It’s been a while, I know. I have been feeling guilty about the lack of updates, which I will finally remedy with this post! Also, for those looking for Part 2 of my post on Sisterhood, it will come – I promise.
The past two months were a bit of a whirlwind (see me trying to justify my absence from the interwebs), during which time I spent a week living outside of my handy backpack at a fellow volunteer’s apartment between homes; my mind was occupied by thoughts of moving, actually moving, and then catching up on life and work after moving. I am now happily settled into my new home, which I promptly christened by making copious amounts of cookies in my mini “шпорет”/oven. See below:
International Women’s Day (also moving day for me) came and went. Some of my lovely friends helped me to move everything into my apartment. After the move, I was invited by one of the families that I am friends with to join them for a celebratory luncheon.
Things are moving forward with the Youth Theater Club, and our upcoming performance of “American Prom” is quickly approaching. My friend and co-producer of the play, Lejla, surprised all of us at our latest rehearsal by returning from a visit with her family in Germany unannounced. We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to get all of the scenes memorized and scenery organized, but we have a great group of actors and actresses.
This weekend was a blur of activity – I went to a dinner with a co-worker (and dear friend) with some of her friends. It was a challenge for my Albanian language skills, which fell apart rather quickly when confronted with conversations between three individuals who studied Albanian language and literature in college – literary conversations fall far outside of my linguistic capabilities. My mind was also woozy from the smoke of four packs of cigarettes that were smoked during the evening. Coffee and cigarettes will always come to my mind when I think of Macedonia – the two are rather inseparable here.
Tonight, I was invited to my friend, Ljupka’s house for a post-birthday celebratory cake and coffee in honor of her son, Ivan. Ivan had turned three on Friday. I bought a little red car for him, which evidently earned me a place in his heart, for I was treated to some impromptu dancing and singing performances. Seeing him made me think of my niece, Avery, and nephew, Jacob, who are about his age. The topic of conversation somehow turned to school, and I ended up explaining that I was homeschooled until I was nine years old. Ljupka was very curious about the idea of homeschooling. She works as a school psychologist, and was surprised at how I developed into such a sociable person after being educated alone at home. She laughed that Macedonia’s school system is based on the idea that children can only be educated and socialized in school, and commented on how important it is to meet people from other places to learn how other people live their lives.
After being treated to an adorable rendition of Shakira’s “La La La” by Ivan, I realized that it was probably time to go home. I always have difficulty gauging how long is appropriate to stay as a “гостинка” or guest at my Macedonian and Albanian friends’ homes, but when Ljupka asked me what I was doing next, I decided this might be a subtle sign that it was time to ајде – literally to move or go – after about two hours of visiting. Maybe I am not as socialized as I thought ; )
In Macedonia, a good host will always walk you to their door or gate (most houses have fences surrounding them). Ljupka went one step further and walked me down the street before saying goodbye. It was dark, and I was a ten minute walk from home. I heard the students protesting in the distance – and I picked up the pace to get home. I don’t necessarily feel in danger in town – it’s a pretty quiet place, but I also knew that the high school students would likely be worked up after the protest. As I walked along the road two boys emerged on the corner, walking with exaggerated swaggers, as they passed, one muttered “F*&% you”. They sniggered as they passed. Too late to confront them, I processed what they said. I didn’t feel personally offended, but rather interpreted it more as a way for them to display their “coolness”, which in their minds evidently equated to cursing in English as the one American in town.
I discovered upon arriving home that the front door to my apartment building was seemingly locked. I tugged on the door and peered into the empty lock hole. I was about to call one of my neighbors, when I heard footsteps in the stairwell. Whew! I was curious to find out the trick to unlock the door. To my surprise, the door popped open with ease. My neighbor kindly laughed at my surprise. I probably need to begin working out again; my biceps are evidently non-existent. I climbed the stairs, passing by another neighbor. Not knowing whether he spoke Macedonian or Albanian, I greeted him with both. He grinned, and pulled off his hat, and I recognized him as a friend of my old host family. We exchanged greetings and he invited me to join him and his family for coffee another day. I smiled and thanked him and made my way up the stairs.
As one of my friends told me once in Albanian, “People here are mostly sweet, with a little bit of salt mixed in.”