Sunday, July 27, 2014
After visiting the Islamic Monastery we traveled to the Monastery of Lesok, just outside of Tetovo. This Monastery is Catholic, so we had the experience of two totally different styles of monasteries. My DD had attended a wedding at this historic monastery a couple of weeks prior, the wedding of a friend's sister, and while we were in the new church we saw part of the wedding decorations left from that wedding.
This is the church:
We also went into the older chapel and I took a picture of the crowns (these obviously not used in a long time) that the bride and groom traditionally wear in Macedonian weddings.
Afterwards we enjoyed iftar with my daughter's coworkers. Her coworkers are the people who work in the organization that the Peace Corps placed her with, an organization that works with disabled people, a population that has been discriminated against and only in recent years have attempts been made to remedy this. Iftar is the breakfast, the breaking of the fast, during Ramdan, and the time varies during Ramadan but is in the evening. I believe we ate around 7:15pm. I learned that Ramadan also changes dates each year, so now it is in the hot summer, which makes it hard for some to fast as they cannot have water, so many are excused from fasting, but in a few years it will be in the winter, which makes it easier as it is not so hot and the daylight hours are shorter so the fasting doesn't last as long. Also, for those who do not work, like my daughter's host mother, they sleep during the day and stay up during the night during Ramadan, which makes it easier to fast.
Next day we visited Skopje, the capitol city. It is very rich and is mainly Macedonian. There has been a major amount of money put into fixing up the city, including putting up an insane amount of statues, which has caused a lot of controversy. Most of the country is in poverty and this city is pouring money into statues and buildings to attract tourists, is my understanding of the situation. My daughter said, from her experience of almost 2 years observation, that a there is no oversight into how money is spent. Money may be sent or acquired for a project but is spent on other things. Jobs are obtained depending on who you know, etc. Anyway a few photos of Skopje:
Back to the family for a big iftar feast, and I mean feast. Host mom had her mother come help prepare the feast. The food was delicious!!!! They start the iftar with a soup, the name of which I forget, but it is traditional and is only served during Ramadan. Host mom filled my plate with so much food I couldn't eat it all. Sausages, vegetables, meats, chicken, olives, etc. Followed by baklava, and another dessert, fruit, and so on. Host brother had made biscuits and sausage gravy. My daughter had taught him how to make those and he was a good cook! That is not normal for males in an Albanian muslim house. But the boy could cook!!
My daughter got into a rather heated discussion with host dad about the ethnic tensions between Albanians and Macedonians and I got to see first hand how difficult it is for those two groups to come to terms with each other. There conflict is too recent for his generation to forgive and forget, unfortunately. And they are not willing to try to reach out to the other side and work together. This is one major reason for the Peace Corps being in this country. The discussion came to an end and things calmed down, but DD is passionate about people keeping open minds and thinking things through and it's hard for her to see him influence his son in certain ways. The hope is in the next generation, that they can learn to work together, which some are already doing.
So last day in Macedonia I got to meet several of her friends and her former host father, the mother having to be at hospital with her own mother who had taken ill. It was a great day and I enjoyed visiting the village of Tearce where these people lived. Dinner that night was iftar with her Tetovo Host grandmother's family in their village.
One observation my DD and I had discussed a lot these last two years and I got to observe first hand: the place of women in this society. This issue really has bothered my daughter, although I tell her that America was very similar in my childhood days.
The women, at least the Albanian Macedonians, are expected to marry and move in with their husband's family if they can't afford their own home right away. Then the bride does most of the household work in the new home. This consists not only of cleaning but of entertaining, as they love to entertain, and prepare a lot of food and serve it elaborately. Some have jobs, if they are lucky enough to be able to get one. DD's host mother teaches English, but her main focus is on keeping a perfect home. She is always dressed nicely, the home is spotless, and the food perfectly prepared. One of DD's friends chose to not get married and is always being pressured by family about her choice, but I applauded her and feel she may be setting an example for others about options they may have. Although it is hard for people to get jobs there if they live in the villages. But DD's point about all of this is: women need the option to decide for themselves it they want to get married or not, keep house or not, etc. It's all about choosing your own path, not being locked into this one option: you grow up, get married, become the perfect wife and raise your family, entertain and keep a perfect house, then if you are lucky enough to have a son, when he marries and moves his bride into your home, you can then sit back and enjoy yourself while she does most of the work for you! DD's original host sister got married last year and is suffering through this right now, but she had no choice. She loves her husband, is pregnant, but is at her MIL's beck and call. I was supposed to meet her, but plans were cancelled as they had company coming and she had to prepare a feast.
