Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kratovo!

Its been awhile! I have moved to Kratovo for Pre-Service Training (PST… get used to the acronyms, Peace Corps loves them lots), and I’m living with my host family, which is near the top of a mountain (literally) so the internet service is very… intermittent to say the least.  I am posting to you now from an outdoor bar/café in the town square.  Here is an update for the last few days, which actually feels like weeks already. 
Last Friday we found out our PST communities, and I was very very excited to find out I was going to Kratovo.  Everyone has said it is the most beautiful place out of all the training communities…lots of cobblestone, towers, bridges, mountains, etc. After lunch and language class, we met all or part of our host families. My host mom’s name is Alexandra, her husband is Zoron, her son Valentino is 13, and her daughter Mila (pronounced Mee-la) is 8.  Alexandra came alone to pick me up, and she speaks a good amount of English, which has made my transition much easier!  We still have done a lot of pantomiming, relating and comparing, as well as handing the translation dictionary back and forth.  I still say da (yes), fala (thank you), and smile a lot. After we all met our host families at the hotel, a Macedonian band and troupe played music and danced the Ohro in traditional dress.  Afterward, everyone joined and learned the dance as well, it was hilarious and fun.  We in the Kratovo group traveled together on a combi, or large van/bus type vehicle.  The closer we got to town, the greener and more beautiful it became.  We dropped a couple people off at the beginning of town.  It got more crowded in the streets as we drove, and then we drove by the most enormously wonderful outdoor farmer’s market I’ve ever seen… fruit and vegetables for what seemed like a mile.  I started squealing with joy and Alexandra laughed at me and told me we would go shopping there soon.  J.O.Y.  When we got off the combi, we were on a cobblestone hill/street in town.  A little car pulled up and two men climbed out and talked to Alexandra and then grabbed my enormous suitcases and shoved them in the car and sped off up the (steep a**) hill of cobblestone.  I trusted that they were going to the right place. 
This town is exactly what I fantasized about back in June when I was told I was going to Macedonia.  I couldn’t wait to take pictures.  Then we started walking up the cobblestone hill/street towards home.  We kept climbing, and then turning, and then the street turned into rocks embedded in a hill, and we kept climbing (no cars possible at this point).  Homes and gates lined both sides. We went by a beautiful church and she asked me if jac cakam (I like?) to go to church, and I said ney.  They only go on holidays apparently, and I said I would like to join for the sight and experience.  Still climbing.  When we finally got to our gate, I knew I would have no problem getting the exercise I was concerned about getting in the next three months.  Booty/calves/thighs o’ steel here I come.  When we got up the steps, Zoron’s father had just finished packing my giant bags up to the door.  How could I have said fala enough… I would have keeled over from that insane chore.  The generosity is real, and it has begun!  Hopefully I will find an opportunity to return the favor while I’m here.  Alexandra showed me around, and the view is mother-effing EPIC from both sides of the house.  Straight up green foresty mountainous joy right in my face out my window, and the whole town sprawling up another hill from the side deck. Squeal! MMMMM pictures here:  http://picasaweb.google.com/enger.emily/MacedoniaKratovo1# 
We started talking about what I like to eat, and I told her about my insulin resistance, so we marched back down the hill of madness to go shopping for wheat bread.  Lots of stopping and chatting on the way there and back, and already ran into most of the other peeps in my group. Small town joy :) Once we got back home, we realized we forgot to register me at the police station, so Zoron took my passport down to the station for me so we didn’t have to walk up the hill a third time in an hour.  More chatter, and then dobra nok (goodnight)… long day for all of us :)
The next day we walked around the town with our LCFs (language and cultural facilitators) to see where each volunteer’s house is. I win for the most hardcore hike, as well as best view.  I am now called billy goat.  After tour, I went with Alexandra to her mom’s house, where they were on the patio cleaning peppers.  I’ve been smelling and seeing peppers since I got here and have wanted to eat them so bad… and my dreams came true.  They have two large outdoor fire-ovens and roast the peppers with enormous wooden flat spoons for hours (this is after roasting them once, cleaning them and removing the seeds, and then grinding them up… quite the process) to make Ayvar to can for winter.  Delicious, yes.  As we walk through the neighborhoods, I discover that nearly everyone is making Ayvar. Seriously. Its Ayvar day.  Mila’s favorite thing to do is bring me food that she has picked off some bush or tree to eat. I love her. Apples, tomatoes, berries, nuts, cucumbers, sunflower seeds…I think I’m in produce heaven.  That night we went to a small bar in town where one of the previous year’s volunteers was playing music and I met some of the other previous volunteers as well. 
Sunday was a chill day, we walked to Zoron’s parents’ house (they have dogs! Hooray for doggies!) and was greeted with cheek kisses, nuts from the tree, and homemade juice from their fruit.  All the food I’ve had since getting to Kratovo is wonderful, Alexandra is a fabulous cook, and everything is so fresh and delicious (including their pig that they slaughtered that day… hooray for clean and tasty meat!) I also unpacked a bit of what I’ll probably be using in the next three months, and have made it a goal to come home with less than what I came here with. I’m hoping I can pull it off. 
Yesterday, language classes started.  4 hours a day, 5 days a week and then other training sessions most afternoons.  It is frustrating being a 4.0 anal student and feeling like a struggling kindergartner in class.  This s*it is rough. Some of it comes easy, some of it doesn’t.  There were definitely moments I wanted to run out of there screaming.  But I’m not a pu**y (should I be using all these words with asterisks? I don't know, but sometimes I feel that certain words are needed to communicate my point), so forge ahead I say.  Regarding my hill, I’m figuring out very quickly which of my shoes I can and cannot wear for the next three months.  Also, it is all of a sudden getting very chilly compared to the last week of sweaty madness.  I’m feeling strangely excited for winter here, which is a definite change from my usual outlook on the weather.  A., I don’t have to drive.  B., I packed much more winter stuff than summer stuff, so I’m definitely prepared.  C., I don’t know, it just smells good and I’m tired of sweating I guess. And D., I don’t have to DRIVE (this includes the winter sh*tshow that comes with driving, a.k.a. defrosting, shoveling, waiting, freezing hands, etc., a.k.a. pain in my high level of impatience-for-purposeless-time-wasting-type-sh*t ass) Now I only have to worry about where I’m going to find a grappling hook and spikes for the bottom of my boots to get to and from home.
Don’t know how often I’ll be able to post and check email, and I’m sorry that I can’t do many individual emails right now, etc., but whenever I can grab some time at the bar with the wireless and my computer is fully charged I will try!  There are no plug-ins in the outside bar.  All in all, life is goooooooooooooood :)
Love and gratitude,
Em