An afternoon in Ohrid

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Creken Bozhik and Gezuar Krishtlindjet

Creken Bozhik and Gezuar Krishtlindjet! Or at least Boxing Day, since today is the day after Christmas. I'm having a Boxing Day party tonight and have stockings hung, if not by the chimney, at least with care. It actually wasn't Christmas in Macedonia - Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January. But we started the holiday season early, first with a Hanukkah party, then a Christmas party last night, and tonight a Boxing Day party! Next week I'm hoping to go to Struga for the big New Year's celebration there - it is supposed to be quite the event! We do work in the Peace Corps, but Macedonia is a country that likes celebrations, and December and January are full of them. After New Year's there is Christmas and then the old New Year, so more celebrations to come! I'm anxious to see them all.
Last week was cold with ice and snow. I've attached a picture from out my kitchen window so you can see what I get to see every day. My apartment overlooks a small park, and beyond that are the mountains. Gostivar is surrounded by three sides by mountains of varying heights - these are some of the smaller mountains. I'm hoping to get up to the sheep pastures next spring or summer.
We've had a warm wind blow in, and today the temperature is a very mild 50 degrees - it is quite lovely out. Some volunteers were going to test out the ski centers here today, and I hope the warmth hasn't scuttled those plans. The snow is completely gone here, something that does not fill me with sadness! It's treacherous walking - snow quickly turns to ice. While there is some street cleaning, pedestrians are left to their own devices on the sidewalks, and last Tuesday the town was a skating rink. I had expected a climate more like New Hampshire, but so far it's been considerably warmer.
My Christmas present here was getting internet in my apartment, so I'm no longer dependent on someone with Wifi to be able to write e-mails and blog. I also got cable TV - and have been watching CNN international as I breakfast in the morning. I'm lucky to be in a town where things are available. My big joke is that I had to come to Macedonian to get good internet service - in Marlow we were dependent on telephone modems, and here I have a wireless connection!
Life is good. Have a wonderful week of celebrations of life!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I took a day trip down to Ohrid, which is the big resort city in Macedonia on Lake Ohrid. I met two Peace Corps friends there, and we were met by a lovely woman who is the Macedonian counterpart to a volunteer in Ohrid. She has a small tour business on the side. She loves Macedonia and Ohrid and is so happy to be able to show it off. She took us around town and gave us an impromptu tour, which was wonderful. Ohrid is a charming town. Unlike much of Macedonia which reflects its Yugoslav past in great concrete block buildings, Ohrid has retained its old charms - some small streets, old buildings, and lots of history - it's been a town for 8000 years. It's on the largest and one of the oldest lakes in Europe, Lake Ohrid. One of my friends is having a friend visit for New Year's, and Katerina had found an apartment for her to rent that was right on the lake, beautiful, and affordable. The picture above with the boats is a view from the balcony. The day was beautiful, warm, and it felt like I had landed on some other planet. I can hardly wait to go back- it's a perfect day trip from Gostivar. And at the end we were treated to the most beautiful sunset ever.

More about living in Macedonia: Electricity is very expensive compared to per capita earnings, so conservation is a way of life. It's amazing to think about how much we squander electricity. Here there are all sorts of ways to try to cut down on costs. First, there are low tariff and high tariff times, so you try to do your heavy electrical usage during the low times - 1-4 during the day and after 10 at night. My host mom would always do her ironing after 10. The hot water heaters are generally not automatic - you turn them on before you want to use them. I turn mine on when I go to bed at night so I can have a lovely warm shower in the morning. I'm lucky and have a separate small kitchen boiler for dishes, so the big one I can save just for showers. The heaters have heat absorbing stone built into them, so if you warm them during the low times they'll hold the heat all day. It also doubles as the dryer - I have a little washer in my apartment but dryers are unheard of. Everywhere you go, even at this time of year, you see laundry hanging outside of apartments. I have a dryer rack I put in front of the heater to dry my clothes, but I rotate them on and off the top of the big heater for quicker drying. All the rooms have doors so you can heat only the rooms you want. It all works well.

You wouldn't think things like stoves would be different, but it took me awhile to learn to use mine. I still don't understand it, but at least I can make it work now. Before I could get 3 burners to work, but not the big one I wanted to work or the oven. Twice I had my landlady in saying it was broken, and I finally saw the thing you have to turn on to make the oven and big burner work. It's a timer that will turn it off automatically after it's on for the time you set. The burners are different, too - solid rather than coils. They take a long time to heat up but then stay hot for a long time after they're turned off, so cooking techniques are different. There are lots of funny little things to learn!

