There have been plenty of times that I've captured some wonderful moments thanks to my camera. However, there are many, many more that no picture posted onto Facebook or Instagram can reproduce. These four mini-stories are just a few of those, I hope you enjoy them.
Every day the kids have their breakfast after second period at 9:25. They line up to get their toast sandwiches, gevrek or bread and yogurt. Then, without fail, a few of them rush to find me and ask if, “Teacher Logan ке играме футбол?” or “Teacher Logan we will play football?” I always answer, “Да, после јадете поуадук.” or “After you all eat breakfast.” Once everyone finishes their breakfast I go outside to get the ball rolling, quickly organizing the teams after the usual high fives, fist bumps and hugs.
A few weeks ago I was walking around the pitch, encouraging the girls to get in after the ball, I looked up at the mountains across the valley and was stopped cold. Directly in my line of sight a jutted section of the mountain was illuminated in perfect clarity by three massive beams of sunshine which had slipped through cracks in the clouds. The top third of the mountain was deeply covered in snow. As the wind blew from the back of the valley it cleared away the morning mists leaving us dry but it pushed those mists onto the mountain creating beautiful swells that rolled along its center. In the depression following the jutted mountain I could see snow falling on top of the mountain, the mist hovering over, rolling through and wrapping the village nestled at the base of the mountain. In the village each house lazily puffed its morning fire out into the mist.
Then, suddenly, a soccer ball flew into that view breaking my spell. I watched it land and felt a tiny pull on my sleeve. Looking down, it was fiesty Lupche, telling me to stop standing and help him get the ball. I reminded him to wipe off the bread crumbs and yogurt on his cheeks and then we were back to the game.
Father & Son
December and January are busy times for all of us but for my host family it’s exceptionally busy. The first winter I was here I was overwhelmed by all of the slavas and na gosti’s we went to. This past winter it slowed down but one night Goce, Petar and I went out together for a night of slavas.
On the way to our first visit we passed by the Ohrid airport. It’s a small, one-strip, airport but we could see one plane preparing to take off. So at Petar’s request Goce pulled over. The air was crisp and cold but not bitterly so. There were no clouds so the Moon and stars reflected off the lake behind the airport. Goce and Petar were together on one side of the car and I behind them on the other. Lighting his cigarette, Goce began to explain to Petar what the plane was doing and where it might be going. A few moments passed as we waited on the plane, Petar chatting excitedly, Goce commenting and I listening. Then the pilot was given the all clear, he lined the plane up, opened the throttle and was off. We watched as the heavy plane easily lifted into the night sky. Petar was enthrawed by it, voicing his approval in a long, “Ohhhhhhhhh!!”
Goce put out his second cigarette, patted Petar on the shoulder and they both got into the car. Smiling, I opened my door and got in, fortunate to have seen such a moment between father and son.
As my counterpart and I walked into our sixth grade class the students stood up and sat down following our order to sit. My counterpart began writing the day’s lesson in the red book and I had the students take off their Macedonian caps and put on their English caps. In the back of the class Martin, an intelligent and energetic kid, had a cast on his right arm. I checked the student’s homework and made sure to get to him last. I asked him how he hurt his arm, “I fall Teacher” and then asked where his homework was. He didn’t have it and said, “No writing Teacher, my arm.” I looked at him for two heartbeats and then walked to the front of the class. I grabbed the chalk and said, “I write with my right hand. Јас пишам со моу десно рака, така?” “Da” the class responded. I turned around and wrote with my left hand, “I can write with my left hand because I hurt my right arm many times.”
Standing up Julia grabbed another piece of chalk and began writing with her left hand. After she finished I looked at Martin and he just sighed, all excuses having left him. He turned around, pulled his notebook and English book out of his backpack and grabbed a pen. Walking back towards him I helped him move his stuff around and showed him how to hold the pen with his left hand. Then we resumed class, making sure to involve him a little more than usual.
Svetan & His Smilies
In my sixth grade class there is a kid who is the most “Macedonian” little boy in the entire school. His walk, attitude and outlook is pure Balkan. He’s incredibly intelligent, needs to be constantly challenged and can anwer any question with just a shoulder shrug or witty comment. Now, he can be a bit headstrong, loves to tormet the girls and is quite protective of his little sister. In other words he’s a typical 11 year old kid. At the beginning of every class I write the date on the board and then check the kids homework. One day I made a smily face next to the date and Svetan loved it. So for the next couple of weeks he too wrote a smiley next to his date and if I forgot it then he told me while pointing to the board “Teacher, smiley.”
One day I walked in, wrote the date down, turned around and immediately noticed that he was sitting away from the other kids. He didn’t have his homework out nor any books. He was looking down and not responding to my hellos. I asked the other kids what was wrong and they all shrugged their shoulders. I slowly coaxed him to get out his books and homework, despite his apathy. At that point I was a little worried because he’s never down or unresponsive. I checked his homework and instead of writing a check I just made a big smiley and said, “Don’t forget your smiley today Svetan.”
I went and checked the rest of the class then Julia and I began the lesson. Looking back at Svetan, I saw that his shoulders were high and his back straight again. By the end of class he was answering questions and was back to making witty but smart ass comments. Even the best of us need a smiley to return to our center.