Beth's Corps Experience

Profiling my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Чао Макадонија!

Се Најдобро преку склики!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This week a few of us are leaving Macedonia. I am heading home to be with my family for the upcoming holidays, Liz is headed to visit her friend in London and travel a bit and other folks are going to Russia to take the Siberian Railroad.

Its still hard for me to believe that this time has come to an end, especially considering the times in the beginning when i thought it would never end. It was bittersweet saying good-bye to my friends, in part because I have no idea when I will see many of them again.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ajде Чао Драго Цемејство!

Pictured here are my host-sisters and host-grandparents

Last weekend I went to visit my host family for one last time before I returned to the US. It was pretty hard to say good-bye, for a number of reasons. They have fallen on tough times, like a decade ago. Blatec, a village outside of Kocani, is a village in a region that is severly economically depressed with little hopes of climbing out of a long-term economic slump. All the factories have closed down and most villagers live off the subsistence agriculture products they grow in their yard.

It was hard knowing that things aren't going to get better for them anytime soon, and I am powerless to do anything to improve their current situation.

It was hard knowing that my friends that I have now grown to know and love (although I was not allowed to wash my hair on a daily basis and was strongly encouraged to eat chicken soup for breakfast) will be far away and difficult to reach.

It was hard realizing that this is the end of a very exciting time in my life.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New Friends and Last Minute Trips

A new Northern American recently moved to Gostivar (well, a few months ago, but I just met him recently) and its been nice since Shaun moved to Veles to be a trainer for the MAK 10 volunteers.

He is here with through an internship with the canadian government, working for an NGO on human rights initiatives. Like I said, tts been really nice having another person from North America who I can relate to, but even better is that it isn't a Peace Corps Volunteer. Don't get me wrong, I love all of us PCVs, but the conversation is always so similar that it is refreshing to have a new and unique perspective.

We went to Ohrid and saw the sites. The weather cooperated with us this weekend, but the week before it was horrible!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mom and Dad visit Macedonia!

After my Brother's wedding I dragged my parents back to macedonia with me and it was an outstanding visit. I tried to pack everything in to their two and a half day visit, and I did a pretty good job, but it would have been better had they a few extra days.

We saw Skopje, visited with my landlords (pictured here), and went to the market in Gostivar.

We also briefly saw Struga and Ohrid and then went to Lord of the Dance in Skopje (funny, we saw a celtic performance in South Eastern Europe).

Pictured here is me taking a picture of my dad taking a picture.

This is me and my parents in Ohrid

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Headed to Hungary

I left Macedonia on Thursday, September 22 headed to Budapest for my brother John's wedding. John (number four in the Wager line-up) used to work for a large international law firm in Budapest and met his lady-love there over 2 years ago.

My flight went well, and I took an airport shuttle to my new sister-in-law's house and had wonderful welcome upon my arrival. It was outstanding to see my mom and dad, my brother and Brigitta. I hadn't seen my parents in almost exactly a year (I went home a year ago for my sister's wedding) and it was great to be with them again. Brigitta's parents were a riot, her mother was full of life and effervescence and her father has a dry wit I know I will enjoy in the future.

After dinner with Brigitta's family we went and had a beverage at a cafe near our apartment. When I woke up Thursday morning my water wasn't working in my apartment (as is frequently the case on Thursdays) so I am looking especially slick (greasy). Nice.

Pictured here (l to r: My mom, me, my dad, Brigitta and John).

We spent some time chit-chatting and catching up at thecafe and then headed back to our apartment. Our apartment. It needs description, but I want to keep my blog G-rated. John and Brigitta booked an apartment online for my parents and I to stay in because it would be less expensive than a hotel and that is the way he usually travels. It's a neat way to be a visitor, but also feel kind of integrated into the community. In an apartment you can sort of feel like you aren't a total foreigner, even though we are. Anyway, the apartment they booked on-line was NOT the apartment they ended up visiting and checking in to. It was spacious, but filled with crap. And I mean crap. Not like fecal matter, but like old Balkan-esque crappy antiques. If you're a PCV from Macedonia and you're reading this you know what I mean, doilies, figurines, ridiculous lights. But there were other interesting things in the apartment. Like Porn. Good God, there was so much porn all over the walls it was like a national lampoon's "My Son Is Marrying Someone From Another Country" movie. I won't go into detail, for that you can contact my brother, but I will say I felt bad for my parents. My mom mostly, but after a while I think we all just got used to ignoring it. I know John and Brigitta felt bad too, but now its just something at which we can laugh.

Explored the Castle district

John and Brigitta were really busy with wedding preparations so the following day I played tour-guide for my parents. We went to the castle district via the subway and a bus. I got a real kick watching my parents on the subway, they seemed to really enjoy it. I have been doing a bit of international travel off and on since 1997 so I don’t get too stressed out anymore (especially after my experiences throughout the last 2 years here in Macedonia) but mom and dad really seemed to be enjoying it all and it was fun to observe them. When we got to the castle district we had a late breakfast and wandered around. We saw St. Matthais Cathedral, the Fishermans’ Bastion, had coffee with a breath-taking view of the city and enjoyed the day.

