Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Medley of thoughts


There are some things I will never learn, like how to properly operate a computer. I had typed about two paragraphs for this entry the day before and due to my ineptness those words are lost forever. And so I move on.

This week my peers are finding out their site assignments, which in Peace Corps lingo means that their communities and their workplaces for the next two years are being revealed to them. I have known where I will be living and working since the first week that I was in Macedonia. I am fortunate enough to be living only 10 minutes from where I am currently in training. So, at the end of November I will move to Kumanovo for two years. I am super excited to know that I will not be far from my host family and that I will have an opportunity to go back and visit them often.

Kumanovo is the third largest city in Macedonia and the largest municipality in the country. I will be about thirty minutes away from the capital in the northeastern part of the country. A fellow volunteer from my training community will also be moving into the city along with me and currently there are already two volunteers serving as English teachers there. Again, I think I lucked out by having a pretty vast (in comparison to others) support system in my community.

While I am living there I will be working for Poraka Nasa – Regional Center for People with Intellectual Disability. Poraka Nasa works toward establishing equal treatment for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The organization achieves this through respecting basic human rights, involvement of individuals in society and everyday activities, promotion of independent living and usage of community services, economic, social and legal protection, and societal integration and inclusion. It always amazes me how this part of my life keeps making a repeat appreance and I continually wonder why I am granted the opportunity to work with individuals with learning disabilities when in fact I have no formal traning but only experiencial training. These next two years will just be another example to me. I am curious to observe the differences between America and Macedonia when it comes perceptions and support of this community of people. Leave a comment for me if there is anything in particular that you would like me to make note of.

Random thought, which I brought up to my peers today when we were working on our group practicum project, I have always been courious as to why certain songs and then certain types of songs appel to people. What makes a pop song a pop song, what element about it is found appealing to a large mass of people? Is it the beat, melody, lyrics? Is if different for different songs? Whole genres? For me some times it’s the lyrics and sometimes it is the beat, or even the transition in a song. For pop songs I generally prefer the melody and not the lyrics. What do you think? When we talked about it we discussed the role of personal environment and also up bringing that can effect preferences in musical taste. I often think about this topic and was reminded of the universal nature of music when me and my host brother (4 year old and Macedonian) started moving to the same song at the same moment in the same way without looking at each other or talking about it at all. When I happened to glance over at him we smiled at eachother, as if to say, yes I love this part too.

Random quotes from email and readings:

“Only by knowing ourselves can we truly understand others – and knowing from where you come is an important part of knowing who you are.”

“You should focus on being more interested than interesting.”

The Blue Sweater ~ Jacqueline Novogratz

A Chickpea Leaps

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

The cook knocks it down with the ladle.

"Don't you try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you,
I'm giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this."

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Jalal al-Din Rumi

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Busy bee

I am a week away from a full month of being in Macedonia and boy has it felt longer. Next week we are planning on celebrating by having a small cookout, while we still can, before the cold weather sets in for the long haul.

Oh, by the way, let me know (aka email me) if you ever want to Skype. I’ve been able to touch base with a few people this week and it is a great thing for me. It reminds me that America is still there and makes me feel that I am just away for a little while. It helps to be able to talk to someone as if really no time has passed since I last talked to that individual. Let’s keep that rolling.

This week I feel like I am finally hitting some sort of schedule for myself, which helps me to feel grounded and makes it easier for me to focus on the tasks at hand, which really is learning the language and spending time with my family. So, I have been waking in the morning and running for various lengths of time with a longer run, about an hour, happening on Saturday or Sunday. Then it's time for class and after that home for lunch.

I normally eat what I consider breakfast and lunch alone. I am pretty sure my host parents do not eat breakfast during the week and the kids eat something in the morning after I have left for class. Lunch for me is around 12:30pm. The family does not eat at that time because the main meal in Macedonian houses does not happen till 4pm and I usually cannot wait that long. So I try to eat just a little around noon and then eat again around 4pm, though today it wasn’t until 4:50pm. Then a smaller amount of food - tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese - comes out around 8pm or so for people to munch on as they please, but I try not to eat that late.

We eat a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers. I never realized that one group of people could consume as many peppers as Macedonians do. But on the flip side, most all of the food I consume is grown on the land around the house or the farm plots near my host mother’s mom’s house, around the corner. So far I have helped the family pick grapes, apples, and peppers and have helped to make ajvar, a pepper spread that can sometimes have eggplant in it too. For the most part all the food has been good; I think I have only passed on one meal.

So, after the main meal we often go over to the host mother’s mom’s house or someone from the family may come here (like her sister, husband and the cousins). This is called на гости and really it’s just the act of going and visiting people. This is something I have always felt uncomfortable doing back home, just going to someone’s house to sit around and talk, and really to talk about nothing much all. It would always make me apprehensive cause I would think about all the other things I should or could be doing at the time, instead of just sitting around and talking. I am starting to get a little more accustomed to the practice now, though it is difficult not really being able to fully engage in the conversation, but each time there are more and more words I can pick out. Oh and an important part of these visits is having coffee, the female host always makes the coffee and serves everyone. Soda and rakija, locally brewed whiskey, is also an option, though the men are really the ones who do most of the drinking of alcohol.

Something that I really need to try to do is spend regular time with one of the Albanian families (while I still can) and listen and try to speak the language with them. The house I am in now speaks Macedonian and so I really only hear Albanian in class. So that’s a goal for the next week. This weekend is more Community Development training and the chance to see other training communities. I’m excited about getting to see more parts of the country.

Update: I went with Enid to her house today to hear Albanian in action. Though most of what I heard was way over my head, it was good just to practice hello and good-bye and say "mire" a lot. The golden moment of the visit was when he walked us over to the bee hives and pulled out a frame from the hive and gave us fresh honey from the comb. Shume mire!

making ajvar

Enid and host dad
the comb