Merry Christmas, everyone!!
Here's the video from the weekend:
As you all know, I was in Kamenica for the weekend to celebrate Xmas with my fellow volunteers from all over the country. Friday, I rode into town to help Sara set up for the coming days' events. There, we met up with Paul and Julie. That night, we began our celebration by making and hanging the paper snowflakes (shown above). We hung them all over the ceiling so the place could feel a little festive!!
This is Sara's kitchen, and this is Sara building a real fire inside of her wood burning stove. Friday night, we waited for the rest of the first crew to show up: Enid, Kenzie, and Andres. Upon their arrival, I realized just how much I've been missing them. Seeing them again felt like I was having a family reunion!! That night, we headed into town for some kebabs, chicken fingers, salads, and beer. There was some live music, so we stuck around for a bit before heading back to the house.
The next morning looked like this. We all laid around on Sara's pull-out couches and just caught up on how things were going at each other's sites. We snacked on Anna's famous banana bread, drank coffee and tea, and listened to Xmas music. Later that day, some of the people went up the side of a mountain and cut down a Xmas tree for us. We made homemade decorations out of aluminum foil. Here's our tree:
By the middle of the day, the rest of our crew began to arrive: Faron, Dan, and Dale. We took a walk into town to get some last minute things we figured we'd need to the upcoming meals.
Andres and I in front of one of the two churches in the town. Here, we met one of the priests who gave Sara all the details about people she knew in town. It was pretty entertaining.
That night, we made a lot of Mexican food. We had a taco bar set up, and we made a troth of nachos to go along with it. We played Apples to Apples that night and spent a good chunk of time just dancing and joking around. We also shared a "white elephant gift exchange." The deal was we all had to bring something that was in our home when we first moved in...something weird or funny. Some people got some wildly hilarious gifts, while others got gifts that were oddly perfect for them!! For example, I got these cute little knit slippers that are TINY. I was literally the only person whose tiny feet could fit in them, and I somehow managed to get that bag. It was perfect!!
Sunday morning was kind of a slow one. We woke up, and Julie had made everyone "stockings" out of Sara's socks. In them, she put a bunch of random items, like veggies, candy, mini American flags, and tea bags. She left this message from Santa on the table:
It was really sweet. From there, we decided to finally sit down all together to watch a Xmas movie...so we put on The Grinch. I loved being able to sit around with everyone for that. It was probably the most festive feeling moment of the entire weekend. Some people fell asleep, while others stayed up and laughed along. Regardless, we were all curled up together, and it felt like a family. After we all finally got moving, I began to work on our Xmas day meal. We didnt have much, bc the local bazaars were empty last week. It must have been from the snow we had. We made due though!! We baked 3 small chickens with potatoes, carrots, and onions. We also made some moussaka. Then, we all gathered around the den for one last meal:
Shortly after we ate, I decided to catch a ride back into Kocani. I was feeling extremely homesick and a little sad I wasnt able to see my family yet. As soon as my ride began to pull into Kocani, I began to feel so much better. Even walking up my 6 flights of stairs felt good....it just felt good to be home. I immediately turned on my cheap little Xmas tree and got online to Skype my momma, who was just getting up. She walked me around the house as her and Jessica got ready for the day. I watched Xmas movies on their TV across the internet. I chatted with them as they put on their makeup and did their hair. Later, I was carried around on the computer as my family opened all their presents and stockings. I was able to see and speak to everyone, and it truly felt like I was there! I was SO HAPPY to feel like I was still able to share such an important holiday with my family. Being able to hear them laugh and joke around made me miss them all so much more, but I was smiling from ear to ear when I finally shut my computer.
Suddenly, Lilika, the student from school I've grown close with, showed up at my house with a jorgan, which is kind of like a super heavy blanket. She sat around and met my mom and sis via Skype with me and helped me admire how wonderful their Xmas tree was. We sat around for a bit, eating popcorn and chatting, before Emilija called me. She was on her way to pick me up!! Emilija and her husband showed up with a piece of cake for me, and then they took me down to the center for some pizza, salad, and coffee. Having them drop what they were doing on a Sunday...the one day Emilija and her family have to themselves..made me feel like part of the family. It became evident how much they cared, and even though I know they care, their simple act of taking me out on Xmas meant so much to me, I simply cannot explain. Emilija and Lilika really own my heart here. I love them so much for being there for me on what we all knew would be a difficult day. By the time I shut my eyes for sleep, I was a happy and fulfilled girl.
I went into work on Monday, and it felt a little slow. I was just feeling tired, I guess. And then his morning, I woke u with a sore throat. I decided I'd get through work so I could spend the rest of the evening in bed with tea and soup, which is exactly what I've done. I think it's really the extreme drop in temperature that's made me feel like I'm getting a cold. Regardless, Im going to battle through it, b/c tomorrow Rob comes into town!! Hoorah!! His plane gets in late, so I am probably going to be beat by Thursday. Not sure what we are going to do for the New Year yet....we may just stick around here. I dont think either of us would mind that...it will feel good to relax.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Although I survived this year, I must admit I think I'll have to come back next year for sure!! I miss and love you all. Keep the emails coming : )