Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 1 in Tetovo with Jen

On 9/30 we explored Tetovo! And boy did we (accidentally) walk about 6 or 7 kilometers today! Since we had decided not to go to Ohrid, I was going to go back to Skopje today by bus or combi (van type thingys). But we got an invite to go hiking with some peace corps volunteers on Sat to this fortress up the hill with them, then to the American Corner for a GLOW meeting (Girls Leading Our World- basically a Peace Corps run organization for girls).
But back to the day at hand.

We started off by going to eat breakfast at this burektora called Midpoint. I had a yummy jelly filled croissant and Jen had a strawberry filled doughnut. We then went to this defense of a Master’s thesis on “Service Learning in English Teaching” or something like that. Basically her premise was that service learning was critical to learning real English. It was interesting, but I would have also liked to know exactly what type of service learning can you do for English speaking? She mentioned some translation work- but you really have to be pretty fluent for that to work out, so I have no clue.

Then Jen showed me her office and we stopped to talk to Vesna and see how she was doing (she got sick yesterday- we are taking vitamin c!). Then it was off to explore. We stopped for a lunch of burek (My first burek, so it gets a pic):

 We wanted to go to the Painted Mosque,

but it was closed for the Turkish Prime Minister (who incidentally also shut down the T-Mobile internet and cell phone coverage for about an hour earlier this morning- no we don’t really know why. But due to his diplomatic powers, I also got woken up by helicopter yesterday and all traffic lights in Skopje weren’t working). So I whipped out my secret picture taking skills and grabbed these:

We crossed the street and went in to this old bath that is now an art gallery and took some pictures and, of course, looked at the art!

Then we wandered downtown (after stopping at some random shoe store, but more on that later!) and tried to find this wall that just showed some of the signs of the conflict of 2001 that I had seen yesterday and was so provoking in the cool dim sun-setting light. Well, we found it. Not as cool in daylight, but still a bit haunting.

History (taken from my thesis, which I have to cite according to plagiarism rules: Cassidy *, What’s In A Name? EU Foreign Policy Through the FYROM, Boca Raton: Florida Atlantic University, 2011, 45-46):
Then later in 2001, violent conflict broke out between the two ethnicities. A group of Albanians, believing that their political parties had abandoned them began to fight for more rights and greater equality between ethnicities.[1] It became immediately clear that the FYRM’s security forces would be unable to handle the challenges they faced. Their forces were undersupplied and did not have the labor to put the rebellion down. The EU and NATO stepped in, four months later in early July, to help mediate a cease-fire between the rebels and the government forces.[2] The parties in conflict finally reached a framework agreement at Ohrid in August. The Ohrid Framework Agreement, as it was called, was a landmark agreement that was to promote the development of the FYRM and make sure that the state was acting in the best interests of all the citizens of the FYRM. There are five basic principles that were agreed upon in the framework:
1)     To reject the use of violence for political means
2)     To reject territorial solutions to ethnic issues
3)     The multiethnic character of the citizens must be reflected in public life.
4)     The constitution must meet the needs of the citizens and the highest standards of the international community (which are evolving, as the constitution must also)
5)     Local self-government is essential[3]

In addition to recognizing the essential role of local self-government, the agreement went on to state the powers of local government; they shall have power over issues relating to “public service, urban and rural planning, environmental protection, local economic development, culture, local finances, education, social welfare, and health care.”[4] The framework also stated that any laws made relating to the “culture, use of language, education, personal documentation, and use of symbols must receive a majority of votes”[5] including a majority of the minority in the legislature. The agreement also finally agreed to instruction in the native language of the minority, but required those who do not speak Macedonian to also have Macedonian language instruction.[6]  The years between 2001 and 2004 were filled with recovery and rebuilding. Eventually the legislature passed laws that allowed for the Albanian flag to fly next to the Macedonian one in 2005.[7]

[1] Pond, 172
[2] Panev, 616
[3] Ohrid Framework Agreement,, 13 Aug 2001, accessed 30 Dec 2010, 1.
[4] Ohrid Framework Agreement, 1
[5] Ohrid Framework Agreement, 2
[6] Ohrid Framework Agreement, 3
[7] RFE/RL Newsline, “Macedonian Government Takes on the Flag Question,” June 1, 2005 in Pond, 183
Then we got really delicious, and I mean SUPER best-ice-cream-I-have-ever-had-in-my-life delicious, ice cream. It was so creamy and yummy. I had blueberry and what turned out to be banana. They were even making the ice cream right there in front of us (not the kind we got, but still).We stopped off at the American Corner to see if they could give us a bit of info on this culture fest that the city was having later this night. It is a lot smaller than the one in Skopje (to be expected) but still very nice.

