Monday, August 23, 2010
The End of Summer
Last night, I actually felt cold - the first time in a long time. It's still warm and sunny, but the hints of the end of summer are here. Most of the big cars with EU license plates are gone, the traffic is not crazy, families have been putting their loved ones on buses to return to the EU. Last weekend I was in Ohrid again for the wine and cheese festival, and I shall return on Thursday for the final choral production of the summer. Tomatoes, peppers, egg plants and melons crowd the fruit and vegetable stands, and the apples are big and heavy on the trees. Next week school starts again.
With the end of summer, a new group of Peace Corps volunteers prepare to change their lives. Thirty-nine new volunteers will meet on Sept. 9th in Philadelphia and on the 11th start the long journey to their new home. It hardly seems possible that I have been here for almost a year. I remember so clearly the stress of trying to get everything done, the nervousness of facing the unknown, and the sadness of saying goodbye to my friends and family. I also remember how accomplished the volunteers who came before us seemed to be - something I definitely do not feel. But it will be exciting to get to know the new volunteers - Macedonia is a very small country the other volunteers are our family here.
It's also Ramadan. Every year it moves up 10 days, so this year it started on the 11th of August. Last year we arrived at our host families right at the end of Ramadan, and experienced just a bit of it before the big Bajram celebration. During the holy month of Ramadan, observant Muslims don't eat or drink during the day. They generally get up at around 3am to have a bite, and then as soon as the Hoxha calls the last evening prayer, they eat dinner. It's hard for me to imagine living for a month that way, but especially in the heat. Many rest for most the day, and then come to life at night after eating. But it still is a big challenge. It is a month of knowing what it's like to have little and be always hungry, and to think of others, something all of us should do.
The sad thing about this time is the group before us is preparing to leave. They will be here until November and December, but they just had their close of service conference and the wheels are in motion for them to depart. Next year it will be me - the days move both so slowly and so quickly. I still feel so much like a newcomer.
Just got back from buying some chicken breasts at my butcher (where I have to order in Macedonian) and my baker (where I have to order in Albanian). For months in the winter I baked my own bread, missing the multigrain chewy breads of home. But now I shall return all roly-poly (or perhaps, more roly-poly). Once I started buying bread at this bakery, all thoughts of making my own have vanished. Sure, it's white bread, but warm, freshly baked, with a chewy crust - well, I've talked about this before, so I won't go on. But it is always a treat to bring it home and snarf down on it. There will be many things I miss about Macedonia.
Posted by Candice Wiggum at 8:10 AM