- Allyson Bierovic
Today was our first official workday on the build site in Veles. We ate a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then hopped on the bus. We seem to have a different bus every time we drive somewhere. And each bus has its own piece of character. This bus in particular was interesting because it had 4 posters of women in questionable outfits and poses (Macedonian Playboy perhaps?) hanging up at the front.
When we arrived at the build site, we were given a tour and introductions / safety instructions, then we were divided into 3 groups: painting, carrying / wheelbarrowing & shoveling sand/rocks (to make cement), & digging a trench. It was all tiring work & the painters were getting frustrated because the paint was so thin that multiple coats didn’t even appear to cover anything up.
The Habitat-Macedonia representative – Kire –
showed us a presentation about
~ Emily Claeys
Today was the second day of work and the third day in
On the plus side, with less work we were able to cut out early and head down to the market and experience that. We got to knock a few thing off that “to do” list we found at lunch. And the food was absolutely fantastic tonight! I really hope that we go back there again. After dinner we walked around for awhile and the group I was with found this cute park with fountains and a bunch of little kids in electric toy cars. It was adorable. :) We also found a gelato stand that was selling scoops for about 10 denar, or 25 cents.
All in all, I would say it has been a pretty good day and I cannot wait
to get to
~ Kathi Corwin
Today we traveled to Ohrid and what a bumpy ride it was! It took a little over 3 and a half hours, but it was great being able to sightsee the whole way there. I saw what looked like a school with a group of kids playing volleyball. I thought that was really neat to see.
Our apartments that we’re staying in are awesome! The balconies allow you to get a great view of Ohrid. Once we finally walked into the city, there were a lot of small vendors selling all sorts of jewelry. I was able to get quite a few souvenirs for my family and friends.
On our way to eat lunch, we kept getting harassed by men who wanted us to take these boat tours. It was kinda funny turning down the one man and him saying we were making the biggest mistake of our lives. We ended up going to Nemo Pizza, which was very good, and then took a boat tour after. The man played some really hip American music and told us to get up and dance. We said “ne fala” ha,ha. Kate and I took a walk out to one of the piers and both of us just keep saying how we can’t believe we’re here. It’s all so surreal. I think a lot of us are going to go out tonight after dinner, possibly go clubbin, in Awkward!! haha.
The night clubs were so much fun. We first went to this small bar and we’re pretty sure they started playing American music because they saw us. We met these two guys there who took us to two other clubs. They were insanely packed, but so much fun! And it looks like I’m probably getting married to the one guy. haha.
After an adventurous night out in the town of
We wound around the cobblestone roads stopping at various historical points, which were beautiful. Once we were about halfway up we stopped at an old theatre, where they still hold summer festivals today. To me it looked like an old Coliseum.
There were more various stops along our way to the tip top
That was where Kathi fell in love with Clement. He was first of all super cute, had his Masters, an anthropologist, plus he only did tours as a hobby because he loves his town. But we were all kind of let down when he said he couldn’t stay for lunch with us.
The rest of the day we walked around before we had our very, very, very bumpy ride back to Veles. So overall, I would say Ohrid was a blast!! :)
Today was our third work day. We were all still really tired from our weekend getaway to Ohrid, but we managed to get back in the swing of working. Again, our tasks consisted of painting the apartments and bringing rock and sand down from the hill to be mixed into concrete. After the concrete was made, we then took wheelbarrow loads of it down to the “professional” so he could complete a sidewalk.
At lunch time Allyson decided to whip out the Dum-Dum suckers she and I brought for the kids. The only problem was that there were no little kids to give them to. When we did see two little girls walks by outside, Allyson got up and chased them down with a handful of suckers. We tried to give some to another boy, but he was too afraid of the Habitat dog Mierko to come get the Dum-Dums. Even though there aren’t many kids to hand them out to, we all are enjoying them.
Toward the end of the work day,
Our dinner was chicken or pork pizza with eggs and no tomoto sauce. It was interesting but still very good. We also tired a Macedonian alcohol. It was 40-50% alcohol and some type of brandy. Deadly! haha. We also finally found us some baklava!!
Today a the build site we had more jobs that consisted of painting and finishing the trench. After working on the second coat of paint in one apartment I was relocated to relieve the trench diggers. But not before I had the opportunity to mix paint like a “professional.” Once outside we finished the trench quickly and pipe was ready to be installed. After lunch, it was mostly a waiting game until we could fill in the trench. I did some more paint until it was time. When Fred and I finally began to fill in the trench, we were approached by a Macedonian boy who we had never seen before and we never did learn his name. We do know he wants to come to America (
The work day ended with Zarko telling me that we get closer to being “professional” every day. I’m not sure how it is supposed to look to be professional but I sure feel professional with all the paint I’ve been doing. It may not always be the most rewarding while I’m doing it, but remembering that families will be able to live there and have a place to call home is all I need to keep painting for the next three days. I’m making a difference in a family’s life, and that is the best thing I could ask for from this trip. It’s been an amazing trip with tons of wonderful experiences with some truly exceptional people and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next three days have in store for us.
