Friday, August 31, 2012

Approaching 1 Year in Macedonia

As it nears the mark of one year since my arrival in Macedonia, I started thinking about 1) how much has gone on this year and 2) how quickly this whole Peace Corps experience goes. What better way to show this than by the rough numbers. 

I submitted my initial Peace Corps application 884 days ago.
447 days ago I found out I would be coming to Macedonia.

357 days ago I met the best friend a girl could ask for. "Peace Corps??" "Peace Corps!"
357 days ago I also met the amazing group of people I would spend my service with.
I arrived in Macedonia 355 days ago.
353 days ago, the Mak-16s celebrated Macedonia's win over Lithuania in the Eurobasket tournament.
351 days ago I learned which other Americans I would spend the next 2 1/2 months with (minus Amy).
I said a temporary goodbye to some of the wonderful girls I became friends with 350 days ago.
350 days ago I met my first Macedonian family and moved to the wonderful village of Lozovo.
I went to Skopje for the first time 328 days ago.
I helped paint a gorgeous mural on a garage in Lozovo 300 days ago.
I became an official US Peace Corps Volunteer 281 days ago.
I moved to Kamenica 280 days ago.
263 days ago I learned how to build a fire in a wood burning stove.
251 days ago I celebrated my first Christmas away from home with a delicious chicken dinner.
I went to the craziest New Years celebration ever 230 days ago.
146 days ago I helped organize the English language National Spelling Bee.
I started dating a wonderful guy 114 days ago.
I got to meet up with my elementary school best friend and RPCV in Sofia 111 days ago and of course we caught up on our Pine City Pioneer reading!
I started Sara's Summer Disappearance with two English camps (YMLP and GLOW) 67 days ago.
I went to one of the most amazing countries ever, Turkey, 46 days ago.
I have 3 days until the new school year starts.
My parents and Sloans come to visit in 7 days.
I move into my new host family's house in 11 days.
I have 451 days left of my Peace Corps service. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peace Corps Realization #972

My frustrations of the day just melted away as I am getting ready to watch a movie I hear through my open window two of my students, and friends, giggling and reading a dialogue from their English language textbook. They finish the dialogue, giggle some more, then say in Macedonian, "Do you think she heard us?" The other responds, "I hope so." This was of course followed by more fits of laughter.

Peace Corps realization #972*: TEFL volunteers are not there to help the teachers become better teachers, but rather to get the children excited about learning English. And even if at the end of the day, I am unable to do much in the classroom, its moments like this that make you realize you are making a difference.

* This is a lesson I have learned several times but I think I have yet to really learn it. Maybe this time it will stick.

Bogorodica in Pictures

This past week my town celebrated Богородица, also known as the Day of the Miners, the Day of Opstina Makedonska Kamenica, and the Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Leading up to the main event was a week of cultural performances including pop concerts, traditional music, and traditional dancing. The main event, held on August 28th, was a popular Serbian singer. People came from near and far to celebrate here including about 90% of the neighbouring town of Delchevo. This meant I got a visit from the two Americans, Jenny and Alastair, who live there as well as Jenny's boyfriend Vlatko, his cousin, and his cousin's girlfriend. It was the first time they have come over and it had been quite a while since I had seen them. We weren't into the concert so much because we had no idea who the guy was, but we had fun walking around, seeing all the people, and even got to enjoy some mini donuts!

While the actual day was fun, my favourite part was the traditional dancing the night before. There were groups from all over Macedonia as well as Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Pictures are far more fun that text, so here ya go!
The Kamenica Oro group
The women of the Kamenica Oro group
The Slovenian/Kochani Oro group
A Bulgarian ballerina
Another Bulgarian ballerina
The Istibanja Oro group
Not a very good picture, but the boys jumped over the fiery pot. I like how everything is blurry except the pot.
One of the two drummers was this little boy
The Istibanja Oro group
Outside the church in my town is this cute mini church
My town has bumper cars right now, except people don't bump. The goal is to drive as nice as possible. Jenny convinced her boyfriend Vlatko and his cousin to bring some American style bumper car driving to the ring.
We had fireworks and I discovered my new favourite camera feature might be the firework feature.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pop Rock Concert

Yesterday marked the start of Каменичко Културно Лето, or Kamenica's Cultural Summer. This is a seven day event leading up to the grand finale on the 28th of August, also known as Богородица, the Day of the Virgin Mary, the day of the Miners, and is the Day of Opstina Makedonska Kamenica. It is quite the event, one I have been hearing about for weeks. I have been told it is the biggest celebration in my town, so I have been looking forward to the event for quite some time.

Last night, we had our first event with a pop rock concert in the town square. The artist was Vlako Lozanoski, who I have been told is the new Toshe (Mak-17s, get to know and love Toshe. He is idolized here). Phil's comment when I told him that was, "those are pretty big shoes to fill", which is so true. Toshe was the most beloved person ever to be connected with this country. Anyway, I went down into town for his concert.

8 reasons you know you're not at a concert in the USA

1. My 6th grade students were standing around enjoying some Skopsko
2. At least one stray dog ran across the stage
3. There was a distinct smell of rakija in the crowd and several bottles were being passed around
4. The rock concert took place outside the church with a fresco of the Virgin Mary as the background
5. There was no band to provide music, but rather a CD player
6. Sunflower seeds were flying around as much as the rakija was
7. Cameras out, but at least half of them were taking pictures of me rather than the performer
8. Immediately following the last song, tons of young kids (mainly girls) ran up to the stage and swarmed Vlatko wanting to take pictures with him. There was about 20 minutes of pushing and shoving (no lines and limited security of course) before they said no more pictures.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bringing the Rain to Sara's Drain

Last Friday we had a storm like no other I have seen in this country. We had been in a drought so when the first roll of thunder sounded on Wednesday, my town was quite happy. Wednesday night the rain pelted down for about 10 minutes followed by a few minutes of drizzle, then nothing, disappointing everyone. The crops were in desperate need of some water and the lake/river where the town's water comes from was really low (hence the lack of water at my house). 

Thursday evening showed more promise when the clouds rolled in and the lightening flashed, but again, only for about 15 minutes before turning dry. I talked to one of the local babas about this and she said, not to worry, the rain would come and when it came, it was going to come with full force. She didn't know exactly when the storm would come, but she predicted soon. 

Friday, I woke up to sunny skies with not a cloud in site. By about noon though, that was changing. The sky was growing dark, the thunder was booming, and the lightening was flashing, but still no rain. Around 12:30 it started to sprinkle, just as I was about to go into town for the once a week pazar- the first time I was able to go in a month. I decided to hold off, finish hand washing my laundry, and go as soon as the sprinkling stopped. Little did I know, the sprinkles were just the start. Not even 5 minutes after I got my somewhat clean laundry all hung up outside the storm the baba had told me about came. 

First came the thunder and lightening even closer, then it started pouring. I looked outside and could barely see across the street it was raining so hard. I remember texting Phil saying I now understood what it was like to be in a monsoon (at least for a few hours!). The rain was pelting my roof, echoing throughout my entire house. About 45 minutes later, the pelting grew louder and I decided to grab my camera and go investigate. I walked out my front door to see a lovely hail and rain mix throwing itself into my patio. If we had been in Minnesota, I can guarantee the sirens would be going off and everyone would be doing the basement thing. We had been told tornadoes didn't exist here, but for a few minutes, I wasn't so sure. It was the perfect set up- a moving cold front smashing into the sitting warm front. The hail subsided 10-15 minutes later, leaving cold blowing rain that continued through the day. By 6:00, all that remained were sprinkles, much, much cooler temperatures, and a few poorly shot photographs 

*I should also note, since this storm, my drains haven't been dry once. 

It's coming.....
The start of the hail
Mid hail- it might have been small hail, but it sure sounded loud on my roof
The grape leaves at my house collected the hail quite nicely.