Okay, enough for now. Hope you're all ready for Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hi, everyone,
I've been living in Gostivar for two weeks, with unfortunately limited access to internet. I'm hoping to get it installed in my apartment this week, but you never know, or at least I never know, when things are going to happen. I think my landlady assured me that it was going to be in soon, but my Macedonian is still limited. In the meantime I wanted to let you know I was still alive and well. I've had a great time since coming here and have seen so many things I'll need to catch you up on. But for now, here are some pictures of my adorable apartment. I have it decorated for Christmas now. Christmas in Macedonia is on January 7th, so we get to celebrate it twice! I'm very comfortable and so enjoy cooking again - I had forgotten how much I like to create meals for myself. And creations they are. Most of the time I can tell what I'm buying in the grocery store, but it's still an adventure in new ingredients and different options. But on Tuesdays I go to the bazaar and load up on fruits and veggies - happily I've been munching on Clementines, which I look forward to every year around T=giving. I buy a half kilo of spinach for about a dollar or less, and a half kilo is a huge amount of spinach. I've put it in soup, salads, pasta dishes, and omelets, I gave a bunch of it away, and I still have a ton left. So far there has been an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies and food is very inexpensive. The weather, after being warm and generally sunny, turned cold on Friday and there is snow on the mountains. We got a dusting but it didn't stay. I'm hoping the farmers can continue to supply us with everything for awhile yet. My other joy here is that chickens are not locked up in cages, so the eggs have the deep orange yolks that I love and not the pale imitations we see in the markets in the States.
Shopping is much different here, too. There are many, many small shops, and finding which ones carry the things you are looking for is a challenge. But it's also a great excuse to browse and to see what everyone has. Now that it's getting close to Christmas, merchants have put up booths in the town square selling Christmas things. It always makes me smile because it brings a vivid display of colors - they have so many kinds of Christmas frou-fra to put up. I settled for a small artificial tree and bulbs, some tinsel streamers, and some blinking lights, and they make me smile at home with their cheeriness.
I've been acclimating for work - going to meetings that are about developing project proposals for rural development. They are in small villages in the area, so I am very lucky to be seeing parts of the country that most volunteers don't get to. We've been up to a mountain village in Mavrovo park twice - they want to develop tourism there and it's a gorgeous place with lots of potential. The first time we stopped by one of the most famous monasteries in Macedonia - the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. In the 8th or 9th century an icon of St. John was found in a stream, and that's why they built the Monastery there - the icon was apparently much older. It's now encased in gold and people come to pray for miracles, several of which have been attributed to St. John's intervention. It has very famous wood carving in it - carving that was done by brother's who used techniques that no one has been able to replicate. They would make 3 dimensional scenes representing stories from the Bible and from St. John's live in 3 dimensions, much like the ivory carving you see from China. I was lucky because one of the monks offered to give us a tour and explain them and he spoke perfect English. They also have relics from several saints there, including a piece of the thigh bone from St. John. The Monastery sits up on the side of the mountain and the views are extraordinary. I hadn't brought my camera with me and regret it immensely - I would have loved to give you a feel for the landscape there. The road through Mavrovo is a little like driving through the grand canyon, but with trees. The canyon has spectacular rock formations and cliffs that are dotted with caves. The park itself has an abundance of wildlife, including wolves, bobcats, bear, deer, weasels - amazing that the species have been able to survive centuries of hunting but also a testament to how inaccessibility of the landscape.
Two weekends ago I took a day trip to Ohrid, and last weekend was at a Hanukkah party in Skopje, but more about all that latter. Happy Hanukkah and a happy holiday season to all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Swearing In

I'm now officially a PCV - Peace Corps volunteer. We were sworn in by the Ambassador to Macedonia on a very emotional night. My favorite parts of it were the speech that two volunteers wrote - one a friend from Cherkeze and another from the neighboring town of Romanovce, which was funny, emotional, and hit the core of our experiences with our host families - and the other our final tribute to our families and language and culture teachers. My host mother and father were there and it was lovely to get to say thank you to them. The oath we take reminded me of the Presidential oath. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. I have to say that being away from the US and watching a country working to develop democratic principles makes me love our Constitution even more. It is an amazing document and one most of us take for granted.

The next day was our last in Cherkeze. It was Bajram i vogel, one of the big celebrations in Muslim culture. It celebrates the end of the Hadj and Allah giving a starving family a sheep to sacrifice for food. My host mother had been preparing for two weeks, cleaning the house and cooking food. Baklava is traditionally made for the two different bajram celebrations, and I helped (well, more watched) the mother of one of our volunteers make it. She and a neighbor rolled out the phylo dough using a round table and what looks like a down until it was paper thin. They rolled out 50 layers of dough for one large pan of baklava, and every few layers I would throw on sugar and something that looked like a mixture of ground corn and flour. Every now and then we would also put in a layer of nuts. It took 1.5 hours for the two of them to put it together. Then it baked for an hour an a half, set for a day or two, and then the flavored sugar water was put on it and it was baked again - I think. I didn't see the last step, so I'm just guessing. My host mom also made a custard and rice pudding for the big day, plus sarma - stuffed cabbage - dolma - stuffed peppers - and goulash.

On the big day we got up early - at 6 am. My host mom had been up until 2 making final preparations, and hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, either. My host father's cousin from Germany was visiting, and they had to prepare for their parts in the day. We went down to the relative who shares the compound with my family and visiting for an hour or so, and then went out to watch the dad and his cousin slaughter the sheep, skin it, and butcher it. He did 4 that day. The meat is divided up and given to different members of the family and to the poor. After that I went up to a volunteer's house and we started our own bajram visiting. Visiting is the big part of bajram - everyone visits everyone else and eats the treats that they all worked so hard to make. We were able to visit 5 of the 6 host families - it was a wonderful way to say goodbye. By the end of the day our stomachs literally ached with all the baklava and puddings we had eaten. Fortunately I had had brunch at about 10:30 with my family, so something other than sweets helped, but I still was in pain!

That night my host mom, the neighbor mom and I sat around and talked. I was so pleased that I knew at least enough Albanian to converse with them. I talked about my life in America. For them, it was an amazing tale. I worked outside the home and paid someone to clean it? I had my own pension? And worst of all, I lived alone? Why didn't I live with family? Wasn't my son taking care of me? Why did everyone live so far away? Their lives are so different - not better nor worse, just very, very different. It was such a fitting end to my enriching and love-filled home stay.

The next day started with a bang. I had been unable to sleep most of the night with the excitement and nervousness of moving to site and the 100 pounds of baklava I had eaten. I got up a little before 6 and went to the bathroom and promptly broke the lock to the bathroom and locked myself in. Hmmm, standing there in my pjs, in the cold, the rest of the family sound asleep, and locked in the bathroom. Not knowing what else to do, I started pounding on the door, and fortunately the oldest daughter heard me and woke up her mom, who came out to see what the heck was going on. When I explained she laughed and got the dad, who sent the youngest daughter through the small window that opens out onto the terrace. When she couldn't open it, my host dad, who is not a small man, climbed through the 2 ft. square window with his tools. Bless his heart!! Not only could he not open the door, he also couldn't take the door handle hardware off - it was rusted in place. So he climbed back out the window, went around, and kicked the door in. I did leave with a bang. I felt like a complete idiot! But my mom laughed and said: "See, even the house doesn't want you to leave!"

Afterwards they took me early down to the bus that took me to Skopje and then to Gostivar. We cried - even the youngest who got up early so he could come down to see me off. My mom told me that any time I wanted to come home all I had to do was call and she'd sent my host dad off to Gostivar to pick me up. They are a very sweet and loving family and I will miss them.

