Saturday, January 31, 2009

immatured observations

the first few weeks in a new place can be an overwhelming combination
of both very much and very little going on. the scenery provides much
to talk about but in the dark cold of winter, my day-to-day life is
less varied. so for now, a few early and superficial thoughts of the
two settings of my life here:

from what I've seen of Skopje thus far (which, of course, is very
little), it certainly wont win any award for most charming. the tour
books say it is a fine example of the old Yugoslav lifestyle. Signs vary in their language of origin, ranging from Macedonian to Albanian to English to an odd mixture of English and Macedonian to the occassional German. the
buildings are terribly communist in their appearance; hues of grey and
brown dominate the landscape. that being said, it's not a particularly
beautiful time of year anywhere so this dull landscape, too, will
pass. orthodox churches and mosques pop up around every corner, though
not usually the same corner as Skopje is particularly divided on
religious and ethnic lines. the people here are the first to admit
this fact and it seems as though it will remain this way for the
foreseeable future. the town is split into two by the vardar river,
with the Albanian Muslim population tending to reside north of the
river while the Orthodox Macedonians stay south. the center of the
city is dotted with unique cafes and tiny stores selling anything your
heart could dream of (with the noticeable exceptions of hommus and
cous cous- two self-proclaimed essentials).

suto orizari, the Roma village, is a completely different world. the
concrete apartment buildings are replace with one- or two-story homes
in various degrees of upkeep. generally speaking, shutka is
extraordinarily run down. the streets are covered in an inch of mud
and the occassional horse droppings make the already windy walking
path even more so. you can see the extreme poverty all around you in
shutka- the children play beside garbage heaps for lack if a park or
patch of grass the unemployed adults loiter in the streets. but
loadspeakers blaring Romani and Bulgarian music flood the streets
while a combination of drying clothes and tackily-painted houses
provide a vibrance not felt in Skopje.

my life in Macedonia will be some combination of these two worlds.
neither are my ideal by any standard, but both are not without their
substantial perks.

The pictures are from downtown Skopje (the most noticeable ad is for the Macedonian beer, Skopso) and a tiny sideroad in the Albanian part of town. Pictures of Shutka to follow, after I feel a bit more integrated there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

a room of one's own

so as I slowly get accustom to ambrela and it's gaggles of Macedonian-speaking children, I've also had to procure living arrangements. the first four days were spent with ljatifa, the head of ambrela, and her family in their two-room apartment. I remember thinking Russia seemed cramped, but this was an entirely new level. trundle beds and expanding couches seem to pop up everywhere, so by some modern miracle five of us, if not comfortably and soundly, slept in peace they were truly wonderful for having me, but I was happy to escape.

yesterday I set up a more permenant, and spacious, residense with an elderly Serbian woman near downtown Skopje. she's seems terribly kind, but as she speaks Serbian, Macedonian and claims knowledge of Russian (though I rarely hear her use it) and not a word of English, I have absolutely no idea what has occured during our conversations. but i have a room to myself and have acquired wifi from a neighbor- so really, what more can a person ask for?

Posted by ShoZu

arrival at ambrela

needless to say, this has been a rather insane week. the trek from oak ridge to skopje was fairly fast and all together incident free. macedonia is, so far, much warmer (i was expecting a second Russian winter perhaps?) and prettier than I expected.

from what I've gathered so far, ambrela is a tiny two-room establishmeny that serves as outlet seperate from the school system where roma students can continue their studies. the schools in shutka are currently functioning at about three times their capacity. one solution for the overcrowding is to send the older students to school in the morning and allow them to leave after lunch to make way for the smaller children. ambrela works, therefore, to both provide a place for to come during their free time and a way to keep them engaged in academics despite their abbreviated school days. it also provides the Roma children with tutoring they might not be able to get from their parents, who are frequently not as well educated.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

hello again

welcome (back) to the ever-riveting bedbug blog. instead of russia, i'll be wintering in macedonia this year and am very much looking forward to the relatively milder climate. and instead of learning russian, i'll be teaching roma (gypsy) children. it'll be nothing if not completely wacky.

i'm volunteering as an english teacher (read: camp counselor) at the ambrela roma education and integration center in suto orizari, right outside the capital city of skopje. you can sift through their rathering confusing website here to read more, or look at suto orizari's wikitravel page, complete with a picture of a skinned sheep, here.

enjoy, read as much or as little as you like, and write back