Women are looked on as second class citizens. She found this more troublesome in the villages than in the cities, being a young attractive woman in her 20's. She was even briefly stalked and had to have Peace Corps help her with that, through no fault of her own. They train them on how to interact with men over there as you have to be careful and not treat them the same as you would here in America.
Smoking: luckily her current host family doesn't. But most people do and they do it everywhere. Again, like America when I was a child. Her original host family did and it was hard for her in the winter when it was too cold to open windows to air out her room.
Food: her first year she suffered from food poisoning a lot. She lived in a village and her family ate from a communal food bowl. And village festivals were a problem she found out. When she moved to a city she found she didn't have those problems anymore.
I did notice when I ate with her family, if you didn't eat all your food, they put it back with the other food when they were clearing the table. I wouldn't do that, but they did.
Sanitation: her first host family she had to use an outdoor toilet. Luckily with the others she didn't. But some toilets (not her current family) you couldn't flush toilet paper as the system couldn't handle it.
A/C: She had it but you don't use it as electricity is too expensive. If necessary you can turn it on for a few minutes.
Heat: she lived on the fourth floor so the heat rose during the day so she didn't have to turn her heater on so much. Her first host family: she froze. Her laptop screen would ice over!
Iftar with host family:
From left: me, host grandma (who was my age), host mom, host brother, host dad, host sister.
Former host Dad: emblem on shirt is Albanian Eagle
And that's it for Macedonia. I had a great time, met some great people, got some wonderful insight into my daughter's life there these past two years, and will treasure the memories of the visit to this country forever. I hope they can work to come together as a people and get past the ethnic tensions, distrust, and hatred!
Saturday, July 26, 2014
This was my fourth trip overseas and it never gets easier! The long flight overseas is hard, crammed in a plane with a bunch of strangers for 8 or more hours with a limited number of bathrooms, narrow aisles to walk up and down when the flight attendants don't have them blocked with the food/drink carts, and in my case twitching legs that about drove me crazy! I managed to nap in spurts, was lucky with my seat mate, a nice young woman, and we lucked out in earning a second pillow due to my broken tray that had to be propped up with 2 pillows so I could use it during meal service. So we survived the flight. I flew from the tiny airport of Shreveport, LA, to Atlanta, to Paris, to Rome, and finally to Skopje, Macedonia. Amazingly there were four Americans on the flight to Macedonia, my seat mate being one of them. And on the flight from Paris to Rome I ended up seated next to two young women from Macedonia. I enjoyed meeting people at each airport and chatting but once on the planes I napped on each flight as I knew I had to meet DD's host family upon arrival and I didn't want to be too exhausted.
DD and her host father and his friend had driven from Tetovo to Skopje to pick me up after 11pm when my flight arrived. I found out this was a risky thing for him to do, due to ethnic tension because of recent ethnic protests in the capitol city and in Tetovo, and as he was an Albanian (Macedonian consists of Macedonians and Albanians), travel to Skopje, a Macedonia majority, could be risky if he was pulled over for any reason. That was why he brought a friend with him. All this according to my daughter, and this ethnic tension and the poverty of the country are reasons the Peace Corps operates in this country.
So they picked me up and drove me to Tetovo, about an hour away, and when we got to the city of Tetovo, her host father started driving fast. DD told me later that was because he was no longer worried about being pulled over, he was a man of prominence in this city, a city with a majority of Albanians. So we got to their house and I met the host mother, and brother that first night, had some homemade cherry juice (delicious), served on a tray in very petite glasses. Macedonians are very big on serving guests, and it is a very organized procedure involving trays, good dishes/glasses, and multiple courses. I found more about this a few days later. This first night I didn't stay downstairs long as I was tired, so we made our way to the fourth floor where my daughter lives.
This house is really an apartment building owned by possibly an uncle. DD wasn't quite sure. But her host family lives on the first floor: a kitchen/dining area on a lower level and I think a basement, with an outdoor oven, then the living room on the main floor and three bedrooms and a bathroom. There was an apartment or maybe two on the second floor, relatives lived in one, then the same on the third floor. DD had the fourth floor to herself, a studio apartment. While I was there I slept there alone and she went and slept in her host sister's room while the host sister slept on the couch in the family room.
