Yesterday was “Hub Day” which means that all 38 of us went to Peace Corps school together in Kumanovo. It was wonderful and I continue to be impressed with the quality and relevance of the training, but I’ll leave the details for another time as this afternoon is fresh on my mind and truly representative of this whole experience. I had gone to Sam’s house to do homework with a stern warning to be home by 15:00 for the main meal of the day (details to follow). I was planning to go visit Kathy and Dave afterwards but instead found myself in a stranger’s car being taxied to someplace up on the mountain. The first picture is of Nada on the path to her friend’s house surrounded by orchards and vineyards. After we got out of the car it was another half mile hike to the final destination. As you can see from the picture on the left, we ended up peeling roasted peppers for her friend to make Ivar. (See several posts back if you’re confused.) What impresses me most about this is the ‘cooperative society’ these people enjoy–everyone pitches in to help each other as they prepare for the winter. The plastic bags to the left are filled with roasted peppers that continue to steam until opened and peeled. Now the site does look idyllic, and it was beautiful, and friendly and cooperative–except you can’t hear the pigs in the background. I had learned the word for pig this morning and when I asked if that’s what it was, I got more of an answer than I’d bargained for–remember it’s time to prepare for winter and you guessed it–slaughtering time. Now for those of you that may not know, I’ve avoided meat for the past 2 years. So let me switch to a bit of a different topic–the food here. It’s WONDERFUL!!!! I’ve probably lost 5-10 pounds since I’ve been here and it’s because everything is natural, home-cooked, preservative-free, and delicious! (I also walk almost everywhere I go.) Pictured to the left is today’s main meal of stuffed peppers, stuffed grape leaves, and potatoes. The ‘stuffing’ is rice and some kind of ground meat. I think my body is going through preservative-withdrawal. I’m also not eating a lot of salt or sweets. I always considered myself to be not much of a sweet person, but in fact living without any for the past 3 weeks has driven me to the store in search of chocolate! The white sauce in the spoon is actually a drinkable yogurt–delicious on the stuffed grape leaves. And you can see from my clean plate that I’m definitely well fed! It makes me wonder if I can make it through the winter on my own when I finally get to my work site–just kidding…the Peace Corps hasn’t lost anyone to hunger yet! Love to all!