My job last night was to sleep. I stayed up till almost ten to avoid the jet lag, and fell asleep almost immediately after going to bed…only to be wide awake at 2:30 am. Stared at the ceiling til almost 4 and drifted off until 7:30, when I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train. My body was clawing at sleep, and for a minute I was convinced that I was just going to doze through the first day of training and there was nothing to be done about it. Jet lag is the worst. Thankfully, Macedonia is awesome enough to be worth staying awake for! 

I rallied and made it down to breakfast. Macedonian breakfast is on the savory side, which I like – bread and very soft feta-like cheese, hard boiled egg, fresh tomatoes, plums. It’s our first official day of pre-service training, so the schedule is packed with a lot of introductions. But before all of that, we got a surprise treat – performances by two local folk groups, one Macedonian and one Albanian (totally kicking myself because I didn’t bring my camera, but I’ll steal pictures/recordings later). Then we met almost all of the Peace Corps staff, including the country director, and the deputy chief of mission (second in line to the US ambassador) in Macedonia. Even though what he had to say about the political and economic situation was interesting, I fought falling asleep for the last half hour or so. Eyelids made of lead.

Next up was a revitalizing tea and cookie break, followed by a jeopardy style PST overview. My team was winning, but we bet it all and lost in by .01 points to Kyle’s team. We all got stickers anyway, and we got some ivar (red pepper dip) to try at lunch – soooo good. I’ve been told the process to make it removes any nutritional value from the final product, but oh well. We’re going to get to learn to make it with our host family, since September is the harvest season for peppers and it’s kind of a national tradition.

After lunch we had our first language lesson! Macedonian uses cyrillic, so today we focused on learning the alphabet. I pick stuff like that up really quickly, so it was a fun time for me. I also learned to write my name, and tomorrow we’ll move on to some basic phrases so that when we arrive at our first home stay, we’ll be able to do more than grin at our hosts while surrounded by tons of luggage. The short of it is, 31 letters, H’s are N’s, X’s are H’s, B’s are V’s and P’s are R’s. And lots of other fun characters to learn! My name in Macedonian: Лора Дешер!

The grand finale for today was a trip into Tetova for dinner. We’re currently being housed at a boarding school a couple minutes outside of town, so we were driven into the city to meet up with some current volunteers who would show us around. We went to this hole in the wall Macedonian restaurant and had a DELICIOUS meal with salad (cucumber, tomato, and feta-like cheese on top – NOM) and platters of grilled meats. I can’t wait to taste what a home cooked meal is like.

Pictures and more to come when we have better internet!

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