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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time to get dirty

Hey everyone, so guess who has water again?! THIS GIRL!! But let me just wasnt easy.

People from the city had to actually come out to my apartment yesterday afternoon to fix the problem. Three men who spoke no English at all stood in my apartment, checking me out, looking at my stuff, and then talking about me in Macedonian, thinking I couldnt understand them. I decided to suck it up, because they were slowly fixing the water issue one step at a time. Sink- FIXED. Shower- FIXED. Washing machine- FIXED. Oh, but the toilet....nope, still not working. It required them to take apart some of the piping in the wall. I had some legit construction going on in there. Finally, they called me into the bathroom to show me part of the pipe they'd cut out. It had a solid chunk of black/brown matter stuck in it. Whatever it was had completely solidified, hence why I was getting no water.

As we are standing there assessing the problem, I realized the pipe sticking out of the wall was completely exposed and open. Suddenly, we were hit with a jet of water, much like what I'd imagine a fire hose would feel like, if struck by one. The force of the water slammed us into the walls and the door of my bathroom. Black and brown water flooded my bathroom and my hallway. The walls, floor, and quite frankly every single surface in the bathroom and the hallway was soaked in this black/brown gunky water. Unbelievable.

Here, you can see some of the aftermath. The photo simply doesnt do it justice. Once they fixed the problem, the maintenance men left. My landlord (who showed up after the flooding) decided the mess was simply not his problem to deal with, so I called Peace Corps. On the phone, my landlord explained to Manuela that the mess really "wasn't that bad." He kept saying it was nothing....really, like it wasnt a big deal at all. I was so livid, I grabbed the phone and demanded help. Manuela agreed to let me take out a small bit of cash out of my upcoming rent to pay for the cleaning supplies (ie. mop, chemicals, etc.) When I told the landlord this, he was pissed. He threw an utter fit and started trying to half-ass clean up the mess. The photo above is after his attempt of cleaning. The photo from above is what he thought was a job well-done. In fact, when I tried to take photos, he would try to stand in front of my camera, while shoveling chucks of black matter UNDER MY WASHING MACHINE, like it was just going to disappear down there. Eventually, he agreed to leave, and I ended up spending 2-3 hours cleaning up my bathroom. 

This morning, I woke up feeling really good about how clean my bathroom ended up becoming. I went to work, ready for the kids to participate in the National Spelling Bee qualifiers. Basically, in order for a kid to pass a qualifier, they must spell 10 English words correctly. So in each class, I had kids come up, one at a time, and try it out. The word list for the high school students is actually kind of tough!! I had SEVERAL kids who made it to their 8th or 9th word and then make a very small mistake and lose it all. I felt horrible for the kids who made it so close...I want to take them all with me to the Bee!! By the end of the day, I had two students successfully complete the challenge. I am hoping I will have more kids participate on Friday from different classes, although I'm not sure yet. I'm proud of all my students. I seriously had a lot of fun with all of them today!! Here are a few photos from the day : )
I personally like how it says "toilet business" on the board, even though that was not intentional. I also did not make this discovery until I uploaded the photos, and boy did I have a good giggle!! Anyways, this kid is one of the two who will be going to the National Spelling Bee to compete.

I think this is a great shot. Emilija took all the photos, and we are putting them on the Spelling Bee's site.

I like this one, because clearly something has made me laugh very hard.

Just a shot of one of my classes. This gives you an idea of what my classrooms look like.

One of my favorite classes. I just love them!!

Another class I adore!! The girl sitting beside me is the other student who will be competing. 

Anywho, it was a really good day!! I also found time to visit with my Director for a hot minute this morning. I begged him to help me find a new place to live. Seeing as how we dont have the classified ads in papers here, nor do we have CraigsList, the only chance I have of finding a new home is through word of mouth. He's promised to do everything he can to help me, so let's keep our fingers crossed!! There's also been a lot of talk around school about the dance classes. The class from Monday apparently has been quite the topic of conversation, and a lot of girls have already inquired about when the next class will be held. Tomorrow starts the first dance class with the other shift of students, and Im feeling confident this class will be just as great as the first one!! Starting next week, I will also provide a night class for the teachers, as most of them are very interested. : D 

Alright...that's all I've got for now. I'm hoping tomorrow will bring warmer temperatures, because today only brought more snow, and I'm really getting tired of the winter. I know all you guys in America are just living it up in your short-sleeve shirts, so you just hush! ; ) Ciao!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dance Class!! HOT DAMN!!

