Sometimes, an existential approach can come in handy.

Okay, so I had a sleepless night due to sinus congestion which made it difficult to breathe without conscious effort and that was accompanied by the onset of a sore throat which was making it painful to swallow. So, with maximum effort, I got up and went through my workday morning routine all the while thinking I should tell my NGO that I am sick and will not be in to work today. While doing the mental gymnastics involving weighing my decision, my intention to go on the community outing began to diminish. Well, I had been informed about only the day before and I needed to get some studying done in preparation for a session with my language tutor later this day, but I continued to go through my usual routine. By the time I had finally decided to call out sick, I found myself ready and on time to leave for work. So, with resolve to see the day through, I went off to work.

The morning at work was more hectic than usual due to many last minute things needing to be done and several people needing to coordinate plans so that the community outing could start as planned by 10am. My resolve to see this day through was rapidly waning.

With much confusion and mingling around, we managed to get out of the Daily Center and go to the community outing, which I had only been told was going to be a visit at “a place for old people.” Much to my surprise, when we arrived at out destination, I recognized it as a retirement / nursing home.

Дом ЖАНА, the “place for old people” as I was told we were visiting.

I had been living and working in this town for a year and had no idea that facilities such as this even existed in Macedonia at all, let alone here in Negotino. After all, All through PST and in subsequent discussions about Macedonian culture and social mores, we had been repeatedly impressed with the close knit Macedonian extended family system in which several generations live together and the younger members care for their elders. Coincidental with our arrival, two of the several students from the local high school who help considerably with many activities at the Center arrived to join us for the visit.

So, we entered the facility with considerable warm welcoming by many staff members from the facility. We were escorted into what we would refer to in a similar facility in the States as the Day Room, or Community Room. We found all of the residents lined up in neat rows awaiting our arrival.

All of the residents were neatly lined up awaiting our arrival.

We were introduced to the residents by staff and our beneficiaries proceeded to make their presentations which was a combination of short personal statements, solo and duet singing and an abbreviated performance from a stage play which the beneficiaries and the high school volunteers have developed as a portrayal of a Macedonian folk tale.

The beneficiaries and the high school volunteers provided some entertainment for the residents in the form of songs, short speeches, some dancing and a portrayal of part of a play based on an old Macedonian folk tale.

The beneficiaries and student volunteers mingled with and tried to actively engage the residents in conversation and managed to get some to join in dancing.

There was, of course, the obligatory posing for photographs to document the occasion.

While there, I saw several residents either being very pensive, or perhaps not completely conscious of what was going on.

While most residents were smiling and clapping, even singing along, several residents appeared to be very pensive, and some were perhaps not fully cognizant of what was happening.

I noticed one particular woman sitting there, barely responding to anything that was going on, so I tried to speak with her to see how alert she might be. She responded to my fractured Macedonian and said something in English and I detected a German accent. I asked her, in German, if she spoke German and she answered affirmatively. It turned out that she knew all three languages. She had been born in Austria, worked in an American hospital in Frankfurt, Germany and retired here because her (now deceased) husband was a Macedonian. We had fun speaking using Macedonian, German and English words, phrases and sentences all mixed together as we conversed. She had just been sitting there, almost stuporous and I got her to smile and even laugh when I mixed the languages in the same sentences. Then, she began doing it, too and became slightly giddy. We began laughing together and some staff came over to see what had perked her up.

we established an immediate friendly banter and had several mutually enjoyable minutes sharing personal information and learning about each other. While she did ask me a few personal questions, she was most eager to tell me about her life; all the while using a mixture of three languages.

Finally, when leaving, we said our farewells in all three languages while giggling about the mixture and the staff joined our laughter.

A good day after all with a memorable experience that was in no way planned or anticipated.


About Lew in Macedonia

Recently retired, but wanting to extend my career and continue being useful. I have decided to act upon a plan I had while in college, but never was able to actively pursue. I have applied to and been invited to serve in the Peace Corps. I will be serving in Macedonia September 11, 2011 until November 23, 2013. If interested in my Peace Corps application process, which began on 4/27/2010 and took until 9/9/2011 when I arrived at Staging, read my previous blog. My TIME LINE can be found there among my August 2010 blogs at: My Peace Core experiences from application through 27 months of service in Macedonia can be found at:
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