Jazz Week

Things are definitely looking up and falling into place (if you can follow that).  First, today (Oct. 22) is blissfully sunny and the air is clear all the way to the mountains.  Outside it’s definitely crisp, but will go up to the high 50s this afternoon.  And then we are promised sun all weekend.  Then too, I’m sitting in my office with Macedonian guitar music from the college file server playing.  It’s lovely.  Over my shoulder I can see one floor-to-ceiling bookcase and another stands next to the door.  We are definitely beginning to look like a real office!  So far I haven’t seen any of my officemates today, so they’ll have a surprise waiting for them.

My MEL3 (2nd year) class is working on a unit about movies and TV, so I invited Dave Reiter from the U.S. Embassy to give them a talk.  He brought his daughter, Emily, with him and with the two of them presenting the contrast between the true picture of America and the Hollywood image, they had the entire class participating in the discussion.  The students tell me in class that they watch at least one and often two or three films in a week, so they are very much up on the latest releases.  I was very pleased by the questions and comments coming from both sides.  Later the discussion veered into what youngsters are allowed to do at what ages.  To my surprise, many of my students said they and their friends go to clubs to socialize and can stay out until 4 a.m.!  Emily said she had been to clubs, but that she was programmed to be at home by two as would be normal in the U.S.  And then there’s the difference in drinking age–my students said you could start drinking and smoking as early as 15, although by the time you reach 21, you are expected to be more serious about your life and goals.  Emily countered that in the U.S. with the drinking age at 21, young people are just beginning the most lighthearted and fun part of their lives at 21.  I was a very interesting conversation, and because it grabbed everyone’s attention, excellent for practicing spoken English.  The best class so far.

(David) Wednesday’s Middle East class began to catch fire – I gave the students a homework exercise relating Macedonia to the Middle East, and they got it! Now they want to talk about all my analysis factors in relations to home. (I kept steering them back to the Middle East as politically safer for them, but once they get the idea, they’ll keep it.)

Wednesday evening there was another of the cocktail parties for teachers and students.  This one was in celebration of the Graduate School alumni, and setting up an alumni association.  David ran into several of his students from 2009 who were amazed when he told them that he had their corrected essays in his desk. (David)The students who attended the class and passed were delighted to see me, and have proposed a (weekly?-we’ll see) meeting to continue our discussions over wine. The two students who didn’t show up and who didn’t pass were trying to get me to change their grades. I preferred the first group. We also met a member of the school’s Board who runs a Peace & Conflict NGO here and wants me to consult, plus the man who will be teaching the Peace & Conflict course next year and wanted to get my ideas, plus…. I gave out a lot of cards.

(Elizabeth) Thursday was just continuous.  I taught in the morning–the first year students.  My class has grown by two part-time students.  The difference is that having declared themselves part time, they don’t have to come to class regularly.  But they do have to pass the final exam.  At my Dean’s suggestion, I’ve asked them to take the midterm exam with the other students.  That way I can talk with them about whether they are ready to pass the final.  No sense in taking it before they are ready.

After class I was starving but David was unavailable–he was giving a Guest Lecture for an English literature class.  So I nipped down to the cafeteria for some lovely (microwave heated) mac and cheese.  The thing about food shops here is that most of them can’t reheat their calzone equivalents or pizzas, so the flavor is good, but it could be so much better.  The cafeteria actually has a microwave–what a difference.  Then back up to the little cafeteria next to my office for coffee and it was time to go to . . .

A seminar on testing.  Just what I needed to start thinking about the midterms I have to write in the next couple of weeks.  Gave me some good ideas for the types of questions I should include on the exam.  The testing week is in early November, so I need to get started on preparing an exam.  UACS has a format for exams that lists the types of questions that should be on each one and the percentage of various kinds.  You can’t, for example, give an exam that is all true/false or fill in the blanks.  The questions have to include 5 different types and the students must be asked to figure out both stated and inferred facts.  It’s a helpful guide, and Natasha was able to find several old exams so I can see what the students are used to answering.

Well, after that it was time for Macedonian class.  I went to the classroom, but there were some serious students taking a serious test filling it.  So I sat on a chair in the hall and soon Aneta, our teacher, showed up with the news that the class had been moved.  There is a problem with rooms here because there are so many classes being given in the late afternoon/evening.  But we ended up in a computer lab so that was okay.  And then we wrote words in lower case cursive.  I’ll never be able to read that right off like I do with the uppercase printed letters.  Some words, like computer, I can just recognize.  But I definitely need more words. Natasha gave me a useful phrase this afternoon: Ne e tuka.  meaning She’s not here.  See, I hang out in the office more than most (I have fewer classes and no children at home) so when the phone rings, I answer it.  If I say Elizabeth McGaffey, they just hang up.  It actually makes sense because callers know that if I answer, no one else is here.  But Natasha say I should answer Da, meaning yes.  Then they will drown me in words in which I will hear Marija, or Ivana, or Natasha, and I can say Ne e tuka, or not here.  Then if they hang up I’m saved.  If they as for more details, I can always say Ne rasbiram or I don’t understand.  I need to have one of those epiphanies where suddenly I’m dreaming that my mother is speaking Macedonian.  That means that I’ve got a handle on a language.