I had my first dance lesson yesterday, and it was AWESOME!!

I was seriously a bit nervous about how the class would turn out, but the second Emilija showed up in her workout clothes, I already felt a lot better!! She was super excited, and a lot of girls began to show up even 20 minutes early. We ended up beginning the class 5 minutes early, because I already had a huge crowd of ladies!! I was so pleased that I had such a good turn out....honestly, I wasnt sure how many would show up, but we had so many people we filled the room to the max!! I'm afraid some girls couldnt even participate, because there wasnt enough room.

I began the class with a simple warm-up. I even used the warm-up song we danced to in America, so I followed the same basic moves to get them stretched and ready to dance. I explained to them that all they had to do was follow me, and if they got confused on a step they just need to improvise. By the end of the first real dance song, I had a round of applause. I felt it was important to encourage the applause after every dance, in order to make everyone feel even better about their workout. The girls seriously kicked ass!! I was SO PROUD of everyone!! They all worked so hard, and they all kept up. After the first few songs, I asked if anyone needed a break, and they all shouted "NO!!" I gave them one after the next two though. :D

By the time we were taking our break, I observed how everyone was feeling. Everyone was talking about how good of a time they were having, and we had even managed to form a crowd of watchers who were simply curious. They'd never seen anything like it!! I even had one of the teachers downstairs with us for a majority of the class. What made me feel even better, was having everyone be so supportive of each other. Some of the girls giggled at some of the moves, but not in a negative way. They were having fun!! And sometimes, I noticed some girls having a hard time picking up a step, but they did what I said, and they improvised. Again, I cant tell you how proud and happy this made me.

By the end of the class, I turned on an Adele song that's really popular here. I cooled it down with some ballet, and then lead the last round of applause before thanking the ladies for joining me and doing so well. Emilija and Lilika came up to me with big smiles on their faces, and Emilija still wanted to dance more, haha. Everyone's faces were so red, we all looked like we had sunburns. I couldnt have been more pleased, and I dont think it could have been more successful. HOT DAMN!! :D

Today, I have a private lesson with some of the seniors for the Patron's Day event. I choreographed an awesome hip-hop piece that I'll begin teaching today. The girl I will be teaching came to class yesterday, so I know she will do a great job. Thursday will be the second day of Zumba classes, and that will be for the other shift of all new girls. I hope it goes as well as the first class. Then that night, I will be leading yet ANOTHER class, but this one will be for adults. Although having 3 Zumba classes a week, on top of having the 2 private classes a week, on top of teaching with Emilija, on top of running the Model UN, and on top of running the photo club is quite the load to handle, but it's making me feel excellent about my contribution to the school and the community. I already feel like I've achieved so much, and I can't say how proud I am.

Not to end things on a sour note or anything, but I STILL dont have any water at home. I'm getting really fed up with my apartment and my landlord. He acts like I'm stupid, and then he refuses to actually fix a damn thing. I am hoping today will fix everything, because it would be nice to flush my toilet, wash my clothes, or take a shower at home, rather then going to everyone else's house. So please, if you get bored today, take out a hot minute to send some positive thoughts my way, in the form of WATER. :D 


Sunday, February 26, 2012


Here's a video including events from the last couple of months....nothing too exciting, but you will see some of the people I am close with in it, as well as the Epiphany ceremony. If the sound doesnt work, I apologize : (
In other news, I had quite the eventful weekend. I feel like I say that in every single post...maybe I do, who knows...but I really did have a packed weekend!! Prior in the week, I was helping with the final touches with the dance studio. I'd been running around like a crazy woman, so I was looking forward to the weekend. I knew, however, that my weekend would not exactly be relaxing.

