Friday, March 9, 2012

8th of March

Yesterday, March 8th, was quite the holiday here in Macedonia. The 8th of March or 8ми Март, is known as Women’s Day or Ден на Жени. Originally the day was explained to me as the Macedonian version of Mother’s Day. While it bears some similarities, it is more akin to Mother’s Day on steroids.

First a brief history, as it was explained to me by the locals. The 8th of March is a day to celebrate women and all the nice things they do. That was all the history I was given until today it was added in that perhaps on this day a long time ago women said they wanted to be treated like equals to their male counterparts. I told you it would be a brief history. No one I asked could tell me much more about the origins of this holiday.

I said it had some similarities to Mother’s Day, well from what I have observed, kids make cards for their moms and often give them a small gift, such as flowers or some other womanly trinket. This makes me think back to some of the junk I gave my mother on mother’s day- sorry. If it is anything like some of the stuff that is being sold here, you probably should have “accidentally” misplaced some of it (now all you mother’s reading this are probably thinking, no, its from my child I love everything I get. Now that I am older, I know, it’s a lie. Not everything you receive from your children is wonderful and worth hanging onto). At least I can say that in the last few years my Mother’s Day gifts have improved a little….hopefully.

Now here comes the steroids part. The children often give their female teachers a flower as well. If it were the US and you had a class of 25, you might get say 20 flowers- not too ridiculous. However today, I received over 75 flowers and small gifts from my 4th and 6th graders! There were some classes (one 4th grade in particular) that I could barely walk out of class because my arms were so full with gifts. Now my bedroom has one jar of real flowers and about 50 fake flowers (not quite sure what you do with 50 fake flowers…..). 
The real flowers
The fake flowers
I know flowers should make women happy and make rooms brighter and more festive, but in my case, I feel a little like I am in a funeral chapel, not really a great atmosphere for my bedroom. I also received a few interesting knick-knacks. I will let the pictures speak for themselves because there is no way I could adequately describe these items.
A lovely vase
And a box to store "special things" in
The Macedonian version of "Precious Moments"
A can of deodorant spray.... I know I don't get to shower as often as in the US, but....
However, my favourite part of the whole day was walking into one 4th grade classroom and all the kids had hidden in the very back of the room. When my counterpart and I walked in, they jumped up and all yelled, “Среќен 8ми Март!” and on the blackboard the children had written

Happy 8th Martch Наставници

I really wish I had gotten a picture of the board because it was the perfect mix of English, misspelled English, and Macedonian and was adorable and that’s the reason why those kids are probably my favourite class overall. 

In addition, many companies treat their female employees to special things on this day. At the preschool, I was told all the female teachers were being wined and dined at a nice restaurant in another town, compliments of the preschool. The teachers at my school were given shortened class periods (I had 5 classes today and we were done before 11am- only 30 minutes per class), then snacks and juice in the teacher’s lounge, followed by a brief appearance from the Director (principal) and a speech by a male teacher before handing out flowers and towels to all the female teachers (I found the gift of towels to be slightly amusing as if it is a day tied to women’s liberation of course the perfect gift is something to tie them to their housework!). A few of the teachers at my school left early to go to Italy for the weekend and I was told that the female teachers at another volunteer’s school were all going to a spa in Serbia to celebrate.

So I guess in the spirit of the day…

Среќен 8ми Март сите жени!
All of the gifts I received from my students on the 8th of March

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts on Life from a Sandwich?

I found sliced bread today and my life has just changed again (just as it did when I got a shower curtain for my shower).

When I found the bread, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it- 

As I was making my sandwich (actually sandwiches since the bread slices were tiny), I got to thinking about how this peanut butter and jelly sandwich is more than just lunch. It represents my life now. The peanut butter was mailed to me by my amazing parents back in Minnesota and the jam was a gift from my wonderful host family in Lozovo. I even put the potato chips inside my sandwich like my best friend in St. Peter does. My life is now a mix of America and Macedonia and this lunch reminded me of some of the many great people I have in my life and how lucky I am to have people who have known me in the first 24 years and loved me enough to let me go off on this wild, crazy adventure as well as people who have known me for only six months who want to do everything they can to make sure my adventure here is the best it can be. Its funny how something as simple as a sandwich can get you thinking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb 21, 2012 in Pictures

I made a traditional dish, musaka in my wood burning stove. Musaka is made of potatoes, onions, meat, and eggs.
This was found on one of my shirts. I did not appreciate it in the least. I threw the shirt out my door, hit the spider off with a chunk of wood, then proceeded to throw chunks of wood at it hoping to crush it. I managed not to scream, but one of my neighbours did get to be fortunate enough to witness this event. Later, I went out to check and see if the body was still there and it wasn't. That means either my neighbour came and removed the body so I didn't have to see it or the spider wasn't dead and will now be coming for his revenge. If anyone knows their spiders, please let me know what kind it is. I have been searching online but no luck yet.

These two pictures show what is left in a pan after I boiled water in it. The white coconut looking stuff and the brown stains is the residue from my not safe to drink water- full of led, zinc and cadmium. Delicious.

