Patience, the ultimate virtue in Macedonia

Falling behind already.

So its been about 2 weeks since I’ve written and there is a lot to share. I’ve been kinda lazy with updating because at the end of the day when I say I’m tired at 9:30pm so I can steal about 30 minutes of alone time before I really pass out, its hard for me to get the energy to type a decent entry. Sorry guys.

But, in the meantime, here are the major events that have happened, I’ll try to get a blurb in about them if possible:
-Hub day
-Field day
-A wedding party
-Many a coffee visit
-Mistakenly thinking my host grandfather died (this lasted only for a brief 5 minutes but I was pretty horrified for those 5 minutes)
-Another pack of pantyhose
-5hr+ play dates with neighboring relatives
-My birthday and a very interesting cake
-More ayvar making next door
-The Disko

oh, and the lady who lives above the store cut my hair when I went to visit. Lesson from that is, be careful what topics you choose to bring up to eliminate awkward silence when you have no command of the language(s).

The minor changes that have occurred are:
-No longer as interested in coffee visits
-More trips to Kumanovo because I’m bored with village life, much to the dismay of Razija
-Waiting for the end of the day so I can escape to my room and watch movies in English
-Growing annoyance at having my spare time sucked away from me in sneaky ways
-Finding that half understanding conversations around me is worse than not knowing anything at all

So I’ll try to give a brief run through of everything.
Hub day- I got to see the rest of the MAK 13 group in Kumanovo. Our location of choice was not the lovely Hotel Satelit this time, it broke my heart. Really. I forgot that there are at least 30 other newbies in this country and actually, Field day reminded me that there are about 100 americans roaming this country via the Peace corps overall. We had some great speakers at hub day who explained about 3000 years of history in 2 hour-long sessions. I got to see Rene (aka PeeHee) and that made my day. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be enough time to talk.

Field day- Field day is an event held in Skopje the capital that gets most, if not all, of the current volunteers together for silly games and a super fast meet n greet with the incoming trainees. I met about 50-60 people in 30 minutes. MAK 11s brought some stuff to sell since they are leaving and other items were up for a silent auction. The current volunteers brought food for a potluck but there were so many people that by the time I got through with the last bunch, there was only bread and potato chips. Whatevs, it was pretty fun. Ree and I had to scoot back to Romanovce after field day so that we could go to…

A Wedding Party- This was the most confusing/terrifying night in Macedonia yet. I got back from Skopje at 5pm, had 20 minutes to change and get as nice looking as possible before hopping in the car with Mitat and Razija to go to what I originally thought was a wedding. We drive through Cherkeze and keep going on the main road. Eventually we turn off onto a small half-paved road and it starts winding up the mountain. Beautiful view. We get out of the car and the women are sorted off towards the house and the men wander off somewhere else. We are at a house of Mitat’s family. Ree’s family was right behind us on the way there, so I could take comfort in having an American friend in the midst of the craziness. We wind through a crowd of old women in head scarfs and middle aged women in a variety of outfits: some are in sequined gowns, others are in pants or skirt suits, others are in everyday clothes. There is no way you can be over or underdressed for a party in this country. 80% of the event took place outside and it was quite cold in the mountains. After being jostled through the crowd to shake every hand possible and mutter my version of whatever was said to me, we all sat down to long tables and benches that reminded me of elementary school lunchroom. We had 5 courses of food in what seemed like a race to finish. Eat the soup, eat the salad, eat another kind of soup, eat the goulash, eat the bachlava- hurry! I always come in last. Im not sure how these women eat so fast.

Then, for no reason at all, every female there (the men were still off somewhere else anyway) was herded into two rooms. It seemed like 40-50 per room and the rooms were no bigger than my room in Philadelphia. Women were smushed together on the couch, then we sat on the floor pretty much on each other. They would smoke in turns too, by passing around 2 or 3 communal ashtrays. Women in dresses that looked like something you would wear to prom (and often not very flattering) would come in and out of the two rooms along a barely discernable path among the seated women. We also had to remove our shoes since we were inside, and Ree got her feet trample 3 times by the prom dress women who were wearing house slippers with heels. Ree decided to stick her feet under me for protection, so it was like sitting on ice at that point.

Soon after, my host mom decided its time for me to show off my newly acquired Albanian hora skillz. My playdates, Famije, Lila, Merale and Njazi, have taught me how to dance during our 5-7 hour play sessions. It finally paid off. I hora-ed amidst sporadic bursts of gunfire for an hour. Yes, gunfire. It is common for people to shoot off guns to celebrate weddings and such. So im dancing and I feel shells under my feet and they tell me, “No Scared” every time some other guy busts out a pistol and wastes some more ammo. At least they are Albanian, so they aren’t drunk. But still, not cool.

Ooh and the most confusing bit of all of this, is that the bride is not there. And why is that confusing? Oh, because there are 2-3 women walking around in white wedding dresses and serious pimped out makeup and hair! But there are not the expected bride, she’s not coming until the next day. What I’ve pieced together from some conversations with the English speakers around here is that women who recently got married wear their wedding dresses to these parties. But they haven’t explained why.
I’ve coffeed at about 10 new places since I last wrote. I went to the family of the guy who drives the kombi, now he waves to me all the time. I went to meet my playdates and now I end up there once a week for a ‘visit’ that never seems to end. I try to leave and then they tell me, no no stay for dinner we already told Razija. Sigh. I get very tired but they are sweet kids. They give me love notes with flowers taped on. They even gave me a birthday present today, a picture frame. I went to another house by Ferxhan’s school where I had a nice time talking with the 24 yr old daughter who spoke terrific English for never having left Macedonia. I went to Ree’s host father’s brother’s house and their 9 year old daughter taught me the days of the week and months of the year in Albanian. I went to our neighbor’s house and returned with a whole bag full of those terrible pears that I can’t escape. For a while, I thought that no one liked them and it was a secret game to try and pass them off on visitors and get rid of as many as possible. Vahide said that wasn’t the case, people actually like them (!). I went to Olga’s, the woman who lives above the closest store to my house. She reminds me of Oma, if Oma had ADD. She gave us about 10 different foods and drinks and than Razija thought it was odd that I didn’t want to eat dinner. We went to another house down the train tracks from Olga’s house which was awkward because it seemed like a funeral gathering but its not like I have the vocabulary to ask.

Mistaken Mortality- Mitat’s father is 80 and he stays in the other living room. He’s bed bound for the most part, they wheel him outside in the afternoon and they take him into the bathroom once a day, but that’s the most activity he seems to get these days. I think he’s still coherent most of the time. I often help vacuum the downstairs of the house, the two livingrooms and the room you first walk into. I finished the main livingroom/kitchen and the entrance room. I peeked my head into the other room to give the old man a “mire dite” before turning on the vacuum so I down scare him to death. I see him lying flat out on the couch, with the blanket draped over him as though he was dead. I’m thinking, ooh shiiiit. I go get Arjad and I didn’t want to say anything about dead so I point in. He shakes his head no, I don’t have to do that room now, so its cementing my idea that the old man is done. Maybe Arjad picked up on my confusion/mild panic, he went in and then kind of yelled at the old guy and I heard the grandfather respond and pull the blanket off his head. What a relief. The reasoning going through my head was purely selfish too, I was thinking, I hope I don’t have to witness a funeral yet.

No comments: