Engage, Educate and Entertain Living in Macedonia while applying the three E’s as a TEFL teacher and exploring the Balkan world.

 Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daily Life Observations

Be consistent, be prepared and accept the plan will change. 

          After living here for the past 14 months I’ve noticed some things about life and how people interact. This isn’t comprehensive but is from my experiences.

First Impressions:

Cash is king.
Time, money and resources ebb and flow, you have to read the tides so you’re always flowing the right way.
Never buy the round trip ticket only the one way ticket.
Small talk is a lost art at times in the States but it’s crucial here.
If you’re at a na gosti or slava and you can’t think of anything to talk about then ask someone what’s their favorite type of rakia. Now you’re golden for the next half hour.
You must politely refuse any food or drink twice before accepting on the third offer.
Nearly everyone knows some English, no matter how quiet they are so don’t assume they can’t understand you.
Every Macedonian has a family member in Australia, New Jersey, New York or Chicago.Travel:

Every vehicle is a stick shift no exceptions.

I’m always commuting via my bike, either to work or into town. It’s seen as a little strange to people, especially since I wear a helmet, but it’s crucial for me.
However, when it rains/snows, I’m on the bus and am prepared to chat away with everyone since we all know each other.
Speaking of, this took me a while to accept but I add time to my commute just so I can chat with people. It only takes me 20 minutes to bike to Ohrid but I’ll give myself twice that because I know people will want to say hi.
Wave, say hello, it’s not hard.
Buses are wizards, never early nor late because they arrive precisely when they mean to.
If the bus is full sit in your assigned seat.


Everyone smokes, it sucks, accept it.
Ironically, smoking a cigar is seen as too strong yet smoking a pack of cigarettes before noon isn’t.
Coffee is never to go and you never order it without sitting down first.
You never drink coffee alone. You certainly don’t read a book alone either.
Your television might have 500 channels but you only watch two. Your choices are Sitel or Sitel.
It’s highly entertaining watching my little dog chase the chickens and then listen to her scream bloody murder when the chickens chase her back.
Sweet and salty doesn’t mix here. (No chocolate mousse with sea salt).
There are no mailboxes here. I didn’t realize this for a while but I get my mail in two ways. If it’s a package then a receipt is put into the front door so I can pick up the package in town. If it’s a letter then the mailman will see either me or my host family around town and will give us our mail. Yes, you read that right.

When playing sports physical contact isn’t appreciated. (I can’t play basketball because I grew up as a foul being when blood was drawn. Here a foul is when you breath on them).

Small tricks I’ve picked up:

Never leave your house without your phone, phone charger/adapter and notebook/pen. Your phone will die or you might not be able to charge your phone but the notebook will always be used.
When I leave my place I pack my bag as if I’m gone for the entire day. You never know where you’ll end up and if you’ll need to change clothes.
Two words: Wet wipes.
Never leave your place with a full bag.

Summer & Winter.
In the summer, you’re going to sweat. The buses are cramped, hot and without AC. The baba’s, old grandmothers, will get PISSED if you open a window since they think you’ll catch a cold because of the wind. The buildings don’t have central AC either so you’re never comfortable. I’ve developed my stepfather’s habit of always having a bandanna, UT orange, for perspiration management.
Never travel without water.
Due to the tourists summer can be frustrating in Ohrid. Last summer I only spoke Macedonian and made a point to remember the names of those that worked in the restaurants and shops. Now, people know I live here and respond in-kind.
Always haggle at the bazaar.
 In the winter, it’s cold. The buildings don’t have great insulation, they’re all concrete or brick, so it’s consistently chilly.
Don’t leave the house without your scarf.
Layers matter.
The radiator is also your dryer.
A hot cup of chai, tea, is a great way to warm up.
If you’re really cold, exercise in your room.
Unlike the air from a central venting system, here the air is never dry since you’re being heated by a wood burning stove. The walls retain the heat and it feels quite nice.As more things come to mind I’ll add to them in.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Athens Part 2: The Modern City

It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!
Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs.
          Athens is known the world over for it’s history but I wasn’t prepared for it’s size and energy. I loved the rhythm and feel of that majestic city. It had many threads that wove together to make the modern Athenian tapestry.
          By day the city center ebbed and flowed to the pace of the tourists but at night the locals owned the night. The people were at times pushy, strange and unBalkan. Then a moment later I felt right at home, comfortable with their rhythm of stride, speech and attitude. Like Macedonians, and most Balkan people, they were worried about their government and their livelihoods. They didn’t want to default on their EU loans but they weren’t sure what was the best way to repay them. Click here for the updated information on their loan crisis. 
This the Greek Parliament and was the center of many protests during our stay. At one point it wasn’t recommended for tourists to be near the plaza.
          All of the people, tourists included, but particularly the native Greeks were beautiful people. The women were particularly striking and certainly lived up to their goddess lineage.
Athens isn’t just a Classical center, it’s also deeply rooted in the Christian faith. It has both Orthodox and Catholic churches. This is the Greek Cathedral of Athens and was officially dedicated in 1862.  Currently it’s being renovated.
Tourists, tourists, tourists.
Mmmmm breakfast.
Stuffed peppers.
Finally a gyro in Greece.
I don’t know what building this is, I just liked it’s facade.
This was one of the many cafe’s in the old town that lined the alley and stairways.
It was a perfect people watching place.
Wooing a women with panache never goes out of style.
A delicious Greek wine Gary wanted to try. I’m glad we did, it was fantastic.
Seafood, delicious seafood.
We had to try some Mediterranean pizza.
No outside meal was complete without a cat trying to join you.
Mom and Gary.
Landon and I went out and found an incredible rooftop bar called, Hipster. Yes, it was cool but since they weren’t selling PBR there were no hipsters.
It’s all Greek to me.
It’s interior.
After 9 the old town is spared the throngs of tourists.
That didn’t stop a few of us from enjoying some ice cream.
Another beautiful rooftop bar underneath the Acropolis.
Away from the old town, the cars line the streets.
A rare quiet street.
There were all kinds of shops. Shops for clothes, for trinkets and shops for statues and chessboards.
This was a shop for statues and weapons.
A life sized replica of a Spartan shield.
Beautiful paintings.
A beautiful Harley.
At times I enjoyed walking through the crowd.
Other times, it was a complete annoyance.
Every night cafes brought out extra tables just for the sidewalks.
This lady had a pet duck!
There were spectacular views all over the city.
This was one of my favorite alleys.
Sunset dining.
          The city’s beauty, architecture and history clearly was dazzling. It was great to be with the family in a place we all had wanted to see. The people were friendly but there was an edge to their demeanor.  They knew that the vote to stay or leave the EU was coming up and they were anxious. You could hear it in their voice when asked about things. For many, perhaps most, Athens is nothing but a historical tourist town or just a gateway to the playground beaches. For them it’s a home they care deeply about but were afraid of what the future would bring. For myself, I was happy to see how all of the different threads, history, religion, politics, their rhythm of life were woven together to make that unique Athenian tapestry.  Next, we would go to a city that was just as complex but quite different from Athens:  Vienna.
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