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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Round Here


This week has really flown by. I have been sick and busy all at once. I came down with a nasty cold, and I thought I even had strep, but I have become better after eating lots of soup and drinking lots of tea. One thing I have NOT gotten is rest. Lele...

Well, I got SPA grant application got approved (YAY!!!!!), but there were some needed amendments that were suggested in order for the grant to be final. I was given 2 weeks to make these adjustments, re-write the grant, and get some new forms signed. I began working on this immediately, however, after trying to open the files on a computer at school, ALL of my files became CORRUPT. ughhhh, so I spent hours re-writing everything. It was so exhausting. Currently, I'm not officially done with the revision of the grant, but I think I'm close. I hope to have it all final by Monday.

Emilija allowed me to take a break from English classes during the first half of the week, but I still found myself running around and staying busy with the grant. I also opened the dance studio so my dancers could still practice, even though I was not well enough to join them. Yesterday, my Director came to me with some excellent news: He found a new apartment for me.

HELL YEA!! New home?! I was so excited, so we agreed to check the place out together last night. The place is fantastic. It's perfect for me. It is the top floor of a beautiful house. I met the woman who lives downstairs, and she is an adorable little lady. She is the perfect person you would want as a landlord....the kind you can join for dinner or ask to borrow sugar from...we got along great. She showed me the upstairs, and immediately I was in love. THERE WAS ROOM. It has three rooms total, complete with two little balconies. There is wireless internet and TV. The kitchen is about the same as what I have now...still have the toaster over and hot plates. The bathroom, however, is a total upgrade!! It's got nice tiles and a washing machine. : ) The house itself is located the same walking distance away from school. It is located right across from the bus station, which is also right beside the two big grocery stores and a little veggie vendor area. It is a nice and quiet neighborhood. I love it.

I should find out tomorrow if Im officially approved for the apartment. Right now, it seems like it is going to work out. The landlady even said I could move in as early as April 18th!! Oh more walking up 89 steps every day. No more one room with no closets. No more MEAN landlord who never fixes a damn thing. No more of any of that.....I really want this new place.

In other news, I'm battling insomnia....quite literally. I cannot sleep. I dont know why. Even sleeping pills arent helping me. I hope it goes away, b/c starting this weekend, I will be GONE. I'll be out of town all weekend.....out of town all next week. Out of town for half the weekend....back in town for the following week, but then out of town AGAIN the next weekend (going to Greece!!!!!!), and then by the time I am back, I will have 2 days to pack and move!! Two weeks later, my momma will be coming to visit!! :D I still wish my sister could come...I really miss her, but she simply cant afford it. Ill be really sad when Im showing off my momma, but my sister isnt with me too. I hope she will find the money and time to make it later in the summer.

Ok...that's all for now. Wish me luck on the grant...and on the new apartment...and on all my traveling coming up. I may not update again for a while, but Im still reading all my emails from you all.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where we left off....

Things are going great

The Patron's Day show was a huge success!! All of the dancers rehearsed their butts off the two days before the show, and it surely paid off!! I only have two of the dances uploaded online, and you can watch them here. The first video is the dance I was in.....originally, I wasnt supposed to be in the dance, but the other boy dropped out, so I took his place. It turned out just fine : )

and here is my largest group's dance:

The sense of pride I felt for all of my dancers made me feel like a mother....I can't explain the feeling.....just seeing them smile and feel so good about their dances made the last 7 months I've spent here all worth it!! My Director also gave me a big shout-out at the beginning of the show, giving me a lot of was awesome!! At the end of the show, they announced their thanks to all of the teachers, one by one. I was the last person to get announced, and the round of applause was remarkable. I felt 100% fulfilled, proud, and overall heightened. All of the teachers gave me big hugs and very nice compliments. My Director was just GLOWING over how well it was a perfect evening.

What made it all even better was having 11 PC volunteers come into town to share in the excitement. Even our PC Director, Stephen, made it into town. I was so excited to share such a great night with everyone!! After the show, we went to eat as a group. Later, a few of us decided to hit up the Irish Pub, b/c there is always a live band that plays on Thursday nights there. But really.....having your colleagues come out and show their support is something really special. I'm so thankful for them!!

