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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not much of an update

Здраво!! Sorry I’m not updating every day. I know I can’t realistically update all the time, but I do feel like at the beginning of this epic journey there is just so much to tell everyone!! That being said, some days are MUCH busier than others, and some days I simply do not have access to any internet. I try to write as much “journaling” as possible at home, but again, it all depends on time.

Not much to update ya’ll on. School is getting increasingly difficult. I will learn something one day, and it typically takes a day or two to really catch on. The lesson on definite articles was the toughest, yet two days later it makes much more sense. All of the volunteers are getting increasingly better in their communication skills. We can even go visit each other’s houses and have small talk with the parents. It makes me feel like I’m somewhat fitting in…I will say that I have officially begun dreaming in “Македонски,” so I guess Im also studying in my sleep now. : )

Everything here is getting a lot more comfortable. I cant have guests over to just hang out, and my parents seem to love the entertainment and appreciate our privacy if we sit and edit movies in my room (with the door open, of course). My parents also approve of me going over to visit friends and other families. So far this week, I’ve had Andres and Claire over for music swapping night. My family made POPCORN on this awesome outdoor wood-burning stove. IT WAS FANTASTIC!! I also made a night over at Kenzie’s house. His host parents are simply the best there are…I really love the wife. They made a lot of snack food for us and more крепн. I also visited Andres’ house for a movie, and his mother (who is the funniest) made us “леб пизн,” which are just slices of bread with ketchup, cheese, fresh herbs, and tomatoes. They were SO GOOD. She also heard us talking about the popcorn and made us some of her own. I’m telling ya…people won’t stop feeding us!!

In THE BEST NEWS EVER, my sister has decided to come visit me for my birthday!! I am so excited!!!!!!!!!!!! By the time my birthday arrives (Nov. 14), I will be able to travel overnight. So I am thinking Jessica will come and spend one night in Лозово (Lozovo), and then we will travel up to Скопие (Skopje) for Fri and Sat night. Sunday would be back in Лозово (Lozovo) with the host family, and then she may take off for some extra traveling of her own around Europe. I asked my host mother today about her visit, and as she was agreeing, my host father got SUPER excited. He couldn’t believe she’d be coming to visit, so they are now talking about the epic party they are going to throw. I simply cant wait.

This Friday, we all travel back up to комоново (Komonovo)for what the PC calls “hub day.” Basically, we will spend the entire day in seminars. I am excited to see all the other volunteers…we haven’t seen each other for 2 weeks, so we will have so much catching up to do. We are all hoping our buses will be willing to leave later too, so we can all enjoy a nice dinner our together and maybe get some shopping done. Ya know, I cant buy mascara or anything in Лозово…we don’t even have an ATM, so things like that will hopefully get taken car of on Friday. J This weekend, we may or may not take a day trip out to Велез (Velez), which is a city nearby.  I’m really hoping to buy some paint and brushes there. Everyone here now knows I paint and stuff, so I’d really like to paint something for the families I am getting close to….even something small. I’m also looking forward to taking some legit photos of the people and places here. I’ve been trying to integrate in the community before busting out my fancy camera…it just makes you stand out a lot if you don’t know everyone, ya know?? The dynamics here are jus the polar opposite of what I am used to…even the dogs. These poor pups. Turtle has no idea how good she has it. I’m honestly afraid of all the dogs here (minus Benny). I cant even walk to school without being stared down by a dog who honestly only has the intention on attacking me if I make eyes contact. I’m really not exaggerating either. PC told us that our biggest threats were earthquakes and dog attacks. Poor pups…I wanna save them all and bring them to America!!

Ok, I am off on a rant again. I’m going to lie in bed and read on my Kindle, which again is such a godsend here. I need to find a good website to download books for free. Till next time!! Добар ден!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Awesome weekend!!

First thing’s first. New video:

So I have officially survived my first earthquake!! That’s right. Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful!! I woke up around 9 and sat outside to drink coffee with my host dad and study a bit. I’ve been teaching him how to speak some English phrases, using the Macedonian alphabet, since he doesn’t know how to read the English alphabet. It has worked surprisingly well for us!! Anywho, we were sitting outside, eating grapes. He was gardening, and I was studying, when all of a sudden BOOM. I thought there had been a bomb!! I was so confused!! I quickly turned around and caught my father looking at me with wide eyes. All the neighbors came out of their houses and started yelling at one another to see if everyone was ok. I ran inside and grabbed my dictionary and found the word “earthquake.” My mom said “Da, da, da,” which is “yes, yes yes.” She got a phone call, and the earthquake was apparently felt in Skopje and Veles, which are both somewhat close to us. I called Cliare, who is staying in another town nearby, and she said she hadn’t felt anything, but that everyone was calling her host family about it. Long story short, it was a crazy experience!! I think I may have felt it more, because I was sitting outside in a cheap plastic chair on the ground when it happened. Pretty exciting!!

