Monday, October 31, 2011

Attempt to Make Tavche Gravche

I use attempt because I am tweaking the recipe. Since I don't like red peppers or onions or parsley, I am not including them. So this is my version of Tavche Gravche.

White Beans
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 spoonful of red spice (when I figure out what it is exactly, I will let you know)

  1. Wash the beans and leave them in water overnight.
  2. Put the beans in a pot of water and bring to boil.
  3. Let boil for about 10-15 minutes. While cooking, this is a good time to peel and chop your potato and carrot and begin boiling them in another pot with enough water for them and the beans.
  5. Drain beans and put into another pot of hot water!
  6. Add potato and carrot to beans. Bring to a boil again. *I did it for about 20 minutes, and they were still hard when they came out of the ove, so I would go longer*
  7. Cook until the beans are soft "but integral."
  8. Put the bean mix in a baking dish (terra cotta traditionally). Mix in a spoonful of seasoning.
  10. Put the pan into a preheated oven at 480 F.
  11. Heat bean mixture until it starts to simmer.
  12. Reduce heat to 340 F and bake for 15 more minutes or so. Beans are done once bubbles appear on the surface of the pan (the beans shouldn't be too dry)

While doing this, I also made a apple dessert and biscuits. Figured I might as well use the oven while it is already preheated.

When done, remove and enjoy! I should have cooked the beans longer, but it is hard to do so when there is no cooking times, I should have boiled them a bit longer. We will see how it goes next time!

See you around the globe!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prilep and to Skopje

On Sunday, we got up to go to Prilep. Sadly Justin wasn’t feeling too well so he decided to stay at home while the girls went to Prilep. Once we got to the bus station, this random guy started yelling at us “Prilep? Prilep?” I turned and looked at him and said yes, but we wanted to know how much. He told us it was 120 MKD “same as bus.” These “taxis” are quite common, and basically the same as the regular taxis. Just guys trying to make an extra buck. Just like giving a ride to a friend for a little bit of money. We got in the back seat and off he drove (there was an old guy in the front seat who got off part of the way to Prilep). He dropped us off in front of the bus station and we tried to figure out the money (who would owe who what later) and he came up and told us 120 MKD again. He was super nice and spoke pretty good English. At that time, (when he came up to tell us how much we owed) and took the money out of my hand and gave me the correct change. It was rather complicated, because  you know when your thought process gets interrupted and you can’t refocus? Well, that is what happened.

But anyway, we left and started walking towards the Thai restaurant. There is a Thai restaurant in Macedonia. Only one. Yup and it is in Prilep. Go figure. However, we didn’t originally know where the restaurant was. So we stood at a corner and tried to find it on the map (small little bus about 1/8 of a inch in black on grey). Once we found it, we knew which way to head off and off we went wandering down to the center of Prilep. Stopping to take some pictures along the way, of course.

Prilep is a big tobacco town.  

We started walking up towards the Thai food without knowing exactly how far it was from where we were. It ended up being about a half a mile or so. It was a nice easy walk, pretty and not too cold.

Once we got there we had yummy Thai food. Although it tasted more like Chinese than Thai, it was still good. And the server was super nice and friendly. After food (which took about 2 hours or so, even though we were the only people there), we headed back down to the center to see the (very) few sights that Prilep had to offer. And took some fun pictures of course.


Random things: A "Facebook style boutique" and a bad named club "The End"

And then the ride back home. We walk into the bus station and ask for a ticket to Bitola. They lady tells us that there isn’t a us to Bitola until 4pm, and it is the one from Skopje so we wouldn’t be able to buy tickets until it gets here anyway. It was 2 pm. So we walk back outside hoping to catch a “taxi” back. Low and behold there is a guy asking “Bitola? Bitola?” We say yes. Him: “How many?” Me: “How much?” Him: “120, same as bus. How many?” Me: (pointing) “Three.” Him: “Ok, come on.” He then proceeds to wave to two other people and walks us over to his normal size car. Yes. A five seat car with 6 of us supposed to go into it. The three of us started laughing and going, this will be interesting. So Jen gets in the front seat, while the other two people (a bf and gf it looked like) Lizzie, and I got in the back seat. I was basically sitting at an angle with half of me on Lizzie’s lap and the half on the arm of the car seat. The best part? When the cops pulled in front of us. The guy had been going the speed limit and then he slowed WAY down, driving so they couldn’t really see us. They were going way under the speed limit but who would pass a cop in Macedonia? Once the cops turned off the road, he immediately sped up and all of us started laughing (well none of the Macedonians did, but we Americans did). The driver looked at us and smiled. Which made us laugh more. Once we got back to Bitola, we went to Vero to grab some stuff for Jen’s mom’s spiced tea.