Pictured here are my mom and dad in front of St. Matthias' Cathedral.

Cafe Time

Here are my mom and dad at the cafe at Fisherman's Bastion.

View from the cafe

And this was our view of Budapest at the café

The big day

The following day was the big event, John and Brigitta's wedding. I was not the official photographer (which is a very good thing) so I don't have the best photos, but I will post a couple from what I did get.

The ceremony was a civil service, but there was a definite air of something spiritual or something, it wasn't dry and boring (well, it may have been, but I don't understand Hungarian...but it didn't seem like it) and the woman presiding was very dignified. It was really nice.

Pictured here is Brigitta and her father walking down the aisle.


And here is the newly-wed couple immediately after the ceremony

The whole group

A Hungarian Custom (a Macedonian custom as well, I think) is to take a photo in front of the church with all of the guests. My mom and dad and I are on the bottom left corner...

The reception

The reception was wonderful, it was held in a gallery, where a significant number of Brigitta's photographs were displayed (Brigitta is an artist). There was a great Jazz band that played and we were able to enjoy the music and relax. Afterward we had refreshments and cake.

Pictured here are Brigitta and John cutting their cake. After a bit more visiting and cake-eating the reception drew to a close and we left.

toastin time

Here are my mom and dad getting ready to toast the bride and groom.

After the reception

Later I met back up with Brigitta and John and their friends and we went to a Garden-bar type place. A popular hangout with the youthful crowd of Budapest, old buildings' courtyards are transformed into outdoor beer gardens with rockin house music and an awesome atmosphere. I met one of Brigitta and John's friends who was born on the Hungarian/Serbian border and we spoke a bit in Serbo-makadonski. Nice.

Pictured here are Me, Marsella (Brigitta's sister-in-law), Brigitta and John. What is the deal with the Wager red-eye?

The next day we had more family time and the following day Mom dad and I left for Macedonia!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fresh Eggs!

My eggs are so fresh some of them still have feathers on them. I wish you could see it better.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Time is flying out of control

Last week flew by in what felt like two days. I can't believe how quickly time is lapsing, and I'm not gonna lie about it, this is a bad thing. I have so much work to do and the days are sneaking away from me.

I have more work to do with the sheep-breeders, a bit more help I promised to Land O'Lakes, a ton of admin stuff I have to do for Peace Corps and of course, that whole masters degree field paper needs HUGE revisions. Also, I am headed to Budapest this weekend for my brother's wedding...and my mom and dad are returning with me after the wedding (YEAH! Finally, I get visitors!). And the following weekend is a girls hike that has been planned (in theory for quite some time now) plus I need to visit my host family...MEH! The stress is getting me all riled up.

And to top it all off I am going crazy. Tonight, while cooking eggplant, I could have sworn I saw a little face staring back at me in one of the wedges.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Week in Review

The past week went by in a blur and included surveys with sheep-breeders in the open air market in Gostivar with (while they sold their cheeses), a kick-off meeting with sheep-breeders from both Eastern and Western Macedonia regarding participation in a new program we are doing with the German technical assistance firm InWEnt, and a trip south to Struga in honor of the National holiday (People's Uprising Against Facism Day, September 8). Also, I got my hair chopped off. Yippee. Here are some photos.

Luli was conducting surveys with members of our association regarding their production and sales levels for this past year.

Luli and his buddy

This is another sheep breeder from Gostivar. Luli wanted to have his picture taken with him because of his traditional (way old school) clothing.

I met with Sheep breeders

We had a meeting about the project we hope to be implementing with a german organization, InWent. These guys pictured here are sheep breeders from Berovo, which is a town in Eastern Macedonia, almost on the Bulgarian border.

And they are sitting under the Macedonian Seal of Quality.

Liz scales the hills

In observance of the national holiday "People's Uprising Against Fascism Day" I headed south to visit my friend Liz and see a bit of Struga I hadn't seen before. We went to the small fishing village of Radožda where Liz's NGO was giving a presentation on solid waste management. While there, we checked out a couple of churches which were high up in the hills.

Here is Liz in front of one of them.

cave church exploration

Here we are at one cave church. The really good news, I have finally mastered the timer on my camera.

wild tomatoes

Here we found some tomatoes growing in the wild. That's Macedonia for you.

crazy natural spoons

On our way back we noticed these crazy looking gourd-zucchini type plants hanging from an arbor-awning. They used to hollow them out and use them as giant spoons I guess. I was told that they are for decoration only and they have a Slovenian name--which means natural spoon, but I forget what the word was.

typical scene in macedonia

Walking through another village we spotted a house with some peppers drying from the balcony. This is a pretty typical scene in Macedonia.

interesting wildlife

The following day (after I got my hair cut) we headed out to Sveti Naum, a village outside of Ohrid, to see the monastery and the town and hang out by the lake. Liz was able to catch me close to a couple of the Peacocks that populate the area.

Nice View

And this is the sun setting as seen from St. Naum

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Happy Anniversary!

Its hard to believe, but I arrived here in Macedonia 2 years ago today. Wow. Congratulations to me and all my fellow MAK 8ers (who are still here, ha).