The Peace Corps told us on the day we assembled in Philadelphia to depart from the States to begin our service and repeatedly on many occasions since then, that we are expected to work 24/7. This means that when not doing the actual physical/mental work assignments we are given (Peace Corps’ 1st Goal), which here in Macedonia is either Teaching English as a foreign language, or Organizational / Community Development, we are expected to be an active member of our assigned living site. As such, we are expected to be actively involved with the people in our assigned community at all times for cultural exchange activities (Peace Corps’ 2nd Goal). We are allowed some planned vacation time as well as occasional personal days to get away from out assigned site and enjoy a little R & R.
With the current holiday break from my assigned work site, I took two personal days to do some tourist type sight seeing in and around Skopje. I came home to Negotino last evening with nothing planned for today, (Orthodox) Easter Sunday. I decided to create an Easter activity; a visit to Renatta in the Дом Жана retirement home, the only one in this region of Macedonia.
Renatta is the woman I met when our NGO put on a Christmas play and sang songs with the pensioner residents in the retirement home a few months ago during the Christmas holidays. She and I had fun at that time speaking German, English and Macedonian. I remembered her and decided to visit her because she has no family visiting her. It took all of my limited Macedonian to explain to the retirement home staff that I wanted to visit with a woman I had met at Christmas, but could not remember her name. I guess I described her well enough, because one of the staff led me to the third floor and into a room, where we interrupted her nap. I was relieved that is was the woman I hoped to visit. “Everyone is dead,” she told me, except for her invalid sister who cannot travel to visit and her son who lives in Austria. Coincidentally, I learned that his name is Lewis, also, but I believe it is spelled differently. Despite sharing abilities in 3 languages, we hit occasionally snags in our conversations, whereupon we begin to giggle and laugh and forget to finish that part of our conversation. When we were chatting about the years she was lived and worked in Germany, the subject of the Rhine River crises came up. She said she remembered the famous song about a very popular German folk tale, “die Lorelei,” and she began to sing it. I joined her and after the second verse, she began to appear to forget some of the lyrics, but not the music, which she hummed. However, I knew the words and continued singing, whereupon she would pick up at places she remembered. After the fourth and final verse, she laughed and exclaimed how much she enjoyed that, especially when I was able to help he recall all of the lyrics. She then became even more conversant about her background and family and asked me more questions about myself and my life in America. I gave her a box of chocolates I had brought as an Easter present. She exclaimed that they were her “favorite.” I saw through this and realized that she still had considerable social awareness and was simply be gracious. We chatted some more and I took a picture for both of us.
We ended our visit talking about perhaps having more visits. I will have to visit her there, because she does not go out anymore, not even to stroll in the town.
She thanked me profusely for visiting. On my way out of the home, the staff also thanked me for visiting. I did not notice any other visitors with any other resident during my time there.
All in all, a wonderful Easter afternoon, expanding a new friendship and nailing Goal #2.