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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Birthday weekend

My birthday weekend was spent with my sister and friends in Skopje. What better way to celebrate?!

Friday afternoon was spent waiting over an hour for a bus to pass through Lozovo. Lozovo doesn’t have a train or bus station, so you just have to stand in the road and flag one down when it passes by. It was funny for the first 45 minutes, but then the sun went down, and it got a lil cold!! Once we got on the bus, there was nowhere to sit, but after passing through Velec, everyone had a seat. Upon arrival in Skopje, we immediately hopped in a cab and went to our hostel. The hostel was ADORABLE!! It was in a random part of the city, about a 20-minute walk from the center. The rooms were all painted artistically, and there were private rooms, as well as rooms with bunk beds. There was an open lounging area and kitchen, as well as two bathrooms. What I like most was the fact that it was indeed a hostel, but it did not feel like your typical ‘hippies passing through’ type of place. The people we met there were all older and all had very interesting stories about where they were from and where they were going.

Friday night started off with an Italian dinner at Ginos. Jess and I decided to split a pizza and salad, and everyone else indulged as well. We listened to someone play the cello for us, and even ran into a few people from the PC staff!! It’s funny…Macedonia truly is such a small country, it is impossible not to run into someone you know!!

After dinner, we all headed out to a trendy bar in the older part of town. This area of Skopje is my favorite….it’s just cute and not touristy. There, we drank mulled wine and cognacs while a Serbian band played downstairs. A few of the people from the hostel came to meet us for a drink as well!! It was around this time that I began developing quite a nasty cough though, so I decided to take it a little easy. Instead of going out and partying it up, we all lounged around there. I felt kind of bad, because I wanted to show Jessica more of the city, but with such limited time it is just impossible to see everything I wanted to show her.

Everyone went to bed extremely late that night, even though we got home at a somewhat reasonable hour. I was really beginning to feel sick, coughing-wise. Saturday morning, I woke up with an even worse cough. Here, we all get sick in cycles. I knew I’d be getting ‘the cough’ sooner or later…and it just sucked that it happened this weekend. That being said, I didn’t want to waste any time, so we all walked into town for one last meal with Jessica before sending her off to Istanbul.

Our original plan was to find this Arabic restaurant, but we couldn’t find it and were getting short on time, so we hit up a local pub instead. I began to get really sad, because I was realizing the reality of my sister leaving. Having her here this weekend was fantastic, because she got to see everything and nearly everyone. But having her leave, was really really difficult for me. I was going through everything we’d done in my head, because I wanted her to have a fantastic time, and I hope she did….She says she is coming back in the Spring for at least a couple of weeks, and I feel like having more time would be best. You simply cant accomplish much in just a 3 day trip. That being said, having her here was the best birthday present there was…I cant tell you how good it made me feel to have my sister here.

Ok, so enough of me being sad about her leaving!! Jessica set off for her epic trip to Istanbul, and we all headed back into the city for some light shopping and lounging. This was probably the most normal thing I’ve done since I moved here!! We sat around drinking coffee and watching TV. We shopped in the mall a bit, and I even made a few purchases myself with the wonderful birthday money everyone sent me (thank you everyone!!) We then FINALLY found the Arabic restaurant, and had one of the best meals here, complete with a legit hookah!! We even ended up making friends with our waiter, who invited us to join him and his friends for a later meal. Yay for new local friends!!

The rest of the night was great, but my energy really died. I felt really guilty, because I was feeling really sick, and I felt like I was being boring for everyone who was there to celebrate with me. I stuck to tea that night and we joined our new friend for dinner. We got to see some belly dancing, which was fantastic, and we also got our second helping of Arabic food!! I was a happy girl when finally was able to hit the hay.

The birthday weekend ended on a beautiful note. It was a slow morning…the kind where you sit around in your pajamas, drinking coffee with your friends. The hostel felt like a home to me this morning, and I was sad we had to leave. We joined our new friends for a delicious breakfast in the square before heading back to Lozovo. Undoubtedly, it was a successful weekend.

Monday, my actual bday, was spent running around Skopje for a “resource day.” The day was pretty uneventful, until we made it to the PC office, where I found two bday packages waiting for me!! I had one box of goodies from the wonderful people of Willowbrook (thank you!!), as well as a fantastic bag of coffee from someone else very close to me (thanks, love!!). It was amazing to have gifts to open on my actual bday!! Anywo…we got on the bus back to Lozovo, where we then celebrated with TWO cakes (one American and one Macedonia), and all the volunteers came over to help me celebrate. I just want to tell you how extremely loved I felt when all of my Lozovo friends showed up. It was like family…us all sitting around eating popcorn and cake and drinking wine. Even Milevka had a glass, and I’ve NEVER seen her drink a drop of alcohol!! I got some fantastic gifts from the fellow volunteers, and didn’t even make it to bed until sometime after 11, which is late for me here!! All in all, Monday night was the PERFECT way to celebrate. I’m a very lucky girl to have such an experience on my bday.

I’ll be sad to leave my home here in two weeks, but I am anxious to get settled somewhere I can call my home. Making the new friends this weekend also made me eager to find friends in Kocani, as well as all the good places to eat!! J And lastly, I’m eager to get through this winter, so I can have my sister (and hopefully my mother!!) come back to see me in the spring. Thanks to everyone for helping make my birthday beautiful. It isn’t easy being away from my family and home, but it’s times like these when I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have such opportunities. Love you all!!

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