Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daily Life Observations

Be consistent, be prepared and accept the plan will change. 

          After living here for the past 14 months I've noticed some things about life and how people interact. This isn't comprehensive but is from my experiences.

First Impressions:

Cash is king. 
Time, money and resources ebb and flow, you have to read the tides so you're always flowing the right way.
Never buy the round trip ticket only the one way ticket. 
Small talk is a lost art at times in the States but it's crucial here.
If you're at a na gosti or slava and you can't think of anything to talk about then ask someone what's their favorite type of rakia. Now you're golden for the next half hour.
You must politely refuse any food or drink twice before accepting on the third offer.
Nearly everyone knows some English, no matter how quiet they are so don't assume they can't understand you.
Every Macedonian has a family member in Australia, New Jersey, New York or Chicago.


Every vehicle is a stick shift no exceptions.
I'm always commuting via my bike, either to work or into town. It's seen as a little strange to people, especially since I wear a helmet, but it's crucial for me.
However, when it rains/snows, I'm on the bus and am prepared to chat away with everyone since we all know each other. 
Speaking of, this took me a while to accept but I add time to my commute just so I can chat with people. It only takes me 20 minutes to bike to Ohrid but I'll give myself twice that because I know people will want to say hi.
Wave, say hello, it's not hard.
Buses are wizards, never early nor late because they arrive precisely when they mean to.
If the bus is full sit in your assigned seat.


Everyone smokes, it sucks, accept it.
Ironically, smoking a cigar is seen as too strong yet smoking a pack of cigarettes before noon isn't.
Coffee is never to go and you never order it without sitting down first.
You never drink coffee alone. You certainly don't read a book alone either.
Your television might have 500 channels but you only watch two. Your choices are Sitel or Sitel.
It's highly entertaining watching my little dog chase the chickens and then listen to her scream bloody murder when the chickens chase her back.
Sweet and salty doesn't mix here. (No chocolate mousse with sea salt).
There are no mailboxes here. I didn't realize this for a while but I get my mail in two ways. If it's a package then a receipt is put into the front door so I can pick up the package in town. If it's a letter then the mailman will see either me or my host family around town and will give us our mail. Yes, you read that right.

When playing sports physical contact isn't appreciated. (I can't play basketball because I grew up as a foul being when blood was drawn. Here a foul is when you breath on them).

Small tricks I've picked up:

Never leave your house without your phone, phone charger/adapter and notebook/pen. Your phone will die or you might not be able to charge your phone but the notebook will always be used.
When I leave my place I pack my bag as if I'm gone for the entire day. You never know where you'll end up and if you'll need to change clothes.
Two words: Wet wipes.
Never leave your place with a full bag. 

Summer & Winter.

In the summer, you're going to sweat. The buses are cramped, hot and without AC. The baba's, old grandmothers, will get PISSED if you open a window since they think you'll catch a cold because of the wind. The buildings don't have central AC either so you're never comfortable. I've developed my stepfather's habit of always having a bandanna, UT orange, for perspiration management.
Never travel without water.
Due to the tourists summer can be frustrating in Ohrid. Last summer I only spoke Macedonian and made a point to remember the names of those that worked in the restaurants and shops. Now, people know I live here and respond in-kind.
Always haggle at the bazaar.

 In the winter, it's cold. The buildings don't have great insulation, they're all concrete or brick, so it's consistently chilly.
Don't leave the house without your scarf.
Layers matter.
The radiator is also your dryer.
A hot cup of chai, tea, is a great way to warm up.
If you're really cold, exercise in your room.
Unlike the air from a central venting system, here the air is never dry since you're being heated by a wood burning stove. The walls retain the heat and it feels quite nice.

          As more things come to mind I'll add to them in. 


  1. love hearing about the little tidbits, those are the unforgettable memories. Thank you for sharing

  2. Logan, I'll be tucking away your list for use when packing in August and after arrival in Macedonia. Your posts are always interesting, insightful and helpful to me as a teacher considering the upcoming experience. Thanks! Ted

    1. Ted, thanks for the read and support. We're looking forward to having y'all come and when you have a question about moving here or teaching don't hesitate to email me. Logan

  3. My favourite points...wet wipes, the radiator is also your dryer, your choice between sitel or sitel. You definitely hit the nail on the head!