Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Day- Maceondian style!

Thanksgiving in another country is always interesting. Don’t believe me? Check out my last Thanksgiving abroad! If you really want Turkey it is often hard to find in other countries. It is even harder if you don’t eat turkey but want some delicious Tofurkey! However, with a little work you get some pretty awesome memories.

As stated before, Jen was already here. So when we work up on Thanksgiving morning, we started cooking. Did you know how hard it is to make stuffing by hand? Well, if you had pre-made breadcrumbs it might go a whole lot easier. Or a fork or blunt object to break the bread (as a note, you shouldn’t use your vitamin c tablets- they will break). But you can always have fun with your new apple corer.

Then Angie and Aidan picked us up at about 12. We then got a tour of their house and decided to play some games with Aidan and Eliana. We played matching game that uses two pieces of a plastic animal like memory. As well as snakes and ladders.

And did I mention MICROWAVE popcorn?

We even found the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on live stream via earthcam.com. The kids were super interested!

When Lizzie and Justin finally arrived, we immediately sat down for dinner. Yummy yummy dinner!


Then Naum came over later and we just sat and talked. Also, Daniel’s landlady and her daughter came up for some dinner.

All in all it was a pretty good Thanksgiving. I felt much more connected this time than I have the last few years. I think it was the sense of family that enveloped us as soon as we entered Daniel and Angie’s house. The friendship that they are willing to share with us is amazing. As Jen says- IIE  (the people who run Fulbright) are like a friend dating service- they hook you up and make you tons of friends- all over the world!

Monday, November 28, 2011

SEEU Celebration

On Saturday 11/19, I went to the 10th anniversary celebration at South East European University . They opened in 2001 as an Albanian based university. They invited lots of important people- the Norwegian Ambassador, US Embassy staff (someone we had never seen), other Ambassadors, etc. (We were prolly on the news, but I didn’t think to turn it on at night to try to see.) After the talking part there was an unveiling of a statue and a huge cocktail party.
When they were talking it was switching between Macedonian, Albanian, English and Latin (yup-Latin, they made a presentation in Latin).  It was fun to try to follow the languages and try to (1) figure out What language they were speaking and (2) what they were then saying. If I lived here longer I would have to learn Albanian. I might try to find a class anyway- hey I have the time! I will have to look into that. Any way- onto the pictures of the event that you would rather see!

Look at all of the "certificates of appriciation" they had to hand out!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A busy week...(technically last week)

Like life normally goes- I have a fairly boring schedule of nothing followed by more nothing. Then SUDDENLY life is crazy and I have so much stuff to do! This week I had a conference with one of my NGOs (Florozon), started Aqua Aerobics, talked at a school for English experience, and had Thanksgiving so far!

Florozon was hosting a workshop about cooperation with the state and NGOs on environmental matters. So I attended one day fully and most of the second day. I met a lot of new people to try to go interview, as well as saw some important people- Deputy Ombudsman of the Environment and so. I was more than likely on the evening news as a crowd shot- but I couldn’t find anything online to show you proof.

On Tuesday, I went to talk to a class about US Science education, then some of the differences between the US and Macedonia. The class was from 12-1:45 usually, and I talked for most of it! My throat was so sore afterwards- but I think the college students enjoyed it. I was able to get some of them talking back a little, but they aren’t so sure about the whole speaking English thing. Jen came with me to the class- she was going to come over on Wed, but she woke up without internet or co-workers or students because it was Albanian Alphabet Day! No you read that correctly. Apparently, they (random people) back in 1908 educated people decided to condense the 6 different versions currently in use plus many sub-dialects and they wanted to have one official alphabet. And now, they celebrate it as a National holiday for Albanians. Even the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia can celebrate it. However- when I asked an Albanian what it was about (before I looked it up to summarize to you all)- and she says that she has no idea, but they celebrate it because they can.

After the class, we went shopping for some Thanksgiving Day fixings. And lunch. Delicious delicious lunch at Gustos. We had rockfort cheese dip with bread, I had veggie lasagna while Jen had calamari pasta. So yummy!

On Wednesday, we went shopping with Anjie and Daniel at the market and Vero for more fixings. And we had to go to Ramstore (again). But we stopped at McDonalds before hand because we had some coupons. We got broccoli cheese nuggets and French fries and soda. Oh and by the way McDonalds has VEGGIE BURGERS over here! Here- in Macedonia- where Macedonians don’t really understand and in the US you can’t get that in the states? WHY McDonalds?? Why?

 Then it was Thanksgiving! (See seperate post)

See you around the globe!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Two Months In, Seven To Go

2 months.

Well technically it hit while we were in Croatia, but this is the first time I have had time to write about the mile marker.

