An afternoon in Ohrid

Monday, January 9, 2012

Home for the Holidays

My beautiful 90 year old mom
As part of extending for a year, Peace Corps gives volunteers 30 days vacation and pays for a trip back to the US.  I did a SW loop, from Phoenix to visit my folks, to Riverside to see BFF Sherry, to San Francisco to see my younger sis and Chris and partners, and finally to Tahoe for the annual Wiggum Ski Fest.

It's hard to be so far from home, and especially so far from my parents during their last years.  My dad is not doing well, and it was difficult to see him so uncomfortable and in pain.  My mom, on the other hand, is now doing terrifically - look at that good looking woman!  We went out a couple of times for lunch, shared a PF Chang dinner in her room, and talked about everything, including current affairs.  I treasured every moment I got to spend with her!

Then on to SoCal for a great time with Sherry.  She owns an antiques and collectibles store that is such a slice of life.  I love going down there just to hang out and laugh, and laugh we always do.  The most precious moment was when one of her customers brought in his daughter and a friend of his.  He'd traded some work with Sherry and arranged to surprise them there with their Christmas presents.  He sat them down on two old rocking chairs and had Sherry bring out their wrapped gifts.  Watching their eyes light up as they unwrapped the treasures he'd picked out was a privilege and a joy - he'd done a wonderful job!  Every moment there was special - Ubaldo and his mom spoiled me, Jed and I had political discussions, and I was included in the movie clubs discussion of the movies and party!

Happy Hanukkah
Sherry and I then flew up to San Fran - her daughter, my son and my sister all live in the Bay area.  I feel like I ate my way through the city - so much delicious food.  I had my first steak in I can't remember how long - I do miss good cuts of beef deliciously prepared - as well as dim sum and the best sushi I've ever had!  People ask me what I miss in Macedonia food-wise.  Interestingly, I miss both ends of the spectrum.  I miss food that I can just instantly prepare when I don't feel like cooking - cheap, processed food (I'm ashamed to admit I had several packages of cheese out of Mac and Cheese boxes in my suitcase when I returned), and also the really expensive but wonderful variety of restaurant food.  San Francisco is foodie heaven.  Ilana's mom had two parties in the few days, a Hanukkah party and a birthday party, and was gracious enough to invite all the gathering Wiggums.  They were both delightful.

Matt, Kacy, Udi and I inspecting the lobsters

Yes, the Wiggums gathered:  On Christmas Day Matt flew down from Everett and Kacy and Udi came out from NYC for the annual Wiggum Ski Fest up in Tahoe.  We did forget to inform Tahoe that it was a ski fest - the weather up there was in the balmy 50's.  But enough resorts had been able to make snow and everyone sans moi had a great time boarding/skiing.  I had a great time walking, cooking, reading and relaxing.  And as a surprise, Santa Claws brought us a Maine Lobster dinner by express mail!  We feasted on lobster, crab cakes, clam chowder, salad and lava cake one night, and Dungeness crab, lobster, and fresh salmon the next.  Life is hard......It was so much fun hanging out with the family (my sis and partner came up one night), and as an added bonus I even came out ahead on poker!!!!!  Thanks, everyone for their contribution!
Now I'm back in Macedonia, and as a bonus, I got to celebrate a second Christmas.  Orthodox Christmas is on Jan. 7th, and Christmas eve here is a major celebration.  I took some American cookies over to my new neighbor across the hall, and received in return 4 pieces of Baklava.  Gordana's mom made the best bean casserole and sarma that I've ever eaten, and if I don't finish Peace Corps weighing 20 pound more than when I started I haven't tried!  I do love Gostivar.  I met my friend Ilmi at Luli's cafe, and sat and talked with him for a good hour or more drinking macchiatos and tea, then stayed after Ilmi left drinking another cup of tea that a friend of Luli's bought me and chatting some more!  Life here is good for me - it's easy-going and social.  I miss the ease of the US - being able to understand what's being said, knowing where to find things, being able to go where I want to go when I want to go there.  But when I leave here, I will miss the love from my local family, the people, and the warmth of every day life.  You never know what you will find when you join the Peace Corps.  I found a treasure trove.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, glad to hear that Charlene is doing well. sad to hear about KC. I try to stay in touch thru calls to Debbie now and then. Thanks for including the picture
    Becky Bianco
    Ernie and I met you in Phoenix when you and your dad wore matching team hats from a team I no longer remember. We lived in your house in Lakewood, after your folks moved to AZ.