Black Tea
Frozen orange juice
frozen pineapple juice
3/4 c sugar
a cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves

1.    Brew  a strong Quart of tea
2.    Add the other ingredients to the tea and heat to boiling.
3.    Let steep for a bit
4.    Enjoy!

With the frozen juices:  they are the 12 oz size frozen which calls for adding 36 ounces of water...  I usually only add about 1/2 of that...  you can tell by the taste.

SO, if you cannot find frozen juice and.... use ready to serve juice....  make a little less tea water  and use another tea bag to make it stronger.

Once we got back we made the tea and watched TV/looked stuff up online/hung out until we went to bed.

On Monday, Jen and I got up to take the 8:30 am bus, according to the online schedule, and got to the bus station. We arrived there with about 10 minutes before the bus. We were approached by this guy offering to take us to Skopje for 10 Euros (why can’t people just quote me in MKD? We are in Macedonia not the Euro Zone!), but we decided to just get a bus ticket since we didn’t know the price in MKD and thought the bus will be here in less than 10. Well, we were wrong bu the guy would have charged us 150 over. Not enough to make up for the difference. The lady at the bus station said the bus would be here at 9. So now we had a 30 minute wait. So we just sat at the bus stop and waited. We chatted up a few taxi drivers. And saw this:

Then we took the looong bus ride back to Skopje, complete with beautiful scenery.

We had a random police stop on the turn off to Skopje. The police just stopped us for about 20 minutes, no explanation. Even the Macedonians were curious. They had 22 cars, an SUV and us stopped before they let us all go. Then once we finally were let go, we got stopped at the tool booth, just a long line of cars. And there were police in full riot gear (minus the shields). And then there were about 4 SUVs full of the guys in a bit. So of course, I took a picture. For a minute I thought the guy was coming towards the bus to make me delete the photo, but he was not. We have no idea what they were there for, but maybe someone arriving to the airport? Someone important?

Jen and I caught a cab down to the center (basically to make this guy shut up because he wouldn’t let us think), ate at Anja’s. We even had a 30 minute conversation with the bartended who was curipous about why we were in Macedonia. It is hard to tell someone that the *main* reason you are in Macedonia is to act as a people-to-people ambassador and what we are currently doing, talking, is what they are really paying me for. Kinda weird, so we hedged it. Then I walked Jen to the bus stop, where she caught another “taxi” to Tetovo, and was dropped off at her front door (well the entrance to the university, but who is quibbling over minor details?

I then went to pick up our special order thing (can’t tell you what because the person who it is for reads the blog). And went looking for this place to buy terra cotta pots, but I couldn’t find it. However, on the way back I passed this artist who does drawings of sights around Skopje that I had been eyeing for a while. He was finally here and I asked him how much it was, for 2 it was 500 or 350 for one. So I of course got two. J Then home and to do little things after one gets back from a trip.

See you around the globe!

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Prilep and to Bitla

On Thursday I paid bills and visited two different NGOS. The Macedonian Center for Media Initiative and the Skopje Red Cross. Both are willing to let me work with them in some way. The Red Cross is even willing to let me participate in their training. J Bills were fun and entertaining. I had to go to the post office twice because I forgot to mail the post cards the first time because I was so focused on paying bills.

On Friday (10/21) I was picked up like a VIP to go visit a NGO in Prilep. They were super nice and gave me lots and lots of info (even some stuff that no other NGO had even MENTIONED). They even took me out to lunch and I got traditional Macedonian food. Ajvar (roasted, crushed, baked, and dried red pepper dish) and other stuff. I wish I had felt comfortable enough to take a picture, because the first plate they brought out was all fried! Literally all fried food with a whole tomato and olives. So good, but way too much food! And then they dropped me off in Bitola to stay with Lizzie (thanks Micky- the driver who lives in Bitola works in Prilep and drove back and forth to Skopje just to pick me up).

