Sar sjan! From Preoce Kosovo(a) 9.13.08
I made it here about 1 week ago, after some very scary plane rides (scary like a 200 mph tail wind that felt like a giant wave pushing the plane from behind to a top speed of 600 miles an hour….  We bounced the whole night… exciting and terrifying at the same time….so fast that we made it to Amsterdam an hour early!). Looking out the window somewhere over Greenland i thought that climate change might finally make Greenland green. ….. for a while……
I then took a long over- land journey from Budapest through Serbia and Macedonia by train and bus . I did get to spend one night in Budapest and went directly to the giorglyu furdo, which is a beautiful outdoor bathhouse in Budapest’s central park. I was bathing in a giant outdoor pool as the sun was setting on a very hot sultry summer evening. Budapest was built by the turks on a part of the Danube river that has natural hot springs. There are bath houses everywhere. Some of my favorites were built by the turks in the 15th century. They have (stone-worked) circular central pools lit by small glass windows cut into the domed ceiling.  These beautiful works of art are attached to giant florescent lit lobbys designed by communism’s amazing architects of the 1970’s!…….. many of the workers in these old state run bathhouses have kept their jobs and their grumpiness from these former times….

I just finished my first week of classes and it went really well.  I am teaching elementary English to a class of about 10 at 1 pm, 5 days a week. These students studied with my friend shon in the spring of this year. This class is great, they all really want to learn English and we have fun doing different exercises which they are not exposed to in their normal classes at school. These students are 15 -23 years old and split 5 young women and 5 young men. I am told that the Serbian schools they go to are very strict and they get lectured a lot. Also, as Roma youths in these schools they face discrimination and some teachers give them less attention than the Serbian kids. I am told that this comes from some teachers in the schools not from the other students…preoce1

My other class is at 8pm, 5 days a week to about 20 younger kids and a few adolescents, (ages 7 – 15). Most of the kids in this class don’t speak any English, many of them can’t write, not in any language. I cant begin to describe the beautiful chaos that this class is!!!!! My friend Djego, who teaches Serbian at the very same education center helps me with translation and discipline. There are a lot of class clowns in this class to say the least. When the exercises are going well and the kids start speaking English on their own they get really excited. They especially like play acting different scenes together in front of the class. All the boys want my attention and to be my “best friend” and the girls seem to find it strange that I try so hard to get them equal class time… (Djego tells me this is not normal)… boys everywhere just take up so much fucking space, and somehow it feels amplified in this culture ( but this is a longer story for another time).
I am staying in the amazing graces of Ado, Chama and their family. Ado is the director of the education center that is sponsored by Voice of Roma here in Preoce. My host family is muslim but not practicing Ramadan this year ( which is this month). Just remembering everyone’s name is a full time job. At last count they are 22 people in ado and chama’s extended family. 30+ students and all the neighbors who stop by for coffee or for help with some project they are doing at their house. We drink a lot of coffee!house-preoce
I am also teaching guitar to Hisen, Enis and Denis (thanks to jimmy b who donated a guitar to the project).
Baramsha (one of my English students) is giving me romany lessons everyday at 3. I also have my more informal romany teachers, Marisol age 6, Emanwela age 7 and mecca age 2….. who live in the room next to mine.

Sadeta said she would teach me to make burek (pita), even though men NEVER cook…. NIKAD!!!… and Aisha (grandmother) is teaching me the names of all the plants in the garden. I vacuum the carpets for her as I saw that it makes her asthma worse, its unspoken but understood…. She smiles at me and really wants me to learn romany.

I have already done some plumbing fixes in the neighborhood and helped Dani, (Ado’s uncle and neighbor) install a new window. All will hand tools… smashing through the front wall of his house. His house, up until yesterday had only one window…. now the living room/bedroom is bright and sunny. He taught me some plastering techniques and asked me lots of questions about working and the kinds of tools in amerika.
i am doing my best to keep an open heart and live in this very different culture … sometimes with and sometimes without my western feminist eyes….. not so surprisingly the family dynamic here is not so very different from the one I grew up in, although the rules and the reasons why may be very different.
Okay folks that’s all for now… I am going to try and make a blog with my elementary English students.. mostly photos. Ill let you know when its up.. you could also check my friends shons blog   http://www.suffled.wordpress.com and also http://www.voiceofroma.org
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxxxxxxxxx   marko