Written at 11pm on Monday:
Tonight is a special night in Macedonia. It is the night I have finally have heat! When I came home from school around 2:00, I ran into my policeman neighbour. We talked for awhile, as much as we can talk with only slightly speaking the same language. He once again told me if I have any problems, to go to him. I got his phone number (I figure its always good to have a policeman on speed dial).
I was sitting here at home freezing cold because all I had was my Peace Corps issued heater. I was huddled wearing about 10 layers- including my fleece, my down jacket and my hat inside my down sleeping bag and I was still freezing. My heater was smelling bad and the smell was giving me a headache. I pulled out the heater my landlord had left in the house and tried that, but it smelled like burning. Here I sat, freezing and sad. My landlord’s friend (on the sheet from Peace Corps it says she is his spouse, but she keeps saying her friend and doesn’t wear a ring) was supposed to stop by tonight to check on me, but hadn’t yet. I figured I could ask her then about the radiators and try to figure out a way to stay warmer. Come 7:30 I was near tears because I was so cold (for your Minnesotans, picture sitting in a fish house without any kind of insulation for hours on end). I thought about something the Country Director had said, the reason people ET is because they don’t ask for help soon enough. Well, Stephen (if you are reading this), I listened to your advice and I asked for help. I texted my kind of landlady/kind of not and in horrible Macedonian said (or tried to say), “I don’t think the heating is working because the house is cold and so am I”. She immediately called me and said she would come over shortly.
When she arrived, she brought a posse with her, a friend (who has come with her almost every time) and my landlord’s nephew. The nephew graduated from the university in electrical engineering, so he was ripping apart the heaters like there was no tomorrow trying to fix them. The Peace Corps one needs a new part and the one the landlord provided works after a lot of tinkering. I asked about the radiators throughout the house and was told they are run through the fire. I asked if it would be possible to buy wood so I could have a fire and they told me Peace Corps said no (previously volunteers in Macedonian were not allowed to have wood burning stoves as a safety precaution, however, after several fires caused by the heaters the policy has changed recently). I tried to explain it was alright for me to have one and after some convincing, my landlady (I am going to call her that for lack of a better term) and her friend rushed outside and came back moments later with their arms full of wood. They had a fire going in no time. They told me that my landlord supplies all the wood for Kamenica, so if I want wood, I will have wood (still trying to figure out if I have to pay for it or whatnot). I was shown how to make it all work and within a matter of an hour or so, my entire house was heating up, even parts I hadn’t planned on heating because the radiators are all connected and I figure if I am building a fire to heat one room, I may as well let it heat the others while it is at it.
While my landlady was tending to the fire (she wouldn’t allow me to help get wood) and the nephew was ripping apart and putting back together heaters, I tried to show my domakinka skills. I offered them coffee or tea, which they declined, but when I pulled out the chocolate chip cookies I had made on Saturday, they were delighted to try to see if I really knew how to bake. Much to their surprise, they loved them and I promised my landlady I would bake them with her sometime so she knows how.
During all of this (they were at my place for 2 ½ hours), the nephew was attempting to do some translating, as he knows some English. Sometimes I wish I could play dumb and not understand when I do, but when it is English being spoken, that isn’t really an option. He asked me how old I was (a typical question) and I told him- he is also 24. When the ladies heard that, they started winking and doing the “We are going to set you two up because you need to marry a good Macedonian man” show and I knew what was coming. He asked me if I would go to coffee with him sometime and, in the off chance that he was just being polite, I said sure. However, to safeguard myself against any unwanted romances, I have decided I suddenly have a boyfriend in the US who I care deeply about and will marry when I return. Or at least that is the story I am going to portray. I figure this is a good solution, because it keeps potential suitors/green card seekers at bay, but if I decide in the next two years someone here sparks my interest, said boyfriend can magically disappear because the distance was too much.
Long story short, I am a much happier person now that I have warmth. I still plan on asking for more long underwear and wool socks to be sent, but I no longer worry about Peace Corps calling my parents to say they are sorry but I was frozen alive.
Other: Today was my first day at school. I will write more about that later because this post is long enough already, but I am super excited to start Adult English Classes tomorrow night. They are already running so when I was asked if I would help, I jumped on that offer. Since then, I have had three people ask me if I will teach them, so depending on how class goes tomorrow night, maybe I will spend many nights teaching Adult English. Lastly, I have a lead on how to get internet. Kamenica is trying to provide free wireless to all residents, however, I kinda live in the boonies of Kamenica, so the signal doesn’t reach me. Because of this, I have been struggling to find any information about how much internet will cost/what company to use/etc. But tonight, I made contact and my goal is to, by the end of the week, at least have talked to the company and have it figure out when I will get internet.