When I was in Bitola, Lizzie and Justin took us out to this delicious restaurant where we had Macedonian Cheese (baked in garlic and butter), traditional Macedonian meat dishes, and I had Tavche Gravche (a bead dish). It was so yummy. So SO yummy! Then for dessert I had palichinki (crepes or blini) with eurocream (nutella), banana, and slag (whipped cream). We wandered back to the apartment and then just bung out until we went to bed.

The restaurant

the city center

On Saturday we (well they) woke up late and we didn’t leave the apartment until about 12ish. We went to the green market and got some fruits and veggie for dinner tonight. And we found an awesome souvenir shop! It had bumper stickers and playing cards! I was even able to get a Bitola key chain. The guy was super nice! We then went to a delicious lunch where I got “white pizza” that was supposed to have sour cream and yellow cheese. But it was also with red sauce. Interesting…Yummy. And I got European hot chocolate for dessert. After all of this we went to the Vero and grabbed some staples that we couldn’t get at the market, like bread and other stuff.

As we were wandering around I was able to snap some pictures of the town:

After all of this wandering we went back to the apartment and just hung out. They made BBQ chicken and watched some American football online. Dinner was sporadic but delicious. We got a squash and just cooked it in the oven covered with nothing added. So delicious! Food here is just so much better than food in America. The fruit and veggies just take so much more like they are supposed to! Also, the food is supposed to stay fresh longer than in the States, and we think that is due to the lack of pesticides and that they don’t ship everything around for months. But this is just a guess.

See you around the globe!

P.S- Oh by the way- they live above the "Super Mario Market"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Excitment, Dissapointment and Apples2Apples!

I woke up earlier than usual on Wednesday, because I had to be back in Skopje for a meeting with an NGO at 10am! I headed out to catch a bus that was supposed to leave the bus station at 8:05am, and we figured that it would pass by about 7:45 or so. But it didn’t, so I hopped on a bus just to the bus station (for free). Sadly this one didn’t actually GO to the bus station, but drove past it and began to loop again, so like any good Macedonian, I just walked to the front and pointed. The bus driver looked at me like I was crazy because I was randomly pointing to a set of shops, but when I said yes again, he just pulled over and let me off. I then saw the bus go pass that was the 8:05 bus, so I walked down the street a bit and waited for it to come out of the bus station with about 5 other people. We then hopped on and paid the bus driver. And were on our way to Skopje! It took about 45 minutes and I hopped off at the last bus stop before turning on Partizanski (the street my school is on) and walked home. Quickly eating breakfast I checked where the NGO was I was supposed to meet and gathered up my computer to go to my institute after the meeting.

Jumping in a cab I was able to describe where the place was (next to the Veterinary Medicine Faculty), and the cab driver took me there! The meeting went well and they are willing to let me volunteer and see how the foundation/ngo works. So success number 3!

I headed off after our meeting, totally unsure of how I was going to get back to the main part of Skopje, I was a good 5-10 minute cab ride away. But once I turned the corner to a main street, there was a bus stop. I got a ticket and waited for a random bus thinking, that well it has to get me closer to downtown. And it did. I was a bit nervous when he passed two of the signs saying go to center, but it all worked out and he dropped me off at the Vero Mall (about a 20 minute walk to my institute). While eating a delicious lunch of PB&J I walked towards my institute enjoying the beautiful day (oh about 50 or so).

When I got to the institute I grabbed a glass of water and went upstairs to “my office,” only to find they had re arranged everything and I no longer worked in there. The space was much better utilized, but I didn’t fit in the space. And they had given the computer that didn’t work to someone else (and it was working). Then my contact (after talking to other people for a bit about where to put me and me telling them I was fine in the library) mentioned that the course of study that I was going to take a class in was no longer being offered because not enough students had signed up. But I might get to take a Balkan Politics class instead.

