Toilet Paper

Part of the monthly stipend I pay my family is to go for “incidentals like toilet paper, coffee and tea”. Okay, I get that. Sounds fair. I’m not a huge “consumer” of TP–especially since we cannot flush it. I use the bidet and as little paper as I can. Paper here is not soft. Americans are terribly spoiled by their toilet paper. They seem to use industrial strength here. With that being said, we seem to go through a roll a day around here. Sometimes more. The men all use the Turkish toilet and I have no idea whether there is paper in there, nor what kind it might be. Nor do I intend to find out.

Paper towel TP

Last month about three or four days before “pay day” we ran out so I carried my packet of tissues with me every where I went. This month same situation but instead of having to use my tissues, I notice a “different roll ” of paper in there. One end of it is very ragged. The other  end is nice and smooth the way a normal roll would be . Oh, look, there is another roll sitting over there and it is the same. As a matter of fact they fit together like two halves of an apple. Oh, no! They have taken a roll of paper towels and cut it in half to serve as toilet paper. Almost as rough as the real stuff! Never let it be said that they lack for ingenuity. So today I bit the bullet and headed to town to buy toilet paper. I found an 8 pack on sale for 120 den. Actually managed to get it in the house without Nazifete seeing it. She didn’t even know I was home yet. I’m waiting for the reaction. Such is life in the second world.


Do you remember your grammar classes from high school? Maybe even grammar classes for a foreign language you took in school as well. It was maddening! Eight parts of speech, forty prepositions, regular and irregular verbs! All of it designed to make you crazy.!

My host brother was explaining the meaning of his new son’s name to me: Leutrim. He said that leu is the past of born and trim is brave. Oh, cool name! Then I started thinking. Past of born? Isn’t born the past participle. But of what verb. I’ll just look it  up in Merriam Webster. It will tell me. Imagine my surprise when good old MW tells me it is an adjective.  WHAT?! And the sample sentence is: He was born in July. Now I don’t know about you but that looks like a verb to me. What is the infinitive form? Oh, here it is: bear. The three principle parts of the verb are bear, bore, born(e). So how on God’s Green Earth has it become an adjective. I think it’s a verb in the Bible when it says, “For unto you is born a savior……” What would the adjective be modifying?  So I’m ready to fight Merriam Webster.

In other grammatical news…..English is sometimes so precise. Teach and learn, while related, are two totally different words with different meanings. The same with listen and hear. But in Shqip: mësoj is either teach or learn and dëgjoj is listen or hear. Shumë is many, much or very. Add an ‘s’ and it becomes the word for plural. Is it any wonder I just nod my head and say po (yes in Shqip)?

TW3 (That Was The Week That Was)

Busy, busy week. Practice Spelling Bee, GLOW meetings, doctor visits, massages and a new baby. Where do I begin?

PCV Visit - Eileen
Elsa, Eileen and Rudy

Last Saturday I opened the door to my room and Elsa was sitting on the threshold of my room. I sat down next to her and started chatting with her. Good thing I did. She needed distraction. Mommy and Daddy were getting ready to head to the hospital for the delivery of her baby brother. Oh, darn! There goes my translator for my visit with the General Counsel. I had her (Elsa) come in my room and gave her a box of crayons and printed off  some Hello Kitty! coloring pages. She never realized they had left. She was about as charming as she could be. The General Counsel fell in love with her and insisted on having a picture with her and me. After coffee and a bit of chat with my family while I served as translator, (what a joke that was) they left to take a quick trip to Matka Canyon and I dashed outside to catch a bus back downtown where my fellow foxes were waiting as was my turn with the masseuse ( a much needed massage, I must say). I also needed to deliver the charger for Sevime’s phone as they were admitting her to the hospital and going to do a C-section.

Baby was born that night but apparently hospital protocols are very different here in Macedonia. Once admitted, there are NO visitors. No one is permitted in the labor and delivery rooms except for the medical personnel. Even after the baby is born, Dad doesn’t get to see him/her until he takes mother and baby home. Very, very different. Certainly glad I was never subjected to that treatment.

My students were challenged to a “spell off” with the main school in our district. When Duli suggested it, I was a little leery. They are a school that is much larger than ours and have access to resources like copiers and computers. But we decided to do it and to invite the Bukoviq students to our school for the contest. Duli told me he was bringing 8 or 9 students. Well, I can see the bus stop from a window in the teacher’s room and saw the bus stop and about 25 students get off and start to walk to our school. Yikes! Where am I going to put that many students? Their 25 plus my 7  students.  On top of which my students saw how many were coming and they began to panic. “Teacher Eileen, teacher Eileen. You have to give us easy words.”

“Don’t worry. You know all of your words. Just take a deep breath and relax.”

We had been practicing for weeks. I had a great deal of confidence in my students but was a bit overwhelmed by the number that Duli had brought. He just shrugged his shoulders when I called him on it. Well, my kids certainly showed them up! When it was all done there were three students standing: all three were mine! So then they decided to challenge other students to soccer and volleyball. Again, my students emerged victorious. You could hear the chant of Arnaqi, Arnaqi all over the place. Needless to say, I was proud of them. Now our 6th and 7th graders have been challenged. I’ll have to see how that goes.

