December 14th: Taught a class on Advanced English learners at the university so they could hear a native speaker. Mira Beaker, a former Fulbrighter to the US, had met up with us a few weeks ago and asked me to present a topic to her class. We met on Monday to discuss the topic, and the I prepared to teach. I was kinda terrified, to be perfectly honest. But it all went smoothly. I literally followed the examples in the book and had them do a popcorn reading of the text they were supposed to read. Jen would be a better resource than I am, but college is really different in MK than in the US. Classes are a lot easier, they have almost no concept of homework or outside preparation. But, they only have one or two exams in the class and if you don’t pass that you get two more chances. If you don’t pass by then, you have to take the course over again.
Dec 16th: I met with an NGO contact in the morning. Then I went to an American Corner event: A Christmas workshop where we attempted to make German Christmas stars. I failed at the workshop, but it was a huge turnout and that was awesome! It was more than anyone expected! Then Nicola (sp?) the Peace Corps volunteer that taught the workshop stayed at my apartment overnight. But before that, we and another Peace Corps Volunteer (Lillian, who is leaving Dec 24th) went out to eat at Mecho’s. I had been told it was a pizza joint, but it isn’t! It is traditional Macedonian food. Lillian ordered frog legs, while Nicola and I ordered Tavche Grache. Yup, frog legs. Apparently they are a specialty in Eastern MK. Nicola and I enjoyed hanging out and trying the stars again at my apartment later that night. It was refreshing to talk to a Peace Corps Volunteer that doesn’t hate the country and want to leave ASAP!
Dec 18th: First train ride in MK! I went to Bitola, because I had two appointments with NGOs on the 19st. The train was pretty crowded, but cheap! I got a student discount that made the price 150 MKD or $3.17 USD. Yup for a 3.5-4 hour ride across a country. I met his really nice lady that helped me figure out which train to get on, and where to go. The train pretty much emptied out after Prilep, and I figured that the next stop would be Bitola. Well the next stop where most people got off (p.s. it was). Some pictures of Bitola decorated for Christmas!
Dec 19st: Met with two different NGOs. One went really well, the other only sort of well. I ate lunch as a restaurant in the center of Bitola, but it was horrible food. The spaghetti sauce was basically sweet ketchup, ugh. I Couldn’t even finish ¼ of the food! I took the bus back to Skopje that afternoon. It was crowded, uncomfy and 450 MKD. I will try my hardest to plan around a train schedule to go back to Bitola. I do NOT want to take the bus again if I can help it. I even managed to aggravate someone. When people were getting off, I had to switch seats to let someone off, and then when people started coming back on, I went back to my original seat…but some lady thought she was supposed to sit there with her friend. Then when they realized that I didn’t speak Macedonian (it’s a great ploy even when you understand some of what they were saying). Turns out that it was ok, the girl just sat up front next to the bus driver. Then at the stop, when I tried to switch with her, the Bus driver thought I was crazy and then found me a seat somewhere up front (not next to him- apparently some one had gotten off, so there was a free seat). And the people in the front kept saying something about the Foreigner. The bus driver said something to the guy that he found the seat next to about me being English of French or something and I didn’t understand anything. I’m sorry- but I don’t understand all the social rules for riding a bus, we don’t really have that form of transportation in the US! I just keep smiling and hoping it will be ok.
More Bitola for Christmas!
Dec 20th: First snow in Skopje!!!
Dec 21st: I went and had coffee with the International Women’s Association (well hot chocolate). Then I went to a doctor. I will write a separate post on that soon- but the end result is I am fine, but getting over a virus. That night, I had Conversation Hour at the American Corner. We discussed Holiday Traditions (New Year and Christmas), vegetarian lifestyle (did ya’ know that children NEED meat to function?), and a few other random topics. I kind of like not having a real plan, it makes the conversation more free flowing.
Dec 22nd: Off to Tetovo again! I seem to always catch the same combi driver. We pulled forward to a little bakery so the mom and kid also riding with us, could grab a bite to eat, and the driver turns around and goes “Sthul?” (the university that Jen works at). Then he proceeds to ask me if I go over every day- now you know you take him combi too often! This guy is super nice and friendly however. I was going to Tetovo to see the Deputy Prime Minister of the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) give a talk. Apparently SEEU had complied a book about the 10 years since OFA. The OFA ended the conflict in 2001. See this previous blog post for a summary of the OFA. The speech he gave was only about 20 minutes, but still worth going to see. He said some interesting things that I thought were poignant.
· We should leave the OFA and the past 10 years to history and move forward to a new direction
· The future of MK is the country of all parities with no one party better than another.
· One of the goals was the protection of citizen’s ethnic identity and culture.
· The implementation WAS hard (I liked how he used the past tense, implying that it had been implemented)
· The implementation was an investment into the future of MK.
· The OFA is a process, not just an agreement on paper. It is important for the democratization of MK. It was a goal for opening and strengthening the state institutions.
After the talk, he and the rector and editor gave a press conference while Jen and I picked up the book that they published. I have it in Albanian, Macedonian, and English. I look forward to reading it and then possibly donating it to FAU’s library. Then I went back to Jen's office and worked on my research blog while Jen went to her class that she teaches. After she got back we went to a 3:30pm linner with Vesna, who leaves for the US and her PhD program on the 28th! Linner (lunch-dinner, like brunch) was pretty good. I had pizzia because that was one of like 3 things I could order off the menu!
Dec 23rd: I started a mini exercise program in my apartment, after realizing that I needed to get in better health and that finding a gym that wasn’t out of my price range would be hard. (I have a hard time spending over $40 for a one month membership, but maybe I will break down and do it in Feb…). I also just realized that I never told you about aqua aerobics in MK- see future blog post… I had a meeting with another NGO in the afternoon. But the guy stood me up. He thought that we hadn't confirmed the meeting, or he never recieved the email about confirmation. I also started private tutoring in Macedonian. It took this long to find a class or private tutor that I could afford. No one gave me any ideas for where to look for classes until mid-November! And then I found a wonderful lady at Lumina Lingua! She has VERY reasonable prices and is super super nice!