Saturday, I had to wake up at 4:45am to catch the bus into Skopje. By the time I got into Skopje, I was so tired!! 6 hours of sitting in meetings just about killed me, but I enjoyed working with the other volunteers. We were there to organize stuff for the Spelling Bee, and we ended up getting a lot done!! We got done by 4pm, and I rushed to catch the 4:30 bus back to Kocani. As soon as I got in, I hoped in a car with Emilija and her family. We were hoping to catch the end of the carnival in the city of Strumica.

Every year, this city celebrates this carnival, and it is a mixture of Halloween and Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, we missed the parades, but we were able to walk around the city for a while and observe everyone's costumes. Later, we visited with some of their friends, who were all dressed up like snakes. It was wild!! By midnight, Emilija and I were sleeping in the car as her husband ran around frantically trying to find one of their kids at a disco. By 1am, we were all sleeping in the car during the hour and a half ride home. At one point, I woke up to Emilija's daughter sleeping on me and Emilija sleeping on the other side of the car. We were all SO TIRED. Boy, it felt good when I got home that night!!

Sunday was a good day. I went over to Emilija's first thing in the morning. I havent had any water since Thursday (I know, it SUCKS), so she offered for me to take a shower at her house. Later, we ate some good food, sat around watching TV, talked about upcoming projects, etc. Suddenly, I got a call from my French friend, Arnaud (the one who has a Macedonian gf), and he was inviting me to come make tacos with them!! He's been asking me to make him tacos, since I always have his gf pick me up tortillas from her city, so I gladly accepted.

We ended up having 5 people joining in on the feast!! It was a blast!! We all sampled a couple of different good wines with our dinner, which was such a good way to relax. I showed them how to properly prepare the meat, salsa, and tacos. They LOVED the food!! We all ate so much food, it was just a perfect meal!! It's always wildly entertaining when I get together with him and his friends, because there are always 3 languages being spoken. We have English, Macedonian, and French going on, which I always find to be so funny. We always manage to communicate in some way or another, and I love them for that. Arnaud also has the best friends...I really enjoy the company he brings around. By the end of the night, we were enjoying some type of traditional drink from France made out of prunes and listening to Johnny Cash. Such a cultural experience, haha!!

Tomorrow starts the beginning of yet another busy week. I dont know how I will survive this week, but Im hoping that being busy will keep me sane, in a way. Tomorrow starts the beginning of my dance classes. Im actually really very nervous. Then on Tuesday, I have some private lessons for a hip-hop dance I've choreographed for our Patron's Day even coming up. Tuesday and Wednesday are also all-day classes for me. Thursday is more dance classes, along with more photo club. Then, this weekend, I may be going out of town yet again...we shall see.

Im feeling pretty good about things. Overall, Im always a little stressed, but in general I feel really good. Im hoping these dance classes will open up a door for me here and that the kids will enjoy and appreciate the classes as much as I will. I also plan on hopefully looking into finding a new apartment this week (shh!) : ) Alright....I need sleep. Sleep tight everyone!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A long overdue video

Below, you will find a video that is LONG overdue. I blame the delay on my lack of decent internet, up until today. To preface....Sara and Anna came into town the weekend after my friend at home passed away. Here, we discovered what happens when you want to wash you clothes, as well as an unexpected twist in the end. I hope you'll enjoy. :D

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bad days here suck

Man....I had an awful day yesterday. It all started with the weather.

IT WAS BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE. You might be wondering why that upset me. I guess after living in the coldest winter known to man, waking up to 40 degree weather hit me like a brick. I instantly felt excited about being able to go outside. I thought "What do I want to do with my Sunday?" A list of things I can only do in America came to mind, making me instantly hysterical with homesickness. This is how my list began:

-Go to the dog park with Turtle
-Sit on the porch with my sister and the pups
-Invite friends over for "Sunday dinner" with Lauren
-Go to the farmer's market, and buy fresh veggies
-Get coffee with Aaron at Same and Zoe's
-Drive out and spend the day with my mom
-Play volleyball with Amanda, followed by Mexican food
-Drive somewhere, just to drive somewhere
-Etc, etc, etc...

So I cried. A lot. I havent had internet all week, but my phone occasionally picks up wireless, so I was able to get enough of a connection to call my sister at 6am her time. I told her about my frustrations for about a half an hour. Suddenly, Emilija called. She sounded so happy!! I killed her mood by crying to her as well. Thankfully, her mom instincts kicked in, and she was at my apartment within 10 minutes to rescue me.