Then it was the long walk home. All 2.5 km of it. And boy did we feel it. We did stop to buy some food stuff to make for dinner instead of going out to get food. And buy bread, pitcher for tea, and shoes. I have been looking for some boots for fall and didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so haven’t gotten any boots. Well this store (with most stuff made and shipped from China had these size 41 (Europe size) boots for, oh about $17.78. They fit great and were a small enough heel and had some traction for wet sidewalks. So I decided to get them- if they fall apart, they fall apart, but it was only $17.78.

Once we got back, we both collapsed for a bit and then decided to make dinner:

Then more relaxing and bed for our early morning walk up the hill (and back down).

Jen's Birthday Surprise!

Today is, obviously by the title of the post, Jen’s birthday! So I decided to surprise her with a trip to Tetovo. Her co-worker Vesna (the lady who drove us to the Ambassadorial reception) was going to be in Skopje and offered to drive me back to Tetovo to surprise her!

I met Vesna (late) at 2:30pm and we made a few stops in Skopje before heading to Tetovo. One place was a pet store and a super nice kitty came out to greet me and tried to convince me that she needed to be in the car exploring rather than on the ground or in my lap getting petted. Needless to say, we disagreed. However, I got to pet a cat for a bit which made me smile.

There are a lot of homeless dogs and cats around here and there is only so much you can do (like if you have some left over food give them a bit at dinner). And you can’t really pet them because you don’t know what they might be carrying.

When we arrived on campus at South East European University (SEEU/”Sthoul” in common knowledge for the guy who founded it) where Jen is teaching and began walking (in a tour-like way) to the language building. At one point, we see Jen in front of us going to the little mini-market. We quickly duck to a bench and pretend to not see her and hope she doesn’t see us! (She doesn’t).Vensa then goes and clocks out, and we walk back to Jen’s dorm room. We see her walking towards us, so we just keep walking. Jen later told us that she saw two people smiling at her and was like “Those people are smiling at me!” because it is weird for people to smile as often as we do in the States. Then she realized who it was. Lol.

We went out to Bela Mia (Бела Миа) for dinner. It has traditional Macedonian food as well as the staple of pizza! We shared a Greek Salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese, olives, and onions). I had pizza, Jen had a hamburger thing (ground beef patty thing, but not a burger), and Vensa had some sort of fried meat (yea, real descriptive on that stuff I don’t eat, huh?).

Afterwards we went to Jugo, a “Bed, Bath, and Home” store. Basically it was just a Bed, Bath, and Beyond because Jen needed (well, I needed) sheets for her extra bed. I was even able to take a picture for a friend, who knows who she is coughashleycough.

And had dessert at this café at the mall, called Exclusive Café! They had ice cream, but I was too cold for that and ordered a cherry cake and hot chocolate (forgetting that their hot chocolate is like melted chocolate not “real” hot chocolate). We sat there enjoying our desserts. This is some of the views from the store area.

Then it was off to this art show/reception thingy as part of this culture week. They had some really cool hard carved wood work as well as this:

We thought it looked like “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” but figured that was NOT the intention of the artist.

Then back to Jen’s place where we just hung out and tried to get the internet to work for me. It never really did, until this awesome guy who works for the university came over and fixed it for me. I then said, I think I know how to do it now.

And then he deleted it and made me do it again!

But he helped when I had problems, but it was still good. And now I can help people who come over to Jen’s try to figure out the settings.

If you guys have ever been to my house, you know there is a cannon in the front yard. Well, my Gramps (mom's dad) was on this kick of building old looking guns awhile back and we got a cannon out of it. But Did ya know that you can by a pre-fab cannon for your house for the simple cost of shipping from Macedonia plus whater this cost? (It had no price tag on it)

See you around the globe!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rental agreements and Vero!

Erin and I went to get our rental agreements notarized today. Something I will need to be allowed to stay in the country longer than 90 days out of every 180.

Then we went to Vero Supercenter. It is just another grocery store in a mall. But is more in the Wal-mart we have (almost) everything style.

The weird part is that they built it with a café/food court above the shopping center. So you can have your coffee and watch people shop- or, as it was explained to me, your husband can watch you shop while having his coffee. However, it would be kinda weird to be shopping for feminine hygiene products while guys stare at you. And that aisle is exactly under the biggest café. So a little weird, but luckily no one was actually watching people shop.

Note the fake grass on top of the dairy asile.  