This month flew by. I still haven’t seen as much of MK as I would like. I really need to just start exploring by myself. Make a pact to do like I did in Russia- every (enter day here) I will go some where. It doesn’t matter if it is a museum (there are a few left here in Skopje) or a village or a town.  Just something- this has been my biggest disappointment- not traveling. I mean It is November and I have been here for 2 months and I can count the places I have been besides Skopje ON ONE HAND! That is just terribly wrong. Part of it has been me trying to plan things with other people, and because I like exploring with others, I wait. But I make this promise to myself that I will wait no more. I will go out and explore. And if I have to do it by myself- so be it!

Also, wow- 2 months! The second month was so filled with meetings (some in Skopje, some not) and that trip to Croatia! I was finally able to fill up my research book here with interviews (and am still in the process of getting them all up online). November looked a little bleak for meetings, because I was a bit late in asking to volunteer, and was still wrapping up everything. And then in a few weeks we have Thanksgiving. We are planning a get together of all of the Fulbrights at Daniel & Anje’s house on Thanksgiving. Lizzie and Justin will come up from Bitola, Jen from Tetovo and we will possibly have it at dinner time on Thursday. (I, for one, and personally setting a goal to avoid my last overseas Thanksgiving experience. Don’t remember it? Click here.) The planning personality in me is worried that we HAVE NO PLANS. Nothing, no food ideas, no time, no official date, nothing. And Thanksgiving is, oh, next week! But, calm breath, it will be ok. Everything will work out. We’ve just all really adapted to the Balkan mentality- it’s part of the culture.

I have nothing new to add to my list of complaints- and I still love it here! I do wish it was easier to meet people and make friends. It is really difficult when you have no real institutional support or built in group of people to hang out with. I have no real co-workers. I have no real location that I can meet people near to my age. I’ve never actually been to a place like that. In high school or college, I had classes and orientation.

I have some plans coming up on exercise (I’ve tried to start walking more). Hopefully a presentation at the American Corner- we will see, still need to talk with others about this. I might have found a MK language class, we will see if she gets more students. But it is a great deal and really good price! And she was super nice!

And now there is only 7 months left until I go home. I can’t say I am anxiously awaiting either leaving MK or returning to home. I will be glad to get back to the US, but will be sad to leave MK behind. I also feel like I have so much to do to make my time worth while here. To put the tax payer dollars to work.

It is interesting to note that I feel I have barely gotten started here in MK, that I have so much left to do and my stay is 22% over. These dates are a big shocker.

Friday, November 18, 2011


On Thursday, I went to Kratovo. It is a 2 hours bus ride away from Skopje and the bus leaves at 7:30 or 1pm. So I woke up early and caught the 7:30 and then promptly fell asleep on the bus.  I will tell you about the meetings with the NGO that I went to see on my Research Blog, but here I will include some pictures from around the town.

this new type of tea. It is a spoon that has tea in it so it can steep and you can stir with it! Cool!

Last view of Kratovo

I caught a bus back to Skopje at 5pm-ish. And Arrived back in Skopje, took a walk back to the apartment because I was tired of cars and buses. Then just relaxing until I went to bed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Busy Busy Wednesday

On Wednesday I had to be back in Skopje to meet with the cop who would be registering me until we got our lechna kartas (residency cards allowing us to stay longer than 90 days out of 180 days). Turns out we got them the next day.

Then I rushed over to the International Women’s Association meeting to hear about upcoming events. Lots of cool things coming up, that I will tell you about when I go to them. I decided I wanted to go out to lunch with the IWA girls, just to try to help create those relationships better. We went to this little restaurant that you wouldn’t know was there, unless you knew it was there. They were kinda expensive, but good if you were looking for different foods-mostly meat, but I decided to get pizza.

After lunch I stopped at the Institute to discuss my options for continuing to work with them. We agreed that I should not take classes, but I could get all of the materials and if I needed to, try to find the professors and talk with them about the material. Better than most options they give me, and more support than they have ever offered. I even got one set of material right then that they had from last year. I stayed there until they shut down at 4pm (I know- weird hours) and went to the American Corner for Conversation Hour and to continue working on my research. But I failed at that, I just read a book to relax.

Conversation hour was the best I had. People actually talked without prompting! There had been a suggestion about survival games- like if you were in a plane crash in Northern Canada in the winter, how would you survive with only what you had in the cabin of the plane? We did discuss this! We would have survived pretty decently according to the survival expert that provided grades for it. Did you know that cigarette lighters produce sparks even without liquid? We used this site if you want to try your survival skills.

Afterwards, Nevenka and I went to hot chocolate and this cool little place with Daniel. I got this delicious “Twin” hot chocolate with dark and white chocolate with whipped cream.

