An afternoon in Ohrid

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The merry, merry month of May continued!

The National Spelling Bee
The Big project for the month was the national spelling bee.  We had over 600 students from 5th to 12th grades qualify for the finals which were held in Skopje.  I was on the planning committee along with 4 other wonderful volunteers.  500+ made the trip to Skopje on a beautiful day to compete, spelling in English!  It was a madhouse, crazy, tense, and wonderful.  I am so impressed with how the kids did.  The US really needs to understand that as nice as it is to have a language that many people the world over understand, we really need to add foreign languages earlier to our curriculum.
Lillian, Claudette and me with the Stone Bridge in the background

Looking out over the Radika Valley at the Sv. Jovan Bigorski Monastery
Lillian had a friend visit from LA and we had a great time hanging out.  We showed her some of Skopje before heading out to the Mavrovo National Park and the most famous monastery in Macedonia, Sv. Jovan Bigorski. It is spectacular.

Finally I subbed for a friend and helped do a 3 day workshop on project design and management.  We worked with host country nationals who had been nominated by Peace Corps volunteers.  We had the group that could speak English fluently, and they were a wonderful group.  Thanks for making it so much fun and easy for me!

This weekend I'm heading down to Gevgelija for a 50th anniversary party for Peace Corps - 50 years altogether and 15 years in Macedonia.  Gevgelija is right over the border from Greece and a big agricultural area.  It should be great fun - wish you could be there!

The merry, merry month of May

The Girls from Gostivar, Kerry, Vjosa and me

Some of the food - Happie also made a delicious Indian BBQ chicken
May has been a busy month - both with work and with play.  It started out with a traditional May Day picnic organized by my friend Happie in Makedonski Brod.  May 1 is International Worker's Day in Macedonia and a picnic is the traditional way it is celebrated.  We went up to Peshna Cave - the time I had been there previously it was almost deserted.  This time the area around the cave resembled a carnival.  There were hundreds and hundreds of people who had come to picnic, and the roads were lined with cars, people, and vendors selling food, crafts, anything that could make a little money.  Our combi driver squeezed past everything to take us up close to the cave and we found a perfect spot by the creek.  There were about 15 of us - Mak 14's (the group I came in) and Mak 15's (last year's group).  We ate, climbed up into the cave, and celebrated in style - thanks, Happie.

The next week I went to a workshop sponsored by the German foreign aid group on promoting the Polog Valley - the valley that Gostivar is in.  It was so much fun!  I was treated like an equal participant and worked in a couple of the small groups coming up with ideas on what and how to promote the region.  Fortunately, one of the presenters was German, and he had a translator to go from Macedonian to English and back, so I used him as well.  The best part was working with the men that were there sharing ideas and know-how.  They were so gracious and inclusive of me.  I got to work with 3 young men on technological ways to promote the valley, which made me smile!  I feel like I am always scrambling to keep up with the latest in technology (did you know e-mail was out?  All the young people just use facebook to send messages!), but Peace Corps has definitely pushed my boundaries and helped me learn.

My interview on Macedonian TV was aired, and I've been recognized several times by Macedonians which is always fun.  Hopefully coincidentally, the embassy also offered us a workshop on talking to the media - it was so interesting and useful, if a little late for my debut on the news!  Anyway, they made a little clip that is posted among the embassy YouTube videos - I'll see if this link works: 
Hmm, after putting up this link I can't figure out how to debold this.  Rather than subject you to the rest of this in bold, I'll publish this and start again for the rest of the month.