I stayed at the institute and typed up some stuff for my research blog, mostly summarizing the first few books/articles I had read. And then headed to the American Corner for Conversation Hour. We played Apples to Apples and talked about what we would do with $10 million. Everyone would help their families pay off bills, buy a house or a car, and then travel. Maybe get a chauffeur or two, you know?

See you around the globe!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To Tetovo (again) with a Purpose!

On Monday (10/24) I headed to Tetovo to visit Jen and to go to an NGO there called LOJA. When I arrived we went to Evergreen, which is located at the entrance to her campus. She had a yummy sandwich and I had “vegetable soup.” It turned out to be mainly carrots and (wait for it) NEON ORANGE! But it was warm and delicious and came with bread! After lunch we went back to the dorm to drop off some stuff and then headed down to the American Corner to watch MLK Jr’s son give a talk via the internet.

On the way we stopped off at this yarn store because Jen is going to teach me to crochet! I got some bright colored yarn to learn later this night. When we made it down to the American Corner, we were told that the electricity was out and so they couldn’t show the talk! We then asked if they knew where we could find some gloves, and this boy called someone. He then proceeded to walk us to this store where they might have gloves, but they didn’t. Then we wandered through this mall type thing just to look, grabbed some milk at the store and took a taxi back to Jen’s dorm.

Once we were at the dorm, we did normal American stuff- checking emails, watching TV, learning to crochet! Once we got hungry for dinner we tried to go to Peagasus, a small restaurant that supposedly had good food across the street from the entrance to her campus. However, they were only serving about 4 items on their 5 page menu and they were all meat! So Jen ordered something and I went back to Evergreen to get a cheese pizza (and a hot chocolate while it was cooking).

Then I learned to crochet, well, basically I can only make a blanket, or a scarf, but hey- it works! Then we began to crochet and watch American TV. We had two computers up and running so we could download one show and watch another one!

See you around the globe!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The reason to go to Tetovo.

On Tuesday (10/25), we got up and ate breakfast, then went to Jen’s work, where we basically sit on the computer and wait to see if any student will come in and talk to her, but they never have. Then to lunch with Vesna at(you guessed it!) Evergreen! This time I had pasta (it was NASTY!), but out of the meeting I got some homemade jam from Vesna’s family that I can’t wait to eat! Jen has some and it is delicious!

Jen was supposed to have Macedonian class today, but the professor came in and said, why don’t you wait until we spilt the class because there are 50 students in there right now. So we had some free time, which involved Jen meeting with her co-teacher to discuss their teaching plan. At 2pm, Jen had a conversation hour for one of the English classes, so we went back to….can you guess….EVERGREEN! This time just for drinks (still had hot chocolate. And this is not like American hot chocolate, this is literal melted chocolate in a glass that you eat with a spoon. No joke. It just depends on the restaurant where you go which kind you will get- American hot chocolate or European hot chocolate.

We then headed downtown to get pictures for our residency cards! We get residency- since we are now official and they created a whole special category for us in their visa regime. But it involved filling out a form in Macedonian and English and getting two pictures taken, and sending in a scanned copy of our passport page. We had some directions from a few people at the University so off we went! We followed their instructions but didn’t see a photo shop, so we ducked in this little store and asked this lady where the other store was. She told us in Macedonian and then when I nodded, she was all English? (the thing is I had understood her directions and knew where to go, but it was nice). Then she took us outside and walked us part of the way to the store. When we got there I said, “pictures for residency card (lechna karta)?” and we pulled out the form we had ready. He nods and tells us to go sit down as he get fancy camera out. Then he takes a few pictures of each of us, and said they would be ready in 30 minutes. We decide to go back to the nice lady and buy something from her store because we were hungry. I got (what I thought was a jelly filled) doughnut and juice and Jen got some pizza snacks and juice. We went to sit by the river and ended up sitting by Saturn. They have one of those “see how far apart the planets are” displays, complete with missing planets. Nope, not joking, there was a stick for the planets to go on, but no planets! As I was looking over it I discovered something interesting.

In Macedonia, there are 10 planets!

