#PeaceCorps MAK24: A Macedonian Love Letter

Today is market day, and it’s a very warm 19 deg C. I didn’t want to take some artistic shot that leaves out all the mess of my city, but the sun sort of hides everything and makes everything cleaner. But, some shots from today. Please enjoy.

I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy living in N Macedonia. Teaching is hard work; it always has been. But I like my students here, and I like my counterparts. I also like all the other teachers in the school where I am, so going to work is actually fun. I have to stay current and fresh in both languages. Sometimes I’m jealous of those people who are purely in Macedonian, or the people who only have to speak Albanian with some forays into Macedonian. But I’ve gotten to know both my students better, and it makes me happy that I can do both. My Macedonian will always struggle, because I live with an Albanian family, but as long as I understand things and can sometimes follow along in a conversation, I’m ahead of the game.

Further observations

  • Feminine solidarity: women here walk arm-in-arm, sit close in restaurants and help each other look their best. I know this is mostly because of the strict gender separation until marriage, but there isn’t a lot of back-biting and competition among women. It’s inspiring.
  • The Albanian men, starting quite young, have no issue giving a two kisses on each cheek greeting to other men. It’s quite nice, honestly.
  • When you find a place to have Turkish tea and a nice pastry for 40 den (70 cents), it’s like Heaven has opened up. There’s this one bun with this sharp, cheddar like cheese on top, and today I had a pasty stuffed with jam (probably cherry) and covered in powdered sugar. Divine.
  • I know everyone says that the people in their country are the kindest people they have ever met, but I really mean it here. A group of students came to say hello during a break (strangers to me–I don’t work with their English teacher) and asked if they could stay and have a chat. Of course! They told me later they had been afraid of bothering me, but I told them to bother me any time.
  • When I first came here, watching people take selfies on a normal day out, or at home, was pretty weird to me. I mean, I know people take selfies, but it had never been part of my regular going out habits. I still don’t know how many photos I’ve ended up in, but now I see it as charming and not odd.

I know that there will be frustrating days, and days where I question my decision to join the Peace Corps. But sometimes, on beautiful market days, with strange and happy experiences, you start to understand why you’re here and why it’s important to have these small interactions with people.

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