It’s kind of crazy that I’m entering my second big holiday season in Macedonia.
This time last year, I had just wrapped pre-service training, I had just arrived in my new village, I was probably still unpacking, and I didn’t know anyone.
This year, I made four pumpkin pies over the course of Thanksgiving week, had two separate meals with PCVs and Macedonian friends and was reminded daily of all things I have to be grateful for here.
The first pumpkin pie was a test round. I make a pretty mean pumpkin pie, but I’ve never done so without the help of my dear friend Libby and her canned pumpkin puree. So I took home a decorated Halloween pumpkin left behind by one of Rachel’s students and got to work roasting.
My host parents were my guinea pigs on the first batch, and they loved it! We had pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast together, and my host mom had her recipe book out before we were halfway through. (She has a growing section of recipes од Ревека – from Rebekah.)
She helped me make the second pie, watching each step and working through the translation with me. (We do grams and milliliters here. And there are no teaspoons and tablespoons. It’s big spoon or small spoon and hope for the best.)
Then she made one on her own to take to Skopje for the grandkids the next day. It was adorable. (Technically, this brings the pumpkin pie total for the week to five.)
I took the second pie to a presentation at the American Corner in Stip. Rachel and I have done several cooking presentations, and most of our regulars (along with some of the new MAK20 volunteers) joined us to learn how to prepare stuffing and try some pumpkin pie.
I also got to share Thanksgiving with my students. My fourth and fifth grade English Club made adorable hand print turkeys. A few of them insisted I take them home.
Pie number three was for our perfect Friendsgiving in Kocani with sitemates and Macedonian friends.
It was the first time our Macedonian friends had tried a Thanksgiving turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all the traditional fare.
It’s a meal any Macedonian baba would be proud of too. We kept the food coming until no one could move. And then we brought out dessert.
The best part of the night though, was when every person around the table shared something they were thankful for. It was really touching to hear our Macedonian, Turkish, and American friends talk about how meaningful our friendships have been, how we’ve learned from each other, how we’ve connected, and how we’ve developed into a family here.
There were happy tears and lots of hugs.
When I applied for the Peace Corps, I said I would go anywhere in the world, but I’m so glad I’m here, with this incredible group nearby, to laugh with, to cry with, and to eat until none us can get up off the couch.
Of course the holiday wasn’t complete without a phone call to my family in America. I left my phone charger at Rachel’s after dinner, but running out my battery and having no phone for the next day was totally worth it to catch up with my little brother’s family and my mama. I could watch my nephew play and make silly faces with him all day.
The fourth and final pie was for Friendsgiving round two: the Skopje edition. Most of the MAK19 volunteers and the remaining MAK18 volunteers (they’ve started to finish service and leave Macedonia, but I don’t want to talk about it) gathered for a feast.
It felt like a family holiday, with a full house, a table full of food, people puttering in the kitchen, lots of laughter, and that one person who goes a little too hard on the wine.
Full hearts and full bellies.