December 30, 2007

Today's Number: 30

At six this morning (midnight EST) I woke up, my eyes opening suddenly in the darkness of our bedroom (thanks to our wooden blinds). I was momentarily confused. What was that sound? Now, if I were penning a story full of dreadfully cliche introspection about, I don't know, transition and getting older, etc, etc, I would tell you the sound I heard was a voice, over-enunciating something like, "Dan, rise with the sun and greet your thirtieth birthday! And get a haircut!"

Well, it wasn't a voice. It was church bells, the same church bells that wake us up every morning at six. Right on the dot. We have a direct line of sight from our bedroom window to the belfry and while our heavy wooden blinds, controlled by a series of pullies and canvas straps, might keep out the light, they do nothing to keep out the bells. So I was awake. And 30.

On my last day in the Land of My Twenties--where my wife still lives, incidentally, and where people do things like spend disproportionate amounts of money on clothing and alcohol and invent things like rock 'n roll--I had my butt thoroughly kicked at ping-pong by a bunch of pre-adolescents at the local rec center. I was invited there by the gym teacher at my school and thought it would a great opportunity to endear myself to the community. Well, these kids were really good, as in, they take lessons every week and can stand five feet behind the table like the guys in the Olympics and wack the ball past me at 90 kph. Because I was still in the Land of My Twenties and not yet in the far more mature Leather Swivel Office Chair of My Thirties, I responded to these fourth- and fifth-graders the best way I knew: I challenged them to a game of basketball.
Today the weather was clear and not terribly cold, so Jillian and I visited a monastery, the most visited of the many old monasteries in Macedonia. The site dates back to the 12th-century and it is now a sprawling compound built beautifully along the side of a mountain pass. The centerpiece is the main church which features twelve cupolas and hundreds of frescoes depicting just about every character and scene from the Bible. The monastery will be a definite must-see for those of you who make it over here and we've been told that in the spring and summer it's quite stunning. Well, we were pretty impressed by what we saw today:

Visiting this picturesque locale is totally free, reminding us once again what a tourist bargain Macedonia can be. From this monastery begins a hiking trail to the top of the area's highest peak, roughly 6,500 feet. The hike is around 25-miles round trip and there is a mountain lodge near the top where hikers can stay overnight. Needless to say, we are quite excited about this adventure in the spring/summer.

As for tonight, we'll celebrate my birthday with a local dish called пасtрамајла and a (for us) expensive bottle of wine. And tomorrow I'll be 30 years old +1 day. And I certainly won't feel any different, especially when those church bells sound at 6am.


Anonymous said...

Dan, Happy Birthday and a Happy New Year to the both of you. Waking up to church bells on your 30th must be a good sign, so enjoy the event and be in tune with new found home and friends. Every day must be a great adventure, and one to go down into your blog site for all of us less fortunate ones to appreciate such an exciting life style. Love to you both Grandpa

Hotel Concierge:: said...

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Happy House Warming, Happy! Happy!

So glad to see that you have ended up in such a beautiful spot with a nice roof over your heads. Somehow when I was thinking PC I imagined a little hut!