Chicken Wings

THAT time of the year is approaching – yes, the Superbowl.  Most years I have remained ignorant of the Superbowl hooplah.  I don’t really understand football and I am a disinterested spectator for sports where you cannot see the players faces.  However, after living outside of the U.S. for five months, I feel a sudden urge to participate as many American activities as possible, and the Superbowl is at the top of my list for “Americaness”.

Earlier this week I spoke with a co-worker about the Superbowl, though I am truly the least qualified person to explain this event to a foreigner (it involved some furtive googling).  The conversation went something like this:

Coworker:  “What teams are playing?”

Me: “The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos”

Coworker: “A group of the volunteers is meeting to watch the game? What food are you making?” (Balkan people love food as much as I do)

Me: “Yes, and we will have a bunch of food…nachos, chicken wings, beer, etc.”

Coworker: “Chicken wings? Not chicken fingers?”

For some reason this comment makes me assume that my coworker does not know what chicken wings are, and I promptly launch into an attempt to describe chicken wings. How does one describe chicken wings?  For me it involved flapping my arms.  My coworker interrupts me to say that he knows what chicken wings are. *Sigh*

In working abroad, I have found that everyone has perceptions of what the other person knows and we all have surprising little pockets of knowledge as well as glaring deficits.  For example, I had no idea that everyone in my town knew about twerking.  Thank you Miley Cyrus for your contribution to educating the world about America.  The process of discovering each other’s knowledge is rather like shooting in the dark with the person you are shooting at does not make a sound.  Did I hit the mark, or did I end up putting another bullet through the insulation?  Or rather, you say something, wait for recognition or seek to identify whether the other party is just nodding along (which I am guilty of) before diving deep into the origins of the unknown subject or word.

I stood in my coworker’s shoes when my language tutor was teaching me vocabulary for time.  We thoroughly covered the number of minutes in an hour, hours in a day, months in a year, etc. – in English.  While it made me feel quite smart that I knew the answer to all of the questions, I also wanted to say that I already know these details as the measure of time is the same all over the world (at least I think so?).


A Contemplative Moment

I love to walk.  When I was living in D.C., the 45 minutes that I would spend walking to and from work were often the only chunks of time when I was not anxiously tapping away on my phone and trying to keep up with the constant influx of e-mails generated by work.  In those 45 minutes I felt connected to the city and immersed in its energy. Regardless of the weather, I walked – on more than one occasion arriving at work half soaked after being caught in a rainstorm.  The act of walking became a kind of relief; it made me feel alive in a way that I could not in the hours I spent behind a computer screen.

I realize that part of what I was seeking in the Peace Corps was an expansion of this feeling, what I would describe as the electric thrill of existing, of being out in the world and connecting and engaging with it.  And, I think that, overall, this has been true of my experience as a volunteer so far. When I wake up in the morning, 95% of the time I have no idea what lies ahead during the day.  Something new happens every day – I am invited to bake cookies at a friends house, I meet the Director of the Cultural Center and I begin to teach English classes, an English teacher at the high school invites me to sit in on his English classes and I meet his family for dinner, an employee of a local Roma non-profit stops by and invites me to an event they are having at the schools the next day…There are so many opportunities that pop up for me to be involved in my community that I have no doubt I will be very busy for the next two years.  And, for the first time in a long time, I feel that I am in the right place and that I am doing the right thing.

Please note that this does not mean that I do not have rough days or doubt myself and my decisions – I’m only human after all : )

For These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

My Christmas lasted for longer than usual this year (thanks in part to the smog clouding Skopje, and preventing flights carrying packages sent from the U.S. from landing), as presents and cards sent by my friends and family months ago have only now begun to arrive.  Each day brings a new surprise in the mail, and the best parts of these surprises are the pictures and updates that I get to see…little reminders of my life in back home.

I discovered the magnet of Portland in my luggage, which I had completely forgotten that I had packed.  It was nice to find a piece of the Pacific Northwest in Macedonia!  I love seeing photos of my little niece and nephew on my brother and sister-in-law’s Christmas card – this is one of those cases when hard copy trumps Facebook.  My dad and stepmom also sent me the traditional King family Christmas newsletter.  It’s comforting to have a little piece of my family’s celebrations at my new home.

The picture of the street was taken on my way to an Albanian tutoring session.  There were some men working on the other side of the street who looked at me as though I had just broken into a song and dance in the middle of the street while I was taking the picture.  I don’t know if was because I was American or because I was taking a photo…it will likely remain a mystery.

I became friends with relatives of my host family shortly after arriving in Diber.  All of the daughters in the family are artistically talented, and I had the chance to put my rusty drawing skills to work with the youngest daughter.  She is only about 7 years old, but her drawing of the bouquet is beautiful!

On a separate note, someone else got locked in the bathroom at work yesterday.  I think we need to install an emergency buzzer in there for all the souls unfortunate enough to have to use it…

çokollatë e plasma

The Lake

I woke up this past Saturday feeling unusually carefree.  My attitude remained unaffected even after making tea incorrectly for the umpteenth time (prior to coming to Macedonia, I was blissfully unaware that there is an art to making tea, and that my skills are sorely lacking).  My host cousin and sister kindly overlooked the tea incident and joined me for coffee at one of the more popular coffee bars downtown.   After  overindulging in coffee and çokollatë e plasma – a combination of hot chocolate and cookie crumbles – we decided to take a walk down to the lake that lies beneath the town.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and unusually warm, and perfect for admiring the amazing beauty of this area.  After having visited Tetovo and Skopje recently,  this view reminded me to be thankful that Diber is not cloaked in the pollution smog that plagues some of the larger cities in Macedonia.  Trash and pollution is a major problem across the country, unfortunately, which makes me worry that the (mostly) pristine beauty of Diber and the surrounding national park, Mavrovo, will not last.