October 05, 2007

Life on the Snail Farm

Sorry about the delay in posting, but our village has no internet access. So expect only intermittent updates for the next ten weeks or so. We just got our first taste of Macedonian public transportation, catching the bus from our village to the nearby city to get some online time. The bus was 30 minutes late and the twenty-minute journey over the narrow country roads was more than a bit harrowing.


Life with our host family got off to a surprisingly smooth start. All week long we had been told of the stress, chaos, and awkwardness that come with meeting the host family. Then on the actual day of the introduction—which took place at a small ceremony that featured traditional Macedonian dancing with our host families—everyone was given a passcode of sorts. It was a phrase that we would use to locate our family amidst the swirling crowd of strangers.

Ours read: Lela farms snails.

This is a true statement. Our host mother, Lela, raises snails in two long gardens along the side of their home. The house is in a small village of around 2,000 people where, quite literally, everybody knows everybody. Lela, her husband Nicola, and their daughter Ana, live in what I can only describe as a picturesque Mediterranean villa sitting on roughly 10 acres of gorgeous land. A canopy of grape vines covers the front patio and within ten minutes of arriving at their home we were seated under said canopy, enjoying Turkish coffee. Around their home they grow apples, pears, grapes, melons, tomatoes, peppers of several varieties, eggplant, cabbage, spinach, and walnuts.

Welcome to a life of roughing it...

When Nicola pulled the family’s VW up in front of the house, Jillian and I experienced something like the sensation of discovering a 500-dollar bill between the cushions of your couch. You’ll wonder if the bill is real, if someone’s playing a practical joke on you, and consider if it’s even your couch to begin with before you’ll accept the good fortune. Suffice to say that this is not exactly what most people envision when they hear the words "Peace Corps."

The backyard...

Even more beautiful than the home in which we now find ourselves occupying a small bedroom is the family with whom we now live. Lela and Nicola have warmly welcomed us into their home and we have had a wonderful time getting to know them. Even with our limited language skills we are still able to communicate quite effectively through pantomime, expressive facial contortions and our precious речник (pronounced rechnik), or dictionary.

Lela and Jillian enjoying afternoon coffee on the patio.

Life on the snail farm so far has been incredible. We wake up in the morning around 7:00 to the smell of Turkish coffee and појадок (pronounced poyadoke), or breakfast. Our host grandfather, Treiko, has already been working in the garden for a few hours, and our host father is usually working on his heavy construction truck which just finished a major project in Macedonia. Our host sister goes to school about the same time we do, so she's getting ready too.

We have language classes everyday for 4 hours, though it's fair to say that most of our best language learning comes at home. There are five other volunteers in our village and we've had some great times already just figuring things out. Our instructor, Alexander, is from Macedonia and has been teaching Macedonian to Peace Corps volunteers for 4 years. He is an excellent teacher and we are learning a lot from his example about instructional methods for teaching a foreign language.

In the afternoon a few days a week we have technical classes. These are basically methods classes for teaching English as a foreign language. We will also have a practicum twice a week starting on Tuesday in a nearby school. We will observe our cooperating teacher, co-teach several lessons and solo teach several lessons. Macedonian schools are eager to implement more modern teaching strategies for English classes.

Well, there's only about a thousand more things we'd like to add--we'll do our best to keep this updated. Be sure to check out the "Our Photos" link in the right column.


Anonymous said...

Wow! It looks *absolutely* beautiful and I'm so glad your host family is so nice. We're thinking of you, and love you very much!


Anonymous said...

So thrilled that things are turning out even better than expected!!!!!!Now we can shut our eyes and picture the both of you in an ideal locale with lovely people to help smooth your way. Those smiles must be getting a real workout. Will of course await "patiently" for your next update. It seems to me that lack of internet access is more than a fair trade for getting to live with a wonderful family in such a beautiful place. Love, Jaime and Mom

Bill & Caryn said...

First time on your blog. Sounds like you are in a great place with a nice family. Glad you got there ok abd are picking up the language. I will let Grandma Arlene know you are well.
Bill & Caryn

Anonymous said...

Zdravo! Dan and Jillian, You have been blessed with a great host family. The Escargo will take some getting used to.It sounds like your part of the local Paradise Corps.with your pictures and description of your host's farm. A great fresh fruit and vegetable serving each day sounds wonderful. I haven't down loaded my Rechnik as yet. Each morning your number 1 on our internet blog window. Love to you both. Grandpa

Melora said...

Well said.