It's really difficult for me to put my pride aside and admit when Im having a hard time. I also hesitate on telling people here, because Im afraid people will just think "OH, she's going to go home." The term "ET" here stands for "early termination." It is probably the most talked about subject among Peace Corps volunteers. People make bets on who will be the first or the next to go, and I hate feeling like I'm going to end up on someone's list one day. I don't even know why I care, but it adds to my refusal of wanting to talk to anyone about being homesick.

The thing is, I feel like I'm far more attached to my family back home than some people can understand. Some volunteers here are more independent from their families. Although I view myself as someone who is independent and strong, I have no shame admitting that I am deeply connected to my family and friends in America. Before coming here, I always spoke with my mom AT LEAST once a day. I saw her, my sister, and my grandmother frequently. My aunts and cousins also join in about once or twice a week for family dinners somewhere nice....not to mention, every holiday was another excuse for us to all get together over some good food and wine. I had a solid group of friends whom I saw regularly. My dog is the love of my life, and I planned everything in my life around spending time with her. I can't help but feel like I am missing out on so much by being everything at home is changing drastically, and I'm missing all of it.

The thing is, I know I'm missing out on a lot. I know nothing will be the same when I get back. I also know I'm experiencing a lot by being here. I'm in love with my city, my counterpart, my school, and a select few individuals who have invested time in getting to know and support me. Some days, like yesterday, are far too overwhelming for me though. I often fight the urge to call my family, look at photos, of think about everything I miss. Then, some days, I cave.

When you are going through PC training, the admin people will often ask you how you will deal with being stressed, homesick, or depressed. Naturally, I answered honestly:
-I'll cook.
-I'll paint.
-I'll exercise.
-I'll find a new hobby.

What a volunteer is not aware of is the lack of resources for those activities. For instance, it's taken 5 months for me to find acrylic paint here. I just bought it last week while I was in Skopje. Yesterday, my first thought was to paint, however, I had no surface to paint on. Canvases don't exactly exist here, which leaves me with cardboard boxes or regular paper....not exactly fulfilling. So I decided to cook, which again provides a lack of resources. Although I must give myself credit for finding ways to cook a good meal here, on my bad days, I often want something a casserole, yet they do not sell the required ingredients here. I cant even get fresh produce right now, other than apples, because of the winter. Even the cabbage here is turning brown. I then turn to exercising, which by the time I think about it, I cant even motivate myself. In America, I made myself go to the gym, but I dont have that option here. So instead, I find myself turning on a movie, which is exactly what PC told us not to do.

I know that the warmer days will be good for me. I know being outside is what I need. The dance studio should be final this week, which will provide the exercise I need. I also need to really get back into my other projects, like the animal facility. I know I'll have my bad days, and I know I'll have my good days. The purpose of this post is to vent without worrying what people will say, even if I end up on someone's ET list. I think it's important to be honest with yourself, especially through writing. Already, I feel MUCH better today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My body is allergic to the cold

Hi everyone!! Ok, so this week was EVENTFUL. As some of you have seen, I've been dealing with a medical problem lately:
Basically, what you see above was happening to my feet ALL THE TIME. My feet would change, and they would get extremely painful. This transformation was beginning to last longer each time as well, sometimes up to 4 hours. So I finally contacted the PC medical office. They decided to set me up to see a specialist, so on Tuesday, I caught a ride into Skopje. 

Well my appointment wasn't until 4, so I spent the first part of my day mingling in the office. I was able to catch up with the PC Director, Stephen, as well as my program manager, the IT guy, and a few others around the office. By 3:30, we were on our way. I was actually excited to meet this specialist. Especially because I just wanted to know what I was dealing with!! Unfortunately for me, they decided further testing needed to be done, which was going to require me to stay in Skopje UNTIL THURSDAY. Goodness, I wasn't planned for that!! From there, I got dropped off the in the center and had to spend the rest of the evening finding things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, new socks, new undies, and a little bit of makeup. I was completely unprepared to stay in Skopje for three days....hell, I didn't bring anything with me!! 