Note the cafe for watching people...

We wandered around the store and found some items we can’t find elsewhere:

-Tofu!!!! I know seriously! It is AWESOME!
-Nacho cheese, tortilla chips, Mexican rice, taco shells, taco seasoning
-Vegetable bouillon (I know- weird, the other store doesn’t have it)
-Sweet stuff layers- like in desserts
-Sun dried tomatoes (does anyone know the difference between the dried ones and the ones in oil?
-Sip-lock baggies (no people here don’t seem to use them, it must be a part of the lack of microwave culture as well- another thing I am having trouble getting used to. I usually cook big meals and microwave them for the week- now  I have to cook every day, very time consuming.)

And there was other stuff, but we only got that stuff. But it is nice to know that we can go here and get some stuff that is nice and reminds me of home.

So it is pretty nice. However, I have a little bit of a sore throat and head cold. So not so nice. I went and got tea and throat lozenges today. And ice cream- it seems to help. (what? I’m claiming it numbs it the throat and helps, now don’t argue with me!

And I leave you with a funny picture:

See you around the globe!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Earthquakes and Ambassadorial Receptions

Another earthquake today! See here, because the US geological society fails. This is turning into a pattern. This one was only a 2.7 but felt a lot worse than the other one because it was only 3 km east of Skopje. It was only one jerk however, so nothing too bad.

I also attended a reception for the Ambassador at the DCM (2nd in command) house. We got to meet him again and his wife (which I had already met at the IWA meeting). And a bunch of other people who are important in some way or another but who's names escape me. A director of an international school, former Fulbrights to the US, dean of some university, etc.

This is the only picture I have, but the house looked awesome!
Jen, me, Vesna
 (works at Jen's university and was super nice enough to drive us!)

See you around the globe!

Saturday Experiences!

Today started  with a earthquake.

No really. An earthquake. But we couldn’t figure out if it was actually an earthquake or not.

 I had just woken up and was actually going to the bathroom when the toilet moved side to side for about 2 seconds, like if a someone was doing work or something.

About 30 seconds later Erin came out was all “Did you feel that? Do you think it was an earthquake? I was lying in bed and suddenly was moving.”

We go to look it up online, but nothing shows up, so we shrug it off.

 Later, I am looking on Facebook (which is horrible right now and has changed beyond use. So that is super annoying!) and see Daniel post that he felt his first earthquake today and that someone else posts that they didn’t feel it but everyone is talking about it!

I do the normal thing and google it. And find that yes it was actually an earthquake! Oops! It was a 4.2 magnitude about 37 miles southeast of Skopje. From what I can tell it was 8 miles underground? I have no clue how to read this stuff: US Geological Survey.

However, after that Jen came over and we went exploring!

We started off at the City Museum (the one near where I live) which had an exhibit from Japanese artists. It was pretty cool-lots of interesting more modern stuff and some really good ones. The other half of this old Railway Station is a museum of the city itself. Everything on this side was in Macedonian. But we had fun trying to translate stuff.

They had the first lift in Skopje (if my translation is correct). Old clothing and photo albums from Communist times, really old stuff from Romanesque times, and set up of some 50’s and 70’s style houses. Complete with yarn loop thing portrait of some guy:

Then we walked down Улитса Македонија (Macedonian Street) which is apparently celebrating 100 years today. Which meant lots of people there and even some in period dress:

Then we went to the Mother Theresa Museum. Did you know she was Macedonian? No, well neither did I! They have a museum here dedicated to her and her life. It’s kinda cool.

Then it was off to Plaza de Torres for lunch.

We then headed off to the National Gallery of Macedonia in this old Turkish Bath. It had a lot of really cool art work and architecture. See:

We then went off to Chartija (old town) to just wander around and go to the Bit Bazaar, or a market full of stuff. Want anything? Go to Bit Bazaar. Clothes? Bit Bazaar. Food? Bit Bazaar. Accessories? Bit Bazaar. Bathroom plumbing? Bit Bazaar. It’s cool to just wander around.

Then we went off to meet up with Erin and get some boza. However, we first went to see this jeweler that Erin uses for silver filigree. And ended up at tea with him for about an hour. He was super nice.

We tried to get boza, and did, but then we had to rush to go meet Vesna, Jen’s ride home.

Then home and relaxing. Then a surprise going out until 2 am with Ognen who wanted to forget that his aunt had just suddenly passed away.

 We went to old town and hung out there. After a while we went to the street celebration and danced to 1950s to 1980s music which was apparently really popular in Yugoslavia!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Secuirty Briefing

On Tuesday Jen came in from Tetovo to spend the night so we could all go to the Security Briefing together the next day. And it was rainy and cold for the first time.

