Thanksgiving Macedonian Style

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Dinner for 50?
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The carving team

Well, we did it!  We brought together our Albanian and Macedonian families for a festive feast at Relax Restaurant along with the mayor or the area and the media.   We made the food at locations all throughout the community. When it was all done and over with, there was nothing left except a few veggies. Even the carcasses of the Turkeys had disappeared. David and I did a great job of carving turkey so that it fed our guests and the wait staff. (Surprised us that they ate but we had plenty). And yes, I had wine with my meal and work!

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Holy molly!

My greatest regret was that I didn’t get a chance to eat any turkey. I had to leave for about 15 minutes and when I got back there was no turkey to eat–should have made a plate before I left. However, there was still some stuffing,  mashed potatoes and sauce (gravy) left and that left me reasonably content.

Making the meal was a challenge. Even though I figured out the Macedonian word for sage, I was unable to find it. Dried cranberries or canned ones were exorbitantly priced so we did without those. No pumpkin or pecan pies but we did have some delightful desserts made by our host families. But I am now making the shopping list for next year. I won’t have to cook for quite as many people but it will have authentic ingredients or perhaps I will just forget it all together and create a new tradition–one which celebrates joining Peace Corps and call it an international fest.

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Regan and Mims and Teuta
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Six of the Dobroshtë nine along with Teuta
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Monica and her family
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The Maksuti’s with current volunteer and future volunteer
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Monica’s and Regan’s families.

But a wonderful time was had by all.

Swearing In

It’s official! I’m a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer)! After almost three months, my status is now official. Tomorrow I will move to my new home in Arnaqia. Will be interesting to get to know my new community and new family. I am truly looking forward to it.

We are the women of Dobroshte
The women of Dobroshtë

It was a day full of laughs, tears and hugs.  It was truly amazing! Both our ambassador and country director had inspiring messages for us and had us in tears before the oath of office was administered. The President of Macedonia also spoke very movingly and I even understood a word here and there as he spoke.  Right now it is all soaking in…the incredible friendships made with both staff and fellow volunteers, the experience we are about to undertake, it all seems so surreal. We are truly a family now.

It is also Albanian Independence day and the flags are flying all over the place.  The mayor of the area gave each of us a flag to fly. Most of us want to keep it as a souvenir of our days in the heartland of the Macedonian Albanians. Someone suggested we wear it. Probably not the best idea. But the parties are going on all over the place–I can hear music playing outside my window and then men cheering and dancing.  I’m pretending they are dancing for me.

On to the next part of the adventure tomorrow!

Среќен денот на благодарноста

TOMORROW! Can hardly believe the day is here when I will take the oath to become an official Peace Corps Volunteer. This is when my two year commitment begins.  But first I must get through Thanksgiving Day. Must admit that I don’t feel much excitement about turkey day Macedonian style since I celebrated with family and friends prior to departing the states.  Think I would I would rather have roasted a chicken for my family and made a mini Thanksgiving to thank them for their hospitality and education for the last ten weeks and spend quality time with them. Perhaps that is what I will do next year.  And I can tell you that I have so many things to be thankful for: new family and friends; my ongoing healthy life style; knowing I will impact the lives of communities here in Macedonia; being a part of GLOW and helping young women develop their leadership abilities; and, of course, my supportive family in the states without whom I probably would have never been able to realize this dream, this item on my bucket list, this adventure of a lifetime.

I’m 95% packed. My luggage will be picked up tonight and delivered to my new home. I will arrive on Saturday with the balance of my belongings.  I do need to have clothes for tomorrow and Saturday so a few items will still be here along with the items that still are not dry from doing the laundry the other day. Fortunately it is not many items.

The mayor of this area gave all nine of us an Albanian flag to fly on flag day–which just also happens to be swearing in day.  The people here truly love the volunteers and have made every effort to welcome us into their homes, their culture, their families and their hearts. I know I will cry when I leave here on Saturday but I have to keep in mind that they are not far away and I will be able to come see them anytime I have free time. When I told them I hoped to visit at least once a month they told me that is not enough! It is nice to be loved.

I will now be free to travel around the country. One of the first places I want to go is Matka Canyon. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the Balkans. And fortunately for me, it is extremely close to my new home.  Hoping to make it to a wine festival on Valentine’s Day.  The winery in that area even has overnight accommodations.  I must say the few opportunities I have had to taste wine in this country I have not been disappointed. And they have all been incredibly reasonably priced. There are “expensive wines” but even those are not outrageous by US standards–$15 – $25.

But now to focus on денот на благодарноста! Gobble, gobble.

The Countdown Begins

All this time I have been nothing but a lowly trainee. No real status. But that is all about to change. Next Friday, I will be in Skopje with 43 other trainees and we will all be sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV). It is thrilling and scary all at once. We’ve been in the country a little over two months and now they are turning us loose. Wow! Stay tuned for more news of the newest group of PCV’s.