Next blog I will tell you about Gostivar and my transition here, but enough for now. It's December - hard to believe. It makes me realize how accustomed I am to seeing Thanksgiving and Christmas advertising everywhere this time of year - it just is strange not to have that as a time marker, though I have to say it's not that I miss it, it just has been such an indication of the season that it's odd not to have it. But I've bent your ears (or eyes, I guess I should say) long enough, and I should be off.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

As I've probably said before, there are 37 of us who came over to Macedonia as PC volunteers this year - we're the 14th group so are called Mak 14. After the first week, we went to live in different villages - 6 or 7 to a village. These are my compatriots from Cherkeze on Halloween - the 5 other volunteers and our two language and culture teachers. It's a good group - all very different personalities but, as you might expect, everyone has a sense of adventure. I will miss seeing all of them every day when I move to Gostivar, but expect to see them periodically on visits or official PC functions, and we've had an experience together that has created a bond like no other. Yesterday was our last Albanian class. Eventually we will need to pass a language proficiency class and yesterday we also had a practice test to see what it was like and what they were looking for. Hana, who tested us, said I used a lot of gestures to get my message across, which really wouldn't count on the test, which is taped, but would help in everyday life. Everyone who knows me is probably laughing, because not only do I use a lot of gestures in Albanian and Macedonian, I use a lot when trying to speak English! Nor is anyone in my group surprised that Kacy's first 'words' weren't words at all but animal sounds. I haven't treated them to a donkey bray yet, but they've heard goats, chickens and turkeys. How could we not come to Halloween as animals - animals in boxes, mind you.

I've also included a picture of Gostivar. You can see the little mountains that are on one side of town - the bigger ones are on the other side but it was cloudy and hard to see them. Yesterday my counterpart from the sheepbreeders association came and picked me up to go up to Lipcove to meet the Mayor of the municipality. Hmmm, a word about municipalities. As part of the 2001 framework agreement that I've mentioned before, the government agreed to decentralize some functions of government to make it more accountable to the people. The country was divided into municipalities where there is usually one big town or city and a number of smaller villages. Kumanovo has 48 villages as part of its municipality. It makes me smile to remember New England and how decentralized it is - essentially Marlow was its own municipality with a selectmen's board, its own police, fire, road, and school department. It would blow the minds of Macedonians. But I digress. The mayor was sick, but we met with two other municipal officials to discuss the centrality of agriculture, what kind of life the citizens wanted, and putting up billboards advertising seminars we're giving in February before the lambs come. Luli, my counterpart, is an agricultural engineer and is fantastic. He has a vision, and I only hope I can be of help to him. The meetings were conducted in Albanian, with Luli translating some, but some I could understand at least the gist of. It is a long way from when we moved in with our families and had only been taught the Albanian alphabet. Communication is definitely still a challenge, but at least we have some words, and our families have learned what we know and don't know as well and how to get things across to us.

Once I get to site I can get tutors in both Macedonian and Albanian. So I won't stop learning, but it won't be as intensive as it has been. Every now and then I have a conversation with someone not associated with Peace Corps, and it still is a thrill to be understood, although I am most expert in Macebanian. I have my Macedonian practice test on Tuesday, so this weekend will be a cram session for that, and hopefully I will not use too many Albanian words - I used several Macedonian words for my Albanian test! I encourage all of you to learn as many languages as you can when you're young - it's crazy, but crazy fun, to be doing this at 63!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Just a week to go before we're sworn in as official Peace Corps volunteers. They flew in a bunch of turkeys from the US and we'll have a huge potluck dinner after our swearing in. I thought you'd like to see the wheel of sheep cheese I got in Gostivar - it was lovely. Below is a sign advertising a cafe in Gostivar - the Barack Obama Caffeteria - it's Albanian and male only, so sadly I won't ever get to see the inside!

I haven't said much about the Peace Corps in my blogs. They really take good care of us. We have 2 doctors and a safety and security officer to look out for us, and they have been giving us all kinds of trainings on top of our language training. Everyone is very supportive. We have our own quite extensive medical kits for first aid, and anyone can be called 24 hours a day if something happens. The experienced volunteers take care of us as well.

I've grown quite adept at traveling in all sorts of ways - taxis, buses, both local and country wide, trains and by foot. Each and every trip is a bit of an adventure. I went and visited Sveti Nikoli the other day. It is a Macedonian town, and like everywhere, I was greeted with the greatest of kindness and hospitality. The family I was staying with took me and another volunteer to a 'naming' party. People who are members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church are generally named for one of their saints, and when it's the Saint's day the person has a naming party. They invite all kinds of folks over and have a wonderful spread of food. We arrived at about 9 or 10 at night, and there were salad, veggies, and cold cuts laid out. We thought that was great and ate up, and then came out the main dishes....Yikes. They served sarma (stuffed cabbage), dolma(stuffed peppers), and I think pork tenderloin slices. After that was dessert - mind you we'd been eating all day and this was late at night! There was much discussion at the table and good fellowship. The Macedonians also have house naming day, which is the saint's day for their family saint. They again have a feast for people and bake bread and take it to the priest to have it blessed and the family members blessed. The day after Thanksgiving is the end of Hadj for the Albanians and is the big Bajram celebration - we had the little Bajram celebration at the end of Ramazan. So all of us living with Albanians are staying an additional day to celebrate with our families. Traditionally a ram is slaughtered to represent Allah giving food to a starving family. Oh, and there will be lots of food!

So Thanksgiving one day, Bajram the next. If you're worried about me getting enough to eat - don't! As you can see, I am well fed and if I keep going at this rate, I'll be very round when I return home. Things will be changing when I cook for myself, though! Mirupafshem!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Site Visit in Gostivar

I just got back from our site visit in Gostivar. A site visit is our chance to meet our counterpart in the organization we'll be working in, see the city, and confirm our apartment site, so it is much anticipated by all the trainees. Three of us went to Gostivar, which is a gorgeous town nestled at the end of a mountain valley. Huge mountains rise up from the edges of town, which of course fills me with excitement - I can hardly wait to get out there and hike. My counterpart is a gem - very sweet. He works for the regional sheepbreeders association where I'll be based, and I spent 3 days meeting all kinds of people. We visited a cheese factory, extension office (much like extension offices in the States), the local municipal government, a microfinancing NGO and a major sheep farm. We also went to a 3 hour meeting, conducted both in Albanian and Macedonian, that is identifying an infrastructure project to do. I felt like I was already getting primed for the job he wants me working on with him, which is creating an overarching association that unites all primary producers with processors and technical experts to facilitate more efficient and competitive farm to market operations. We also had delicious pizza at his cousin's pizza restaurant, saw another cousin's produce store, and I met his other cousin who works in a business related NGO. That's typical of Albanian and Macedonian culture. It's hard for them to understand what we're doing here so far from our families. They trace them back for generations and seem to be related to everyone in town either directly or through marriage. But for me it's great - it means I have instant connections in Gostivar. My apartment is very nice - I have a living room, small dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom with a small washing machine. Kacy is moving into the West Village in NY, and I bet my apartment is as big as hers! BTW, a little motherly pride, we just received word she passed the New York bar - congrats, my sweetie! I took treats into class today to celebrate.

