Promaja in the Balkans

When you live in the Balkans, you are certain to hear about Promaja – believed to be a source of colds and illnesses that is created when two drafts of air cross.  The wind can be very blustery in my town so I can certainly understand the origin of people’s antipathy toward it.  This article from Balkan Insight perfectly captures a foreigner’s confusion when someone from the Balkans attempts to explain Promaja for the first time.

Promaja – The Wind of Change

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy

I traveled to Skopje this past weekend for a meeting for the Environmental Working Group (we are planning a Green Architecture Conference in partnership with a local university), and I had a pleasure of meeting a few Peace Corps volunteers from the previous group.  We were productive, but also squeezed in some fun – wandering around the old pazar, and visiting everyone’s favorite Indian restaurant (likely the only Indian restaurant in Macedonia).  The food was delicious, the company was delightful and the conversation veered from the usual small talk to the ridiculous. We somehow ended up discussing “flights of fancy”, which is how I coined the question written above. It was suggested that I have a future writing Valentine’s Day cards…hmm.  I think that I will remain a Peace Corps volunteer for now.


I woke up one night last week in a nice, cold sweat after dreaming of being washed away by a flood.  This seems like a clear message from my subconscious that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and out of control – reasonable, since I have spent the past month sick and I am still trying to settle into my new surroundings. I have made it through the “I can’t eat anything, nope not even that” stage; the delusional fever stage; the realization that the stressors that led me to be so, so sick needed to be dealt with; dealing with said stressors made me more sick; and finally, the realization in coming out the other side that I could have prevented a lot of this simply by being more vocal about my boundaries and strategic about where I invest my time and resources. Whew.

I came to my town with the usual all or nothing attitude (which means that I am operating at level “all”, as always).  Can I take over teaching English classes though I have never taught English? Of course!  Can I begin a new job at full swing and adapt to cultural differences and new communication styles? Bring it on!  Can I do this all while adapting to living with a new host family, a new city and saying yes to every social invitation that I receive? Yes! Can I prove that I can speak two new languages that I have spent the last three months learning? Piece of cake.

I do not regret the mistakes that I made in my first few months as this “Oh my god, this may be only opportunity to do X or to meet Y, or to make that first impression” attitude enabled me to learn a lot and to make a number of wonderful friends.  However, I do wish that I had thought more about the fact that I have two years to prove myself, two years to show who I am and what I can do for this community. I don’t have to do everything all at once  or to be everything to everyone – which is, incidentally, impossible to do anyway.

I had another dream last night reminiscent of Stephen King’s “Tommyknockers”, in which some malignant stuffed animals were on the prowl.  I was going to let this dream pass without further examination or interpretation…but then I thought, maybe it’s about confronting your little monsters? The things in your life that start out as benign, but because you don’t set boundaries or establish your needs, these initially benign things begin to run amok, just because they can? Maybe I am over analyzing things (as I am apt to do).  Regardless, I learned a very good lesson just in my first few months of service, you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.  Priceless (well, if you don’t count the hours I spent at home sick).