Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Travels thus far

my first ever basketball game happens to have been Macedonian

Per-Service Training will be coming to an end in two weeks and after swearing in I will be an official Peace Corps volunteer, ready to live and work in Macedonia for two years. Recently I have had time to visit my workplace and get to know my fellow colleagues. One of them happens to date a Macedonian basketball player, so lo and behold I went to my first ever basketball game which happened to be quite a rowdy affair! I believe there will be more games in my future. Also, I got to tour my apartment and it is quite large for one person, which will be great for visits from other volunteers and Americans from afar.

During training we are allowed to take day and night trips during certain weekends and I have taken advantage of the freedom to travel around the country. I have been to Kratavo, Kriva Palanka, and Skopje.

My first excursion was a day trip to Kratovo which happens to be another volunteer training community. After a coffee break, there was a visit to the Rock Art Centre to see local, handmade crafts and pick up some postcards. To our surprise we were soon invited to drink coffee and eat слатко while learning a bit more about the shop. And before you knew it we were being led on a tour of Kratovo, all in Macedonian. Most of the tour was lost on me but I made sure I was encouraging by sending our wonderful tour guide positive reinforcement. He took us to an old house and a museum, offered us a shot of ракија, and also took us by a friend's house for coffee. This has been one of the many wonderful, hospitable experiences I have had while I have been in this country. Our tour guide also took us into the local church for a look around and of course the place was beautiful. The day was finished up with a bite at a local restaurant and a hike to see the town from afar.

scenes from Kratovo

I also have spent an afternoon in Скопје with the rest of the volunteers for Field Day, a volunteer sponsored event where we get to know each other and eat food. After the scheduled event we were allowed to walk and explore the city. There is a lot of ancient structures and also newer monuments. You can easily just walk around and look at stuff and not even actually go into a museum, though I do plan on doing that another day. The area I enjoyed the most was the old city, which is beautiful, with cobbled streets and buildings close together and walkways that twist and turn. Skopje is also the location of Mother Teresa's brithhome. I need to actually go into the museum when it's open. My host father made it very clear that I must get a picture in front of the new and very large state of Alexander the Great.

from Skopje - bridge, park, me with Alexander

Mother Teresa's House, bathhouse, Old City, sunset

My most recent adventure was a visit to Крива Паланка to see the city, but more specifically to view the monastery of Saint Joachim Osogovski. It was a perfect day and so the walk out of town and up the hill to the attraction hardly seemed like work. Everything about this place is beautiful - the architecture, landscape, and the frescoes. At the end of the day, it was peaceful just to sit in the cafe, overlooking the valley, and feel the sun warm my face as we ate lunch.

Kriva Palanka - Saint Osogovski

This coming weekend I hope to visit one of the many wineries, if the weather holds out. I have been excited to seize every opportunity I can to see other cities in this country. The only difficulty is that I still lack the language to fully understand everything about where I am going or to ask questions about what I see. Maybe there will be time one day to go back to these places and learn more about what makes them special.

Skopje at night