And then we rushed off to the Kapan An by taxi.  The Ambassador had set up a jazz concert in honor of Daniel Pearl (the journalist and amateur jazz musician who was beheaded by Pakistani terrorists).  The band was a group of Macedonian journalists and was very good.  We didn’t expect to have time for dinner, but we got the typical hors d’oeuvres plate with salads and cheese and fried zucchini (yum) and ajvar and pinjur served with a bread (this is like a small round loaf of bread or maybe a large roll–it’s called a bread).  And with some sparkling water for me and a glass of T’Ga za Jug for David (which both of us can now pronounce–it’s the standard house wine kind of wine here.  And easier to pronounce if you don’t look at the words when you’re saying them.  The locals of course say everything in Macedonian is pronounced just as it looks, but it doesn’t always look like that to us.)  We sat with Lillian, a PCV who seems to know everything that’s going on in the area; Tracy who is training a group of woodcarvers to become artists; and Alan who works at a ministry here.  We are meeting so many interesting people, some Macedonian or of Macedonian ancestry and some just fascinated by this country, who are working with various groups.  And naturally, being the kinds of people who do these kinds of things, they are full of stories.  They also know where all the good stuff is, so now we have a lead on an Indonesian or Thai massage. After about an hour of jazz, the Ambassador made a speech, so we knew it was time to leave as he was going right after the speech, heading for….

The first show of the Skopje Jazz Festival.  We got down to the Universala Sala (Universal Hall) and found our seats.  It was after 8. but nothing had started so we could get arranged.  We were in the boxes that rose like a series of tulip petals from the small ground floor.  It’s a lovely look, but the front of my seat was a measured 4 inches from the back of the seat in front of me.  And the chair wasn’t deep enough for me to get all of me up to my knee on the seat.  It was amazingly painful.  I won’t even begin to say what David felt.  The headliner group was Omar Sosa’s Afreekanos, Cuban in origin although their album is Afreeka, and they played African style music with a thumb piano, a drummer who made various bird and animal noises as well, a guitar, a singer who also played rainsticks? maracas? anyway several things that made that kind of noise, and the leader who played the piano and a small organ alternately (except when he played right hand on the piano and left on the organ).  The music was amazing.  So around 10:30 there was an intermission.  An Italian woman, Maria Pia de Vito, was to sing later, and then at midnight the Festival moved to the local Hard Rock Cafe with another band.  We decided that, discretion being the better part of valor, we would go home and get some sleep.  I’m glad I wasn’t teaching this morning.  Well, we have to go shopping before we go home today–out of both milk and OJ, so it’s serious.

(David) Today everyone told us that Maria Pia was mesmerizing, but that the audience filtered out while she was singing, so when she finished at quarter of 1:00, the Hall was over half empty. None of our friends  went on to the midnight (!) show at the Hard Rock, but I, at least, dragged throughout Friday. My Peace & Conflict class, however, went well. The basic concept I stress is that the negotiation process is the same whether its a boy & girl exploring a relationship or the US & the USSR exploring a relationship. Today the students started to ask about & give examples from their own negotiations, so I know they are starting to understand. Elizabeth and I finished early, went shopping, came home, ate & dropped into bed. We can’t take the late nights.

Another milestone – we got paid today. Unfortunately, it was a single lump sum dropped into our joint account, so we don’t know how much was stipend, how much Elizabeth’s salary, and how much rebates for some of our travel costs – and we don’t know what dates it was supposed to cover. I checked, and they’ll give us a comprehensive(?) statement in February covering 2010. Curiouser & curiouser.

On Friday, I got a lead on where one can buy plastic chests of drawers, so on Saturday we went off to ‘Plastic Street’ and spent the morning obtaining useful items.

Plastic Bazaar Door

This is the wrought iron door to one of the metal stores in the area.  As well as plastic items we also saw stainless steel pots and enamel- covered pots.  The area is a treasure house of useful stuff.

Once assembled, the two dressers

Bed With New Dressers

we bought turned out to hold most of our stuff – so we are now more or less out of our suitcases.  The dressers are pretty steady, and the drawers are deep enough to hold quite a bit.

Dresser Close Up

And we also got a small set of shelves for the bathroom, but we got the wrong color, so now they are in the kitchen holding fresh vegetables.  And we went back on Monday to get another set for the bathroom in an appropriate color.

On Saturday, however, we had to rush home because we had just gotten an invitation to the Ambassador’s home for a reception honoring the Jazz Festival and especially an American group called ‘The Ethnics.’ Great party, full of arts types. Elizabeth met a major actress, and I found the fascinating independent TV producer I was talking to was her husband. (He insists that the ‘Mc’ which begins our names means we must be Macedonian (typically shortened to Mc.) We also met much of the Embassy staff, several local musicians, and the organizers of the Festival. Then we had to rush to get to the Hall for another performance. We had no tickets, but were assured there would be no problem. They were (half) right – there were tickets, but they were in the gods, although the space between seats was a (for me) almost comfortable 7 inches. (David) I stole the aisle seat, and Elizabeth coped (and the nice (short) couple who had tickets for those seats freely exchanged them for ours) – but it was worth it. The first act was called ‘Flat Earth Society’- from Belgium. Sort of a Big Band as inspired by Peter Schickeley. Fifteen guys and one female Tuba-ist who write (or improvise) their own stuff, and are truly weird. Half classical, half heavy metal and half dixieland, and immensely talented. The 10:30 act started ar about 11:30- an American named Patricia Barber (and a quartet) who mixed pop, jazz, beautiful instrumentalization and a voice to die for into lovely soulful music. When I fell asleep despite my desires, we left.

Sunday was another shopping day – now that we have all our necessities(?) we deduced it was time to make the place look better. We now have flowers, baskets for tools & pills, and side tables.

A Small Congregation

Sunday evening was again time for me to lead a Communion Service at the Cathedral for the English speaking Catholics. The organizer was out of town, and for a while, we feared we would be alone, but eventually four others showed and we had a nice Service.

And so to bed.

This entry was posted in Macedonia, September 2010 - June 2011, Skopje, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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