The rest of my weekend could not have been better. I spent some good time with Anna, just walking around and shopping. My school got together to further celebrate the Patron's event, and they all flooded me with hugs, kisses, food, and very kind words. I really feel appreciated and like I'm actually part of the team now!! HOW GREAT!! Furthermore, the students are now much warmer towards me. I have become very close with some of my students, and I just LOVE them to death. Walking on the street, I now am always having someone say hello to me, and it really makes me smile from ear to ear. I feel like everyone in the city now knows they finally know what I do here....and I feel really positive about that. I'm still the weird blonde American, but now I'm the weird blonde American who brought something new to the city. : )

I got to see CJ and Elena this weekend too. We went to a grand re-opening of a bar wasnt really our scene, so we left almost immediately. We ran into Bobi and Ivan, my two dancing guys, and convinced them to join us at the pub instead. Normally, the people who go to the pub are older than 18, but my kids fit in perfectly there. Here, it is totally acceptable for the older students to drink in bars. This concept took me forever to understand and accept, and now Im thankful to have them around on a weekend night. They dont abuse liquor like most American teenagers...a lot of them dont even drink in the bars!
Anyways!! We danced, sang, and had a great time. The night ended with a hip-hop dance party in my apartment!! We all sat out on my porch, b/c the weather was perfect for it. I showed them photos of my friends and family from back home, and we plotted big plans for the "dance crew" we are forming. I went to bed feeling so lucky to have such great people here.

Today, things seemed to finally slow down a bit. I got my laundry done and the weather has finally allowed me to hang it all up outside : ) I had an AMAZING lunch at Emilija's house with her family, and we were able to watch the entire Patron's Day show, b/c she bought the DVD of it. We were both so happy with how things worked out, so we spent the entire time bragging, haha!! 

The only bad news is I think I'm getting sick. My throat started hurting real bad today, and my body feels dead. I made myself some tea and soup, but I know one of the volunteers from this week had strep throat, so I hope I didnt pick it up. I'm going to try and take it easier this week, and hopefully I can shake off whatever illness is brewing inside of me. I have one last thing to leave you all with, and that is a beautiful photo that Lilika shot of me. (yes, I have bangs now) ајде!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

T-minus Two Days

One of my dancing guys, Ivan, drew me a picture as a thank-you gift for all the dancing. Check it out:
Isnt that FANTASTIC?!?!?!?! I've never received anything like it. The gift simply made my day...I couldn't express how happy and thankful I was just so nice of him.

Dance practice is going really well. I will have 4 dances in the big show, which is in TWO DAYS. Two of the dances are ones we do in Zumba class, and the girls seem to have those down really well. The third dance is a dubstep type of dance, which involved some hip-hop moves and the girls actually change formations a couple of times. The formations have been the most difficult thing to teach them so far, but they are catching on really fast!! The last dance is the big hip-hop dance. This is where I have my two breakdancing guys dancing with Stefani and myself. Originally, I wasnt in this dance, but the other kid who was dancing dropped out, which left me to take his place. It has worked out just fine, because I think the dance looks AWESOME!! I am really excited for all of the dances.

There's already been a lot of talk about what we will do after Patron's Day. Right now, I think we have a "dance crew," which will include the breakdancing guys, and about 4 or 5 girls. I really want to get more guys to dance, but Im having trouble finding ones that are interested. Hopefully, after everyone sees the show on Thursday, a lot more interest will be sparked. Even if we dont find more dancers, I am TOTALLY satisfied with the dancers I have....the possibilities are endless. 

In other news, my mom is booking her plane ticket to come see me!! I AM SOOOOO EXCITED!! She should be arriving around May 7th, and she should be staying about one week. I have not seen my mom since the beginning of the time she gets here, it will have been 8 months!! I can't wait to bring her to school to meet Emilija, the Director, my students, and all of my dancers!! She will be like a celebrity, hahaha. I also plan on bringing her to see my host family in Lozovo. It's going to be a great time....just the thought of seeing her makes me happy. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


This is about to be an awesome post.....

