Wow, it's been a while since I had the opportunity to sit here and type! April was a whirlwind of activities and holidays and it seemed to fly right by. We enjoyed celebrating two Easters-the traditional Christian one at home with our family, and the Orthodox one a week later with our friends for breakfast, and with Mladen and Gordana at their apartment for dinner. Breakfast was at the home of an American friend and his Macedonian wife, who we really like a lot. It was a terrific start to the day and the kids had a great time together. Their neighbor even let us visit his baby chicks, hatched the day before. They were adorable! Dinner with our landlords was equally fun. It was a lovely evening with delicious food--salads, special cheese from Prilep, baby goat meat (which is traditional and the girls absolutely loved), and yummy roasted potatoes. Of course, a little pivo (beer) and rakia (plum brandy) was available too...lol. Gordana prepared a cute little basket of decorated eggs for the girls to share and they really enjoyed cracking the eggs. We always enjoy our visits with them and are happy to be included. Soon they will travel to the US to celebrate the graduation of their children from Virginia Tech. We are so happy for them and wish them the best!
Easter traditions are very interesting here. They dye eggs as we do, but for a very different reason. The egg represents life and it is dyed red, which if I understand correctly, symbolizes the blood of Christ which was shed to absolve our sins. The mother dyes the eggs on Thursday before Easter and on Sunday, she awakens her children by rubbing the dyed eggs all over them to release their sins. One of Chris's coworkers jokes about how awkward it is to still have his mother do this to him as a grown man, but he appreciates the tradition. Gordana decorated her eggs in a really neat way, she placed the eggs in a nylon along with some leaves before dying them, which created a beautiful motif of the leaf on the egg. It was very clever and quite beautiful. At the Easter dinner, the family takes turns tapping their eggs together to see whose cracks first. The person whose egg does not crack is said to have good luck in the coming year. Fasting is strictly observed, especially on Good Friday and no work is done. Most preparations for the feast are completed on Thursday or Saturday. Most people serve lamb or goat, Mladen and a friend chose to share a goat and had it freshly slaughtered just prior to the holiday.
Aside from Easter, April was also a busy month at the Embassy. The new compound was finally made available for moving into and the weekend after the Orthodox Easter, the move was initiated. It was quite a project to coordinate the transfer of property, paperwork and electronics to the other side of town, but it went off successfully with few complications thanks to a dedicated team of personnel. While the staff toiled all weekend long, we "move widows" got together with the kids for some fun and picnicking. After many long nights and even longer days, the move was completed and things are starting to get back to normal, aside from all the unpacking yet to do! The CLO held a contest to see who could guess the closest number to the amount of boxes transferred to the new compound, and I can't wait to see what the final count was! The new Embassy is very nice, a bit sterile now, but it will be quite nice once everything is unpacked and everyone is settled in.
Well, thank goodness that busy month is over, although May is shaping up to be even busier!