That night, I indulged on eating McDonalds in the mall. It's the only opportunity I have to eat it, and even though I never ate fast food in America, the thought of eating a double cheeseburger was just what I needed to end my day. Peace Corps did set me up in a hotel that was quite a ways out, so I hoped in a cab and went to bed early. Tuesday, I immediately went into the PC office for my blood work. They diagnosed me with having Raynauds, but they werent sure if it was connected to some underlying condition, hence the blood work. I spent the rest of the day shopping way too much in the center. I even ran into my neighbors from Kocani while shopping!! So funny!! 

A couple of great things did come out of my trip in Skopje. After shopping, I met up with a volunteer who recently ended her 2-years here, but has decided to stay in Macedonia. Her name is Tracy, she's an artist, and she's awesome. She was going to a spa, so I figured why the hell not?! I got a massage, and boy it was the best thing ever. Later, I met up with my old Macedonian language teacher for some rakija and beer. We caught up for a couple of hours in this awesome little Macedonian restaurant. I really missed him!! In Lozovo, he acted like my big brother, especially on my bad days where I needed to vent away from the other volunteers. We've definitely kept in touch since I moved to Kocani, but getting to spend time with him one on one was priceless. We had a blast!! That night, I met up with Milevka's (host mom) niece for pizza. Her and her family were so excited I was in town, and they welcomed me into their home like I was part of the family. Suddenly, we all realized it was 11pm, and there was absolutely no way for me to make it back to my hotel without paying A LOT of money. So they offered up a spare bed for me....oh, and their cat slept with me, which seriously made me SOOOOOOO happy to have a pet snuggled up against me. God, I miss Turtle so much at night. Having that cat with me made me feel like I was close to home.

The next day, I had to sit on a bus for over a half an hour in order to make it back to the hotel. It was so damn cold, and we were still getting snow. I decided to rest for a couple of hours before meeting back up with Tracy at her new apartment in Skopje. Tracy seriously knows some kick-ass places in Skopje. For instance, she took me to a place where I could buy PAINT!! Real acrylic paint!!!! Although it was extremely expensive, I indulged yet again and bought 7 tubes. Next door, she took me to this cute little tea place, where I bought some homemade tea with vanilla and strawberries in it. Spending time with Tracy was a real treat. We talked a lot about art and what to do with the limited resources in Macedonia. We also talked a lot about projects she'd done, which really help get my wheels moving for future community projects of my own. Hopefully, I'll be able to collaborate with her more on a creative level when we both get more time and the weather gets better!!

That afternoon, I went back to the specialist for my final tests. Thankfully, my blood work all came back looking good. They did some tests to observe the tiny veins in my fingers under a microscope and some other things. They said they were quite sure it was only Raynauds, and nothing more. I was told I'd need to be on medicine, three times a day to help relax and expand my blood vessels and also to help get more oxygen into them. In the meantime, I was going to have to do everything in my power to stay as warm as possible. They simple dont want my bones and organs getting affected by the Raynauds. So from there, PC had to send off all the results to the office in DC, where they will most likely just agree with the prognosis, and I'll just have to take the medicine until around summertime. It sucks, because I dont take any medication on a regular basis, and now I will have to....however, if it means my condition will lessen in its severity and I wont have to worry about my skin dying, them I guess I'm ok with that. 

I got home sometime around 9pm last night. I was absolutely dead. I felt tired, cold, hungry, and just emotionless. To my surprise, my lovely little Lilika was waiting for me at the bus stop. She had come to help me walk home. It's things like this that make me just love my life in Kocani. Not only do I ALWAYS feel good when I finally make it home, but I just cant express my gratitude to the people. Everyone at school today was so excited to see me back, which made me again feel as though I truly am becoming part of the community. It was a great way to end such  stressful week.

Well...that's that!! I'll be ok, as long as I can stick out this winter for a few more weeks. I can't wait till we get warmer days again. I'll never forget this winter, that's for sure!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank goodness for the weekend!!

I'm so glad it's Friday...I am looking forward to hibernating and staying warm in my apartment!!