Anywho, Chris has been in town this weekend. Chris is the volunteer my host family had last year. He came into the village with a real awesome girl named Jori. From about 10-1, my house was filled with guests!! Me, Andres, and Kenzie walked home after having a couple glasses of wine with Kenzie’s awesome family. Then Sarah and Julie showed up with their host brothers, who are also really nice guys. Then Chris, Jori, and Ricky (the volunteer who has lived here for 2 years) came by for endless snacks and drinks. My family doesn’t really drink at all, so it was nice to be able to have a couple beers over some really nice company. It was also nice to have Chris here to help translate some miscommunications and questions I’ve had about living in this house. Apparently, my mom thinks I do not know how to take food out of the fridge. She’d bought a whole bunch of food, and I didn’t realize she wanted me to take it to school with me, so I haven’t been. She was disappointed, so it was good to have Chris explain I didn’t know. Hahaha

I was also able to ask about expectations at home. In the week I’ve been here, I still don’t know when I am allowed to just have private time, when to have quests over, when to have quests leave, when I can go out and come home, etc. Chris basically said my mom may act indifferent about me leaving, but to just tell her what I am doing and to just do it. Apparently, she got onto Chris for hanging out with Ricky on a Friday night, because she wanted him to stay home. Ricky called her and explained that Chris was an adult and it was ok for him to do things on his own. Since then, she mellowed out. That being said, I am a YOUNG WOMAN, so she is undoubtedly more protective of me. I’m just going to have to figure it all out step by step with her.

So Saturday night we went into Stip for a food festival. It was AWESOME!! We ate a bunch of food, drank some fantastic local wine, and listened to Macedonian hip-hop. It’s was such a fantastic time. And Sunday was spent eating lunch at everyone’s houses, watching a local soccer game, and editing the video (seen above). I have’t have much time to write more about the weekend, but I will give more of an update tomorrow. 

Thanks for everyone who have emailed me so far!! SEND MORE EMAILS I LOVE YA’LL!!!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Howdy, ya'll!!

So today was just another day in Lozovo. You just never know what to expect here!! The school day was not as long as yesterday (thank goodness), and all of us seemed to be in excellent moods. My language group is so much fun, and our teacher was extra cool today. We played card games to practice counting in “Macedoncee,” and we learned an extensive vocabulary on fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, a lot of us have already begun expanding on our vocabulary of food, thanks to our host families feeding us like we are starving children,…so the lesson wasn’t too overwhelming. And I really feel like I am getting the hang of a lot of what I’ve been learning!! I find myself practicing even to myself. I find ways of exercising what I’ve learned at home too.

For instance, everyone seems obsessed with these soap operas over here. I’m not sure, but I think they are Indian soap operas, because they are all dubbed over in Macedonian. Anyway, I’ve been watching them for nights, because my mom and dad do. I’ve never know who was who or what was what, so tonight I practiced asking. I asked who everyone was, what their profession was, and how they were all related. The best part about it was that I asking everything perfectly, and I completely understood all of their answers!! IT WAS SO REWARDING!! Oh man I felt so legit tonight, hahahahaha

My communication with my family is getting better every day. I still don’t understand most of what they say and ask, but I can usually pick up at least 3 or 4 words out of a conversation…enough to deliver an answer. My mother brags about how well I can read and write in Macedonian, so that helps with my confidence!! Within a month, I hope to at least be able to follow a conversation, but I doubt I’ll be able to speak much…maybe by the end of the 2nd month I will be able to speak more. It just takes me a hot minute to process what I want to say and how I need to say it. Their language does have its complicated twists and turns, so remembering all the rules is what hangs me up the most. I’m thankful I have such a good teacher.

Today, my mother took me to buy more minutes for my phone here. Somehow, my phone keeps picking up the wireless and using all the minutes for data. I finally figured out how to fix it, so hopefully there won’t be any more problems. My mom then took me over to Sarah’s house, who is another volunteer. Her and I had a giggle fit as we listened to our parents talk about us and how we need to gain weight. Again, we can only follow some words, but we know enough to know most of what they say about us. Sarah’s host brother is also super awesome and introduced us to google translate. Using his keyboard, he can switch between typing in Macedonian and English, and then it translates back and forth. We were able to hold a legit conversation for a while! Sarah’s parents fed us an awesome meal, and then a group of us got together for a beer. It was the first beer I’ve had since moving to Lozovo. It was SO NICE to sit with the other volunteers outside for a drink. I love everyone more and more each day. It is so sad to know we will all be split up in 2 months.

