This moment seemed a long way off when I first arrived at site in December.
It was cold. I didn’t know anyone in my village. I confused all of my students and kept a list of all my coworkers as I met them so I could practice their names. I was trying to find the balance between being a guest and a tenant and a member of a host family. I had no idea how to take the bus to and from Kocani. Julie the street cat glared at me with contempt.
Now, it’s June and I’ve completed my first school year in Macedonia!
It’s hot now. I had a back pack shaped sweat mark on my T-shirt yesterday. Be jealous.
I know so many wonderful people in my village, though not as well as I’d like and not as many as I’d like. (I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, to be hobbitly exact.) I love seeing my kids walking, playing, and running around doing kids in the summer time things. I love that parents recognize me and say hello, either in Macedonian or English. The post man at our tiny post office knows me and asks me to explain where each state is when I get a package. (I really need to learn north, south, east, and west, because I told him that Texas is down and left from Pennsylvania recently.) My neighbors always wave and the neighbor dogs and I are officially best buds. I went on a bike ride yesterday through a nearby village with Rachel and a flat tire derailed us. We were rescued by a wonderful man who passed us on his motorbike and sent us to his brother’s house, where – surprise! – one of my students lives. Such a sweet surprise. He showed us his karate medals and promised that he’d been reading and practicing English since school let out.
I know most of my students’ names, nearly all 270, though I still mix them up sometimes. (This also involved making lists.) I also know all my coworkers names. It’s funny because they aren’t a huge group, but when every name is unfamiliar, it’s tough to keep them all straight. Plus, everyone has a nickname. I went to the market with a few coworkers recently and they insisted that we’ll have coffee this summer. I’m looking forward to that.
I’m still trying to find the balance some days at home, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with my host mom and my host father this summer. They have been sculpting the garden into beautiful rows of vegetables and we can’t eat the cherries from the cherry tree fast enough. It’s the perfect weather for leisurely coffee chats next to the garden. My little host nephew calls me “Teta Beka,” which is the two-year-old version of Aunt Rebekah and he loves to run in circles around the driveway with me.
Not much has changed with Julie, except now her kitten is toddling around outside, a little street cat in training.
I’m really looking forward to my next two months, visiting some other cities in Macedonia, hiking, working at a few summer camps (including GLOW!!) and just spending more time exploring my community. I have a few stacks of flashcards to keep me busy adding to my Macedonian as well, so the next time I go to the post office, I’ll be able to tell him exactly where Texas is.