It was a pretty relaxing morning as I showered, packed and cleaned up my room as best I could. Except that I misunderstood Nada (again) and she came home from work at 12:30 when I was expecting her at 1:30. But I was all packed and ready to go. Victoria was home from University for the weekend, and I was glad so that Nada wouldn’t be alone the rest of the weekend. Along with her huge Macedonian heart comes a huge propensity to love—in this case ME and she will miss me very much. I will miss her too, but I will have new challenges to overcome and the advantage of an exciting new life to live while she will go back to the same-old, same-old. Her friend Stoile came to pick us up in his little pick-up truck at 1:00 and loaded all of my baggage in the back of the truck while neighbors looked on and waved good-bye. Now when I say ‘little’ pick-up truck I do mean little. Nada and I shared the front passenger seat (no highway patrol over here) and shifting gears was a bit of a challenge for poor Stoile. But we arrived safely in Kriva Palanka 45 minutes later with Stanka (my new landlady) waiting for me at the apartment.
It was a lovely welcoming as she greeted us with chocolates (sweets are symbolic over here) and apple juice. Her son soon arrived and helped Stoile carry in all of my baggage. Now there is something very different about the way they do things over here—from an American perspective things are kind of half-ready. For instance, they’ve known I’m coming for at least a month and although the apartment was mostly clean, there were still pockets of things sitting around, the washing machine was not yet installed, the heater was in need of repair, and light bulbs needed to be installed.
The guys set to work and Stoile soon had my heater thermostat working. It’s NOT central heating but a unit in the kitchen that heats the kitchen and living room area only—but it’s the only one in the house that I can actually operate with a thermostat and not an on/off switch. Stanka’s son started installing light bulbs in the ceiling fixtures (the only lights in the rooms—they don’t seem to have lamps over here) and while I was putting things away in the bedroom the sound of breaking glass only happened once. There went the kitchen light fixture cover and I suppose I’ll be living like most Macedonians with only a light bulb in the ceiling.
Next was a trip to the My Market—the largest grocery store in Kriva Palanka. It’s actually quite nice, but think the size of 4 convenience stores or 2 aisles of a Publix. I felt time constrained as I knew Nada and Stoile had to get back, and it’s kind of hard to start from scratch in a new place. After buying some basics (salt, sugar, bread, butter, milk, oil, cheese, some bananas and my favorite Macedonian chocolate bar) I called it a day and just wanted to go home. Now lest you think I wasn’t well-supplied, remember that Nada packed me enough supplies to practically get me through the winter (potatoes, onions, garlic, rice, apples, beans, home-made wine, and of course, the ever-present Rakiya).
At the grocery store I also happened to run into the Peace Corps group that was traveling through. Among them was Jennifer who is going home next week and passing on her cat to me. So into the back of Stoile’s pick-up went the cat (in his cat carrier), his litter box and food. The cat made it easier to say good-bye to Nada. She hates cats so didn’t want to come into the apartment when we got home. We said our good-byes on the street and off they went as I contemplated the next two years of my life.