It's snowing...again. It's currently 21F, which isn't that bad. The weather has made me come down with yet another cold. Runny nose, sore throat, cough, and exhaustion is how I'm ending my week. Thankfully, I've got the weekend to rest and catch up on my health. Already this week, I've made A LOT of smoothies, so I plan on continuing that healthy habit. My mom actually sent me a lot of Emergen-C packets, so tossing one into a smoothie is helping me too.

So I thought my exciting week was over, but I was wrong!! I've had quite the busy week. Last night, I had Lilika over. We spent the evening getting her registered to take the ACT test in April. Her and another student, Martin, will be taking the test together there. CJ and I will be accompanying them. Unfortunately for us, the closest center for testing is in Bulgaria....and not only's on the coast of the Black Sea, which is about 11 hours driving distance from us!! леле....That being said, we will look into travel arrangements soon. For now, Im trying to concentrate on helping them both study. I am more than confident for both of them. I have no doubt they can and will both get into a good college in America. Im so excited to help them in this exciting step...I feel like a proud momma!!

Now onto today's news!! Today, I went to classes with another teacher, Lidija. I'm quite fond of her, because we seem very similar. She's my age, and her teaching style is similar to mine too!! Her classes were a kick. I loved them!! The kids asked me lots of fun questions, and we are now setting up a pen-pal system, so the can write back and forth with students at my old school. By the end of the day, I was ready to go home and eat, when suddenly I was summoned to the Vice Principal's office. I thought, maybe it had something to do with the dance studio (which should be done by Tuesday!!)

WELL....I get in there, and to my surprise the news crew was there. The woman standing there explained they wanted to interview me. They wanted to ask about the projects I was involved in and how I was liking the school and city. Delightfully surprised, I agreed to do an interview. Suddenly, I realized I was going to have to do it in Macedonian.

во македонски? (In Macedonian?)
да... (Yes..)
еее....јас зборувам лош македонски. (Umm...I speak bad Macedonian)
но ти разбираш многу. нема проблем!! (But you understand a lot. No problem!!)

I just really nervous...starting pacing. The Vice Principal kept telling me I spoke fine and that I'd do well. Suddenly, Emilija opened the office door. WHAT A RELIEF!! Seriously, thank goodness for her showing up. From there, I attempted to do the interview in my poor Macedonian, but it was too bad. Instead, the woman interviewing me had Emilija sit to the side and translate, which allowed me to answer her questions in English. They asked about the projects I was involved in, how I liked my students, what I wanted to accomplish in my two years here, and then they told me it was impressive that I used to dance ballet. I don't know what I would have done without my lovely counterpart, because she definitely translated my responses so well.

Unfortunately, I don't have a television. I told the reporter that, and she was shocked!! Hahaha They agreed to put the segment on a CD and bring it to the school for me. I told them "мајка ми ќе сака да гледа." (My mother will want to see!) They laughed. Later, I went and chatted with some of the admin staff. The secretary brought up AGAIN how interesting it was for me to have a conversation with the Minister of Education. hahahaha, he kept wanting to know what on earth we'd said to each other. It was a great note to end my week on.

Next week should be BUSY. I'm hoping it wont be busier....I've got to be in Skopje on for the first of the week. Then, the school will be getting evaluated. Beginning Thursday, the dance classes are supposed to begin. Im honestly very nervous about beginning classes. What if no one shows up?? What if they show up once, but not again?? What if they dont like the classes?? What if I get a mental block during class?? And most of all, how on earth am I going to choreograph and teach a dance by March 22nd?? It's quite the task to take one, especially with all the other projects at hand, but I am SO excited to have such a unique opportunity. I am constantly thankful for the PC placing me in what is clearly the perfect city for me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oh, I met the Minister of Education big deal

The low today is 5 F. IT'S COLD!!

I have been seriously busy this week. It feels good to be so busy, but I can feel the physical exhaustion kicking in already...Yesterday, I went to my first 4 classes with Emilija. For the rest of my day, I joined Vesna, another English teacher at the school, for her classes. It was interesting to see the different teaching styles, and it was good to meet even more of the students at my school. By the time classes were done, I was really tired...I hadnt had a break or anything to eat, but before running home I figured I'd stop by the Director's office to check on the dance studio stuff.