South of Gostivar is the major national park in Macedonia, which I've heard is lovely. The sheep graze in mountain pastures in the summer, and I've been promised that I will be taken up there to visit. The family at the farm we visited were lovely - we had a good visit and were served the most delicious soft sheep cheese ever. It was four months old and had been made by the owner of the farm. They milk 200 sheep in the summer up in those mountain pastures - all, of course, by hand. I'd love to see the operation. I still can't quite believe this is what I'll be doing - seems like a dream. I was also given a huge wheel of hard sheep cheese at the cheese factory - tangy and delicious. My co-volunteers call me mother cheese!

Enough for now, friends. I'll write more and include pictures of Gostivar after I move there - I'll have internet access at my house. I had to move to Macedonia to get good internet access - Marlow just had dial-up. Hope everyone is well and thriving!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Apple Festival in Tetova

A couple of weeks ago 6 of us - 3 Peace Corps trainees from my village and 3 from a neighboring village - headed west for the annual apple festival in Tetovo. Tetovo is in the northwest part of Macedonia, not far from Kosovo and Albania, though you'd have to go over some significant mountains to reach Albania. It was a gray and rainy day, and we took the bus from Skopje. Traveling in Macedonia is a lot like traveling in New Hampshire or Vermont - because it is small the distances aren't nearly as far as they look on a map. We almost missed our stop in Tetova and went down to Gostivar, but at the last minute a friend who was smart enough to remember her guidebook realized we were in Tetovo and we got our grumbling driver to stop again to let us off. At that point we discovered there really wasn't a festival - the person who had thought of the trip had told one of our friends that Tetovo had the best apples in Macedonia, and that got translated into a feste. But for us it was a feste! We visited with Peace Corps volunteers living there, went to see the painted mosque, and ate in a good Italian restaurant - I had chicken shishkebab which was very salty like much of the food here but also delicious. It was too bad the weather wasn't better - I could see that the mountains literally came down to the edge of the city, and when it's clear it must be gorgeous. It's an ethnic Albanian town of about 80,000 so we got to practice some of our Albanian. We went to the treg (bazaar) to get pictures of our apple festival before catching the bus and train home. It was a fun way to practice taking local transportation in Macedonia, and one of the nice things about being in the Peace Corps is that there are people everywhere that we can go visit.

Next week we go to for our site visits - to the places we'll live and work for the next two years. I am soooo excited - can hardly wait to see what I will shortly call home. Miss everyone and send my best.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last Sunday we were supposed to go to a neighboring village to see one of their pigs get slaughtered. It's a village with mixed ethniticies, but all the volunteers are living with ethnic Macedonians, and their lifestyle is a bit different from ours. The volunteer who lives at the house where the pig was to be killed texted us about an hour before the event - instead of slaughtering the pig at the appointed time, we were going to have rychek - or lunch - and the pig had already bitten the dust. We arrived to fresh pork grilling on the brazier, cooking in the house, and a feast prepared. Ethnic Macedonians, especially those in the country, all make their own wine and rakija, the native drink. To make rakija, you distill your home-made wine a few times until the alcohol content reaches 50% (100 proof). They use rakija for most everything - medicine, bathing the body for fever, for wounds, and they are likely to drink it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, before you leap to any conclusions, it is really a no-no to be drunk here. They always serve food with rakija and expect you to monitor your intake. Anyway, back to our feast.

The host family set up the table and after first serving us cok(prounounced soak), which is any kind of soda or juice, gave us all rakija and set out grilled pork, sauteed pork, pork liver, cole slaw, pickled veggies, bread, and I'm sure some other things. Since we eat very little meat at my house (and certainly no pork) the meat tasted sooooo good. We were also poured big glasses of their home-made wine. On a tour afterwards, I was shown their store houses where they have all their winter vegetables and probably 10-12 big casks of wine - some of which they're going to distill soon. We sat and talked and ate for about 5 hours. After the main meal, the wine keep flowing and cookies or other treats would magically appear. They grind their own flour and grow feed for their animals as well as everything else they might need, so they're pretty self sufficient. And I must say, they are very gracious hosts. One son spoke English that he had learned from TV and movies, and they taught us words in Macedonian as well as just chatting with us. Macedonians pride themselves as being terrific hosts, and I can attest that they live up to that billing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

These are some random pictures from my last week. The picture on the upper left is my 'cousin's' house where I went for dinner. Ekram is the dad and his wife is the sister of my father. As I've said before, family is very important, and we visit family all the time. If you didn't have a family you wouldn't know who you were and where you belonged, and family is traced back for at least 5 generations. Another volunteer lives with Ekram, and they are one of the more liberal and funny families - it's great fun visiting them with my family. The picture at directly above is Premtim, who is our Albanian language teacher. That's how he looks after trying to get us to pronounce Albanian words correctly - try saying gjthashtu quickly 5 times. The picture above that is the bazaar - every at least medium sized town has one. It's a combination farmer's market and flea market - you can get almost anything there and the prices are very low. I stock up on bananas there, as well as assorted other things. My 'father' bought a crate of the most gorgeous tomatoes you can imagine last week for 40 denari - about one dollar. There are sacks upon sacks of peppers, cabbages, tomatoes, grapes - everything that is coming in from the harvest. In addition, there are booths with clothes, umbrellas, eggs, baby wear - you think of it and it's there. Enver, my 'father' brought me down to buy a immersible hot water pot - takes about 3 minutes to heat a big pot of water. He knew where to go and what to say - we went to an Albanian vendor and they found me a new one they sold to me for about $7.50 and now we have hot water every day in our classroom for tea. We've reached the half way point in our training - hard to believe - and tomorrow we head to Skopje for 'field day', a day we get together with almost all of the other volunteers in country and play games, socialize, and buy stuff from the volunteers who are heading home soon. I'm looking forward to meeting more experienced volunteers and finding out about their experiences! Last weekend 6 of us trainees went to Tetova for the famous Apple Festival, but more about that later. I also want to take more pictures of my family here to share with you. I can't emphasize how friendly everyone is. Children in the village always want to practice their English, so wherever I go I'm greeted with "Hello. What is your name?" There are a number of young girls who run up for a hug whenever they see me, and there is nothing more energizing than a hug from one of them. There are challenges, too, but for the most part things have been wonderful. Enough for now - my love to you all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hooray for technology. I was in my favorite place, a bakery with free wifi, and had tea and baclava and called my folks, sister, Chris, and my out-laws on Skype! Chris had a web cam so I even got to see him sitting in his office - it can't get better than that.

