In my life, I’ve always had circles of friends. For example, in college, I had my fellow architects, my sorority sisters, my roommates, my high school friends and my teammates. It gives me a high to bring different groups of people together and create new friendships.
In Macedonia, I’ve created a new network of loved ones. My colleagues at Braka Miladinovci are the people I see everyday, rain or shine. They are more then colleagues. We are a family there. When the directorka and I are in public, she always excitedly asks me to tell people what I call her. Ritually, I reply, “Directorka Majka” (Principal Mom) I was warned by cultural teachers that Macedonians are very serious about titles. It seems our directorka adores her new title. Our staff consists of a younger generation majority. We are enthusiastic, friendly, inclusive, energetic and without drama. We have inside jokes, favorite spots and crazy bus rides. When I enter the room in the morning, at least five voices call out within seconds and handshakes and cheek kisses are exchanged all around.
I’ve always been a friendly neighbor. I value a good neighbor. My mother and father showed me the family of neighbors. Through their own friendships, I saw the amazing experience you can create in the network of your neighborhood. My family was always putting on Friday Night Happy Hours in our garage, planning the parkland cleanup or leading the Fourth of July Parade and Picnic. In college, I knew everyone in my dorm after the first week. I was known to knock on the doors of strangers, introduce myself and invite people up for a drink. The easy friendship of a neighbor is increased by the proximity of location as well as accessibily. A good neighbor will call you before they call the police. A great neighbor will join the party.
The Number One Question I receive: Is Macedonia beautiful?
The Number Two Question: Which is more beautiful America or Macedonia?
My response? Neither, Zvan! (That always gets a smile : ))
The Village Phrase of Zvan: There are people, There are no people, and then, there are Zvanians.
Most believe the best culture is the one you were born into. Neighbors and ‘Nagostis’ house visits are the core of the Macedonian village social life. Many Macedonians ask me about my neighbors in America. It usually goes like this, “Americans aren’t friends with their neighbors, Right?” I quickly put them in their place. My neighbors in America are some of my great friends. Then, to keep them culturally accurate, I feel inclined to add that many people drive to their best friends’ house. After a cocky knowing look, the next question is “Do people have “Nagostis” guests at their house?” My response, “Yes, but sometimes we meet our friends out on the town.” A small comment comes about Americans being unhospitable, while I think about the last time I was “out on the town in America”. A open mind is a true accomplishment. Your culture raises you to believe it was the only life for you. If I open one mind a day, I’ve achieved something.