November 06, 2007

Black Cats and Pig’s Blood

This week was our busiest yet. Language class is getting pretty intense (can you say direct and indirect object pronouns?) and this coming week we have a practice Language Proficiency Interview, or LPI. The LPI is the test used to determine our level of fluency at the end of training. The practice version will be a low-pressure chance for us to get a feel for how the real thing will play out. So we’ve been studying a bit more than usual, asking each other questions like, “What is your favorite color?” and” Where did you live three years ago?”

And it’s hard to believe, but we’re almost done with our faux-student teaching at the nearby schools. This past week I taught a few lessons to classes of Third Years (juniors). I don’t know who designs these textbooks, but who in god’s name would select an excerpt from Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers for intermediate English learners? So there I am, acting out this ice skating scene and trying to explain why a character would shout “Prime!” and “Capital!” in agreement.

Jillian's teaching has been going well, she's just cranking out the lessons. She'll be finishing up her stint this week with a lesson on the English pronunciation of world cities. She's been trying to incorporate more student-centered activities, including games and dialogues. This type of approach to teaching is fairly unknown in Macedonia.

On the fun side of things, we hosted a Halloween party at our house on Wednesday for all the volunteers in the village. Lela had some vague understanding of what Halloween was, but was more than happy to help with the festivities. True to the spirit of the day, costumes were a must. And true to the spirit of our host family, I dressed as a giant snail. I can’t take credit for this fabulous idea, for it was Jillian’s, as were most of the party’s particulars. Jillian dressed as a black cat and even went so far as to make king, queen, and princess crowns for Lela, Nikola, and Ana, and a sheriff’s badge for grandpa Trajko. Even better still, she made a costume for our language instructor, Aleks. And what was he on his first Halloween, surrounded by his Macedonian students? A giant English-Macedonian dictionary (речник), of course.

The whole group on Halloween

On Friday we bid adieu to the snails. Once all 60-something bags of snails had been handpicked from the garden, Lela and Nikola drove them down to Stip to sell to an Italian wholesaler. Then in the fall they'll do it all over again with hundreds of baby snails.

Snails for Sale!

The week ended with what can only be called Pig Slaughtering Weekend. The name pretty much says it all—it’s the time of year when families all across the rural parts of Macedonia are killing their pigs for the winter’s worth of pork. Lela and Nikola didn’t have any pigs, so we drove up to a nearby village and they bought one, a hearty, smelly 200-lb beast. Once back at the house, things went pretty much as you might imagine: the pig’s throat was slashed, blood went everywhere, the pig was beheaded, skinned, and gutted, and every last ounce of meat was sliced off. Years of experience made the process remarkably fast and by noon we were feasting on a lunch of fresh pork, liver, lung (I think), and their homemade wine. Photos of the pig are in our photo file on the right, perhaps a bit too graphic to post on this page. Enjoy!

On Thursday we learn where we’ll be for the next two years. Everybody has their fingers crossed in hopes of being placed in the southwest, near Ohrid, Struga, or Bitola. Based on pictures and video we’ve seen, that region of Macedonia is particularly gorgeous. But let’s face it, none of us really know much. Stay tuned…

P.S. – If any friends or family members send us care packages, there are a few items we will ALWAYS need: Glide floss (not too much floss at all in Macedonia), whitening Listerine, index cards


Anonymous said...

Zdrova, Dan and Jillian, With Dan's blog description of your holloween party and the little sparkplug Jillian's effort, your host family will never forget the both of you. By this time you will probably know what your next PC station will be. We hope it will be in one of the southern cities that you mentioned. I'm sure your present host family will miss you both very much. Love, Grandpa K

Anonymous said...

You give us an address and we'll keep your dental hygiene in tip top shape!
Valerie and your GS Sisters

Alexandra said...

Miss Jillian... you are incredibly clever. :) Dan's snail costume was inspired, and the pictures of the party have your signature all over them. I am so delighted to read your adventures, and see how you're spreading that Jilly-Bean joy and verve and energy all over the world.