First and foremost, here is a new video:

This video covers a little bit of everything, really. You'll see my home, covered in snow-meals I eat- packages I open- my dance studio- my photography kids' photos on display- and my dancers performing at Kango's show.

The show on Friday was fantastic!! I could not have been more proud of my dancers....THEY DID EXCELLENT!!!!! The show was a great success, and for the rest of the night, all of the musicians were giving shout-outs to the dancers, and even asking them to come dance some more. My girls took advantage of every opportunity to dance, and they even managed to get some photos with some celebrities. Here are some photos from the night:
Here are some of the photography kids' photos. They were paid for by the school, but already people are expressing interest in buying some of the prints!! Hopefully now, the kids can start pricing their photos : )

Left to right: Bobi (dancer), Emilija (counterpart), me, Stefani (dancer), Lilika (you all know Lilika)
I love this people. They keep me happy on a daily basis....I dont know what I'd do without them. <3

Emilija and Me : )

Me and some of my dancers!! 

Left to right: Kango, Next Time (band) singer, Kango's daughter, Next Time (band) guitarist, Kango's daughter

Me and the guys from the band. They were awesome and sang a song from Nashville, which they dedicated to their "new friend." :D

In other news, Arnaud (French friend, which you'll see in the video) and I have been hanging out a lot more lately. We've been whipping up some killer meals, playing tennis, and sitting on my mini balcony, because the weather is finally hitting 50F!! I've also spent nearly ever single day in the dance studio with the dancers.....we have to get everything together before Thursday's big show!! I'm so excited for it!! I've got 8 volunteers coming into town for the event, and I think it'll just be great.

That's all I've got for now. I've very proud of my recent accomplishments, but even more proud of all my students who have worked so hard. My students are becoming like family to me....I simply adore them!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gold Field

Again....another great day.

I dont want to make these posts run together and sound like all Im doing is bragging, but Im seriously having a great ride, as of lately. Today, I started my day working with some of my dancing kids at school. I met up with the Director and his Turkish friend prior to them going to the airport, and to my surprise, I was handed a big bag full of goodies!! The Turkish guy gave me a lot of pistachios and a huge box of pistachio baklava!! IT WAS AWESOME!! I shared my goodies with some of the ladies who were hanging around the office, before going back downstairs to work, but boy was that a nice surprise!!

Later, I worked with my breakdancing boys, and Stefani, the girl who is doing one of my hip-hop dances. The other kid, who is usually her partner, failed to show up to practice again, so Im debating on taking him out of the dance. Right now, the 3 of them look AWESOME. I may or may not decide to stand in for Bojan (the kid that's missing), or I may have one of the other dancers stand in for his parts. Doesnt matter really, because what's important is how good they looked today!! They looked great doing the dance together, and it really made me feel like things were pulling together like they should.

After work, I headed to the post office to pick up two packages. One was from my momma, and it was loaded with goodies!! I Skyped her, so she could watch me open everything, which made me very happy. The second box was from the wonderful men and women of Willowbrook, and again, that box was loaded with goodies!! I am now stocked with cookie mixes, seasonings, soup mixes, new socks, a new hat, fancy marshmallows, and some good 'ol American chocolate. I couldnt be happier. I ended up making some pasta with one of the seasoning packets, and then got comfortable in bed for an afternoon rest.

Suddenly, Arnaud (French friend) rang me and asked if I wanted to meet him in the center for a quick beer. Well, it was still the middle of the day, so I figured why not?! It was nice and sunny out (although still cold), but we managed to sit outside for the fresh air. We ended up running into Bill (the other volunteer in Kocani), and we managed to convince him to join us. What turned into a quick drink, led us to drinking rakija, accompanied with some fresh cucumber/tomato/cheese salads and kebabs. I really love being able to have the luxury of sitting outside with friends in the middle of the day....just because. We had some great conversations, and while walking home I just felt so good about where I was. Im lucky to have people like Arnaud and Bill close to me. Even Elena and CJ have become closer friends, and I find them venturing into my city more often. All together, I no longer feel like I have nothing's quite the opposite really.