It rained all day.

On Wednesday we woke up and went to the Embassy. Our program started at 10:30 officially, but we were told to be there at least 15 minutes early so that we can get through security. We had to give up our passports to the nice Marines/local security forces at the door. Then walk through security, and like the US Consulate in St. Petersburg we had to turn off and give up our cell phones. (I had learned from there not to even attempt to bring in my chapstick! Or bottle of water.)

Then Gazmend, the “Educational Affairs Assistant”/main point of contact at the Embassy, came and got us to show us where to go/we weren’t allowed to be on our own. At one point he said “Welcome Home!” And in a way, it was true. All US Embassies are US soil, so we were kinda home.

Once all 5 of us arrived, we began with a security briefing by the “Regional Security Officer” (because her real term of “agent” has negative connotations in some countries). The good thing is that nothing really bad happens to Americans. The last “attack” was non-sexual in nature against a women who was jogging alone with ear plugs in in a remote place of the city in 2006.

We will however possibly have demonstrations about anything or everything. And like any big gathering, they have the possibility of turning violent.

Also, since traffic laws are different and accidents are common, always be careful. I mean you have to dodge mopeds, scooters, bikes, cars, trucks, semis, and donkey drawn carriages.

You may face pick-pockets (but never in a family or women with children). And if you are silly enough to leave stuff out in the open in your car, then it might get broken into and stolen. (like some KFOR guy’s camera last month)

Also, there are no Good Samaritan laws, so we are advised to turn and go the other way. Which, for me goes against all of my CPR/First-aid/CERT training. (Don’t know what CERT is? Check it out here and then get involved!)

We also got to talk to /”meet” the Ambassador for about 10-15 minutes. He seemed nice and genuinely interested in our projects- however, this is his second week in Macedonia as an Ambassador. (I arrived in country before him by a week. Lol). He said he wants to follow our projects or whatever gets published from them.

And I observed something weird- everyone stands when he (or any Ambassador would be my guess) or high level embassy employee comes or goes. Like they walk in the door/leave/get-up and everyone stands. Like we are back in the 1500s with Kings or Queens or in the Military. It seems a little antiquated to me. “Well it is a sign of respect,” you say. Then why MAKE people do it? Is it still respectful if you are required to do it?  But, hey this is just my personal opinion. (And I will totally be the ones mandated to stand in a few years [hopefully] and will do it, but…still kinda weird to me).

We then got to talk to Carolyn, the Consular Section Chief, who told us about services for American Citizens and she mentioned the safety issues we might encounter.  We can mail our ballots from there (but not taxes, as those are considered private compared to public voting?) and have things notarized. But we can’t get fingerprinted (a worry for me as I will need it done for Teach For America next spring).

Then, Agron a Program Assistant who oversees the Small Grants given to local non-profits, told us about the grants and encouraged us to help some local NGOS write grants for projects to get funded. He was really nice too.

Then closing thoughts, and lunch in the café they have. I had „помфритс“ and „шопска салад“ or French fries and shopska salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, and cerene (which they translate as feta, but it is not feat as we know it in the states).

After we left (and got our passports back) Daniel, Jen, Lizzie and I caught a taxi back downtown. We met Angie, Daniel’s wife, at Ramstore with the kids and had a yummy desert. I got this cake with vanilla cream, whipped cream thing covered in chocolate with chocolate sprinkles!  For only 80 denar or abour $2. And it was soooo yummy. And filling.

 The Embassy had also given us a welcome packet with some helpful words in Macedonian, taxi numbers, hotel numbers, things about tipping or pharmacies or other living information for those living in Skopje. However, the packet is technically for US Embassy staff and families as it had some info that didn’t pertain to us Fulbrighters, but was still good information.

See you around the globe!

*There are no pictures to accompany this post, as it is forwned upon to take pictues in, around or of government buildings in Macedonia*

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to make Charlot. чарлот

I learned this recipe in Russia from my host mother. It is a little cake thing that you can make with any fruit. Right now, I can buy a kilo of plums for about 15 MKD (or roughly $0.50), so I thought it would be a great thing to make!

You will need:
2.5 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup water
3 eggs
diced fruit
(round pan to bake it in)

 the diced plums (about 1/2 a kilo)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Dice fruit and place in pan (you can grease it or not).
  3. Mix sugar,  flour, eggs, and water in a bowl.
  4. Pour mixture over the fruit.
  5. Lower oven temp to 325 F.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

what it looks like uncooked and placed in the oven.