Yesterday was a 'hub' day - a day when all of us trainees in Macdonia gather with some volunteers and the Peace Corps staff for training. The staff is super-supportive. We couldn't ask for nicer. One of the sessions yesterday was a panel of folks representing the main ethnic groups in Macedonia - Macedonian, Albanian, Roma, Vlad, Bosnian, Serb - the Turk representative ended up with a last minute conflict and had to cancel. One of the challenges of any democracy is tyranny of the majority - how do you keep minority interests honored? Certainly America has and continues to struggle with this concept. When Yugoslavia fell apart and the troubles started in Serbia and Bosnia, there were considerable tensions in Macedonia between the different ethnicities. The Albanian, Roma, and Bosniacs are, for the most part, Mulism the Serbs, Macedonians, and Vlads are for the most part Orthodox. They all have different languages and traditions - think of the French Canadians and you get a small sense of the challenge - how to integrate but not assimilate. In the US we say how to have a tossed salad as opposed to a melting pot. Macedonia was able to avoid the kind of conflict that developed elsewhere by signing the Ohrid Peace Accord. It allows the different communities to have at least primary schools in their own language, allows each group to designate a holiday especially for that group to go along with other holidays, and mandates representation in governance along with some other strategies to protect the interest of the different groups. There still is tension, but it is an amazingly thoughtful attempt to solve this basic problem in democracies and the world should be watching to see how it works. It's only been 7 or 8 years since the Accords, and it is definitely still a work in progress. As one panelist said - a supernova went off, and we're still in the cooling phase. There is so much happening in this small country - am I not one of the most fortunate people in the world to be here?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday in Skopje.

Last weekend we went to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, for a few hours. It was the one rainy day in a month of sunshine, but the rain held off while we were there. Skopje is located in the wide Vardur valley that snakes through the Balkans and the center of Macedonia. Most of the people and farming exist in that valley, and it's served as a highway for nomadic people and armies for centuries. It also makes for beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the area! We visited the old fort and old town. Skopje is not a big tourist destination for people outside of Macedonia, and as a result the 'tourist' attractions are very different from what I'm used to. Most of the city was leveled by an earthquake in 1963. From what I hear, several countries came in and helped rebuild the city with 1960's architecture, sigh. There's a Norwegian built section (the Peace Corps office is on Oslo St), a Japanese section, etc. Parts of the fort and old town, the walls of which were built by the Turks with little or no mortar, were pretty much all that remained. The fort, which has been around since early AD and has Roman, Slavic, Turkish, and probably the remains of many other groups, is a major archeological site and looks as if it has many, many digs that have happened and are still going on. Old town, which has one of the national art museums in the old Turkish bath, is still an active merchant area, filled mainly with ethnic Albanian stores. We went to the museum which had a modern exhibit called "Skins" that was done by a German woman to represent the different 'skins' and roles that women take on. Just imagine for a second - an exhibt by a German woman on the roles of women in the Western world in a turkish bath in the middle of an ethnic Albanian shopping area. It truly is a global world!
There are no real tourist stores that I've seen, and I have yet to find a postcard - sorry everyone I promised to send cards to! The shops are all small and the area was teeming with people. A couple of the streets we went down to get there had room for only one car at a time but were not one-way, which resulted in some interesting traffic challenges. I'll attach some pictures so you can get a little feel of the area - but to really get a feel, you'll have to come and visit!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hi, all,
It's been a busy week, and I've had little computer time, but didn't want more time going by without at least checking in. Tomorrow we're going to the bazaar. It occupies a huge space in Kumanovo, and is filled with harvest items, as well as about everything else you can think of. We're supposed to go there to practice asking about prices for things, both in Macedonian and in Albanian. Should be a hoot to watch us. We're supposed to bargain, but I'm not sure how much I can do that = things are already pretty cheap.

Generally twice a week I travel into Kumanovo for my practicum. There are 4 of us who are assigned to Community Development from my town and the neighboring town. I meet the other 3 in Kumanovo and we go and interview people working in the local opstina - muncipal government - and a couple of the local NGO's. Macedonia is a dream for people who love political science. As a professor told us a week ago, his grandmother, who lived until she was 90, lived in 6 different countries, and all without going more than 18 miles from the place she was born. Since the late 1800's, Macedonia's national politics and infrastructure has changed that many times. As I've said before, it's only been a country since 1991, and the laws and rules have always come from far away. As part of the treaty in 2001, more power was transferred to the local muncipalities so that more local control could mean that the government was more responsive to the people and the ethnic minorities. For the last 7 years, they've been working on that transfer. It's hard to describe the complexity - different skills are needed, funding sources, space, and attitudes. Everyone we've met has been amazing, and it's so interesting to see what they're doing. I keep thinking of New England and town meetings - the history of wonderful, inefficient and sometimes even unfair local control is so important, and here, at least as far as government is concerned, that's a completely foreign concept. How to find balance between what needs to be from the central government, what needs to be local, how to protect minority populations of all kinds - that's what we've been experimenting with for 200+ years, and here they're just starting to wrestle with it all. Okay, my political science lecture for the day - but I have loved the luxury of sitting and talking with people about it!

