When I started this blog, I didn’t know how often I would write or what subjects I would cover. Every day I think of a new topic or two to share, but there isn’t much time to sit down and write it out. Life has been incredibly hectic these past few weeks. Little by little, I am gaining new language skills and can apply that to my conversations with locals, but progress is slower than I had hoped. Our lessons are taught by teachers from the capital city of Skopje. Unfortunately, in my local village, everyone speaks in a dialect much different from our lessons. I leave the lesson feeling better, only to have my confidence bashed at the dinner table.
Going with the flow is a motto I have always heard throughout my life, and at times I thought I practiced; however, I am now applying this maxim at an expert level. Whether it is being okay with not knowing what anyone is saying in conversations, getting in the family car and having no idea where I will end up, or not worrying about minor inconveniences in everyday life – I am going with the flow!
I have started working with my schools over the past two weeks. For the first week, I observed several 7th and 8th-grade classrooms to see teaching methodologies and meet the students and staff, which was very exciting. This past week, I traveled to a satellite school and was a co-teacher for five lessons in grades 1-8. Several grades were paired together (2nd and 3rd, 4th and 5th, etc.). Traveling to the satellite school and seeing a new area near my village was nice. This week, I will teach complete lessons to about five different classes; it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I have a long way to go; however, I think I am heading in the right direction.
Over the past few weekends, I have been fortunate to make several new friends my age, and my host family has shown me a couple of beautiful locations in this country. The first stop was a restaurant at the Ponikva Ski Resort in the Osogovo Mountains. I plan to go skiing there this winter! The view from the ski resort has easily been the prettiest scenery I have seen in this country. As the sun set at the resort, we enjoyed a cold Skopsko Smooth and had some Leche cake. The next day, I observed the Macedonian tradition of producing rakija. Rakija is a fruit brandy with an alcohol content of around 40-50% (yikes!). It is homemade and is legal to produce. The process is very similar to the production of Moonshine (or at least what I saw in those TV shows years ago). In this case, my host dad and grandfather used fermented grapes and distilled them into the clear liquid of rakija. Sitting back and watching the process from start to finish was cool. After the distilling process, they stored the rakija in glass containers where the liquid will sit for a few months before drinking. When rakija is served, it is expected that everyone takes sips from the glass rather than a shot. I have not yet gotten used to the taste, and I still struggle not to make a funny face.
Over the past two weekends, I was able to travel to two different monasteries in the Osogovo Mountains. The first was Saint Gabriel’s Lesnovo Monastery, close to Probishtip. The original section of the monastery was built in the 14th century. It has beautiful, well-preserved frescoes encapsulating the entirety of the inside. Detailed paintings, wood carvings, and ancient traditions were many aspects I observed during my visit. The monastery sits on top of a volcanic crater created 20-30 million years ago. After exploring the inner sanctuary, I roamed the caves where Saint Gabriel was believed to have built the original monastery. The caves were gigantic and had many connections to other exits.
This past weekend I ventured to the Monastery of St. Pantelimon near Kochani with my host family. Arriving there was quite a surprise since I thought we were going to a petting zoo – or at least that is what my host mom said. 🙂 It is a beautiful place with intricately detailed paintings covering the inside of the buildings. We had a picnic with my host family nearby.
While these past weeks have been extremely busy with language classes, Peace Corps classes, and meeting new people, I have seen some beautiful areas of North Macedonia. I hope to publish at least one new blog post every month. Check out my photos page because I just uploaded a lot!
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