Before I knew it, I was downstairs with the men who will be installing the mirrors and the ballet bars. It was around 3 or so before I was able to make it home. From there, I was so excited about the progression of the dance space, I ended up going through all my iTunes music for good dance songs. My kids are interested in ballet, Zumba, and hiphop. So excited!!

Last night was a Name Day celebration at Emilija's house. I showed up sometime before 8pm, because I really wanted to help her set up. People didn't start to show up until sometime after 9pm, and only two of them spoke English. There was such a nice couple!! Not many people spoke to me, and I tried my hardest to follow along with them as they all spoke with each other, but it's just overwhelming at times. I dont expect for most people to know how it feels, but it's difficult when you're in a room of people you can't understand. Personally, I'm a VERY outgoing person....if you put me in a room with people, I want to talk to all of them. This personal trait makes things even more frustrating for me, because I WANT to have the luxury of being able to talk to everyone about everything, but I simply cant. It can make a person feel lonely and isolated at times. That being said, can I just say the food I had was simply amazing. The table fit around 15 or so people. We had a variety of meats, salads, cheeses, sweets, fish, and even fried frog legs. The frog legs were by far my favorite!! I went home well fed and sleepy. : )

Today was another early morning for me. Waking up at 6am when your room is cold is quite a task, but I managed just fine with some warm tea. At school, Emilija and I had another long day of 6 classes with no break. I had some fun teaching the classes today, but by the last class I was asked to join the Director in his office, because the Minister of Education was coming. I thought "Isn't this a big deal?" Well it most certainly is.

Macedonia has a newly elected Minister of Education. I guess he is just making his way to some schools across the country, but I felt extremely privileged to have the opportunity to meet him. His entrance was impressive...he showed up with a posse of people. I was asked to sit in on their fancy meeting, where I proceeded to not understand the majority of what was said. Instead, I spent the first half of the meeting trying to find a sophisticated position to sit in. I kept readjusting, knowing how silly each position made me look. Eventually, I gave up and just crossed my legs. Suddenly, I was able to tell they were discussing me and my position at the school. They said they loved having me, and they said I was ambitious with a lot of excellent ideas. The Minister turned around to look at me, and I exchanged a smile showing all of my teeth and a simple wave of a hello. They amused me by laughing and then carried on with business.

At one point, one of the people in the posse had to leave. I noticed everyone getting up, so I thought we were all leaving. I gathered my bag and got ready to go. All of a sudden, everyone sat back down, and I instantly realized how silly I'd made myself just look. HAHAHAHA I'd thought we were leaving, so I packed up to reality, we were standing as a sign of respect when someone else was leaving the room. So I instantly sat back down and put my bag beside me. I turned to the guy next to me and chuckled "I thought we were leaving!" He didnt understand a word of English, which made it more hilarious.

The rest of the Minister's visit was spent showing him around the school. He went into a classroom, and he managed to chat with teacher in the teachers' lounge for a bit. Later, I followed them back down into the Director's office, where I noticed everyone grabbing their coats. I didnt know what was going on, so I waiting in the entryway. All of a sudden, the Minister appeared before me, and the next thing I know we were chatting up a storm, just the two of us!! He was such a nice man, really....he asked how I liked Kocani, how I liked the school, if I enjoyed the faculty, if I was helping in the classroom, and what other activities/clubs/projects I was involved in. I felt proud talking about my work, and then he said "You know, they love you here. They had excellent things to say about you." I said, "I know...I dont understand much Macedonian, but I can tell when someone is talking about me." He laughed.

The last thing the Minister asked me was how long I was going to be living in Kocani. Suddenly, I felt my inner southern side come out of me, and I busted out with "Well I'll be here for two years, so you just let me know if you happen to make it back for a visit!" (all said in a southern twang) After laughing, he said he'd be back. Upon him exiting the school, I noticed the amount of people looking at me. The secretary gave me a whole "what was that about?!" exchange. People seemed pleased/impressed I was able to have just a one-on-one chat with the Minister...and in English!! I realized I hadn't quite processed what a privilege it all was....I mean, I got to chat with the Minister of Education today. : )

So yea....another accomplishment I can check off my list of things I did that were SUPER AWESOME while living in Macedonia. Not sure how many people can call bragging rights on talking to the Minister in a southern twang, but I sure as hell can.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's already February?!

