Lost in Translation: "American Salad"

Yes, we had thanksgiving in Macedonia. And, it turned out to be less aggravating than anticipated. i was not looking forward to it At All and yet, i was on the committee. i think it is because i was next to rene when 'committee' was announced and her enthusiasm was contagious.

I understand exactly why the Peace Corps puts so much energy into getting thanksgiving together. It aligns with one of those 3 goals we've been hearing over and over... something about bringing better understanding of American culture. Or at least better understanding of the fairy tale version we celebrate. When we first landed in Macedonia, they told us they had already ordered the turkeys for thanksgiving from the US.

Thanksgiving here was a giant potluck dinner of about 200 people. current volunteers had to bring a dish and each host family had to bring something as well. our village was supposed to make mashed potatoes. i spent 5 days trying to explain mashed potatoes to my family to no avail. benson says, oh its 'piree'. so i go home and i say, patata piree and see a light go on in the eyes. and i think, awesome, we are on the same page finally.

no. that was the wrong light bulb.

wednesday before thanksgiving rolls around and im nervous because i see no potatoes in our house nor have we talked about piree again. i ask about it and razije says, tomorrow we will buy potatoes. or, thats what i thought she said. i go to kumanovo for ree's farewell dinner/candlelit xmas sing along (the power was out for the majority of dinner) and think all is well on the mashed potatoes front.

the next day, THE day, we have language class from 8-10 so we can prepare our food with our family. the point was to cook Together, we make a traditional american dish with our families. i'm thinking we have total understanding *how silly of me* and i am looking foward to cooking something after 2 months of only being designated stirrer or rolling pin lady. its almost 11 when i get home from class and my host mom decides to go on a mysafir, a coffee visit to the neighbors. im thinking, hey what about that buying potatoes nonsense? if we have to go to the market in kumanovo, we will barely have enough time to make stuff. i ask what time are we going to cook and she says, 12.

finally, the light when on in My Head. i realize, we are making instant mashed potatoes. ok no big deal, at least we have a dish for thanksgiving, at that point i didnt care too much. scratch that, im agitated that i won't be cooking anything myself but its not the end of my world. i get sent out to buy 3 packages of piree, 3 packages of pavla (later find out that is sour cream), a carton of milk, margarine and on a second trip, 5 eggs. olga, my local shopkeeper and personal haircutter heh, throws in a package of chicken salami for my host mom who had me drop off some pedla that morning. i come home to watch my mom make instant mashed potatoes and, of course, stir the pot.

the making of the mashed potatoes reminds me of the end of lord of the rings: return of the king. everytime i think we are finished, there is still another scene left. i think the mashed potatoes are done once the packets have been added to the milk and stirred until no longer lumpy.

ooo no. then, we stir in the 3 containers of pavla sour cream. ok, thats unhealthy but fine. finished.

haha no. then, my mom heats up a small dish of sunflower oil and salt. she busts out her nice serving platter and spoons the potatoes into a layer and then bathes it in the oil/salt. she does this on each level. err, ok. thats kinda gross. but that has to be it.

but no! those 5 eggs come back into my life. my host mom was hardboiling them undetected and then we start peeling the shells. im thinking to myself, o wtf are we going to do with these?? we grate them on the potatoes. 4 of them. it looked like cheese but was a strange surprise to the unsuspecting victim.

ok. there is nothing else to be done. we HAVE to be finished right? NO! the finishing touch was strips of pickled cucumber and peppers on top.

and no special meal preparation is complete without its pictures. my host mom and i posed with this platter, which she calls 'American Salad'. then i posed solo. then we took a picture with it on the stove. then on the nice table. i will post when possible.

even with the total misunderstanding and lack of alcohol, thanksgiving turned out ok in the end. our table got called up to the potluck buffet first and i nearly laughed myself to death to see how buffets work out in macedonia. i snuck some wine from the mak half of our table and it helped calm me down for our post dinner haiku performance. we translated the following haiku into mak and alb for our presentation.

thanks....giving turkey
hey man... i'm stuffed. with stuffing
gobbledy gobble?

the point was to pick something short that was the closest thing to doing nothing at all. it was great. my favorite part is the translation of gobbledy gobble. here, turkeys say "ga ga ga".

in other news, site visit was awesome. my counterpart is a riot and my organization looks to be a great place to work. my apartment leaves some things to be desired, ie a washing machine and a stove, but hey, its the peace corps. my friend Ree went home and im going to miss her very much. ive about had it with homestay, i am counting the days (12) until i move to skopje.

other than that, dobro e.

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