Sunday, September 28, 2014

Macedonia Is Where Again?

            This past week was all about settling in to the routine of language classes, some meetings and the normal rhythm of life here in Sveti Nikola.  It's certainly been an adjustment with the normal highs and lows of learning new words and phrases but still not able to have a complete conversation.  It's gonna be a process, honestly it's frustrating, but one that will pay huge dividends when we start teaching.  
            Now a little history on Macedonia.  It's nestled between Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Bulgaria.  People have been living here since 9,500 BCE.  It's been both a conqueror and the conquered.  Of course it's most famous inhabitant is Alexander the Great.  In the past 100 years it's gone from being controlled by the Ottomans to Communists to the benevolent dictator Josep Tito before becoming it's own country again after the breakup of Yugoslavia.  

            Macedonia may look European but I'm quickly learning that it's culturally very Balkan.  A lot of people here will refer to the "good old days" of Yugoslavia because everyone had a "job", decent money etc.  It seems the younger generation doesn't feel that way but I've got a lot to learn on the subject.  
            I'll write more about the culture as I experience it but I'll finish by showing you my first week here with pictures and videos, enjoy. 

Abby was snacking while Larry was studying. 
The bottom sign has the different gender suffixes. 
The Macedonian alphabet is Cyrillic not Greek. 
I love the view when I go for a run/workout. 
This is my breakfast my host mother makes for me.  She cooks a couple of eggs and toast with milk. It's a heavy meal. 
My host father and I bond over National Geographic and Discovery shows. He loves Alaska Gold Diggers. 
Yes these little guys are adorable but there are a LOT of kittens and puppies here. Macedonia needs Bob Barker to start a spay/neuter your pet campaign. 
            Yesterday, I went to the farmer's market to try my hand at bartering. I was somewhat successful.  When you see a price tag, remember it's Denar not Euros. One US dollar is 48 DEN so the exchange rate is really, really good. However, my salary reflects my cost of living here not what it might be back in the States. 

A large jar of honey costs $5. 
Almost all of these clothes cost less than $10.

These are massive eggplants.

Bananas, nuts, peppers and pears.

It gets crowded.

A tiny pepper. 

That's an entire clove of garlic. I'd never seen one that large before.
Of course we did a little shopping for my host mother as well.
We stopped by a cafe to enjoy some Boza with another volunteer, Crissy, and her host mother. Honestly, it tasted similar to the Korean drink, Makkoli, but with more carbonation. It was awful.
Last night I helped my host father and his buddies process grapes to make vino and rakia. Rakia is to Macedonia as Jack Daniels is to Tennessee, Soju is to Korea and vodka is to Russia. It's actually a brandy but finishes with a bite similar to tequila. 
            Click on this link to listen to my host family after our dinner while they chat about family pictures on FaceStalk. 

             It's been a busy week but it feels much longer than that.  One thing that will always make my day is getting letters or random stuff in the mail. If you want to mail me something then just send it here and I'll get it.  However, be sure to send it USPS, DO NOT PUT A VALUE LARGER THAN $1 AND WRITE "USED GOODS" to keep customs people from opening the package.  If you're only sending a letter just use the USPS flat rate envelope and you'll be fine.  Otherwise I'll be paying huge fees via customs to get the packages.

Miroven Korpus-Logan Monday
Oslo 6 1000 
Republika Makedonija

            Tomorrow all of the volunteers in our group are meeting in Skopje for a HUB day.  It'll be a day of meetings but I'm looking forward to visiting the capital and catching up with everyone. Enjoy your weekend!

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