I don't have a picture for this event (and you all should be glad), but walking down to my sheet of ice for internet today I just missed stepping on something white and fuzzy. I thought it was a mouse but after further investigation, I discovered it was a dog's paw. This reminded me of the sad story of one pup in Lozovo. RIP Fifi.

As I sat down on my ice slab and pulled out my computer, two police officers walked past, stopped, and approached me. They had seen me sitting out here on several occasions and finally decided to talk to me (meaning they must have decided I was crazy but not dangerous). They asked why I was here (meaning the ice slab on the side of the road), why I was here (as in Kamenica), why I was here alone, if I had registered with the police when I moved here (they asked this one about 10 times), where I lived, and several other questions. As they bid me ado, they told me that they hope I find a nice Macedonian man while I am here (they were dumbfounded by the fact that I came here alone) and made sure I knew the number of the police in case I need anything. Only in Macedonia would the police wish you luck in finding a man!

About 2 minutes later a lady walked by and was confused why I was here. I explained to her that I don't have internet at home so I have to come here for it. She said she was on her way to buy bread but if I was still here when she came back she was taking me back to her house so I could sit there instead.

Differences at Site

We were told a million times during PST that everyone's site placement is different. A lot of information was presented to us through panels of current PCVs who shared their experiences in regards to a certain topic, however it was always stressed that these experiences were those of just that PCV, not everyone.

I was talking with a few other PCVs this past week and this was the topic of conversation- the differences between our sites. A few of the most noticeable differences are below.
  • Some TEFLs teach from day one. They walk into the classroom the first day they are at site and they do an introduction lesson and get started planning with their counterparts for the lessons they will teach. I am not one of those TEFLs. Some of us have to take things at a much slower pace and feel out our counterpart and school before we can do anything. Some TEFLs have only taught one lesson in the three months at site, with no more lessons on the horizon. Neither way is right or wrong and both have their advantages in my opinion. In my case, I know my counterpart is really busy with grad school, teaching, and helping her family at home so I have had to move slowly and suggest ideas at a slower pace. While I have only taught once, I have seen my counterpart taking a few of my ideas and incorporating them into her teaching. I know there are other people here who would be frustrated by this because they came here to teach, but its how my counterpart and I work together and I am becoming more and more patient everyday.
  • Some PCVs feel like they are really living the "posh corps" with very modern apartments with washing machines, heaters/air conditioners, high speed internet, 400 TV channels, shopping centers, etc. Again, I am not one of those. Some of us are just happy we have an indoor toilet! I don't have internet at home, my apartment is only heated with a wood burning stove, I can't drink the water from my sink because it is contaminated, I hand wash all of my clothing, etc. Again, neither is better or worse, just different. At this point, I think I would be frustrated by having all of those things. I like having a daily reminder that I am not in the US (however frustrating it might be at times) but despite that, I am still going to try and continue my pursuit for internet!
  • Some PCVs don't really use their Macedonian because everyone speaks English to them. Yet again, I am not one of those PCVs. I only speak English with my counterpart and only when it is just the two of us talking. I am completely surrounded by Macedonian elsewhere. Macedonia has many different dialects as well, so I am not just learning more literature Macedonian, but also the local dialect, Каменички, which features quite a few Bulgarian words. I am also learning a little Italian from my landlady because if I don't understand what she is saying in Macedonian, she switches to Italian thinking I will of course understand that! However, I like that I am using the Macedonian that I learned and learning more. Yes, it does get tiring sometimes when I don't understand what people are saying, but I would say at this point at least 80% of the time I can figure out what the topic is through picking up words I know and asking questions.
  • Some PCVs get a lot of attention, often unwanted, from their community. I am one of those PCVs. Others blend in and are kind of ignored. While I am still finding people who don't know that I am an American who will be living here for two years, most people know my name even if I haven't met them. I have received some unwanted attention here (from men and not only single men). At first it was very frustrating and I didn't necessarily know how to address it, but after a lot of practice, I know how to handle it tactfully and it makes me laugh now. One of the houses I na gosti often is always bringing over boys for me to meet and while sometimes I don't want to feel like I am on a set up, I just find it funny. I have told everyone here I have a boyfriend, but that doesn't seem to stop them because of course a Macedonian one is always better than an American one (in their minds at least). 
All in all, my take (6 months in country) is that the way to win at Peace Corps is to always stay positive and find the good in any situation.

Friday, February 17, 2012


This photo circulated the Peace Corps Network and was titled: Peace Corps Fail
So the Engrish here isn’t quite as prevalent as the English found at Daiso stores (Japanese dollar stores), it still can be found here- mostly on clothing and much of the clothing is imported from Turkey or China. Here are some of my favourite phrases I have observed on children’s clothing.

Wild Valley Adventure Discovering Challenger” (Why not mix various tenses of English?)