Not only do they still count Pluto, but they also count Ceres, the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. We didn’t know that at the time and were intrigued by the concept of 10 planets. We both decided that we wanted a t-shirt that says “When I was your ago, Pluto was a planet!”

We went back to the store with the pictures and picked up our 6 pictures, we had asked for 2, but 6 works just as well and all for only 150 MKD! Then I called LOJA, the NGO I was meeting with to let them know we were coming. He agreed to meet with us and bring us to the specific office, since it was apparently difficult to describe. He was the only one in the office at the time to give people time off since they had to come back for the German Film Fest that night. We talked for about 1.5 hours and then left so he could go to dinner with the German Ambassador/consulate general. We wandered out a different way and found GLOVES!!!!

Then we went to dinner at a semi-fancy restaurant where I had delicious pasta with gorgonzola and what they called “pizza bread.” We have no idea what it is made with, but it is delicious! So yummy! After killing time eating here, we decided to get coffee/hot chocolate. We then went to the store to buy popcorn! It comes pre-popped and only cost 29 MKD for like two full bags of microwave popcorn.

After our shopping experience we went back to LOJA to watch the German Film Fest show. It was in German and subtitled in Albanian and Macedonia. The Macedonian covered the English, but not all the time, so sometimes we could get a glimpse of the English before we only saw languages we weren’t fluent in. I think I got about 50% of the movie. It was about this Turkish family that immigrates to Germany, lives their life there and then goes back to visit Turkey when the young man (now grandpa) buys a house there. Jen and I could totally relate to the walking into a store and trying to get bread and milk and NOT speaking the language at all. Sadly the grandpa dies in the end, and the house was just the front entry and not the rest of the house. There was a moral of the story, but it falls into the 50% I did not understand! They had a small reception afterwards with food and juice before we headed back to the dorm to go to sleep!

*If you want more information about my NGO visits, you should check out my Research Blog: MK Civil Society Civil Discourse.*

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Pay Bills in Macedonia

Since Erin is gone for the next few months I am paying the bills.
Now you are supposed to pay by going to the post office or the bank. I choose to go to the post office because it is in mall just almost across the street from me (like a minute walk). I walk into the post office, after waiting for it to re-open from an unexpected closure, and wait in line for a bit. When it is my turn (after secretly observing those in front of me) I just put the pile of bills on the counter and moved them towards the PostMan. He then took them and started doing stuff on his computer in furious typing mode. He then feeds the bills through a printer and then stamps them, tears off the smaller bottom part (which is kind of like the part on a US bill that you would include in your payment that would go by mail but with only the account number and amount due), folds it and puts it in a box. After that is all done, he tells me the total that I owe, takes my money, makes change and the hands me the regular bills back.

That is how you can pay all of the bills that you get through the mail. However, if a company doesn’t send you a bill or *if the post man steals it because he either (a) really likes the bill or (b) really hates the company* then you have to go into the store. These are the excuses that Erin has been getting  from T-Mobile (our internet bundle provider) for why she hasn’t received a bill. So I go into T-Mobile and begin to try to pay the bill. T-Mobile is such a happening place however, that you have to get a number from the computer and wait. I had about 5 or 6 people in front of me so I sat and waited.

Now, let me paint a small picture. I don’t know how to say to pay (or rather I forgot) I also forgot how to say “to give.” So, I walk up when it is my turn hand him the bill and say “money on account?” Blank stare. “I don’t know how to say in Macedonian…account? Money?” (ßme) Him: “English?” Me: YES! Pay account?

He does some typing, and then walks into the back come out and said “This bill paid.” Me: “I know, need pay next bill.” (He didn’t speak a lot of English, so I was trying to make it simple.) Him: OH! *furious typing* You owe two months.

Then he types some stuff in, and tells me how much I owe (luckily I had enough extra- this was a surprise second month, especially since I was paying for a month I was still in the states- my roommate had apparently forgotten to pay the August bill!). I then pay and he has to print some stuff, more stamping, and then “You good. Bye!”

And that my friends is how you pay bills in Macedonia! You can’t mail anything in, because the mail system is really slow an unreliable. I think it would be too much to ask to have people pay online- this requires updating of websites and actually using the internet for more than just social networking (which doesn’t really occur here).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week After Greece...