I cant believe tomorrow is already Wednesday!! Ive been running around so busy like, I've found time to be moving much quicker. Patron's Day is now just a week away, and I think things will definitely slow down afterwards, but I'm excited for new horizons and opportunities that will follow....especially work-wise. I suppose the next time you hear from me, I will be telling you how my dancers did at the show on Friday. Till then, keep the emails coming. I love and miss you all  : )

Monday, March 12, 2012

White Daisy Passing

You remember those cookies I said I'd made?? Well I only have 4 left!! Haha, I've been enjoying sharing them with everyone...I simply need to make more!!

The past 24 hours have been a blast. Last night, I ate home-made gnocchi and drank sparkling wine with Arnaud, my French friend. We even prepared some fresh tomatoes with mozzarella, which I havent had since America. It's funny too, because in America, I hated tomatoes. The tomatoes here (especially the ones from the warmer weather) taste so much better!! Anyways, we hung out chatting for hours on end, until I finally forced myself to walk home and pass out with a full belly. 

This morning, I worked with my breakdancing guys some, and then I later had my Zumba class. A couple of songs into the workout, I had some guy with a huge afro walk in. He approached me and explained how he is the "Jimi Hendrix of Macedonia." Apparently, he's like a Macedonian legend in the music world, and all the girls said he was well-known and popular. Well anyways, he asked if my Zumba girls would be willing to perform at his show on Friday night....I asked the girls to raise their hands if interested, and more than half the class raised their hands. So I guess my ladies will be dancing for the show!! His name is Kango:

Apparently, there are a lot of famous people going to this show, and the thing will last from 8pm-2am. I asked Emilija if she was going to go with me, b/c he handed me a VIP pass, but her son will be in Skopje for bronchitis, so I dont know if she will be around to go with me. Either way, I'm flattered that he asked my girls to dance, and I'm even more proud that they have the confidence to agree to dance!! I can't wait to watch them on stage...I'll be like a proud momma!!

After class, I decided to go upstairs and visit with the Director and his Turkish friend he's had in town. The Turkish guy is a big Salsa dancer and I think a world champion. He runs a dance school in Turkey, and we have been talking about bringing some of his dancers over for workshops and stuff. We've also discussed making a trip to Turkey to visit his school and get some workshops for ourselves, which I'm really excited about!! We ended up Salsa dancing in the office, followed by coffee, and more discussions over future plans for the dance studio. The vice Director even gave me the nicest compliment today. When I apologized for how I was dressed (b/c I'd just gotten done with the dance class), he said not to worry and that I always looked nice, no matter what I was wearing. I laughed and said, "no no you are lying." He said  that I always come in with a smile on and I'm always very positive. He then gave me a high-five handshake, and that compliment just made me feel fantastic!!

The last great thing that happened to me today, was I received a letter in the mail from one of my students. The letter was so sweet, it just made me glow. I showed my mom on Skype, when I got home, and she actually got a little teary-eyed over it. It was really sweet, and it is something I'll keep with me. : )

Well, that's all I've got. I'm exhausted, and my ankle is hurting me from jumping around too much. I plan on doing nothing but resting and eating in bed all night. : ) Night!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Light Year

First off, I want to let everyone know I just made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies. Thanks to my momma sending me some Trader Joe's chocolate chips, I was able to construct some "super chewy" ones, thanks to an online recipe. Hot damn...these cookies are GOOD!!

Friday, I was at school for the majority of the day, working with some of the kids who will be performing in our big event. I made a short video based off their tricks, because I had too much fun watching them!!

