As a card-carrying feminist, I was disappointed that I didn’t know more about International Women’s Day. It isn’t really celebrated in the U.S., but it’s hugely celebrated in Macedonia and countries around the world. (Hint hint Lady Liberty.)
InternationalWomensDay.com summed up the holiday as, “a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.” The day has been marked for more than a century. In some countries it’s a national holiday. (Again, hint hint Lady Liberty.)
One of the teachers at my school compared it to Mother’s Day, which we celebrate in the U.S. in May. While there are similarities, this day extends to all women, not just the mamas. I bought my host mom flowers and she explained that the day started with two fierce women named Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemborg. (The internet tells me that Clara was the founder. Rosa was her friend and cohort in other WWI-era badassery, but I can’t find anything that links her to March 8th. Either way, she rocks.)
Throughout the week, and particularly on Friday, students brought in flowers and gifts for their teachers. I saw candles, serving plates, cards, and flowers piled in the teachers’ lounge. I even came away with a few cards, homemade paper hearts and flowers, and a potted plant from one of my fifth grade classes.
I’ve never been big on flowers, and I’m a notably terrible gardener, but I’m going to try really hard to keep these alive.
Our school director (the principal) brought in carnations for every female teacher as well. It was very thoughtful.
Friday night, all of the ladies from my school went out to dinner at a restaurant in Kocani. My sweet colleagues always make sure I have a ride to attend school events. This time, I piled in a cab with another teacher, the director, and the psychologist.
The restaurant itself was tough, because while my language is slowly progressing, in a loud restaurant with multiple conversations swirling around me, I had a hard time following along. A band – a keyboardist, singer and an accordionist – started playing shortly after we arrived, so I gave up on anything but nodding my head to the music and smiling at whatever coworker caught my eye.
And then we oro’d. I’ve been out with my coworkers three times since I started working here and each time, the same ladies are the first to start the oro line around the table.
I love that about the culture here. It’s normal and even expected that entire tables will be up and circling if a band plays. We wound around the table, again and again, and slowly other tables followed suit. (And the waiters just stayed out of the way.) Whenever I oro, it usually earns me a few approving nods from the other teachers, so I stepped left and right, bopping along and smiling until the circle stops.
I haven’t figured out what triggers the end yet. Sometimes the oro keeps going into a second and third song. Sometimes it stops. At any rate, I tried my hand, well feet I guess, at a more advanced step and didn’t trip or knock anyone over, so big win for my night.
There was one moment when we were circling around, most of my coworkers belting out the words to every song, and I thought it was really special to see nearly the entire restaurant full of women doing the same thing.
I was feeling all kinds of girl power feels.
They’ve continued today through my work with GLOW Macedonia. I haven’t posted much about GLOW yet, but it stands for Girls Leading Our World and volunteers hold camps in Peace Corps countries across the world to empower the young women we serve. I work as one of the communications coordinators for GLOW, and for International Women’s Day, we held a social media contest.
We asked girls to send in a photo of a woman who inspired them and tell us why. Each narrative, about their moms, camp counselors and other women they love has been heartfelt and beautiful. It has really made me proud to be a part of this organization. I can’t wait to meet all the girls this summer.
It’s been a week full of pride and girl power for the Peace Corps in general. Last week, Michelle Obama announced a new initiative to support girls’ education around the globe, specifically through Peace Corps service.
So Happy International Women’s Day to all the ladies out there. Blast Beyoncé, drink some wine, have a dance party, treat yo’self — whatever you do, enjoy your day.