Gezuar Vitin i ri dhe Creken Novo Godina! Above is one of my favorite signs in Macedonia. It's a restaurant, and I'm sure they mean it as you don't have to stop and eat but can take it out, but from the name it looks like they are discouraging you from stopping! Many, many stores here have English names - like Top Modeli - which combines English with the Macedonian plural form. Another is the Tajwan Chopping Center - c's are pronounced like S's - but it's another sign that brings me smiles.
I had a nice New Year's eve celebration here. I met some friends and we went up to Tetova for drinks and dinner - I think it must be the biggest night for people going out to dinner in Macedonia. All over you could hear big and small booms - they sell fireworks all over and the kids start a few weeks ahead of time popping them off. But on the big night a bazillion must be exploded - it sounds almost like a war zone. We then returned to Gostivar for the countdown. The townspeople had gathered around the main square. Kids threw their firecrackers into the square, onto the street under passing cars, and into stacks of cardboard and plastic tarping - I kept waiting for a fire to start, but everything was fine. The city's budget is in trouble, so there was no formal celebration, but between small fireworks individuals set off, the firecrackers and the people things seemed quite festive. It's also a time when people give others bags of candy, cakes and cookies, and the municipality gave everyone working there and the Peace Corps volunteers a huge bag of goodies. I spent some of the time with my counterpart's family and that was lovely. My counterpart's wife is also my Albanian tutor, and they have two small kids, a three year old daughter and a 9 week old son, both as gorgeous as you can imagine. Elona calls me gjusha Kendi - grandmother Candy - to the kids, and it will be fun to watch them grow up for the next two years.
We had a slumber party after my boxing day party - these friends and one more who spent the night are from all over Macedonia. We had great fun! Luli, my counterpart, came over a few minutes before this picture was taken and was mortified not only to find me still in my bathrobe, but also 4 other women in their pj's who had to come out and meet him! We had a good laugh about it the next time I saw him!
Best wishes to you all for the most exciting and satisfying year ever! May all kinds of happiness come your way, and may you spend time with friends and loved ones - even if it's over skype! :-)