Hopefully Tuesday I'll have the chance to tell you about my trip to Skopje and to post some pictures. Hope everyone is keeping warm - we've had a stretch of unbelievable weather!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm sitting outside of a bakery in downtown Kumanovo writing this. Kumanovo is just a few minutes by taxi from where I live in Cherkeze. The taxis wait at the end of town by Fortuna, a building that has a small grocery and building supply shop. They wait until 3 or 4 people arrive to go into Kumanovo, then go to the Green Market and let us off. With a full taxi it costs 20 dinar, or about 50 cents. Alternately, I go down to the railroad tracks and wait for the bus, which is only 10 dinar. I'm getting quite good at getting around, and people are very helpful. When I first took the bus back from Kumanovo, the man that helped me find the right bus couldn't believe I was really going to Cherkeze. He asked me the address, and was only molified when I told him I was going to Fortuna. When we got off the bus, he was still looking at me like he was waiting for me to say: "No, this is a terrible mistake, I don't want to be here!", but instead I hopped off, smiled at him, and headed up the road to my house. Speaking of my house, I'm going to post pictures of it. It's the huge stone building next to the mosque. As big as it looks, we only live on one floor. I think I mentioned the cafe, unfinished 1st floor and unknown 3rd floor before, so I won't describe it more. Every morning though, the call to prayer is blasted through the loud speakers right outside my window at 5:45, so I have an automatic wake up alarm! The other pictures are of some of the local kids, who always want to practice their English with us, and the house of one of the other volunteers, where we stopped and helped the mom shell beans.
The pictures also show a little bit of the roads in Cherkeze. At any one time those narrow roads have flocks of sheep and goats, cows, various cars and taxis, pedestrians, and boys on scooters or in-line skates competing for space. When I riding in a car I often just place my faith in the amazing depth perception of Macedonian drivers. So far I've never seen an accident, and given what seems to be the somewhat haphazard pattern of drivers and people, it seems incredible. I will never criticize New York drivers again!
Next time I'll write about my practicum experiences and what I'm learning here from the Peace Corps. They take really good care of us, which is nice. Hope everyone is doing well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visiting is an integral part of the culture - almost every night someone comes over to visit or we go out to visit. The men go to cafes, and the women visit each other's houses. The other day I thought we were going to Skopje, but instead my family took me with them to visit Suhadet's cousin, who lives out in the country on a farm. Her house was more traditional than the one I live in here in Cherkeze, with no furniture and just cushions around the outside of the room. She had a huge garden and showed me what she's done so far to prepare for winter. Under the eaves upstairs were a large quantity of potatoes, onions and garlic that had been woven into braids, white beans, and dried peppers. Under the stairs were her jars of Ajvar along with some homemade sok - some kind of soda made with cherries. Her hospitality, like that of everyone's here,was wonderful. Mind you, she did have a refrigerator but everything else was fixed on or in her wood stove. First she brought us a glass of some kind of soft drink, which are served everywhere and all the time in Macedonia, along with some candy. This was closely followed by Turkish coffee, which I love, and cookies. After a couple of hours visiting we ate dinner. They brought out the round table she uses for rolling dough and making phyllo which is about 9 inches off the ground. In deference to my stiff Yankee ways, they also brought out a small stool for me to sit out. She had made fresh round loaves of bread, a chopped tomato and onion salad, and white bean soup with some sausage floating in it. The bread is perfect not only for soaking up the soup, but also for dipping in the juices left from the lucious ripe tomatoes. It was all delicious. Then we cleaned up the table and dishes and dessert came out - baked potatoes which we peeled and dipped in salt. It was a lovely dinner and a treat to see a real working Albanian/Macedonian farm. And speaking of that, the town that I live in is all Albanian. It is a source of a great deal of pride for Albanians to say they are from the Country of Macedonian, but they are Albanian. For me, I get to see two cultures at once!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Sunday and 3 of us have travelled into Kumanova for the day and we're catching up on all things internet in the big bakery here, Zafir. Last night I was walking home from talking to Chris on Skype (congrats again, Chris) when the mother of one of the other trainees beckoned me into her yard. 3 other of the 6 trainees in Cherkeze were already there, and the atmosphere was quite festive. She was making the traditional sauce here, ajvar, which is made up of about a zillion red peppers which have been roasted on a barbecue like device, peeled, chopped and cooked with onions and oil outdoors over a fire. She offered us all a taste, which we gladly accepted. All her daughters were around helping us - the family is so sweet and adorable. It was getting dark, and someone handed me something that looked like a round pepper. I couldn't figure out what to do with it so eventually I dropped it into the ajvar. There was a collective gasp and then everyone broke out in laughter - turned out it was a salt shaker! Ah, adventures in miscommunication! But we all had a good laugh and it added to the joy in the air. It's so interesting to watch the different ways of cooking and eating. My mom makes pita, which is Albanian pie. She first make phyllo dough by rolling out dough on a round table with a rod, then throwing the dough in the air until it's paper thin. Then she does some slices around the outside, coats the dough with oil, and folds in a section, repeating it until all the sections have been folded in. She puts a mixture of peppers, carrots and onions on top, then covers it with another layer of phyllo and bakes it in the low, round oven they use for many things. It is very good and very filling.

It's harvest, and the air is filled with smoke, ajvar smells, and harvested alfalfa. They harvest the old way, using a hand rake and tossing it up on a wagon. I often think that life here is like Marlow in the 30's, small stores with a variety of goods for every 100 people or so, everyone with a garden, chickens, and a animal or two in the yard. But there are signs things are changing. Two of my sisters want to be doctors, and the third a computer expert. They're always on the computer, using Windows live to talk to friends and family all over the world. It's an interesting time, an overlap between the old ways and the new. I feel so privileged to be able to experience it. Okay, I'll publish this ad see if I can remember how to attach a picture or two.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 5 in Cherkeze. What a time it's been! Cherkeze is a village of about 5,000, but it's a very insulated city. It's Albanian Muslim and is only about 3 kilometers Kumanova. Everyone in Cherkeze knows everyone and word travels fast. We've been made so welcome it's amazing. I have inherited quite a big family. I walk through town and kids, my 'cousins', run up to me to say "Miredita' and hug me. Further on, my 'aunt' asks me in for kafe, and I pass my 'sisters' riding around town. I went walking with the other trainees in town out in the fields, and asked a woman in traditional dress who was collecting melons and peppers if I could take her picture. She said okay, and I showed her what I took. She then gave me the melon she was carrying. I told her and her son thank you, but I didn't want to take their food, but they insisted. We took it to the house of one of the group and dove into it - yum. It was like a white watermelon, warm still from being in the field, and the most flavorful melon I've ever eaten. I think I must have gained ten pounds already. My mother feeds me like crazy - goulash, dolma (stuffed peppers), the best yoghurt I've ever had, pickled peppers and carrots, Albanian 'pita', chicken and rice (from a chicken she had killed and plucked that morning.) At night we go visiting - last night up to a madher (sister) of my dad and another volunteered, and we laughed and drank kafe and mineral water. It's amazing how much you can communicate despite knowing only a few words. They are very patient with me and take teaching us Albanian very seriously. The training is intense - with tons of homework, so figuring out when to do it is a challenge. It's hard sometime - there's very little down time and I'm tired a lot, but am adjusting and doing better staying awake in class.... I'm going to try to attach some pictures, so here goes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bajram in Cherkeze