It is strange to think that we have been here for just over a week. In a way it feels like we just got here, but at the same time it feels like we have been here for more than just eight days.
Today was a really cool day. We went to our usual assorted tasks and ate our usual lunch. However, today our work day ended early. We got a concert from some neighborhood children that got the attention of all of the neighbors and our cameras. Two little boys had drums and unorthodox drum sticks and could really play. A man had a different, stranger instrument and kept signaling us to dance. It was really cool and of course we handed them Dum-Dums.
Then, we went to church. We wondered why we had to go in taxis instead of a bus, but as they wound up narrow, crowded roads we soon discovered why. There was barely room in the street for the taxis, much less anything larger! When the first taxi turned around to go back, the taxi I was in had to back up to let the other one past, and it was quite frightening.
Once we got to the church we were awed by the view of the town, the cemetery, and the church. Inside the church was even more beautiful. It was build in 1840 and is still a very grand church today. Suzanna was our tour guide, and she told us lots of cool stuff about the meanings of stuff in the church. One of the most interesting things to learn was that normally people stand for 2-3 hours for the service. Wow.
On the way back from the church we walked down the steep street & waited to get picked up by the van at a little Macedonian shop with a bunch of strange dolls. Outside it we got a business card from a man who kept a scrawny-looking dog away from us and told us that he “communicates with animals.” We had Suzanna look at the card, and actually he advocates for animals. That makes more sense, but isn’t quite as exciting as meeting the “dog whisperer.”
Dinner was good, especially the part where Fred agreed to could take a picture of all of us lifting him up. Afterward we went back to the hotel and hung out and played cards for a little big, and talked more about Harry Potter. It was a good day.
Since we only have a couple days left on our trip (AKA 2) everybody seemed ready to get to work today. There was a large pile of stone/gravel that much of the group helped wheel barrow down the hill. I helped stain & varnish until I realized I could escape the fumes & paint with Gloria.
The day went very quickly, especially since we got to stop an hour early so we could get cleaned up and head into town for some extra shopping time. After purchasing a few extra gifts, Sharon & I headed to the restaurant where we would have dinner. On our way, we passed Fred picking up chick in the park ... kidding.
We enjoyed a cold refreshment at the restaurant until more people arrived. Then we went inside to our table which we had to convince the waitresses actually was our table. During dinner we once again showed our appreciation for Macedonian food and dessert and we also developed a new love: Macedonian pop sensation Tose. He will live in our hearts forever. Although I’m not sure if he can compare with the live band in the hotel restaurant that is currently rattling my bed. These guys sound like rock stars. Hope they’re still around to sing to us at breakfast tomorrow!
The last day
Another busy day, our last work day here. Painting is frustrating: the thinnest paint I've ever seen. Our supervisor Zarko opens a new 2-gallon bucket of concentrated paint and pours it into another bucket. Then, as one person sticks a hand into the goo, Zarko pours in water. The helper squeezes the goo between fingers as he adds water until the paint forms a web when you extend your fingers out. It is very runny, and drips constantly (although Zarko preaches "no drips!")
It closely resembles whitewash. It is
difficult rolling it on walls because you can't tell where you've been. After painting a coat on the apartments, the painters
start over the next day. One apartment
has 5 coats. I’ll stick to moving the
sand and gravel.
We seem to make concrete all day. We have 4 shovels, a cement mixer and 2 wheelbarrows. At times we pause, look out over the town at the mountains, and remind ourselves that we're halfway across the world.
Some of the students have discovered chocolate missing from their hotel room, and suspect the maid. They're trying to come up with a devious plan to catch her.
Tonight was our farewell dinner. Macedonians are not emotional people, but I could tell by the intensity of their hugs that they enjoyed meeting us and appreciate our work. We gave the supervisors SJC sweatshirts, and everyone got college pens, lanyards and key chains. In turn we received some handmade trinkets, a certificate with our picture on it, and a cd with all the pix the staff had taken of us during our stay.
Our team had a short debrief after dinner - a "so what?" discussion. The students always have insights on trips like this, and tonight was no exception. Tears, laughter, and some strong friendships have emerged.
Now, to packing - we leave for the airport at in the morning. We're supposed to arrive into O'Hare about
Return to U.S.A
You gotta love jet lag ... I've been awake since
Our Habitat for Humanity Global Village work team arrived safely from
We ate our last breakfast at Hotel Montenegro at and awaited our van to the Alexander the Great airport near
We couldn't do a web check-in the night before for this airport. Our host coordinator
Flyers on the early flights boarded their planes anywhere from to 20 minutes after their scheduled departures. After another 30 minutes of feeling like cattle being herded to slaughter, I announced to the security agent "Groupo!" and he allowed the 10 of us to move past dozens of others and, one-by-one, go through security and baggage screening. One agent, one machine.
After the stress of almost missing our flight, we relaxed as we took off 20 minutes late. Our pilot said we departed "right on time." We made up some time in the air getting to
Swiss Air treated us well with movies and plentiful food and drink. The team from
Thanks to all of you who encouraged and prayed for our team. The experience was priceless and another example of selfless acts of our young people trying to make a difference.