Thursday, January 22, 2015

Macedonian Christmas

          After having our Peace Corps Christmas, we celebrated NYE and next was Macedonian Christmas.  Here the religious calendar is based on Eastern Orthodoxy and that's why Christmas is celebrated on January 7th not December 25th.  Also, Santa Claus is considered a weird thing and most of my students don't really care about him.  There also wasn't a lot of Christmas build up like there is back home.  For example, Christmas music starts in mid-November at some places, much to my annoyance. Here that didn't happen until about two weeks before January 7th. I think that's because there are so many cultural gatherings that people are together for weeks before Christmas, so it doesn't have the same feeling it does to us. 
          The day of, we got up and went to church.  In my village, the church is central and isn't just a place of worship but is also a social gathering.  Now you might be thinking that the service would be a traditional hour long service that was highly ritualized.  You're right on the latter but not on the former.  Check it out for yourself.

Heading in with half the village already there.

Everyone gets a candle and lights one while saying a small prayer. 
You go into the church where the woman stand on the left and the men on the right.
          We stayed there for a good 20 minutes then we went outside to greet other people coming in to the church.  Some guys were handing out топло ракиа, hot rakia, since it was about 15degrees.
See the pot of rakia?

          Here's a funny tidbit half the village knew who I was but for people just meeting me they thought I was Daniella's brother visiting from Australia.  How else could they explain my strange accent and limited Macedonian?
          Later that day, around 9pm, we went to a friends nameday celebration.  A nameday celebration is when a person's name is the same as the Saint in the calendar.  So if your name is Christian then you have a nameday in honor of Christ. Same goes for Petar, Peter, Michael, Mikael etc.  Now when we went to the nameday I actually recognized everyone there.  The past month I'd been going to every slava, nameday and na gosti with my family so I was able to put names to faces.  I said hello, small talked for a minute then went to chat with the host's son, Christian, since he knows English. 
          We talked and then some more people came in, including Daniella's mother and father.  I know them both and they're great people.  They sat down with Christian and I on the couches we said hello and then Daniella's mom turned to me and yelled right into my ear, "KAKO CE, DOBRO?" Translated, "How are you, good?" Everyone just stared but I managed to not laugh and responded, "Dobro baba jac razbiram ti."  "Good, I understand you." I then added in English "I'm not deaf." while pointing to my ear.  Everyone laughed, she laughed I gave her a hug and now she teaches me a little about her cooking for a bit every time I see her.
          A couple of minutes after that we headed to another nameday but this was unlike any I'd been to yet.  Everyone there was in their mid 40's and under, there was a lot of modern Macedonian music and decorations.  It was more of what I would consider to be a Christmas party than a nameday.  I loved it. 
Every host always has a full spread.
Turned out the host was one of Goce's best friends from school. So things loosened up pretty quickly.
Especially after a little vino.
          Later on, I told the hosts, their grandmother and Goce and Daniella about what had happened at the previous nameday.  By the end of the story everyone was crying from laughing so hard.  It was a great feeling just being able to share an experience in Macedonian with everyone, even for a moment. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter, Without Power & NYE

          Well the holiday season has come and gone for everyone and mine is just getting started.  I did have a nice Christmas hanging out with my fellow Ohrid PCV's.  For most of last week I was without power because of a snowstorm that turned into an ice storm.  I finally got power on NYE, which was a good thing because no one wants to dance with a smelly man. 

          First, take a look at the snowstorm, it's beauty and what I did without power.  Honestly, it was really refreshing to not have power, a connection to the internet and TV.  I read several books, played dominoes, cards and chess with my family and cooked on a wood fire stove.  Almost all of my family back in TN has a fireplace or wood fire stove so I was quite comfortable working with one.

This was the Christmas Eve sunset.

The snow started Sunday afternoon and didn't quit until Monday.  It's quite rare for Ohrid to get snow so this was a surprise for the whole town.

Shoveling the driveway before the temperature dropped to -10 C, 14 F, was a great idea. It didn't get above freezing until a week later. 

"Оган" or fire.

It was clear, gorgeous and cold.

This picture was taken just before the snowstorm started since we'd had a little bit of snow Saturday night. The castle in the background is Samuil's Castle that overlooks Ohrid.

My host father and I threw down on some chess. 

Since it was -18 to -20 degrees C, or 0 degree F, the crowds were a bit smaller for NYE in Ohrid than normal.  Also, the roads here were shut down for most of the week so traveling was difficult. 

Still there were plenty of people out and about.
Victoria, Alex and I 
No that's not a ponytail that's a foot long rat tail behind Alex.
Yeah they're dancing on the tables. I dug it.
I made some friends. 
We took full advantage of my returned electricity, made guac, nachos and watched college football. It was a great feeling seeing UT whoop up on Iowa.  Butch knows how to take great talent and make them work to be better.
          Now NYE was a lot of fun but I did feel two things.  First, I finally had culture shock.  I haven't really felt it yet because everything looks, feels and smells so similar to home.  It was when I was out talking to Serbians, Bulgarians, Croatians and the locals that I realized how culturally different we are from one another.  I would speak in Macedonian for a few sentences and everyone would answer in English because they knew I was foreign and probably American.  Second, I've got to find a soccer club or some sort of athletic club to meet some local people.  After not playing anything for months I'm ready to get on a field again and make some friends that way.

 Today is Macedonian's Christmas Eve.  I really don't know what to expect but I know that there's going to be a large dinner here.  

Срекна Нова Година (Happy New Years)