LPI

Tomorrow we do a practice LPI-language proficiency interview.  It starts out by asking us to tell the interviewer about ourselves and family.  This is basically what I have to say about me and my family. We have our choice of languages. Since I will be living with an Albanian family and teaching in an Albanian school, I have opted to go with gjuhë Shqip. I will still be studying Macedonian for the duration of my assignment. However, given the circumstances, it makes sense to put the primary focus on Shqip.  I managed to write this without having to look up very many words so I am making progress. I just tend to forget the umlaut on the letter e. Then I have to go back through and put it in place.

Në Amerikë jetoj në Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Unë jam në pension. Unë jam e martuar me Steven. Burri im është profesor në Universitetin e Central Michigan. Ai nuk është vullnetar i Korpusit të Paqes pēr sepse të shëndetit. Ai ka gjashtëdhjetë e shtatë vjet. Unë gjithasthu kam gjashtëdhjetë e shtatë vjet. Ai don te udhetojë në Maqedoni në korrik. Në kohë të lire unë lexoj shume libra, unë punoj në kuzhinë, më mbledhin pullat postare me gratë dhe lule.

Unë kam katër fëmijë–nje vajza dhe tre djemë. Vajzë ime, Kristina ka katërdhjetë e katër vjet. Ajo ka nje djali dhe nje vajzë. Ajo jeton në New York. Djali im James vdiq në aksident me ski. Djali im Joshua ka tredjhetë e tete vjet. Ai ka nje djalë dhe ai do të ketë  në mars nje vajzë. Ai jeton në Indiana. Djali im Jason ka tredjhetë e pesë vjet. Ai ka dy vajza.  Ai jeton në Denver, Colorado.

Nëna dhe motrat e mia jetojnë ne California. Nëna ime ka tetëdhjetë e gjashtë vjet. Motrat e mia janë më të reja. Judy ka gjashtëdhjetë e pesë vjet, Karen ka gjashtëdhjetë e tre vjet, Barbara ka gjasthëdhjetë vjet. Unë nuk kam vëllezër.

GLOW-ing

This has been a pretty incredible week for me. Where do I start? Saturday was my birthday and I shared some mini cakes with my host family. I had birthday wishes from each and every one and hugs from all except Imer (would not be appropriate for him to hug a woman that is not his mother). And I thought, “What a quiet and lovely birthday.” Spent much of the day working on homework as we are racing to the finish line of our training.

Sunday dawns another gray day but I am going to Teuta’s house later for mysafir (cake and coffee) and then will  finish my homework. When I get to Teuta’s she has a full lunch for me. However, just before I left the house Hanife shows me that she has made me kifli and a cake for dinner. Oh dear. How do I not hurt anyone’s feelings? I eat lunch with Teuta, have coffee and a tres leches cake that she made for me and help her with a visa application for her parents to visit the states. As I am leaving, they tell me that I am now part of their family.  Awwww.

Go home and and they want to eat–now. Okay, let me see if I can choke down some more food and more tres leches cake. (It is a very popular cake here.) Okay, that’s done and now go up to finish my homework. All done, take a shower and get ready for bed, turn out the light and turn on my Kindle light and  read in bed for a while. All of a sudden there is a knock on my door and people come in singing and flashing cameras.  It is my training group come to wish me a happy birthday late. They stayed for about 45 minutes and then left. They are an incredibly wonderful and loving group of volunteers. But finally, this birthday nonsense is over! Not!

Next day at school I have candy to share with friends to celebrate my birthday. They have other plans. They have made a cake for Ana and me. (Our Macedonian teacher and I share a birthday.) More sweets, more singing and now it is finally over. And our teachers announce we have something new to master before swearing in: Химна на Македонија. Never a dull moment.

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So now I’m curious. I haven’t heard anything from my GLOW interview and the others who interviewed had all received an email. (GLOW–Girls Leading Our World). Let me send them an email and get my official rejection. Surprise! I’m not rejected! They want me to be the sustainability coordinator which was my first choice.  If you are interested in learning more about the program, visit this link GLOW Macedonia  Okay, Guess I’m kind of busy at the end of July the next two years. No visits then, please!

Wednesday dawns another gray day (we seem to have a lot of those) and I know it is a long day. Language class, TEFL class and tutoring. From 08.00 – 18.00. As the TEFL trainers arrive they come waltzing in with four big boxes! Wow, another jackpot day. Oh, here is the stamp album I ordered, my box of Christmas decorations and another one of Christmas shirts and one with a birthday sweater. Everyone was incredibly jealous. Customs has a tendency to stop all boxes and open them for inspection and then repack them removing what they want to remove. I have not lost much so far but it does not make me happy. Not sure about letters. I have been waiting for a letter for over a month that has my keyboard decals in it. Suspect it has been pilfered!

Today was a relatively normal day except that we went to Relax for lunch. Lovely restaurant up on the side of the mountain. There are no taxis so we have to walk. Good for us. I had a shopska salad and some Spaghetti Bolognese. Ahhhh the good life. Considered wine but the wine would have cost more than the whole meal so passed on it. I’ll have wine with dinner tomorrow when we dine out in the thriving metropolis of Skopje.

