Here we go again.
1. Co-Ed bathrooms: Macedonia is a pretty conservative place. I wore long shorts the first time I went running. My host dad’s reaction was enough that it hasn’t happened again. As such, I was surprised to find most public bathrooms are co-ed. (My bare calves are shocking, but hearing me pee — totally cool.) I was in a restaurant the first time I saw this. I got stage fright. The man in the stall next to me was on his cell phone the whole time. I guess he’s not shy.
2. Short brooms: There has been a lot of fall cleaning recently and I see the babas out all the time, sweeping the sidewalks. I have yet to see a full-sized broom. Everyone just bends over to sweep. (This would discourage me from ever sweeping.)
3. Traffic signs: I have seen very few stop signs. Even one stop sign at a four-way intersection seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. And stop is more of a suggestion. (This might be different in bigger cities.) There are triangular signs that indicate intersections and suggest slowing down. To Macedonia’s credit, the drivers seem to know the drill as far as yielding. (This runner wishes they knew a little more about sharing the road, rather than buzzing by me though.)
4. Cold,wet hair: My family won’t stop worrying about my wet hair. I used a hair dryer for the first time the other day and my host mom was visibly delighted. Families here are always worried about being cold and no one goes out with wet hair. My sisters have to sit in front of a heater after they bathe before they can do anything. Other trainees can’t leave the house without reporting how many layers they’re wearing. (Including socks.)
5. Food storage: Uncooked pasta and the cornflakes I eat for breakfast are stored in the fridge. Bread is kept in a plastic grocery bag. I’m not sure why, but I go with it. Food storage is certainly an individual thing, but it seems to be more chill here.
6. No potholes: This is a HUGE difference for me. I’m from northeast Pennsylvania, the pothole capital of the world. I haven’t seen one yet in Sveti Nikole. I’m guessing this stems from less severe weather and much less traffic. Those who do drive (mostly men, by the way) typically have compact vehicles.
7. Telephone numbers: There are nine digits in my MAK phone number. One less than my US phone number (RIP) and nine more than I can remember every time someone asks for it.
1. Hush little baby: They swaddle their babies a lot more here, but they try to stop the crying in similar ways. My host nephew is rocked, sang to and sometimes held tight as his mom runs across the room. (I think this is the MAK alternative to driving around the neighborhood till the car puts the baby to sleep.)
2, Weekend cleaning: On Sundays, we clean. The electricity is hugely discounted on Sundays, so everyone does the laundry, vacuums, showers and throws down in the cleaning arena. (I’ve started using it as my laptop charging day too.) My host mom vacuums my room and does my laundry. I’m hoping at some point in the next two years, I’ll get to help.
3. Hidden gems: On my last drive through Scranton, Pa., I made a quick pit stop at a landmark I’d always meant to see. (It’s called the Archbald Pothole. Please see #6 above.) It took me three years to get there, so I smiled when my host mom said she’d never been to an archaeological site just outside Sveti I visited recently. It’s easy to forget about the hidden gems in your own backyard.
The archaeological site, Bylazora,was incredible by the way. Here are a few of my favorite photos of the site and the views:
4. Belting it out: If you can listen to Heartbreaker without singing along, you may not be human. Just like Mariah sometimes possesses my vocal cords, there are some can’t help but sing-a-long jams in Macedonia, which I love.
My family went to a restaurant recently (where conversation included my weight, the number of Macedonian boyfriends I wanted and how much money I made). At the end of the evening, a man walked outside playing an accordion and three tables of people burst into song. I don’t know the words yet, but once I do, I’ll be belting it out with them.
(Also, you’re welcome for getting Heartbreaker stuck in your head.)
5. WIFI: It doesn’t always work, but the coffee shops always have wi-fi. For free wifi, I’ll drink all the coffee.
6. Daylight savings time: I set my clock back Saturday night for daylight savings time. Not every country follows it. Now, for a week or so, I’m only five hours ahead of the east coast.
7. Winter is coming: In Pennsylvania, I’m sure my mom is prepping the snow fence and the plants have been inside for weeks. Here, prepping means breaking down the garden remnants and chopping the wood that will keep us warm all winter. My host dad and friends chopped an insane amount the other day.
(I was napping. Whoops.)