Bathroom was interesting: shower was a shower head in the middle of the wall, not enclosed, and a drain in the floor, so when you showered the whole floor got wet as well as the toilet. Then you had to worry about slipping on the tile floor. Oh yes, you had to turn off the hot water before you showered so you wouldn't get shocked. DD said people had been electrocuted but she doubted this would happen with her shower as her family built their house better than most people. Still it was better not to take chances.
Next day we got up and had coffee with her mom, who did not drink with us as she was observing Ramadan and a woman who lived in the building and I think was a neighbor. She was friendly but spoke no English so my daughter translated for us.
Next we walked a few blocks into the city. There are no parking laws here. People park on the sidewalks, in the street, double park, it is crazy. So people who walk end up walking in the street since the sidewalks have cars on them. And the cars in the street have trouble driving through the streets at times due to the parked cars. Yet they think nothing of this. And the sidewalks, when you do get to walk on them, are in bad shape so you have to watch your step or you'll step in a hole.
We stopped at the American Corner in Tetovo where my daughter helps lead the conversation hour every week and we got our picture taken with Obama.
Next we met up with her host brother, who has just finished high school.
We went to Arabati Baba Teke, an Islam monastery. We were told the history of the place by this man who was preparing food to feed the hungry for the iftar (the feast at the end of each day of Ramadan) that night. So he told us the history and DD's host brother translated (he speaks excellent English). Here are pictures:
Note on this next picture the fountain was made to look like a face.
Note the American flag in this next picture:
And here we are with the man (don't know his position exactly with the monastery) who took the time to tell us about the place.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Now that my back and knee have recovered from the latest arthritis flareup, I decided to supplement my aqua wellness class with some workouts at home. I have exercises I can do at home, but I wanted something to add some cardio.
My daughter sent me some YouTube links to some Yoga vidoes to try. I have some longer ones on my iPad, but these shorter ones are pretty good and have some that are tailor made for me (very stiff hips, etc). I mean, I can't even sit cross-legged on the floor!
So after adding some of those to a yoga YouTube playlist, I started looking around for some other workouts and found some Zumba ones, which made me miss my Wii Gold's Gym Dance (our Wii is not yet set up after our move and there's really no place in our family room to use it at this time due to smaller space). I liked the Gold's Gym because the music was familiar, unlike a lot of the Zumba tunes. So I started looking around more and stumbled on Richard Simmons.
Sweatin' to the Oldies 2. I had the VHS way back in the day and loved it. So I watched some clips, as that's all you'll find on YouTube and it brought back memories. Now, I want to do something fun that I will enjoy and I always enjoyed that one, with the music and the low impact moves. So I bought it on iTunes and did half of it today. I was really impressed with: 1. How much I remembered of all the moves
2. It's still fun to exercise/dance to those tunes
3. The exercise parts of the video are really good: we do a lot of the same moves in our aqua class!
4. He has heart rate checks at points during the session.
5. He uses people of all ages and shapes to exercise in the video with him. (I don't like exercising with a bunch of in shape people all the time! I want to see others like me so I don't feel so awkward and out of shape!)
I didn't appreciate all those years ago, how well crafted his exercise videos were. Warm ups, cool downs, and very well choreographed. Nothing drives me crazier than classes where the instructor isn't moving to the beat of the music or loses counts of the moves so you end up doing 20 on one side and 5 on the other (Leslie Sansone has a habit of this sometimes due to her endless chatter!).
So I'll have some fun dancing and exercising to some fun '60's music with good old Richard and crew in the comfort of my home on the days I don't have pool time.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Great editorial letter from the Food Safety News about Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola
Friday, June 20, 2014
I went to the evening class for a change and it was much more of a workout than the morning class. I ached a bit last night, which was good, but don't feel sore this morning. I think for the rest of the summer I'll do the Monday morning slower class, then do the Tuesday and Thursday evening faster paced class.
In addition to getting to workout three days a week, I also get to know more people since I'm new in town. So that works out great for me!
No I'm thinking I'd better get outside and try to do some mowing before the day gets too hot! Luckily the grass hasn't grown much in two weeks due to lack of rain. But DH is going back to Baton Rouge Sat. to work on the house and mow the grass there which is probably knee high by now!
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