while the lowly American was stuck in the middle of the crowd.

View of the crowd from somewhere up high. I was squeezed between the bridge and the second tree, right up near the back of the first clump of people.
The religious folk carrying everything from the church to the river (how convenient for them that the church is located right next to the river).
The wooden cross is being blessed.
Another of the cross being blessed.
More blessing.
The cross (top left corner) is about to be thrown into the river.
And their off! It was only young males who participated here.
The lucky victor holds the cross up for all to see.
Here is the winner. He now gets to spend the day going from house to house having people give him money to go along with the good luck the cross has brought him for the coming year.
The winner, the mayor, and the religious man.
Once the cross had been blessed, there was extra holy water, so the priest dumped it into the river. After the event now, lots of people bent down and drank and washed themselves from this water since it is now holy. I did not participate in this as I couldn't get past the fact that there was still a garbage pile just upstream, along with waste from the mine, and probably quite a bit of animal fleeces. No thanks.
Vodici marks the end of two month long holiday season here as we started back to school the following Monday.