We were all a little nervous but very excited to meet our new host families and start the next evolution of our PC training, but it was kind of sad to say good bye to so many friends. Fortunately we’ll be meeting up again every 2 weeks or so until we get sworn in and start our permanent assignments. So I’ve posted a few photos of our group before we went downstairs to meet the families. During language class in the morning we’d been given a sentence in Macedonian to say as sort of a ‘password’ so our host would know who to adopt. Mine was “Nada is a beautiful woman”. Now I really do have to allow for the cultural differences, because coming up to another single female and saying that is a little outside of my boundaries from an American viewpoint, but hey….when in Macedonia! You will see from the picture of the two of us that she is indeed a lovely woman and she is taking very good care of me so far. After a short speech by Steven Kutzy (PC Country Director) translated into Macedonian we had a folk dance demonstration. Lest we be let off easy….you guessed it, we were all on our feet holding hands and dancing around the room.
Finally time to load up and travel to Krotovo. OK, in the US one would just go out to the parking lot, throw the luggage in the back of the car and off you go. But in Macedonia not everyone HAS a car and if they do–think golf cart size. As it turns out, my host mother is best friends with another family who is hosting my friend from Georgia named Sam. (Some day I’ll have to tell the story of meeting Sam a month before our PC departure.) Together the two families hired a local shopkeeper who owned a mini-van (of sorts) the operative word there being MINI!
Our ‘chauffeur’ was aptly named Bronco (no kidding) and he looked like a weight lifter. He must have re-packed our suitcases in the back 4 times before it looked like we all might be able to fit our butts in the vehicle. Now Sam is a big man too, so he got shotgun. The real loser was Lilly, Sam’s host mom who was sitting in the 3rd row of seats with all the luggage and no leg room because the seat was pushed all the way forward to accommodate more stuff behind her. I was sitting 3 across in the 2nd row with my host mom and Lilly’s daughter who spoke some English. I tried to ignore the state of the tires and simply prayed for their survival.
Now I think I’ve been more scared on a road trip before, but I can’t exactly remember. Macedonian roads simply don’t work the way US roads do and passing lanes, passing rules, seeing around corners….well, it seems to me it’s all pretty much a crap shoot. And then there are the cows, goats, dogs, and PEOPLE that seem to think it’s OK to walk along a highway. It makes me glad that driving a vehicle of any kind is against the PC rules while I’m here. About 45 minutes later we found out just how good a driver Bronco was when he maneuvered the vehicle through the 1-lane (but 2-way) cobblestone streets of this mountain-town.
We went to Sam’s house first. We all unfolded ourselves from the mini-mini-van, wrestled Sam’s luggage out, negotiated a flight of stairs and entered a beautiful, cool dining room. AND Sam and I remembered to take off our shoes before we entered…very important here! We were told to sit, given home-made plum juice, then served our first ‘Turkish’ coffee and our first ‘Rackya’–a very strong sort of brandy that people take great pride in making themselves. Now 3 beverages at once seems a little extreme to me, but again….when in……..
After about and hour visit Bronco drove Nada and me home. My ‘digs’ are not as upscale as Sam’s, but it’s home-sweet-home for the next 10 weeks. I have every confidence that Nada will take great care of me and I will describe the challenges and internet blessings of my new living quarters tomorrow. Suffice it to say, “I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto!”