On wed (10/12) Anjie and I went to the IWA meeting in the morning, Anjie picked me up. This time it wasn’t as helpful- not as many people or as many willing to talk and socialize as the first meeting. Like less than half of the original number. But they told us about the stuff they were planning on doing this week and are trying to get organized (Christmas Party, Shoe Shopping at a factory trip, next year’s fundraiser, dinners).  I have volunteered to try to help with the Christmas Bazarr- it seems fun! And bought a cookbook. Then it was back to the apartment to try to rest up, organize the blog and my pictures and try to contact some NGOS. I called one, who will not be mentioned, when I asked them about my email they went “Oh yes, we got it.” And then “Oh we are so sorry! We will get back to you soon.”

Face palm. Really? REALLY? You get the email and read it and see that I am just asking for an hour or two of your time to talk to you about your work! I figured you would want that.

On Thursday (10/13) I contacted Gazmend and said that I couldn’t reach any NGOs and that my institute had basically abandoned me in helping. He gave me a list of NGOs that the US Embassy has funded in the past two years, and emailed 3 NGOS directly (with me CC’d). Within 2 days I had four meetings set-up, including one on Friday (arranged on the same day! WOW!). And as an update (10/20) I have about 4 other meetings set-up and 3 of them are willing to let me volunteer! Life is sweet! I love it!

And I will be updating you on a few of the meetings that I have had and will be having!

See you around the globe!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Greece Day Three

We started off by walking up towards where Daniel used to live for his LDS mission. And then we got “bugasa” which is phyllo dough and cream or cheese baked with lots of butter! And juice.

Then wandering around up on the mountain and enjoying the (sarcasm) oh so nice day (once again wet and cold). [It did later get sunny and comfy, but for some reason my sun glasses had not made it into my purse that day.] Many pictures came from this:

We found shoes for Eliana.

Caught a bus downtown and went to the White Tower. A plaque says that it was white washed by a convict as a condition for his release. And Thess was “liberated” from its rulers in 1912. Of the same agreement that tore up what is now the Republic of Macedonia and helped form the resentment that led to nationalism and establishment of the Macedonian state. But liberated is a fine word for a victor.

After visiting the Tower, we wandered over to see the Alexander of Macedon statue, but it was blocked by construction. We went to lunch at this little local restaurant and I had pasta. It was so-so. Then we caught a city cultural bus around the city. It took about one hour and only cost two Euros! I highly recommend this. But you will want to sit next to a window that opens otherwise it is very “prettily” covered by a design advertising that it is the city cultural bus.

After I took this, Aidan went "I didn't like that." Aww..

Afterwards we went back to the hotel (after stopping to get some souvenirs).  Checked to see if we could get a rental car instead of taking the bus. It turns out that you literally can’t rent a car to take out of Greece and especially NOT to Macedonia. So we decided to go catch the bus, but after stopping to get some food (Cheetos and Oreos! Which they don’t have in Macedonia- oh yea and some normal food as well). When we got there, Anje made the mistake of calling the Republic of Macedonia “Macedonia” to Aidan (who is 4 by the way) in front of the saleslady, who promptly responded “you are in Macedonia!” To which Anjie said “Oh yea, I keep forgetting!”

Then it was about a 5 hour bus ride back. Well, it was more like a 4 hour bus ride with an hour at the border to go shop-shopping  in the duty free shops. Daniel, Anje and I had some really cool conversations on the bus ride that I wish that I could reply- if only I could remember exactly what we talked about! When we got back to Skopje we caught a taxi to the center where their car was. And I walked home because I was sick of being in cars and wanted some fresh air.  Then sleep, precious precious sleep.

See you around the globe!

Greece Day Two: On the Road Again

We all were to meet downstairs at 7am to leave (supposedly at 7am, but het, it IS the Balkans).

Had a yummy breakfast of bread with butter and jam, hard boiled egg, and cereal. And some really disgusting juice type drink that I finished because it was probably good for me. And hot chocolate. (oh yea!) (And a bread and cheese sandwich for later. If you had hard up for money/don’t know when you will be stopping, hotel breakfasts are usually great for getting a sandwich out of it. Just fold it up in a little napkin and stuff it in your purse of bag. Voila! Lunch as well!) Then at about 7:30-8am we all got loaded up in the bus, backed out into the street, started to leave and then stopped.

