MAK v. USA, Vol. 4

This collection spans Sveti Nikole and my new village. It’s been playing second fiddle to blogs about my new site and school and family and everything else that December had to offer. Whoops.


1. Pillow cases: The pillow cases here have buttons. The pillow cases I am accustomed to are like pillow sleeping bags. Here, I’ve seen a number that button along the longer side of the pillow.


The buttons are along the longest seam.

2. Milk: Looking for milk at the store? Skip the cooler aisle. Milk here is sold on shelf. (This is true in a lot of places in Europe, I believe.) This isn’t that unfamiliar, because I used to buy my soy milk on the shelf.


You still need to refrigerate after opening, just not before.

3. Driver’s license: It is quite expensive to get a license here. One of the teachers I worked with during my practicum (mini student teaching during pre-service training) said it cost about 400 euros and required about 20 driving classes. I told her if it was that expensive to get a license in the U.S., I would have been riding my bike for a long time. The driving age here is also 18, though in the villages, I’m not sure that rule is always followed.

4. Death notices: Coming from a newspaper background, I’m quite familiar with the obituary section. I haven’t seen any newspapers here yet, but I’m told the back page is where the listings are here. What’s different is that they’re also posted on street lamps and telephone poles in smaller cities and villages. It surprised me one day when a man walked up with a stack of flyers, taped it to the pole next to me and kept walking.


These are just a few of the notices on one street lamp in Sveti Nikole.

5.Pharmacies: I’ve referenced this before. I had a run in with antibiotic level illness in Sveti Nikole and I didn’t want to leave my bed, let alone go to the pharmacy. I didn’t have a prescription either, but it was no problem for a friend to walk in, ask for the antibiotics and be on his way. I’ve been told they’re trying to change this practice and create more accountability, but like anything, it’s a slow process.

6. Tampons: Fellas, earmuffs. Skip ahead if you prefer. Or don’t. Either way, they sell tampons here without applicators. That means it’s just you and the tampon itself when you need one. Some fellow PCVs packed tampons from America in all their shoes and all the empty spaces in their suitcases. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but it is a little weird at first.  I’ll leave it at that.

7. Heating: I can’t speak for every home in Macedonia, but in many, heat in the winter depends on your fire-building skills. (Luckily, mine are top notch.) The room with the stove (typically the adjoining kitchen/living room) is the warmest. (My bedroom in my village has a metal radiator-looking device that funnels in heat from the fire, allegedly. Even when the fire downstairs is at its hottest, it’s still chilly. I supplement with an electric heater, but only for short periods because electricity is expensive. In the winter, if I’m in my room, I’m in my sleeping bag in bed, whether I’m reading, studying, or working on my laptop. (Guess where I’m writing from right now.)

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Here are the heat sources in my room. It’s still cold, but it’s a lot better than outside and I’m grateful to have them.


The main heating source in our home.

8. Window shades: The window shades here are outside the windows. They’re also a lot sturdier, like the kind of grates you see pulled down in front of store openings in the mall. They’re on all the windows and I’m hoping they help keep a little heat in. I’ve heard they help block the sun when it’s hot in the summer, but I’ve forgotten what hot feels like. (Kidding. Sort of.)


You may remember the street cat named Julie. I keep my blinds all the way down because on this night, she tried to bat them up. (It didn’t work.)

9.Tally marks: This is easier to show than explain. When the kids at school do something in teams, this is how the teachers tally up the score.


The first time I kept score, the kids gawked at my vertical lines and my diagonal slash every fifth point.


  1. License plate letters: America is ginormous andhas a different license plate for each state. Here, the first two letters of the license plateindicate what city the plate is from. SK means Skopje. ST meansShtip. KO meansKocani. (I couldn’t help but pick a photo of Yugo too.)

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    Of course, I found a Yugo.

  2. Grandparents and cell phones: Grandparents aren’t always known for their tech savvy, and here is no different. I bonded with my host dedo (grandfather) in Sveti over a new cellphone he was trying to figure out. I read what it said in English and showed him how to take pictures. Then I showed him again. And again.
  3. Doting parents: Being sick is the worst. My host parents in Sveti were the greatest when I was sick during PST. They came up to my room to check on me. They made me hot tea with honey. They made me eat soup (and then tried to make me eat everything.) They even had my little sister take me on a walk around the block, just to get some fresh air, before I climbed back in bed. Parents always have all the remedies for illness. At the hint of a sniffle or cough, my host mom in my new village is handing me garlic to chew on and making me tea.
  4. Lottery: So the lottery is a thing here. I don’t know how popular it is or how big the pots are, but in Sveti, my host dad’s BFF played regularly. The drawing came on the television one night and he rushed to write the numbers down so he could check his ticket later. (Spoiler: he didn’t win.) He also told me me that one of the nicer houses down the street belonged to a family that won a few years ago.
  5. Fussy eaters: When I was little, I ate grape jelly and white, American cheese sandwiches. I hated mustard and I thought tomatoes were disgusting. Today, mustard and tomatoes are two of my favorite things and I have no idea how I thought a jelly and cheese sandwich was acceptable. Kids eat, and refuse to eat, weird stuff. In Sveti, my little sisters would celebrate spaghetti and ketchup night. The youngest one refused to eat the yolks of her hard-boiled eggs, the (delicious!) stew we had often and whatever else she didn’t feel like eating. Kids are picky and weird everywhere.
  6. Kids songs: I don’t know all the words, but my sisters started to teach me a few kids songs before I moved. One of them involved a dress with a fringe and ended with saying “Good day.” It sounded like it had all the logic of Miss Mary Mack.
  7. Losing teeth traditions: The tooth fairy doesn’t fly through Macedonia, but losing teeth is still a big deal. My youngest sister lost two in one day and my host dad explained that she was going to throw them for luck. Apparently, you wrap them up in something, potentially bread, and then throw them from a high place. It’s some sort of good luck.
  8. Money water marks: Just like our U.S. dollars, the money here has a few tricks to verify that it’s real. The woman you see in the white section only appears in the light. (Yes, it’s pretty cool that I’m holding a 1,000 den.)
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This is worth about $20 American.



One thought on “MAK v. USA, Vol. 4

  1. the first time I used a tampon without an applicator, I was with Bianca in Rotterdam and I walked into the bedroom and told her i felt weird and fainted on the bed for a few minutes. she was watching the Olympics and didn’t even notice. she thought I just decided to fall down.

    Liked by 1 person

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