Finished product!

Your final step is to enjoy! Like we obviously did!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The (3rd to last) Major Basketball Game!

I left off with "we were going to watch the basketball game:

They won the basketball game! And made it to the Semi-Finals of the Euro Basket.

And the celebration started!

We heard a bit of it and decided to go out and see what it was all about.

People were more excited than on independence day! No joke. Car horns honking, random fireworks (both professional and individual), big chanting sports songs, people driving with flags, police just standing around while pedestrians literally stopped traffic on a major through fare, bus drivers who just waited for  the crowd to die down rather than drive through it, mini parades of high-school and college age students, grandma’s yelling and dancing, and the Foreign Minister pausing for pictures.

We stood around in the square and just joined in the celebration for a bit! Then it was ice cream and off to hang out with some other friends at a bar in the Old Town.

 Then sleep. Lots of sleep.

See you around the globe!

P.S- the reason it was so important is that it was an Olympic qualifying game for London 2012. So if they win the game tonight, they WILL be going to the Olympics! Here's to hoping!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The week so far!

So, my updates will get fewer and further between unless I do something exciting. I will do some “this is what my daily life” is post, but mainly I seem to be sitting at home, going out for ice cream, reading some books or networking.
On Monday (9/12) I went and showed Lizzie (ETA Bitola) around with Erin and we ate at this little famous Inn, which and super overpriced food and not that yummy either. I wouldn’t go. The waiter was nice, but food not so good.
Then we hung out and watch awful wonderful Indian soap operas with the most amazing video shots ever! *close up of one guy* *close up of a girl* *back to guy**back to girl* all with rising music!

We went to watch the EuroBasket game against Russia. Macedonia lost after they added more seconds back after a foul by Macedonia. How this was a foul- I do NOT know! Russian guy throws ball in Macedonian guys face, w/o Macedonian guy moving into the way of the ball….Macedonia gets the fault.

On Tuesday I went to Euro Balkan Institute to meet with them and see what I will be doing.

And my project changed for the first time.

I was lead to believe that classes were in English, but they are only in Macedonian.

However, they have a huge library that has lots of cool books! And they are trying to help me make some connections.

So excited.

The institute is in house- basement, ground floor, second floor, third floor. The library is in the basement with the kitchen and one office. The ground floor has the main office, the main classroom, and an office. The second floor has 3 offices: the head of postgrad work, other office (where I will be working!) and another office! The top floor has the director’s office as well as another classroom.

Pics will come soon, I promise!

Then Erin and I met Lizzie downtown and went to the Contemporary Art Museum. It was interesting, but I’m not a HUGE fan of contemporary art- but some of it was interesting.

 Try reading THAT quickly

 Looking towards Kale at the Art Museum

On our way back we stopped for “боза со боронизса“ (boza so broznitza) or (boza) with blueberries. Yummy!!! My new favorite drink! It is a fermented malt drink made from corn or wheat or millet. Has a thick consistency and low alcohol content. But is so yummy!

Then we went to Amigos- “the only Mexican place in town.” With a tag line like that, what else do you need?

It was actually pretty good. I had nachos- with cheese, beans, sour cream, corn, and peas. I thought it also had rice, but no such luck. It was also filling. Although I had to argue with the waiter to not add more cheese to it because it would be “cold” and I shouldn’t eat it “cold” (even though it was almost 100 outside and very humid. And it was served with hot cheese like I ordered….but I digress.

Wednesday I was supposed to go back to Euro Balkan, but Daniel’s wife Anjie reminded me that the International Women’s Association ofSkopje was having their first meeting of the year. They are a non0profit that essentially is a social women’s network. They offer coffee hour/meetings, plus dinners and other ways of connecting with other women. And for only ~$45 I can join. I think it is a good investment, and will hopefully enjoy this community of women.

There is even a vegetarian potluck dinner every month!

I was going to try to go back to Euro Balkan to meet up with them to go to a book promotion, but I forgot where it was and wouldn’t have made it to the institute before they had to leave! And then when I got back to the apartment, it was already ½ way over, so…

The rest of the day was spent looking at research online and contacting other NGOs in the Skopje area that deal with women’s rights.

We are also going to watch the Macedonia-Lithuania basketball game tonight just here at home. They are in the ¼ finals and have only lost once! They were the underdogs and not expected to get that far- so super excited for them!

From the contemporary Art museum we could see the US emabassy:

Also, you know you are not supposed to sit down here to go to the bathroom (nor is it expected) when you see this:

See you around the globe!