Where in the World is Rene?

The weblog of an American Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia

Archive for November, 2008

A Day In the Life

Hi friends.  I thought it would be a good idea to let you all know what I have been up to.  That way maybe you can visualize what I am doing here in Macedonia when you are doing your American thing.  You are driving to work, while at the same time, I am walking home from class through my village in the mud.  Oh, but it’s the same world and we aren’t so far apart, are we.  And if this were a Disney movie this is the exact moment where Fivel Mousekewitz would begin singing…aw.

1) Host Dad wakes me up by saying “Stand up Pehe” because I simply cannot figure out how to work the travel alarm. The verb “stand up” is literally translated from the Macedonian verb stanyvam, which is what they say instead of “wake up.” A funny that I learned in week two of verb conjugations. Also Pehe is my nickname (see previous blog).

2) I eat eggs n oil for breakfast. Host Dad makes Turkish coffee, which is like cowboy coffee. I drink it with great care as not to get coffee grounds in the teeth.

3) Run run run to school. Arrive late anyway.

4) FOUR F-ING HOURS OF LANGUAGE CLASS. I have located the exact area of the brain where language comprehension occurs. It is in the frontal lobe, to the right and equidistance between the eyebrow and the hairline. I know this is the correct location because this is where my brain hurts.

5) Monday, Thursday and Friday I go home and try to run or walk or do something to work off the oil that was on my eggs, or the oil that will be on my lunch. Tuesday and Wednesday, I go to my community development practicum site with the Organization Na Zheni (Womens Org) in Sveti Nikole. This sounds exciting, but because I don’t speak much Macedonian and because they are busy, it generally entails me sitting off to the side drinking Turkish coffee and generally trying to appreciate the work they are doing. I try to nod enthusiastically in ten minute intervals to keep up the positive mojo. Also, I have helped them write some pen pal letters in English.

6) Go home; eat giant lunch. Lunch is the big meal here people, and it’s grrreat! The usual components are bread (but I am warning you: do not to dip it into the soup), ayvar (roasted pepper spread), cirenje (feta cheese), chicken soup (not of the Campbells sort), assorted salads (the veggies kick ass), and a main dish (meat n potato).

7) More Turkish coffee!

8) Back to school for a meeting of some sort. Believe me, Peace Corps is not in danger of running out of ideas for meetings. Today we had one about the cross cultural differences in medical care. Really, Peace Corps, I know it’s not America- I could have been shampooing the neighbors’ cat with that time.

9) Home to study. Psyche! I don’t study. I’m tired. I check my e-mail and look at all the hilarious comments on my blog (aww). Ok, sometimes I study. But I try not to learn anything.

10) Hang out with the host fam. Sometimes I play backgammon with Toshi, sometimes I take a walk with Biliana. Last night we all made apple pie. You just never know what those crazy kids will want to do.

11) Go to sleep under thirty blankets.

Well, there you have it, that’s my Macedonian life. I feel pretty busy here, and not necessarily because of all the standard Trainee activities. I think it’s kind of because even the simplest activities are challenging, like trying to buy shampoo or trying to understand why I can’t put my bread into my soup. It’s not a complaint, just and observation and the modus operandi of my life.

Anyways, I miss you all and I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving.  I am actually going to a Peace Corps Thanksgiving of about two hundred people tonight so that should be fun.  I will take lots of pics for my next entry.

пријатно! (bye)



I Learn the Macedonian Electric Slide and Whip It

Well Hello,

First off, OMG, I am sorry for being a neglectful blogger.  Sorry friends.  Worst.  Blogger.  Ever.  But truly, these last two weeks have flown by!  So much has happened that I want to tell you about!  So, hey, why don’t you stay awhile and pour yourself a beer or a cup of organic juice and I’ll tell ya…

I made luticka, which is a traditional Macedonian condiment.  Macedonians make a variety of delicious spreads that all involve more or less of the following ingredients; peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, onion, garlic and parsley.  This family of “bread slops” include ayvar, luticka and pinjur and maybe a few I haven’t been introduced to yet, but trust me I look forward to it and my crusty bread does too.

I went to TWO weddings last week! OPA!  They were great fun!  Macedonians love to dance “oro” which is like a giant line dance, except it is in a circle.  Imagine all the Whoos in Whooville singing at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and you have the general oro formation.  The oro lasts basically for the entire wedding and don’t be alarmed if a plate with a giant pig’s head or an American flag makes an appearance- it’s all part of the choreographed genius of oro.

I baked a pie. Apple. And it was damn good.  The literal Macedonian description for pie is “lazy pita.”  Huzzah!

My language group dressed up as Devo for Halloween.  We made the hats out of construction paper and packing tape.  The great part about making construction paper hats with community development volunteers is that, even in hat making, phrases such as “strategic scissor plan” and “load bearing tape” are still used.  P.S. I was the lead singer in our rendition of Whip It at Hub Day.

I got my first taste of grant writing on an anti-discrimination project.  The great part is that the org I work for really liked my ideas and I think I was able to suggest something that will be good for their organizational development, the bad part is that I think I may have planned the first Macedonian Diversity Day.  EEK.

Um, Barack Obama is President.  Did you know that?  Well, it’s a good one so I thought I would mention it. It was pretty interesting talking about American politics for the past few weeks here. rust me, everyone was interested.  I’m trying to be diplomatic about it.  I am also kinda excited about the story of my lil ballot because it took a lot of teamwork just to get it to the US.  Because I didn’t receive my absentee ballot (boo!) I had to print out an emergency write in ballot at the Women’s org.  I gave it to Risto my Community Development Facilitator who took it to the Peace Corps Satellight office in Kumanovo.  Once there he relayed it to my Training Director, Evelina, who took it to the main office in Skopje.  At the Peace Corps Main Office, the Country Director mailed it along with the official PC mail to headquarters in D.C.  What a journey for one vote!  But, I would have felt a tad hypocritical looking at voter protection projects here if I hadn’t even cast a ballot.

    So that’s the haps guys!  It’s been pretty fun and I have been enjoying myself quite a bit.  I’m going to go out with my fellow dobrovoltzi to celebrate the end of 8 years of having my soul punched (Bush Administration).  Don’t worry, I’ll pour one out for all of you.

    Eating Luticka

    Eating Luticka

    Someone has to wear the flag

    Someone has to wear the flag