No joke.

And then we waited. For two hours with no one on the bus really knowing what was going on. Daniel told us that someone had told him that the organizer was asking the town hall how to fill out the paper work for the next town. We didn’t think this made sense, but it turns out that he was actually applying for a few people in this small town. It would have been nice to know about that so we could have, I don’t know slept in a bit, or let the kids play on the playground and use up all of their energy.

Then we headed off to Serras (sp?) which was about a 30 minute drive away through the countryside of Greece. Mostly on highways, but still pretty.

We were in Serras for about 30 minutes since apparently the district seat had changed to a newer smaller city to apply for your birth certificates. It was just enough for us to want to get out, but be unsure about getting out so the kids got anxious and we were already starting to guess what today would be like-waiting and unknown. I grabbed a quick picture of the town to prove I had been there.

Then it was off to Nea Zichni, itty bity small town where the government seat was. The amazing thing was that the bus fit through all of these streets and was able to back up and effectively turn around and move! I am not sure if the pictures show the streets enough, but it was tiny! We were able to get off the bus and wander around for a bit. Although it was cold and wet and raining.

"Pamela Anderson Baywatch" on the back of a pick-up with dog crates in back. I felt like I was back at home for a second!

A bunch of people bought oil, I guess it was cheaper here?

When Daniel got back (he had gone with them to make their applications) he told us what had happened. When they made it in to find the right office, they told them they wanted to receive their birth certificates. The cops started getting nasty at this point. “Where were you born? Why are you speaking that Pakistani language? Where were your parents born? Why did you leave? How do you spell your name again?” When they finally found the brothers names in the book, next to their names it had “These people are not Greek.” The police then refused to give them the birth certificate. Which is weird because apparently Greece has if you are born here you are Greek. But they wouldn’t do it-said if they are not Greek then they can’t get passports. At this point, Daniel’s group leader argued that we are just trying to get a birth certificate NOT a passport. (given they were going to try to get a passport later, but that is a different story that didn’t occur.) When they looked for the other lady they could not find her listed on the register. (She even tried to show her Macedonian passport showing she was born in Greece in this village on this day (but they wouldn’t accept it.) She does not know if the police could not find it or if they just wouldn’t work with them on the spelling of her name because she was trying to put it in Greek and she wasn’t exactly sure of how it was spelled in Greek.

After another two or so hours, we took off again for another tiny village. Where we again filled out paperwork for about an hour. It was still pouring at this point so we didn’t really get out. Except for when we went inside to go to the bathroom. The best part- seeing the beer bottle on the windowsill of the police station. They did pause for a group picture:

Govt building with beer bottle.
Then we went to one last little village. One of the guys said that when he had come to this village with his mother awhile back there were only three houses. And now there was a whole village. It turned out that they were no longer going to Drama (yup said like the play thing) but instead heading straight back to Skopje. So Daniel said lets get off here and catch a taxi or something to Drama. We were only 10 km away, so not too bad. Turns out there is a bus leaving in about 15 minutes. So off we hopped with all of our luggage and waited at the bus stop:
No joke. The bus sstop is a park bench. The timetable is attached to the wall of a nearby building.
And ate some cock (no I have no idea if this is spelled correctly since I don’t speak Greek, but this is what Daniel called it. I know weird.) It is custand between two cakes with a chocolate honey topping. Yummy, but a bit too sweet.

Then we caught a bus to Drama and then a bus to Thessaloniki from there. The bus to Thess took about 2 hours, but I caught some nice pics along the way:

The first view of the Agean Sea!

Once we got there we caught (yet another bus) downtown to find a hostel and food! But Eliana lost her shoe along the way so we had to carry her around until we got her a shoe the next day. We finally found food and a hotel. Put our stuff down and walked down to the White Tower/downtown area just to get out and walk. We found dessert and more hot chocolate on our way back. And agreed to meet the next day to go explore! Pictures from the walk:

Note that is is a closed "anytime market" 

See you around the globe!