It hit me today that I’ve been in Macedonia for 2 weeks!! WOW!! The time seems to go fast and then slow. I’m hoping things do go fast, because it helps with the homesickness to imagine seeing someone familiar sooner than later. Plenty of people have said they’ll come visit, so I hope at least a couple are able to make it over…INCLUDING MY FAMILY ::hint hint:: Anywho…I will try to upload more videos and photos as soon as I can. I feel awkward filming a lot of the times when I’m not around the other volunteers, so I try to keep it to a minimum.

Miss and love you all!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Another Day in Lozovo!!

So yesterday was MUCH better!! I spent most of the day at school venting about my previous day. School was extra long, because we had a technical session with the women who are introducing us to TEFL. I was still feeling mentally drained, so I wasn’t much fun. I spent most of the day talking to my closest friend here, Claire. She lives the farthest away from me here, which is a real shame, so I spend as much time during the day talking with her as I can. Her and Andres are my two closest friends here, although I am quite fond of everyone. Andres is the guy who is in a lot of my videos, in case you were wanting to put a face to the name. Anyway, we all decided to have an “American party” after school, as we all three were in need of some venting time.

My mother was waiting for me as I got out of school at 4pm. She’d gone into the city and picked up all sorts of groceries!! I asked/mimed if Andres, Claire, and Kenzie could come home with us, and of course she welcomed them. I made everyone Turkish coffee, and we sat in the den and watched the new episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We were fed endless grapes, fresh melon, peanuts, and cookies. Then we turned on Pineapple Express (all of this done on our laptops) and watched that for about 20 minutes. My mother then asked us to sit in the kitchen. She’d prepared the best meal I’ve had yet for us!! We had pork, potatoes, peas, carrots, bread with two types of cheese, and figs. Oh man…it was awesome!! Andres, Claire, and myself all proceeded to sit and talk at the kitchen table for the rest of the evening. It was a PERFECT evening. And I was kind of worried about my guests overstaying their welcome, but my mother kept asking if I was happy, and I kept responding with “monogoo dobro,” which is “very happy,” and then of course I kept thanking her. I think she understands that I really needed all that after my prior day. I feel so much better, you just have no idea. I really love the friends I’ve made here, and I’ll never stop saying it. Haha

On a side note, I recently got my first home remedy!! I have been getting these awful bug bites here. I think they are mosquitos, but I am not sure. Some evenings, I’ll go hit my volleyball around with the volunteers in a huge open field. I always wear shorts while doing this, so I think that is why I’ve acquired so many bites. That being said, I translated in Macedonian to my mother and father that the bites were really bothering me. They pulled out the Rakia (spelling?), which is homemade Macedonian whiskey, and told me to put it on the bites. So I got a tissue, took my glass of Rakia, and put it on the bites. To my surprise, the pain went away!! I obviously still have the bites, but the pain isn’t even noticeable anymore!! And apparently, Rakia is the cure for most things here. They commonly apply it to their skin, even for cuts (I know…ouch!!), or they’ll drink it if they are sick.

They also have something here called “promia.” This is a belief that an indoor breeze is bad for your health. You can have a window open, but you cannot have a door open in the same room. If you have two outlets for a breeze to flow through, it is called “promia,” again not knowing if I am spelling it correctly. This breeze will be the cause of all your health problems, and they really truly believe that. Even in their cars, they will only roll down one window to avoid promia. Promia, I guess, carries bacteria and other negative consequences in it, and it will basically kill you. Just thought it was an interesting cultural difference you’d all find fun to know.

Tomorrow, I have more language classes. I’ve been kicking ass in my homework, but I am overthinking each lesson. I officially dream in Macedonian, so now I’m even studying in my sleep. Haha This weekend, a lot of MAK 15’s (last years group) are coming into Lozovo to visit their old host families. Chris, the previous volunteer from my house, will be coming into town, so I am really excited to meet him and talk to him about my experience. I am hoping he can give me some advice and tell me how my mother is feeling about me. All my teachers say my mom always talks me up to them. They all say she loves me, and I know she does, because she calls me her “American kierka,” which is daughter. I can definitely see us becoming much closer as soon as I can communicate with her!!