I had a really good weekend. Friday was an easy night for me. I stayed in and rested, because I really felt like I needed it. I'd been running around all last week trying to get everything done, and all I wanted was a night alone to celebrate the completion of that damn grant. : ) Saturday was spent at school ALL DAY. I had a lot to do, and thankfully I have a Director who is cool enough to unlock the doors for me over a weekend. :D I taught a group of Zumba girls the opening dance for our Patron's Day event. They did an EXCELLENT job!! I was so proud of them. They learned the entire dance in an hour and a half. That night, I bought some fresh veggies. (FINALLY, veggies are coming back to life here!!) I made quite an epic dinner with some lovely company, watched a movie, and called it a night.

This week is going to be crazy busy, and next week is going to be worse. I need to get the show together....we still don't have enough acts, but that is hardly my responsibility, even though I feel like it is. I also switch back to first shift at school this week, so Ill be waking up at 6am again. : ( Finally, I will be practicing almost every day with all the dancers, AND I'll be beginning the adult night class this week. The constant exercise is doing wonders for my mental health, and spending more time with the girls keeps me happy as well. Again...still very happy right now.

Alright...that's all I've got!! More dinner tonight with more good company. Now if only the weather would get warm and sunny...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm really happy.

Can I just say I'm the happiest I've ever been while living in Macedonia-

Things are going so well. I'm truly SO happy right now with everything I have going on. I'm so busy with work, but it all feels so rewarding. Just this week, I finished writing the grant for the dance studio. Having completed that (and mailing it in tomo) is just such an accomplishment. On the same note, dance classes are still going really well. I have so much fun dancing with my ladies!! All of my girls are doing so well. Some of them have picked up a lot of the basic moves, so when we do new songs, they have no problem!! It's also brining me a lot closer to some of the girls, which is a blessing, because I love them all. To be completely honest, those classes are now my favorite part about every week.

The big Patron's Day event is coming up on March 22nd. Initially, I was in charge of just doing the dancing bits, and then helping Emilija get the English speeches and stage design set, however, none of the other teachers have been doing anything to help. Therefore, Emilija and I are kind of up a creek in that we need to pull up the slack and get more talent in there!! Ive been working with two great kids on making a hip-hop piece, and just today, we had another awesome kid decide to join the dance with his awesome breakdancing skills. I also have a group of girls Im going to work with on Saturday for the Intro dance to the show. It's all based off Zumba moves, and I think the girls would be really good!!

I made a new friend this week!! Actually, I made a couple, but one in particular really stood out, and I think we might become really close. I had the most amazing little day adventure and ended the night with another local friend eating endless amounts of good food, drinking good wine, and just enjoying everyone's company. I love that Im beginning to have local friends. It makes me feel like I really have a home here....ya know?? I'm already beginning to have weekly traditions come about, like new Sunday dinners and weekly tennis matches, once the weather gets warm again!! I'm also spending a lot more time with someone who is becoming like a sister to me, and she knows very well who she is. : D

Lately, every talk with my mother has been about all the good things that are happening and how completely fulfilled I feel right now. At the end of each week, Im thankful to have the time to rest, but Im thrilled about everything new in the upcoming week. I know that things may die down after a month or two (even thought I hope they dont), but it's remembering weeks like these that will inevitably remind me why I'm here. Right now, I feel like my possibilities are endless.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I bought a fish

That's right...I now own a pet. I bought a fish on Thursday, and I decided to name him Sunshine. I call everyone I like's my favorite why not name my new goldfish that?! Here he is:
He sleeps beside my bed. : )

I had an awesome weekend. I went out a lot and saw a bunch of people. I can officially say I'm quite happy right now. Tomorrow starts a new week, and I'm already excited for the dance classes, the somewhat warmer weather, and finally finishing my SPA grant application. 

On a side note, a friend posted a link to a volunteer's blog from Ethiopia, and after reading it, I thought how I could completely relate to everything this volunteer had to say. Even though this person lives in a world much different than mine, it still seriously hit the nail on the head, and I encourage all of you to take out a hot minute and read it....I couldnt explain PC life better myself:

Ok...that's all I have. I hope you all are doing well. Send me emails, ya'll!!