“Crazy Shoes” (There are a surprisingly high number of shirts that feature pictures of tennis shoes)

"Boys Mans: Hip Hop Music" (Its music only for boys....and mans)

"Extrm Shirt" (Not to be confused with lame pants)

“CHAMPS: Experio Rimano: G. Washington: Coffee Sales” (George Washington, coffee, and a picture of an eagle)

"Frestybe Sk8barding" (I am assuming it was supposed to say: Freestyle Skateboarding)

"WDS: Wild Dolphin Sports: Phlic, Peas, Pective" (Love my dolphin sports to have some Pective)

"Batman: The Man in the Red Hood" (Wait did Batman and Little Red Riding Hood birth a child?)

My All-time Favourite: 

“Poker Knight: I Think My Pain Will Make You Flush”
(This was on a pink flowery track jacket worn by a 5-year-old. The only way I could interpret this where it could possibly make sense is if the “pain” was food poisoning and putting your children in clothing about food poisoning is just wrong.)

And for your future reading pleasure, check out for some more of everyone's favourite language!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Compound Words

Back in PST, when we had an English compound word that we didn't know in Macedonian, we would make up our own using the two parts (e.g. Snowman- Снегмаж snow- снег man- маж). One of our favourites was мажwich (more a hybrid of English and Macedonia meaning man-wich). On Friday, my 4th graders were learning some more food words and they had the word- hotdog, which is хајт дог in Macedonian, but they called it жешко куче (жешко- hot куче- dog) and I just had to laugh because they were doing the same thing we did. I guess it sometimes doesn't matter if you are 10 or 24, you learn the same way!

Along the hot dog note, I like that the plural for hot dogs in Macedonian is хајт дога (hot doga).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A HUGE Thank You to my Neighbours

If you ever loose your faith in humanity, come to Macedonia and I can guarantee it will be restored. I don’t think I have ever met such a welcoming and hospitable group of people as I have met here. They truly open not just their homes, but also their entire lives to you. I had the fortune today of two such instances.

Example 1:
 I was walking home from school and there was a baba (grandma) sitting outside her house getting wood for her fire. I had seen her before, usually on my way to school and she always said hi. Immediately, she said hi once again and then made me go into her house for coffee. She made me coffee, poured me a glass of the female fruity rakija, and placed a plate of sweets in front of me. We talked for the next hour or so while drinking and eating. She kept telling me how beautiful and nice and sweet I am and that she is going to cook me a special Macedonian specialty just because she likes me. She has a daughter who lives in Germany but is coming home in two weeks and said I have to come visit then (this is what I mean about their lives- she doesn’t just want me to meet her, but her daughter as well). As I was leaving, she packaged up some cookies for me to bring home.

Example 2:
Setting: Sara has been running low on wood. Her landlady said they would bring her more wood, over two weeks ago. Despite Sara reminding them, there has always been an excuse as to why it can’t happen that day (“It’s too cold today”, “Looks like snow”, “Its 5 degrees Celsius, not 6 degrees”, “It’s Thursday”, etc.). Sara has just gotten home from school and is gathering wood to start her fire for the day.

Enter Neighbour lady (NL)
NL: Здраво Сара. Како си? (Hello Sara. How are you?)
Sara: Добро. А вие? (Good. And you?)
NL: Супер. Што правиш? (Great. What are you doing?)
Sara: Јас треба да правам оген сега. (I need to build a fire now.)
NL: Ладно ли? (It’s cold, isn’t it?)
Sara: Да, Денис е многу ладно. (Yes. Today is very cold).
NL: Има тенки дрво? (Do you have starter firewood?)
Sara: Малку. (A little. Real translation: I haven’t had any for days but I am not going to just come knock on your door and say make me some wood despite you telling me to do so, so I have been digging around finding stuff that just barely gets my fire started)
NL: Сакаш уште сега? (Would you like more now? Or this is what I think she says.)
Sara: Да (Yes)
NL: Добро (Good)

Neighbour lady disappears. Sara starts collecting wood from her sad, sad woodpile and hauls one load around the house and up the stairs to outside her front door. When Sara turns around (literally a minute and a half later) two boys are standing in the yard next door looking at her.

Sara: Здраво (Hello)
Boys: Здраво (Hello)
Sara: Како си? (How are you?)
Boys: Добро (Good)

Sara continues back down her stairs and around the corner. Suddenly she hears neighbour lady order the boys to go to my yard from out a window.

NL: Сара, мојот син ќе сече дрво за тебе. (Sara, my son will cut you wood.)
Sara: Фала (Thank you)

Clearly Neighbour lady went into the house and told her son something along the lines of, “The poor helpless British girl (everyone always thinks I am from England) next door doesn’t have any more wood. You are going to go cut her some now.”

Boys, with axe in hand walk around and into Sara’s yard and start chopping wood. They chop a few pieces and then realize the wood left in Sara’s woodpile is junk. The boy who lives next door walks home and comes back with a few pieces of wood that is поубав (more beautiful). In the process, Neighbour lady’s son alerts his father, Neighbour man, about the state of my woodpile. Neighbour man appears and shakes his head. He starts barking orders at the two boys. An hour later, I had a box full of starter wood, a wood shelter filled with wood that was dug out from under the junk my landlord had dumped on top of usable wood, a sore back from all the work, and the mission to bake the best chocolate chip cookies ever just to start to thank you to the neighbours for saving me from becoming a popsicle.