This winter is SO LONG. I can't stand the single digit temperatures anymore. I must admit, if it wasn't for my wool socks, some warm meals, my working boiler, and my expensive monthly electric bills from running my heater only at night....well I dont know how I'd survive. : )

Last week was really good and productive. Things are picking up slowly with my photography club. I dont have that many kids coming, although I have a lot that are interested. The kids that do want to participate seem committed and excited!! They told me things they want to learn, and I assigned their first theme last week. The dance space should be finished this week, which means I get to start using the space the following week. I am SO EXCITED for this!! I hope I can manage to get kids to actually come take classes. Fingers crossed!! Emilija also wants to kick-start a radio station for the school. Right now, I cant even begin to think or work on that idea, because it just seems like too much to take on, but I figure it's something I can do when the weather gets better.

We also have a few other projects in the works....for instance, we are in the midst of planning our epic Patron's Day event. We got A LOT to do for that. We also have a big project going on with the Freedom Monument space in our city. We are planning a clean-up project in conjunction with the Municipality. That will begin in the Spring. Finally, we may or may not have a qualifying event for the National Spelling Bee. I was elected on the National Spelling Bee Committee for this year, so I'll be doing the tech stuff, but I'd also like to see some of my kids up there competing!! I'm also working with two other teachers this week, which will make me busier than ever, but Im looking forward to staying busy. Being busy when the weather is so miserable makes the days go much quicker, and who can complain with that?!

This summer, I found out I'll be working as the videographer for the all girls camp, Camp GLOW. I'm hoping they will let me teach a photography workshop, or maybe some kind of volleyball class. All I know is I'm in charge of videoing, photographing, and blogging the entire week...I feel privileged that they asked me!! I'm also participating in the PC Magazine, Pauza. I wrote an article about my shitty toaster oven/hot plate combo, complete with recipes. Not sure when the next issue comes out, but I'll link you all the PDF version of it. : )

On a side note, I had an AWESOME day today. I started the day off with school stuff. My Model UN kids got together, and I spoke with two of my kids about getting them into college in America. I am going to assist them in applying, and it looks like I might even be going to Bulgaria with one of them, just so they can take the ACT test. Not one place in Macedonia offers that test, so our next option is Bulgaria. Anywho, after being at school for a while, I set out with Sara (who's in town for our meeting tonight) for a short shopping spree. I've been aching to buy some hair accessories, so I went and found a place that sells fun bobby pins and hair clips. I ended up with a few fun things, and only spent the equivalent of $4. Later we went to my favorite store to buy kitchen things. I LOVE this place...and not just because I've gotten all my best kitchenware there, but because the man and woman who run the place are awesome. For instance, when Sara and I got in, and I immediately went to look at the blenders, toasters, and coffee machines. The man pulled out a bottle of homemade cherry rakija and offered us all a glass. We enjoyed an afternoon rakija in order to "cure the cold" going on outside. (It's been 18F and snowing all day) From there, he helped me test the blenders.....see, I'd decided I was going to buy one nice thing for my kitchen, and I narrowed my best option down to buying a blender, solely for the fact I can make smoothies.

What I ended up with is the BEST PURCHASE EVER in this country:

I MEAN, HOT DAMN!! How awesome is that?! It comes with PARTY MUGS!! I was so elated, you just have no idea. I can do so much with it. That being said, after looking at the recipe book it comes with, we discovered it might be a knockoff version....the writing in the book is not exactly written in English....or maybe it was translated poorly. Who cares though...I have a blender!! So Sara and I bought kiwis and oranges, the only fruit you can get right now, and we poured in some juice as well. Voila!! We had some fantastic little smoothies, and I could not have been more pleased. This day was a major success!! Maybe next month I'll see if I can buy a grill or a coffee maker, but I dont want to get too ahead of myself :D

Ok, this blog post has been long and random, I real organization going on in my mind right now. Let's hope this snow/cold spell, which by the way is on NATIONAL NEWS in America, goes away soon. Till next time...miss and love ya'll.