Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dojran Language IST

          Last week our group got together in Dojran for Language IST.  We took more language classes but it was more a chance for us to all get back together for a little R&R. I learned not only more Macedonian but about the history of Dojran and where everyone is traveling to this summer. 
        Now the language classes were nothing like the ones we had during PST. We were able to choose the subjects we wanted to take at the language level we felt was appropriate. I really enjoyed all of my lessons, and realized that I knew a lot more Ohrid slang/dialect than I thought. I'm by no means fluent but I'm slowly improving. There were some interesting lessons, including Macedonian Slang, Man Talk, Sports, Travel, Food and beginner's Albanian. 
Beginner's Macedonia.*

Macedonian grammar.*

The bus timetable. *
          It was also the last time we'd all be together until the Fall so we took full advantage by catching up, sharing stories and hearing everyone's upcoming summer travels.  Most people will be going to, or have already visited, Italy, Greece, Turkey or around the Balkans. I will be going to Greece and Austria with the family next week but more on that later.
The view from my hotel room. Here none of the windows are sealed shut like they are back home. 
Not a wave in sight.
Everyone was happy to soak up some Vitamin D.
Of course there couldn't be a picture without all of us from PST Language class. Left to right it's Tome, Iris, Abby and Victoria.
Darin is a true Renaissance Man and one of his many badass talents is being a high level black belt in Judo.  Here we're working on our Judo throws. Notice the girls strolling along in the background as that's how shallow Lake Dojran is.*
Knowing MuayThai didn't matter for me because after learning a few throws we really went at and he repeatedly showed me speed, power and endurance is no match for power, technique and experience.*
It was a lot of fun though and yes that's Greece in the background.* 
         Moving on, I didn't know that much about Dojran and was surprised to discover it was the site of several WWI battles between the UK, Greeks and Bulgarians. There were two main battles between 1917-18 and were as horrific as those on the Western Front. The British lost over 12,000 men whereas the Germans and Bulgarians only lost 3,000. Clearly, the British lost the battle but won a tactical victory because the Bulgarians were facing mutiny, had to retreat due to being outnumbered and surrendered to avoid occupation. 
          As for Lake Dojran itself, as you can see in the pictures it's impressive not only because it was almost always smooth as glass but is only 30ft, 10m, at its deepest. It's mud is considered to be quite therapeutic.  However, I was quite taken by the beauty of the thunderstorms that rolled over the mountains and across the lake into Greece, warping that glass surface into a white-foamed rage.
         One more thing, our fantastic Country Director Kathleen Corey took the time to share her Peace Corps service in Liberia. She served for four years in the late 70's and had a strikingly different PCV experience.  For starters they had their PST in America, no Safety or Cultural training and when they got to their sites never saw each another, as a group, again.  She hasn't been back to her site but if her students survived the 15 year civil war they still might not have made it past the Ebola outbreak  from last year.  Her village was one of the villages that was the epicenter for the Ebola outbreak, so she has no idea if any of her old students are still alive.  It was riveting listening to her.
          To finish, Language IST was a much needed break after the previous, and intense, nine months. We all got to relax, chat, blow off some steam and enjoy a beautiful site. As I mentioned earlier, my family is coming to visit this weekend and we'll be off to Greece and Austria. I'll have plenty to post about afterwards but in the meantime, "Имаат добра недела" or "Have a good week."

*Photos courtesy of Monique and Victoria.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

School Is Over & Getting Together In Ohrid

          School is finally over. I love my kids but everyone needs a break and I've been going nonstop since December.  It's a bit different than back home since I live in the village with them so I really can't get away. Fortunately, we have our Language IST this coming week so I'll be able to break away before coming back and seeing them again.  For the next week this is exactly how I feel:  

Except in Macedonian: "Викенд е, јас тебе не те знам, ти не постоиш."
          However with great lines such as this one I'm going to miss my 9th graders: 

          I savored this beauty to celebrate the end of the school year:

          Yesterday, most of the volunteers from Ohrid and neighboring Struga got together on an invitation by a couple from Texas for some TexMex. We went out on their boat, I kayaked, swam and enjoyed nothing but pure Americana.  It was fantastic and normally I'd have a photo or two but I just forget to take pics. Fortunately our hosts didn't. 

          However, I did go out with one of my Lakocerej friends on the lake and got this view: 

That's St. Jovan on the left. 
          Also, a couple PCV's came into town to visit so we went out to one of the restaurants on the other side of the lake and were rewarded with this sunset view: 

Remember, I'm not adding filters to any of these pictures. 
        While together we chatted about our Macedonian experiences so far.  It's interesting how similar our lives are, our work, pay and food for example but also how vastly different things are for each of us.  For example, a business volunteer has vastly different challenges than a TEFL volunteer. It's much easier for us to integrate since we're with kids everyday and we see their parents around the villages.  They have to deal with sitting in an office, applying for grants and trying to get projects started in an unstructured environment.  We all laughed that they wouldn't want our jobs and vice versa. 

          This has been my morning view while I'm sipping on my coffee enjoying a moment alone: 

          Here's a shot of the old city and Samuil's Fortress:

          Lastly, I want to say happy birthday, среќен роденден, and congratulations to many of my family members back home. There have been several birthdays, graduations, a family history book and poetry book published plus other festivities. I'm proud of you all.