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!!