February 06, 2008

You Can See Macau From Up There...

Hi everyone. I'll start today's post with a pop quiz:

1) Where is Macau?

Now turn over your paper and put your pencil down. The answer will be provided at the end of the post. But I'll go ahead now and answer your other question: why am I asking this? Well, this week we were reminded of the human-ness of the post office, that giant machine of efficiency that sends millions of pieces of mail around the state, country, and world. In what is undoubtedly a cavernous and cold bunker with a high ceiling and several faded paintings of FDR, postal workers sort out the international mail. I'm guessing that every country gets its own slot, which would explain why a letter we received a few days ago was stamped, "Missent to Macau." Macedonia and Macau must have adjacent slots in that bunker and some bleary-eyed mail sorter--who couldn't care less where either place is--sent our mail down the wrong chute.

Speaking of missent, how about all those predictions that the Patriots would take their rightful place as the greatest team in football history and win the Superbowl with ease? At an English pub in Skopje, Jillian and I gathered with a surprisingly large number of volunteers and embassy staff to watch what proved to be an exciting game. Immediately following the game we hustled across the dark city to the bus station--and I do mean hustled, we had to run to catch our bus. A mere few hours after the Patriots lost in dramatic fashion, we were back in our town, back at our schools, and back in front of the students--but not before stopping in at the house to brew and subsequently drink a pot of coffee.

Before all that, we spent a day in Skopje with our friend Erin. Towering over the city from atop a nearby mountain is a giant cross. Apparently this thing caused some controversy with the local Muslim population when it was erected several years ago (reminding us a bit of the cross on Mount Soledad in San Diego). Accessible by car and several hiking trails, the cross looks rather grand and haunting from the ground. Upon further inspection, though, it is more reminiscent of a skyscraper-in-progress, a skeleton of a structure.

And it is enormous. There are stairs leading up to a platform on the cross' horizontal beam, but they looked like something out of an OSHA training video called "Workers Comp Just Waiting to Happen." So we stayed on the ground, preferring to sit in the stove-warmed hut that served hot tea to all the hikers.

We had made the hike alongside several of Erin's Macedonian coworkers at the local municipality. It just so happened that this particular trail begins and ends in front of the house of the mayor (Erin's boss) and before we knew it (though I must say, I saw this one coming a mile away), all of us were seated outside with he and his wife, eating a hearty lunch of cabbage, pork, and cheese and drinking their homemade wine. It was classic Macedonia: generosity that won't take no for an answer.

Now we're back in our town and caught up on our sleep. Next week we will begin working with a tutor to improve our Macedonian...we can't wait. Speaking of languages, yesterday I met a little boy, age 7, who got the impression that I can speak Macedonian based on our short introduction. After I walked away he asked his sister, one of my students at the high school, if I could come over to their house and translate cartoons for him. Well, if Tom and Jerry are talking about their favorite food or how to buy a ticket at the bus station, I'm all in.

Jillian is just plain thrilled to be really working, finally. She has her own room in the school, the "little auditorium," complete with a mini stage. And she's essentially autonomous, free to set her own schedule with the kids, advertise her English Club, and design and implement her own activities. So far the kids have been very interested and quite thrilled to have the opportunity to do so much speaking. As it looks now, Jillian will be holding sixteen classes each week, making her a virtual full-time teacher in Macedonia.

Answer to today's quiz: Macau is a Chinese territory (formally Portuguese) on the South China Sea.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan and Jillian, We just sent our first care package to you today, before reading this latest blog. WE can only hope that we don't get that same sleepy post office sorter when they look for the right bin. The box is 12x15x5 so it can't be easily tossed around. I hooked our WebCam today and will be excited to see if you can see us when we give you a call Saturday. Sounds like you and Jillian have those students at the tip of your fingers and doing great. There is nothing like a good dose of enthusiasum to move things along, and feel like your efforts are appreciated. Take care and love to you both. Grandpa K