Welcome to Jane and Rick's Peace Corps Macedonia Web Page

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 1:11 pm: Edit Post

Welcome to Jane and Rick's Peace Corps Macedonia Web Page

Welcome to Jane and Rick's Peace Corps Macedonia Web Page

Welcome to Jane and Rick's Peace Corps Macedonia Web Page

March 2000 to June 2001

Jane and I lived in the village of Chashka. The village has around 1700 residents and is located about 15 kilometers west of Veles (see map). Agriculture is the main industry in Chashka. For more information, pictures, and letters of our experience click on the headings to the left. Enjoy!!

A bunch of volunteers, PC staff, and trainers overlooking Lake Tikvesh

Life in Chashka

So this is beautiful Chashka. The large gray rectangle in the bottom right is a greenhouse with tons and tons of tomatoes and peppers! There are 1700 residents living in the town. There are 3000 residents living within the entire region: 1000 people in Melnitza, a Macedonian Muslim village, and the remaining people spread out over 14 smaller villages including two Albanian speaking communities.

I think tobacco is the most important crop in the region, however, we have also seen many fields of watermelons, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peppers, onions, garlic, corn, and wheat. Many families own chickens and sometimes a pig or a goat. There are also shepards wandering the hills with their flocks.

Here are some more pictures. Click on the pictures for a larger version.

Our neighbors Dona, Vukitza, and Lena making "Yuffki" (a type of pasta) for the winter

The neighbors chickens and roosters (our alarm clock)

Jane and Tzena (our downstairs neighbor) with the new kitties Bojan and Bojanka

Jane stringing tobacco with our neighbors

Jane teaching the girls blackjack (or maybe it was old maid)

The Chashka church. Any town that is any town in Macedonia has to have a church!

The Chashka train station ... notice the Cyrillic!

Jane, Aunt Margie, and the view from the train station

The old Mayor of Chashka, Stojan Manevski, and I. The Chashka Opstina (city hall): we work on the second floor, and a family lives on the first floor.

A resident pig in Stara Chashka (a different village of 30 people located about 2 km from Chashka)

A Graveyard and 5000 of Your Closest Friends: May 7th, 2000

OK, so here I am chillin' out ... drinking a Coca-Cola, listening to my Phish tapes, and typing away on the Internet. Sometimes I don't think I left Pennsylvania yet ... of course that thought lasts only until the next donkey cart goes strolling by outside, or until I ask myself when was the last time I spent Easter Eve in a graveyard with 5000 of my closest friends lightning candles and trading colored eggs!! ...

Even though Sonya and Slavcho are not very religious, Jane and I are so grateful that they took us to the graveyard last Saturday night (the night before Orthodox Easter). It all started simply enough. We were told that it is a Macedonian tradition to pay your respects to the deceased the night before Easter.

So here it was, Saturday night and we had just gotten back from a "Name Day" party. It was about 11:30pm. Time to get ready to go to the Kavadarci graveyard (I think there is only one). The girls were spending the night with their grandparents so it was just Sonya, Slavcho, Jane, and myself. Sonya busily packed up a basket full of food. We got into the car and headed towards the graveyard. The streets were jammed with both people and cars. We stopped briefly to purchase about 3 dozen candles.

When we arrived at the cemetery, we headed straight to Slavcho's mother's grave and began setting up lawn chairs and laying out food. Basically, we were having a picnic next to (and on top of) Slavcho's mother!!

The atmosphere was one of celebration and respect wrapped up in a very peculiar way. We all lit a few candles and placed them on top of the grave. Slavcho lit a cigarette and placed it on his mother's grave. Then he poured some Rakja (homemade brandy) on the grave. Apparently she loved to smoke and drink. (Who say's you ever have to give up your vices!)

Slavcho's sister, Rhina, showed up next carrying more food, drinks, and lawn chairs. Rhina also lit a few candles and one cigarette for her mother. She poured some Rakja on the grave and prepared a plate of food for her mother. The plate was lovingly set at the base of the tombstone. We sat there talking, eating, and drinking for about 20 minutes before the visitors (other family members or friends of the family) started to show up. They lit more candles and placed them on the gravesite. In return, we offered them some food and drink. Before they left each visitor was given a decorated, colored, hard-boiled egg!

So you need to picture this ... it is midnight, the graveyard is illuminated by thousands and thousands of candles!! There are well over 5000 people strolling through the graveyard by candlelight. Everyone is eating, drinking, and generally carrying on. What an awesome site!

After about an hour Sonya, Slavcho, Jane, and I began our visiting. We must of stopped at four of five different sites and I was having a bit of trouble holding all the eggs I had collected! After about 2 or 3 hours, we packed up and headed home. I was later told that many people stay all night. It was certainly a very special night. What a neat way to remember the deceased ... one big party!

That next Monday some of the volunteers were stating how weird the "graveyard" experience was. A few thought it was rather silly, especially pouring Rakja over a gravesite. I am not so sure ... I wonder how Halloween, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy would seem to the Macedonians?

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Macedonia



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