Anyway…that’s all for now. Sorry the blog posts are all so long. I feel like I could write for days!! Miss you all <3

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First rough day

Here's a recent video....short, but to the point:

Soooo, I had my first official breakdown yesterday. It's kind of hard to explain was a big combination of things. First, I've had a massive migraine. My host mother smokes nonstop, and the smoke really gets to that was one factor. Then, there is the fact that I am in school all afternoon, trying my hardest to learn the language. Like I've mentioned, it is a bit frustrating, because I want so badly to be able to just come home and talk to my host family. Of course, I can't really. So my host mom insists that we study study study. I have moments where I can actually pick up on several words, and I have moments where I can't understand even the most basic of words.

So all that being said, I was enjoying a hefty lunch yesterday. I had 3 servings. My mother kept insisting I eat more. I kept saying "no more." Then, the smoking began again, so I went in the den to read. Reading has been a godsend here. It is the best source for me to relieve some stress. Well my mother followed me into the den, sat down beside me, still smoking, and then insisted we practice language. I just started crying. I got up and went into my room. I started to hyperventilate a bit, so I called my language instructor to ask for help.

Long story short, my host mom was freaking out that I was upset. She called everyone she knew to call in the PC, and told them all she thought she'd done something wrong. This made me feel worse. We did get the problem resolved though. I explained to my LCF and homestay advisor that I was homesick, had a headache, and was frustrated with learning so much and not feeling like I can retain it all. They told my family to give me some space to read, so they did. : )

By that evening, I'd rested in my room for an hour, along (which isnt common). I then hung out with my parents in the dark (more storms, no power at all...all night), and then we proceeded to play a Macedonian card game, which REALLY helped me feel better. Being alone in my room was helpful, but playing the card game with them really did the trick, because I didnt want to feel like I was isolating myself.

Today, I found out that a few of the volunteers also had stressful nights, and we all kinda promised to be each other's savior, no matter what. We are all really becoming as close as family. Having them has made this entire adventure even more rewarding. I want you all the know that I AM OKAY. : ) I knew I'd have some moments where it would all hit, but I am happy that I am here of all places. Lozovo is such a fantastic place.

Miss you all!! Send more emails!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So we survived our first Macedonian storm the other night. One of my best friends here, a fellow volunteer named Andres, came over with his host family’s’ grandson. Here in Lozovo, there is literally nothing to do. People go and visit with one another about every hour, so it is welcome when guests show up at the door. We sat around and ate and ate and ate (because that is all we do) and then the storm began. I know the words for rain and storm and wind, so it was good practice. Then the lights went out….

In America, when the lights go out, you can still somewhat see. There is always a room you can go in where you can see. There is always a window emitting some type of light. There is always the option of going outside, and lights from somewhere will illuminate the world around you. Here, we had none of that. It was as black as you can possibly imagine. Even outside, there is nothing around us for miles. You cannot find a step, a tree, or a house, even if it is right next door. So my mother and I had to walk Andres home with my epic flashlight that Mimi and the wonderful women at Willowbrook helped me get. The flashlight was quite the hit!! Later, we came back and studied more.

I have to tell ya…the language is really difficult. I have never studied so hard for something. I carry around my notebook and Macedonian dictionary with me everywhere. I can spell and read in Macedonian, but it still takes time to look stuff up when trying to hold a conversation. Miming is still a favorite pastime. Last night, my mother asked what my mother back home does for a living. I looked up “auctioneer,” but they didn’t understand. So Andres and I acted it out, using all Macedonian numbers!! I think my mother would be quite proud. Funny enough, they still didn’t understand. So the explanation turned into about 15 minutes of looking up keys words. Finally, I achieved the “Ohhh!!!” from my parents, but I believe they still think I am crazy. Haha

Another thing that is taking getting used to is the time. Some families don’t eat breakfast, and most families eat lunch around 4pm. Dinner is typically at 11 or 12, and mainly consists of a variety of foods you can snack on. My mom REALLY wants me to gain weight, so whenever I say “sock-um kirikichi” (which is I love peanuts) they take it to heart and always have peanuts on the table. My mother also insists that I have about 5 Turkish coffees a day, because I said “monogoo dobro café,” which is I REALLY love coffee. Bad move. I did learn how to make Turkish coffee though!!

What I was about to say was that it is kind of looked down upon for you to have private time. It’s like you’re saying you don’t want their company…they just don’t function that way. Even right now, I am typing this at home (putting it online tomorrow) and my mother is cooking our lunch. She was disappointed I was one room over, and keeps coming in here to see if I’ll watch her. That being said, I must go. My best bet for private time is when I say I am going to bed, so I can read alone. J Still having a blast. So far, this is the most rewarding experience of my life!!