Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Visiting home: Family, Friends, Food and A Wedding.

"Rocky Top you'll always be home sweet home to me.."

          Obviously, one of the toughest parts about serving in the Peace Corps is being away from home. I've been fortunate to have made a home here in Macedonia but in May I went back to my Tennessee home to visit family, friends and be in one of my best friends wedding. 
          Going back was something that I was really looking forward to but it was a whirlwind packing, celebrating Easter in Ohrid and then waiting on my flights. Amazingly, during my trans-atlantic flight I didn't have anyone sitting next to me. What a great omen. Yet the most wonderful feeling was sitting at the gate waiting for my flight to Nashville and listening to the people next to me talk in that Tennessee drawl. Oh how it warmed my heart to hear my native tongue again. 
          However it wasn't a slow vacation. I ran around East TN visiting friends, prepped for the wedding, watched movies, hung out with the family, gave two presentations about being a PCV in Macedonia and ate ribs, ice cream and hamburgers. It was glorious. 

The view of Northern Tennessee before landing. 
Nashville might be a boom town but downtown seems to be staying the same.
I popped into my old work for dinner. 
Both of these ladies listened to me talk about Peace Corps, the Azerbaijan debacle and then Macedonia for months so it was only fair we took some selfies. I was bummed to miss out on practicing with the Nashville Roo's for a night but there just wasn't time. 
Mom's homemade pumpkin muffins.
Finally met up with Peddi.
One of my requirements for my coworkers was to take pictures of property and things back home.   I felt as if I was a weird tourist because I took pictures of my neighborhood, Target, grocery stores, parking lots, malls, the interior of my middle school etc. 
Mmmmm sushi. 
Where my heart of hearts is:  The University of Tennessee.
Neyland Stadium. 
Ribs, need I say more. 
Enjoying dinner with family. 
Hanging out at Market Square.
So most of you know that one of my coworkers had these shirts made for my brother and I. However, Landon and I bought the same Mother's Day card, without knowing it, too. 
Gary laughed while manning the grill. 
Following Mother's Day I gave a presentation on being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia at my former middle school. I was a bit nervous that I wasn't going to entertain 150+ 8th graders so I made sure to show pictures of myself as an eight grader so it was relatable. 
My presentation was part of a series that my former math teacher had created. She wanted to have alumni share their experiences so her students could be inspired about life beyond school.  
What the students enjoyed most was hearing their names in Macedonian. 
Pops and I enjoyed road tripping together, and having our normal multifacated conversations, around East TN. 
The Appalachia's are a beautiful place. 
My man J. Koontz and I. This guy was the first to tell me to get moving and start applying for the Peace Corps. 
He, his hilarious wife and I met up at our favorite dive bar for beer and horseshoes. 
More good people, Markie and Josh.
Wedding Weekend

          Now one of the main reasons I came back home was to be in Zack's wedding. I was there when he and his fiancee first met so it was nice to be there when they tied the knot. Furthermore, I really enjoyed catching up with the guys in his wedding party. I've been around each of them but not together in a group. We made the most of our time together.

Handsome we are. 
Serious we're not. 
Thanks to my Ohrid tailor my suit fit like a glove.
You couldn't have asked for a better venue.
Walking the line and then waiting for pictures. 
"Dressing well is a form of good manners." Tom Ford
More waiting for group pictures. 
An excellent group shot. 
A pre-wedding beer. 
Then it was time for the ceremony. I felt honored to have been a part of it.
One of the best things about the wedding was catching up with so many people that I hadn't seen in years.
Dinner before the speeches of which I was the first to go.
Zack and Jess thanked everyone for coming and then we danced. A lot. 
Not every picture is perfect, I dig it.
A happy bride and groom. 
Reverse Culture Shock/Observations

          Now to be completely honest I didn't have major reverse culture shock. There were little things, no one smoked inside, the roads were broad and clean, the people much bigger than in the Balkans but I settled right back into it all after a few days. However, I did drive whenever I could because damn I missed driving.  It was also great being able to call people immediately on a phone, not wait for wifi or account for the time zone difference. That was the thing I enjoyed the most. 

          I also noticed that I took the time to chat with people. For example, I was waiting for Peddi to get off work so I grabbed a coffee at, yes, Starbucks. Not only was it way overpriced but I didn't really know what to order so I asked the cashier what was his favorite drink. He shook his head and then it registered that I was actually asking him his opinion. So we talked about the drinks, how his day was going and what not. I ordered the caramel coffee but he gave me a  small discount for simply chatting with him. This happened over and over to me in restaurants, bars, cafes you name it. It seems people, even in the polite South, have forgotten to chat with their acquaintances. 

          Lastly,  I was greatly impressed with the speed of the internet. I'd forgotten how fast, intuitive and seamless it is. I was also surprised by all of the inside jokes people had from their snapchats, meme's and whatever was the "issue of the day/week". That isn't to say those things don't exist in Macedonia it's just that not everyone has a smartphone so it's done more face to face. (Think America circa 2004).

          Finishing up, going home was wonderful. I was able to see many friends, family and enjoy delicious grub. It was also special being in Peddi's wedding. Yet the trip crystallized much for me. Following my return from living in South Korea I was adrift for a while and wasn't prepared for reintegrating into American life.  Now, I know how long of a process that will be. So I applied and was granted approval for a six month extension to my original contract. Now, I'll be in Macedonia until May 2017. This will give me time to finish up my projects at work and in my community. It will also give me time to apply and interview for work BEFORE returning home so I'm not adrift like I was when I returned from South Korea.

          Next up, I had two friends that I'd made in South Korea visit me here in Macedonia. We also went to Tirana, Albania but that's a story for my next post. Until then, cao. 

1 comment:

  1. "...the most wonderful feeling was sitting at the gate waiting for my flight to Nashville and listening to the people next to me talk in that Tennessee drawl. Oh how it warmed my heart to hear my native tongue again." ♥️