I'm settled with my family in an Albanian community call Cherkeze, or Cherke in Albanian. I moved in with them on my birthday, and that night they surprised me with a birthday party. They brought cake, presents and even a bottle of champagne. In Cherkeze, everyone visits everyone all the time, so several relatives of Enver's. my 'Dad', came over to celebrate with me. It's challenging - right now I know almost no Albanian and they know no English. We managed to communicate a little through French and sign language, and occasionally some Albanian. Oh, I should have taken that second semester of French during the summer! Many of the men over 40 speak a European language because they worked somewhere in Europe while this was part of Yugoslavia and they could travel freely throughout Europe and work. When Yugoslavia broke apart and they became Macedonia, that ability was lost, so the younger generations haven't had that opportunity because it's challenging to get a visa. But next year that changes.

Anyway, my family consists of Enver, the Bapi, Sahadet, the Mami, 4 daughters, Vanessa, Hadigja, Helelinda, Suala, and 1 son, Isa. (My spellings are probably not correct - I need to find out how to do it correctly.) Enver and Sahadet have given up their room for me, so I am quite comfortable. Everyone here is very friendly - we greet with miredita and kisses on the right cheek, left, and right again. They are working hard to teach me Albanian, but most of it goes in one ear for now and out the other. Tomorrow we start our formal training - 20 hours of language lessons a week, 8 of Macedonian and 12 of Albanian. Our training lasts until Thanksgiving, when all the PC volunteers gather in Skopje for Thanksgiving dinner and our swearing in. The next day we move to our own apartments where we'll live for the next 24 months.

I also moved in during Ramadan, and today is Bajram, celebrating the end of Ramadan and fasting. When my family fasted, they would eat at 3:30 in the morning and then again at sunset. Sahadet would prepare the meal and put it on the table, and we'd wait until the prayer call signalling sunset, and everyone would dig in! Bajram is a joyful feast - we spent the morning going around to all the relatives houses and eating and drinking sok (soda) and turkish coffee and eating. The children wander around town collecting candy much like Halloween. Several of Enver and Sahadet's family are still out of Macedonia, but everyone calls each other to talk and say something that sounds like Exhosht Bajram. There are 6 of us in Cherkeze. Everyone else is in Tefl (Teaching English as a foreign language), and I'm the only one in community development.

When I move into my own place I won't need to use an internet cafe, and will be able to send you pictures. All the houses are surrounded by walls and gates, so when you go through the village you might feel closed out, but the villagers all know each other and homes are open. I'm well, learning a lot, and am well taken care of. The food is fabulous, and I always have to say Yam i gnite - I am full. Miss everyone, but it is such an adventure. Wish you all could be here with me!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hi, all,
My posts will probably be pretty short until after Thanksgiving - I won't have regular internet until I move into my own place. Tomorrow I move in with my family for training. I am very lucky to be moving in with an ethnic Albanian family - almost a quarter of Macedonia's population is Albanian Muslim. The families are carefully chosen and from what I've heard spoil us like crazy. We get to meet family, neighbors, and get well fed!

We flew into Skopje and then moved to a hotel in Kumanov for our first 5 days of training. It surprised me flying into Skopje - I had expected it to look like New Hampshire but it looked more like Nebraska with more dramatic landscape. All the land around Skopje is farmed, and they had finished the corn and wheat harvest so the fields were brown. We went immediately up to our hotel outside of Kumanov. It's next to a residential area, so in the mornings I walk around. I love it. There are very few lawns - almost all the land around the houses are fruit trees and gardens. They're harvesting tomatoes - large, yummy ripe tomatoes - and a long sweet red pepper that they make a sauce with. You can walk down the roads and see them searing the peppers on charcoal braziers and sometimes making the sauce. Almost everyone has chickens - so I feel right at home - and as you walk you can smell the earthiness of chickens, the sweet smell of cows and goats, and the acrid odor of pigs. Everyone has a mini farm :-). The group I'm with is wonderful and great fun - danced my feet off last night with them. And everyone is so interesting. If you added up all the travel I'm sure we'd be to the moon and back.

I'll only have internet access a couple times a week until I move into my own place at my assignment, but will try to keep you updated. I'll post pictures then, too = I'll be able to do this from my computer instead of the internet cafe. Love to all.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm in Vienna - when I went to sign into blogspot everything was in German! I guess thus starts my adventures in translations!

There are 38 of us ranging in age from some recent grads to a couple in their 70's. It's wonderful to see how everyone mixes and connects with each other, though. We'll be each others' family for the 27 months in Macedonia, so it's good. Orientation in DC was mostly getting to know each other a bit along with some policy review and logistics - many questions were answered: "You'll find out more when your in-country." And soon we will be there. We're all a bit bleary eyed - it's 4:27 EST but 10:27 here. I was able to wake up with a Starbucks here - I wonder if they've even made it to Skopje.

The big talk among the group was luggage - did we all fit our lives into 2 fifty pound suitcases. One of the young men argued that was too much, but especially for the women it was a stretch. After much reorganizing, mine weighed in at 49 and 50 pound. Imagine me wrestling those through the airport with a 30 pound pack on my back and my computer case filled to the brim with electronics. I was quite proud of myself. It does feel good to put things down, though.

