December 25, 2007

Срекен Божик!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone! I briefly considered treating this blog entry like holiday-season television: since most everyone is so busy with family and last minute shopping, it would have been either a re-run of a previous post or just a series of stills from It’s a Wonderful Life. Or maybe some video clips from a random college bowl game.

But there’s just too much new stuff to talk about.

Just over a week ago we moved into our new place in our permanent site. After all the hand-wringing over how we were going to transport our belongings from the village it turned out to be a rather painless procedure. Peace Corps had people at the major bus stations to help with luggage and emergency translations—the latter of which came in quite handy in Skopje, when our connection was not a bus, but a van with barely enough room for a few briefcases, let alone our pile of belongings. Luckily we were able to swap our ticket for one on a later bus…but how we would have done that on our own, that’s a good question.

So, about our house: We had this running joke regarding our apartment in Rhode Island last year. When the ceiling was leaking or when some strange new bug emerged from under the fridge we would say, “No matter where we live in the Peace Corps, at least it won’t be this place.” Of course, we didn’t actually think it would be better, no check that, a LOT better. Located in the center of town, our house is fantastic. It has two full baths, a spacious living room, a dining room, a washing machine (our first since we lived in Seattle), and, oh yeah, I’m posting this blog entry via the DSL line in the house.

The house has all wood floors and a distinctly mid-1970’s feel. It’s very cute. And warm. Unlike most Macedonian homes, this house has central heating. In all that luggage we were toting were two space heaters provided to us by the PC, but they’re already collecting dust in one of the spare bedrooms. Yes, spare bedrooms, which brings me to my last point. Visiting friends and family will most definitely be able to stay right here with us.

And now, the grand tour:

Welcome to the heart of the home...the kitchen

A quick left finds you in the dining room

That swingin' living room

Come on upstairs...

Nothing too special here, except the slanted-back tub

Finally, a spacious bed

The owners of the house are a very sweet married couple (neither of whom speak English) who live in another house nearby. We’ve already been over there for lunch or coffee several times and they have been extremely helpful with all our questions about the house. A couple of days ago we were there having coffee with our landlady and her elderly mother. When the баба (literally "grandmother," but in Macedonia really just a byword for an old, wise woman) had finished her coffee, she peered into the grounds at the bottom of the cup (because it’s unfiltered Turkish coffee) and began reading fortunes.

Besides settling into our new digs, Jillian and I have begun the slow process of integrating into the community. Since we are walking kind of people, we’ve been out and about every day or evening. Many people stare when we walk past, but it’s really just out of curiosity and everyone we’ve spoken with has been very friendly and positive when they learn why we are here. On Saturday I took my first trip to a Macedonian barber to get my beard trimmed. It was a bit awkward at first, but after I explained to him, “I want my beard shorter…maybe half,” everything went smoothly and according to Jillian the barber did a fine job.

We've also begun working in our schools--Jillian in the primary school, which is literally a three minute walk from our house, and I in the high school. Thus far we've mostly been meeting the kids and other teachers and explaining over and over why we are here. Again, everyone has been very positive when they learn about the PC and our role in the town. And the kids are particularly excited to learn that we have siblings in both New York and Los Angeles. For most of them, those two cites are America and they want to hear what it's like there.

Following the schools' winter break (Jan 1 - Jan 21), Jillian and I will begin some independent work, most likely in the form of an English club in which we can offer students extra help with the language in the form of more American-style strategies (games, activities, group work) which will be quite new for these kids.

We hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas. Because Macedonia practices a form of Orthodox Christianity, Christmas is celebrated later, this year on January 7th. So Jillian and I were at school today--working on Christmas!

And, of course, there won't be any Jimmy Stewart starring in It's a Wonderful Life on the tele tonight...though there will be Grey's Anatomy ("Introduction to Anatomy" here) and According to Jim ("How Jim Will Tell It").



Nicole said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Dan and Jillian, That movie "It's a wonderful life" describes your new pad perfectly. You really fell into a very comfortable home away from home. I think your guardian angel has been sitting on your shoulders. What a blessing! With your great sense of appreciation and upbeat attitude, you two are winners in our book. Keep these blogs comming as we love them in total antisiptation of each new edition. Love to you both. Grandpa and Grandma K