Thanks to everyone who is collecting craft supplies. I will have an address for you soon. The village my school is in is Arnaqia and it does not have a post office so I have to find out how to get mail to the school.

Hanging in there…….

Site visit re-cap

I am going to thoroughly enjoy my time in Arnaqija. It is one of the villages surrounding Saraj which is one of the provinces which makes up Skopje. I’ve already figured out how to get into town and find City Mall and the American Corner. So those are great goals accomplished.  I have met my co-teacher and she is an absolute delight. The kids in the class are quite good and are anxious for me to be there.  Have met a number of the other teachers and they also are very warm and welcoming.  I have also co-hosted my first cooking night at the American Corner and look forward to carrying forward this tradition.  Simple American foods. I just have to think up a name for my course. Suggestions are welcome.

American Corner is a resource center sponsored by the American Embassy for people wanting to learn more about America. They have books, movies, magazines, computers and classes. The cooking class is an introduction to American culture. They also do classes to prep people for the GRE and TEFL and other classes as  resources and/or interest is expressed. It is a place for people to practice speaking American English. I’m so glad I got introduced to this early in my service so I will. It is a great way to begin community integration.

Discovered that my school is visible from the freeway as I was making my way home. Beverly dropped me at City Mall and said, just grab a bus or Kombi labeled for Tetovo to get home. After sitting there for almost an hour, here came my bus. (Think I had just missed the previous one but nature called and I had to answer that call before getting on a bus.) Once I got to Tetovo, it was time to navigate a traditional Kombi to get home to Dobroshtë. I obviously did it! Now in three weeks I will move there. I will try to get pictures of my new family up once I move there.

Have been thinking of a number of projects to do with and for my classes. The classrooms are very sterile and I hope to change that. I am going to begging for craft supplies to be sent to me to help jazz up the rooms. If anyone sees felt squares and/or glitter glue pens on sale at a craft store (please not Hobby Lobby!), please let me know and I will negotiate with you on how to get them to me and for me to pay you. (Remember, I’m a poorly paid volunteer.) Other craft supplies will be appreciated as well. Have not seen any craft stores here yet but surely they must exist.

Do not have a post office in my new community so am going to work with the servicing post office to deliver my mail to the school where I will be working. Stay tuned for that address. . The name of the school is Shkolla Emin Duraku. Does not seem to be online. However, the person it was named for has a little information here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emin_Duraku. I’m actually buying a stamp with that image on it. Nice to have connections.

Speaking of connections……I found a stamp dealer here in Macedonia. As I was talking to him, I found out that his sister happens to be the owner of the building the Peace Corps is currently located in. Talk about a small world! Wow!

And just as an FYI for anyone who may be concerned, we received a safety and security notice today from our security officer. Nothing to be terribly concerned about but nice to know that we have such capable people monitoring our safety and security.

More challenges

Well, I am visiting my new site and the school is delightful except for the fact that the bathrooms are exclusively Turkish toilets.  And, oh yes, you need to bring your own TP with you! The first grade classroom is an absolute delight. I will enjoy working in there. The other five or six classsrooms are pretty standard. There is even a decent computer lab. There are two teacher lounges–one smoking, one non smoking.  The school is heated by wood stoves in each room. Do not yet know if I will be responsible for stoking the fires or not.  The school operates on two shifts, so I will more than likely have very long days.

Next is my home stay family. First of all, it is large.  There is a husband and wife, Haxhbi and Nazifete–both in their fifties.  Next we have married son with his wife and 2 year old daughter.  Additionally we have an unmarried son and daughter living in the house as well. And Eileen makes the 8th person in the house.  As you walk in the house, you walk into the kitchen/dining room/laundry room. It is surrounded by three living rooms. Upstairs are three bedrooms and the bathroom. No toilet seat on the toilet and no toilet paper of any kind–only a bidet–time to learn new skills! Great adventures in store for me as I learn to adapt to a new and fascinating culture and build my language skills.

Stay tuned!

Big day

Tomorrow marks a new day in my independence. I will be going to my new site for what is affectionately known as “Site Visit.”I will be meeting my counterpart for the first time and my new host family. The new host family has children of about the same age as the family with whom I am currently living. The oldest son is married and he and his wife live there as well. Both this son and the father are teachers in the school system in which I will be working. I don’t know how much  if any English they speak but we have been doing cram courses in phrases we might need. We even got a security sheet of terms to know in case of trouble–like fire!, I’ve been robbed, ambulance.  After January, I will be the only American in the immediate area. So it will be swim or sink–I intend to swim!

My current family is very sad that I will soon be parting on a permanent basis. They keep saying, “Nuk shkoj” – Don’t go. I have a hard time convincing them that I have no choices in the matter. I have promised them that I will return soon for a visit. After all Mirlinda is getting married in August. I have to be here for the wedding–it will be traditional Muslim. I will miss them a lot but I’m ready for the real adventure to begin.

Mirdita
Mirdita and fiancé
Mirlinda
Mirlinda and fiancé 

 

 

 

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