October 16, 2007

Summer is Over

Another week has passed here in Macedonia. We’ve encountered our first stretch of rainy, cool weather. The temperature has been steady in the 60s and very damp. Most of the streets in our village are paved or cobbled, but we live on one that isn’t and it’s been a real mudfest coming and going from the house. Worse yet for our family, snails positively love the rain and are extremely active in this kind of weather. That means every morning Lela and Trajko (and us, when there’s no school) are out collecting all the snails that have escaped from their pen during the night. You’d be surprised how much ground a snail can cover when it really puts its microscopic mind to it.

Our schedule is really starting to fill up. In addition to our daily language classes, we are now taking trips twice a week to the nearby city for our teaching practicum (sort of a truncated student teaching gig). Jillian is at a K-8 school and will be teaching classes of fifth and seventh graders, who already speak pretty solid English. The periods are relatively short, only 45 minutes, so creating fully developed lessons within that time may be difficult. Jillian co-taught two lessons today on descriptions of personal characteristics and will be solo teaching tomorrow on superlatives. Apparently one of their recent lessons in the workbook concerned a fictional American from San Diego, so the kids were pretty excited to hear that this real life American comes from the same place.

As for me, I’m in the vocational high school, which is about a fifteen minute walk from Jillian’s school. My counterpart is a young Macedonian teacher whose students speak English at a relatively low level. As she explained to me, most of the English they know comes from American music, and even then they don’t really know what it means. This is fairly common in Macedonia: young people receive most of their knowledge about America from some really stellar sources, like trashy music and bad movies. On a few occasions we’ve had kids shout things like, “Hey America, f—k you,” while waving eagerly and smiling from ear to ear. They’re saying this because they think that’s what is cool in the States or that’s what young Americans say—they’re not trying to offend.

The fields on the outskirts of the village

The kids in our village are really great, always willing to converse with our limited skills or hoping to take a picture of us with their camera phones. Even though we volunteers are not really much of a novelty, we’re still fairly exotic. I played a fun game of street soccer with some boys last week—they were pretty amused that I was playing with them (or maybe just laughing at my soccer skills; they’re worse than my Macedonian). We were down at the field earlier in the week and Jillian was taking some shots on goal with the boys. Now this was a novelty. The guys (and it’s all guys, there isn’t a single girl on the field) couldn’t quite seem to grasp Jillian’s abilities. At first they rolled the ball to me, assuming that I was the player. But after Jillian took a few shots, they were visibly quite stunned and repeatedly passed it back to her, long after she was tired of shooting. When the weather dries out we hope to get back down to the field and play in some pickup games.

In the coming weeks we will be learning what our permanent village or city will be for the remaining two years. This is understandably a revelation shrouded in much anticipation and discussion.


Anonymous said...

Dan and Jillian, Your now graduates of the "Snail Snatchers Society" I guess that this needed operation does not require the speed that Jillian displays on the soccer field. She can start a new "Recruit-the-girls-as-soccer-players". Grandpa K

Anonymous said...

Go girl power! Love that the soccer skills are a universal language in themselves! -Al