I have been in Macedonia for two months as of today, though in many ways it feels as though I have been here for much longer. My daily pattern involves waking up at 5:30 am (no one is more surprised about this than I am!) to read or practice yoga, as mornings are one of the rare occasions when I have time to myself. In an attempt to burn off the calories gained through overconsumption of bread, I used to run along the dirt road that runs behind the village, but it has been raining lately and mud cakes to my shoes in heavy clumps that makes them more akin to Shape-Up sneakers. I now completely understand why Macedonians have a separate pair of shoes to wear in their homes. Below is a photo, from sunnier times, of the view outside of my house.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, even those in training – as I am, one of our primary goals is to integrate into our communities. I have not had one big “aha” moment, instead I find my time in Macedonia measured in small, and some might say minor, experiences. For example: I can now identify the unmarked village transit buses rather than attempting to flag down unsuspecting minivan drivers, as I did for the first month. In all seriousness, some of my favorite memories include laughing at my host grandmother’s jokes over breakfast, a neighbor having me over for coffee after a long bus ride, and talking to the drugstore owner about the cookies I am going to make from the margarine I bought – yes, margarine; butter is more difficult to find than one would suspect in a community that produces cheese and yogurt. It is these types of moments that make the unavoidable culturally and linguistically awkaward moments bearable. I am fortunate that the majority of people I have encountered in Macedonia are in possession of excellent senses of humor and are willing to welcome a bumbling foriegner in their midst.