Next stop: Skopje!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tomorrow the adventure begins. I've been rearranging things in suitcases and carry-ons, washing, and hoping I have what I need. Like always, I probably have many things I don't need and some critical things I forgot. One of my carry-ons is just for electronics: my computer, Kindle, camera, PDA, cell phone and assorted accessories - chargers, videos, cables, etc. It's amazing. I fretted about how to use them all in Macedonia on the different current and bought 3 current transformers, only to learn that all electronics in this global age are made to take both 110 and 220 currents. Hmmm, things have changed since I lived Europe over 50 years ago! I have adapter plugs so I should be fine. Kacy and I decided I needed a new camera, so we went to H&B (is that right?) in Manhattan to buy one. That is a true NY experience. The store is huge and has every imaginable camera and accessory (as well as other electronics). It would be overwhelming but we just went to the point and shoot division where about a dozen men sat waiting for customers. You tell them what you want and what you want to spend, and they recommend which cameras will work best and show you all their features and what you need for them. They then write up the order, call it up from the warehouse, show it to you, and put it in a big bin. The bin is put on a track. You go downstairs and pay for it at one of the many pay stations, then go to the pick-up station, where someone has retrieved the bin off the track and packaged your purchase up for you. Every electronics store should be so helpful and organized.

I've also signed up for Skype and tested it. Chris and I both have built in video cameras on our computers, so we talked to each other and saw each other at the same time. Chris picked up his computer and moved it around his office so I could see it - I hadn't been there before, so now at least I've had a visual tour. My sister Deborah and I chatted through it - she's getting her mike for her computer on Friday! I'll be able to call land-lines as well as computers from Macedonia. All of this I learned about on the Macedonia 14 Facebook group - dang, it is a different world.

I fly to DC tomorrow for a 6 hour orientation and paper-filling out session. We leave for Macedonia on Saturday. It's a nine hour flight to Vienna, then an hour and 40 minutes from there to Skopje. We're boarded on a bus for Kumanov where we'll spend the next five days at the Hotel Satelit - it has a website so you can see what it looks like. After that we're divided into pods of 5-7 volunteers and sent to a variety of communities for 2 months to train and learn Macedonian. We live with families and I've heard training is very intense. I may have limited access to the internet during training, but once I'm in my placement I'll have it at my apartment. The joke in Marlow was that I'll have better internet in Macedonia than I had in Marlow. After that I should be able to communicate more regularly.

Today I'll call family, do some washes, and go out for a celebratory dinner with Kacy and Udi. Take care, everyone. Talk to you again soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I have no keys - none to a car, home, or office. I've always had a big ring of keys, but one by one they've been pulled off - first office, then phone, car, and finally a couple that I wasn't sure what they were to. It's both liberating not to walk around with a pile of keys and a bit frightening. It means for now that I'm unattached - there is nothing to unlock that is mine. Soon I'll probably get new keys, but for now I have nothing.

Kacy and I went to Governor's Island yesterday. It's off the tip of lower Manhattan and was for many years a Coast Guard base. The feds sold it to NY for $1, and now they're trying to figure out what to do with it. They've been promoting it this summer with a free ferry ride to it, art shows, free bikes, and all kinds of promotions. Yesterday they had a special swim event - the churning in the picture above is of the first heat of swimmers taking off to swim a couple of miles. The area is the confluence of the Hudson, East River, and the Atlantic Ocean right off the Island - can you imagine what that water is like? Anyway, we had a great time!

Today we went to Udi's Dad's house in Jersey. His wife is from the country of Georgia and their hospitality is amazing. Elvira cooks a feast every time we go down of the most amazing food from the caucuses. At home they speak Russian to each other, and I actually recognized a couple of words that cross over with Macedonian. 5 days to go.......

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yesterday I went into Manhattan to walk along the new High Line Park. It was an old elevated train track that they were going to rip down until a group of NY'ers convinced them to turn it into a park instead. I thought it would be straight and narrow and look like an elevated bike path, but instead it was lovely. They've planted quite a few grasses, flowers and trees along the path which incorporates different levels and nooks and crannies. At one point there's an amphitheater that overlooks 10th Ave. You can sit and enjoy the comings and goings of the city. There are a few vendors up there, and lots of benches, tables and chairs, and lookouts along the route. You definitely get a different view of the city and get to appreciate the architecture of the old buildings as you walk along. A couple of weeks ago the NBC news featured some other sights you might see as you walk along - it goes right under a hotel and sometimes the open curtains reveal surprises - but on my walk all was proper.

One end of it is opposite the Chelsea Piers, which I've always wanted to check out, so I went down and crossed over. One of the bizarre things they have at the Piers is a golf club where people can come hit buckets of balls and practice their putting. There are four stories of driving range mats to hit off of, and you drive out onto one of the piers extending out into the Hudson that has huge nets hung from all sides. It looks so strange to walk to the end of the pier and see all these people, 4 stories high, hitting balls towards you! There's also a refitting business for huge yachts, a bowling alley, a brewery, and a skating rink there. It's one of the things I like about NY - there are some great places to just poke around in and there are always interesting things to see.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kacy and I walked around Liberty Park yesterday, which is about 3 blocks from her apartment. Liberty Park is a national monument and has the most spectacular views of lower Manhattan across the Hudson River. Historically, it's where the immigrants came after being processed through Ellis Island to catch the trains to their new lives. The old train station is still there, and while the tracks are gone, the sidings where they were remain, overgrown now with weeds and fenced off. Several lines serviced the area, ready to take the new Americans to their waiting homes across the country. If you stand still, you can still feel the energy - excitement, resignation, worry, fear - everything that might exist when you're beginning a new and unknown live. Compared to them, my hardships will be few - I'll be able to Skype friends and family from Macedonia, call them on the cell phone, and if need be, fly back for emergencies. Most of the folks passing through Liberty Station would never speak or see their friends and family again, but still they came. Matt's grandparents, Mathias and Ingeborg Wiggum from Norway, came through, as well as my friend Bob Bruna's family from the Czech Republic. Ellis Island represented a new policy toward immigrants - still welcomed, but screened for physical and mental illness. For the most part they were treated well on the Island. We've certainly morphed since then to be less welcoming.

We also saw the back side of the Statue of Liberty, which still brings shivers to me. We returned from Europe in Dec. of 1957. It was rough seas crossing the north Atlantic, and I was seasick most of the time. I remember standing on deck passing the Statue and knowing we were home and soon would be on land again. Even at eleven, it was an emotional time.

Today I'm off to the City to walk the new High Line trail - right in the middle of the West Side. Take care, all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jersey City Musings

I made it to Jersey City with my suitcases only slightly overpacked. I've reduced some of the weight to try to fit requirements - we'll see. I'll be here until the 11th, then down to Washington DC. This is a trial post to see how things work.