Then I was invited out by a friend of a friend who lives here in Skopje- Alexandra. She and her friends were going out for a drink at this English Pub. I grabbed a yummy sandwich and varneo vino. We talked for about 2 hours before I needed to head home for an early morning bus for research.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Слава/Slava with Vesna!

Once back in Skopje, I thought I would have a little down time, but I was invited to Vesna’s (remember she was the one that drove me the Jen’s Surprise Bday party) слава (slava). The Slava is a celebration of the family’s namesake. According to my Macedonian Language Textbook, families do not usually invite people over, but you are just supposed to “know” when the saint’s day is. However, Vesna told Jen and I :).

I caught a bus to Tetovo on Tuesday and arrived in time to go to lunch with a co-worker of Jen’s at this hotel restaurant. It was pretty good- well, what I had, but there was almost no veggie options so I got shopska salad and french fries with cheese (to split with Jen). Then the friend dropped us at Ramstore to try to pick up a small gift to bring back with us to Vesna’s. It took awhile, but we decided to make tissue paper flowers and put them in a chocolate candy bar vase. We thought it was inventive and different from anything else. And we were not sure if they drank wine.

Vesna picked us up at 7pm (right when it was starting, so she could help get everything ready and then come pick us up- so we didn’t have to try to tell a tax how to get there). When we walked in her parents greeted us (they don’t speak a lot of English), and showed us into the dining room/living area. Where there was SO MUCH FOOD! There was 3 meat platers, 2 bread platers, 2 dessert platters, stuffed and cooked red peppers for me (the vegetarian), salads, drinks!

Vesna sat us and then brought in this sweet cake thing where we were supposed to take a spoonful and eat it and put the spoon back into a little cup. It was pretty good- a little sweet, a little nutty. Not sure what was in it at all. Will have to ask Vesna. Then we were told to serve ourselves, while they got us something to drink (juice and soda for us boring people). They then brought out the stuffed peppers for me and served me one. I also got some of the bread that Jen and helped them bake the previous weekend. There were three different types of bread- little twisted sticks with a slight kick, pinwheel with sesame seeds, and little puff ones with cheese inside. And slices of cheese I ate with it. I also tried this fermented cabbage thing (not my favorite, but still good for people who like that kind of thing).

Jen and I then took a break form eating and went to sit on the couch when more people came. This round of people were mostly family members. And they were super nice, and the younger ones that we sat with spoke English. I got to practice my Macedonian with Vesna’s baba (grandma) while she told me about her family and how it made her so happy to have all of her children there with her. We discussed how you were able to become a pharmacist (you can work with supervision after high school, but you need a university degree to work by yourself). And jst life in Macedonia and the US. It was a nice relaxing night. Vesna took us home at about 10:40 pm.

Then, I stayed up until I found out where my Teach For America placement would be. And I found out at 12:23 am 11/9. Only abut 10 minutes before they officially notified us. I was placed in Jacksonville, FL in secondary social science!! So happy!! You can check out my TFA blog here at (http://borderlandjourney.blogspot.com).

Then we went to sleep after I called my family and told them where Iwas placed (read about 2:30 am.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zagreb to Skopje!

I woke up pretty relaxed with no alarm and just started watching TV until Jen woke up (she stayed up late watching football). We then went to the store to buy breakfast but ended up shopping for stuff we couldn’t get in Skopje (I only got Mexican/Chili beans to mix in my chili I will attempt to make in Skopje and Tabasco for Lizzie). Then we just wandered and saw:

Sadly the botanical garden was closed for the winter, but it was still beautiful from the outside. Then we headed to lunch at Ivica and Marica (Hansel & Gretal) restaurant. It was so good! I Had pumpkin soup, spinach and cheese ravioli, and gingerbread cake. It was a really fancy place. Jen had Slovenian steak and salad and baklava. Then we wandered back through the city to the hostel where we relaxed until we went to the airport.

We left the hostel, caught a tram to the bus station, bus to the airport, bus to the plane, plane to Skopje, taxi to the apartment. Funny story about the airport. We checked in and were able to sit together, then we tried to go through security. But security was closed. As in the guards were sitting behind the closed ropes watching TV. And they stayed closed until about 40 minutes before the flight left. And the Duty Free Shops behind security were closed until about 20 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off. We did get the most expensive hot chocolate and bottle of water ever. Before we went back into security, we met and talked to this nice Croatian guy who lives just outside of Zagreb. He was offering his seat to Jen while we waited. We discussed visiting Zagreb and Zadar and how life in Macedonia was. He was going to a conference in Zadar about science things.- we split when Jen and I had to go through passport control.