I had a final visit with the Physical Therapist, Dr. Slavitsa. She was very pleased with how well my leg is doing. The shoulder still needs work and she has given me some exercises to do with it but I don’t know if it will ever recover fully. I can not reach my arm up far enough behind me to unfasten my bra and I don’t know that these exercises will correct that. However, my son suggested I find a boyfriend to help out with that. Thanks, but no thanks!

One of the newer dormitories
Main entrance of the camp

Friday was an early day even for me. I had to  be up at 0300 to get ready to catch the first bus out of the village at about 0500 so I could catch the 0600 bus to Manastir for a GLOW meeting. After 3.5 hours of sitting, I got to take a nice stroll through the city park to meet up with colleagues and sit for another three hours. The meeting was quite productive and we got a lot of answers to questions we had. I still do not have information on layout of sleeping rooms so that we can assign people. Think it is going to be  complicated but Emi and I will figure it out. After the meeting, we had a lovely lunch and some well deserved wine  to prep me for the 3.5 hours of sitting on the way home. By the time I got home, I had a very numb backside.

So my weekend was devoted to catching up on my online course and just relaxing. I have a second course starting on Monday so will be very busy for a couple of weeks on courses. I am currently doing a course on religion and conflict and beginning one on researching your ancestry. Trying to keep this brain of mine engaged instead of letting it sink into senility. However, religions of the world have always fascinated me and how they hold sway over so many people and impact events in the world.


Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee is an annual event here in Macedonia sponsored in part by the US Embassy. We do the spelling bee a bit differently than most are familiar with. The students write the words on the board and are judged on that as opposed to oral performance. We do local bees in our own schools or communities, then six regional ones and finally the national bee. I’m preparing my students in grades 5 -9. I have some amazing kids. They don’t have a clue what the words mean but they sure can spell them. We do provide them with translations of the words in their native language but they generally pay no attention to that.

Most of my students who wish to compete are girls. About as cute as you can get. And they love excelling at this. We try to practice for ten or fifteen minutes after school but usually only one grade at a time. Yesterday both the 7th and the 8th graders wanted to practice. They are learning words from separate lists and so I can’t just call out  one word and have them all write it down on the board. One for 8th, one for 7th. They all want immediate feedback and as soon as they finish writing and start calling out, “Teacher, I? Teacher, I?” Took me a while when they first said this but they would point to themselves when they said it so I gathered it to mean, Teacher am I correct? Needless to say it evolved into organized chaos but we had a lot of fun.

One of the methods I am using to help them learn their words is to use an online program to create daily tests that they can take on their smart phones, tablets or just on the computer. If they can use their electronics, they are thrilled. Want to try? Go to Socrative and enter room name R69BNISG. Join the room and then enter your name. Don’t worry, I’m the only one who can see results. Now begin. Can you compete with my students? Most of the words on this test are 8th/9th grade words. There are a few 1st and 2nd year HS words but we haven’t really started working on them a lot yet. That will be next week.

Çdo ditë

It’s March! And every day brings a new spring surprise. I look up to the hill and I see trees starting to bloom. I look across the street to the xamija and the willow tree is nice and green. As I ride the bus in Skopje I see forsythia in bloom. The birds are singing outside my bedroom window. AND… I saw my first dandelion! Spring has arrived early here. I’m not foolish enough to think that we won’t still have a couple more blustery days but it gladdens my heart when I see all of this new growth around me. We had a very mild winter. It snowed once and fortunately I was in Rome when that happened. Spring is absolutely glorious here. The brightness of the colors almost hurts your eyes.

Therapy is going well  but about to end. Peace Corps pays for 10 sessions and then it is on you. However, since they are working on my ankle, my knee and my shoulder, they may be able to fund a few extra sessions. It’s been mostly electro-stimulation therapy with minimal physical manipulation. The swelling has gone down in my ankle and so far I haven’t needed the shot in my knee. Here’s hoping I don’t need it. The shoulder on the other had still has range of motion limitations and I’m not sure that is going to be fixed by therapy. I think a sharp hammer to the shoulder would be more effective!

I am being visited on Saturday by a VIP. The General Counsel for the Peace Corps is going to be visiting and wants to see how PCV’s live. I have been selected. He is coming for a mysafir at 1230 on Saturday which is an almost unbelievably early hour. However, they have a schedule for him and that is where I fit it in. I had to write a bio of myself to be included in the briefing book. I hate to  do those things. However, it is done and turned in.

Kathy, Cindy, Kathleen, Susie, Kathy, Eileen

This weekend also happens to be our next Foxes over Fifty Weekend. We so enjoy getting together and not having any agenda except to relax. We rent an apartment in Skopje for the weekend and share housekeeping duties. We have massages booked. The masseuse comes to the house and for 1000 denari gives us a 75 minute massage. I’ll have to wait until I come back from my VIP mysafir but it will be wonderful. We will drink wine and sit around and chat or read or knit. Just get time away from the day to day routine of life as a PCV.

And finally. I’ve pretty much decided that I am not going to extend my service. I have been too brutal on my body and I need to be at home to heal. So come November or December I should be back in the states. Besides which, my mother told me I have to come home and I always listen to my mother. (Ha!)