|Monastery in Kriva Palanka|
|Ping Pong at the Firestation|
|Earth Day Cake at American Corner, Tetovo|
American Corners are funded by the State Dept., but employ locals to teach Macedonians about America in a variety of ways. They sponsor lots of the events we do with the kids - like Earth Day, the National Spelling Bee, Model UN, Speaking contest, etc. They also have a library stocked with American books and magazines, sponsor conversation hours for people wanting to practice English, and sponsor a number of other talks and events throughout the year. There are 5 of them in Macedonia, all quite busy and successful. They did a great job with earth day and lots of local kids were involved.
I went and visited another friend in Kriva Palanka in the northeastern corner of Macedonia over the weekend. This was a weekend of meeting people and visiting. On the way to Kriva I had an hour lay-over in the bus station and met a New Zealander traveling around the Balkans. She said that far and away Macedonians were the friendliest people she had ever met, and I had to agree! Since it was Easter Weekend, it was a fun time to visit Kriva. Linda showed me around town and we stopped in and visited the fire department. She's written a grant to help them rehab the building, and it was great meeting the firemen and seeing the before version of the building. One asked me if I wanted to play ping pong and I think was surprised when I said yes!
That night we dyed Easter eggs in preparation for the big day. The dyes here are different than ours - stronger colors (and I think, probably less washable out of kids clothing), Some of the eggs I saw were spectacular. They don't have egg hunts, they have egg wars - smashing each other and the eggs with their eggs. I also got to talk with the kids in my classroom at world-wide school. I've been very lucky - I have a great class and it's been so much fun to be able to talk to them and get letters from them. They told me all about their projects that they had done after I had asked them to do something for the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps and the European Year of the Volunteer. They did a fabulous job - really talented kids. What would I do without Skype?
|Traditional village dresses from area of Kriva Palanka|
After the family left, another man came and sat down in the table next to us. It turned out that he was a major in the Vt. National Guard and is currently based at the embassy. Vermont is the sister state of Macedonia, and all the states with a sister country have a guard member stationed at that embassy. We had a lovely chat about spring in New England and places to visit in Macedonia. It was a lovely afternoon.
Afterward we went back to Linda's I napped in preparation for the big event that night. At midnight between Easter Eve and Easter, Macedonians go to their church for a ceremony. The pope (that's what they call Macedonian clergy) chants a liturgy, they toll the church bells, and the people, all holding lit candles, walk around the church 3 times. You are entitled to a wish for each time around the church. Men must light women's candles and vice versa. I was surprised to see who was in the crowd - unlike church events in the States, the vast majority of the crowd were young people in their teens and 20's. There are probably a couple of reasons for this: one, in crowds, Macedonians tend not to form orderly lines and crowds just surge forward to get to where they want to go, and two, after the ceremony all the young folks go to the disco and party! Linda and I circled the church with our candles, being careful not to trip or to catch anyone on fire (she was warned to watch out for her hair), but decided against the partying.