This is my life and I like it.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder or something like that right? Apologies for the unannounced vacation from the blog and leaving you with just a snarky cartoon for weeks.

The truth is, my life has found its way to normalcy again. Once the holiday month was over and I started going to work for more than 3 consecutive days per week, things just got comfortable. I’m reminded everyday that I am still living in a foreign country when I fail to understand simple commands in local languages, but its no longer something new. You just get used to comprehending 30% of any given conversation. When you think about it, its not that hard being abroad (exception: missing people who are not in Macedonia, that is tough) because like some volunteers said in training, its still life. You go to work, you see your friends, you go food shopping, you watch the news. The new part: I eat ayvar.

Let me take you on a written tour of my typical day here in the Skop.

Somewhere between 730 and 830, my alarm goes off and if you have ever lived with me at some point, you know there is another 30-45 minutes of absolutely ridiculous snooze button abuse.

I get out of bed and make some Turkish coffee, or lately a cup of Lipton tea with milk and sugar thanks to some awesome people in NJ who know that my love of Lipton knows no bounds. (ps. I made sun tea already and a “cauldron” of iced tea, it was glorious.) If its nice outside, I’ll go drink my caffeine out on the balcony in the sun.

I eat tropical fruit muesli (35% fruit!) for breakfast and read a book until about 930 when I realize its getting late and I need to shower. “Shower”. I miss a real shower every once in a while. Some volunteers have jury-rigged shower curtains and have gotten holders for their shower heads to simulate the American Shower Experience. I have not, I’m not sure it would work out in my bathroom. Instead, I have a bathtub with a giant step and a handheld shower head thingy. Its fun in its own way, but not when I’m late. At least being late here isn’t a big deal like it is in the US.

I get dressed and I still haven’t figured out what is and isn’t considered ‘business casual’ for Macedonia. I think I could wear anything I want really, but I harbor this notion that looking slightly professional will help my credibility and cancel out the “you’re not 23?!!” problem. Yes, I have had to resort to the passport to prove that I am not <19 years old. In the end, I’m sure that what I think of as professional looking clothing is not quite there yet; I only just got out of band t-shirts, grungy jeans, old sambas and studded belt. Its still weird to see myself in the mirror devoid of external character every day.

I try to leave my house by 1010 so I make it to the office by 1030 on time, but hey, I’m all about the polychronic perception of time that is the norm in this region. I enjoy the walk to work. When I talk to some people from Macedonia about it, they comment on how far it is. My perception of distance is very different from most people here and I attribute that to growing up in Wurtsboro and then living in Philly. In the ‘boro, you had to drive 15 minutes in any cardinal direction to get to anything of interest or to go shopping. In philly, I walked whenever I could to avoid spending money on taxis or the subway. You get used to it. But a 15 min walk here seems to be quite a hardship here….or not.

Work 1030 to 1500. Some days go faster than others; some days are more interesting than others. In this sense, it’s the same as in the US. The struggle is coming in on the scene not really knowing the language or the organization as well and trying to get a feel for what is going on project-wise or what has been done in the past. It is great to have a counterpart that speaks fluent English though, I’m not sure how it would work out otherwise. Its amusing to see how my carefully nurtured academic approach to development handles reality in a different country. Or, how it doesn’t. As I get to understand the culture here, I realize that some of the concepts I learned are just going to get shelved indefinitely.

1530-1630ish is my pauza time. When I get home from work, I sort of zone out for a while, have lunch, maybe watch some Доктор Ху (Doctor Who) on tv. Monday-Wednesday I have an hour or two of language tutorial at 5 or 6 in Albanian and Macedonia. This is a far cry from the 4 hours a day, 5 days a week of PST and my present language skills show it.

I’ve been engrossed in some big books lately so I end up spending the later part of my nights reading like a madwoman until I fall asleep with my face, and glasses, smushed in the middle of the book. I also have gotten very into playing around with dreamweaver and GIMP 2.

And there you have it, the average life of a (debatably bookish) Peace Corps volunteer in Skopje.