Elephants never forget . . .

I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have such warm and wonderful friends here in Macedonia and in the States, and since my Peace Corps Response project is at the Bitola Zoo, it seemed like a good time to share with you this video that my best friend from junior and senior high school, Sally, recently posted on Facebook.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

The video features the unusual and enduring friendship of an 8,700 pound Asian elephant, Tarra, and a tiny stray dog, Bella, who live at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Besides playing and enjoying their daily walks through the 2,700 acre sanctuary, Tarra showed her deep devotion to Bella by keeping vigil for three weeks when Bella had a spinal cord injury in 2010 and had to stay inside the clinic on the sanctuary grounds. The elephants at the sanctuary usually befriend another elephant and shy away from the dogs, but Tarra was different. She was not concerned about her little friend’s size or the sound of his bark, only the connection they somehow felt. Unfortunately Bella, passed away in 2011, but before she died, she and Tarra had spent almost everyday together for 8 years! It’s a heartwarming tale, and a touching reminder that elephants never forget  – a friend, and we shouldn’t either.

The holidays are a great time to call old friends and let them know just how much they mean to us. Many of us call or write at this time of year to say “Hi” and share what’s been happening, but why not take a moment or two to let the folks you care about know how much their friendship has meant to you. It’s a super, sweet, holiday treat that doesn’t require shopping, ordering, baking or mailing!

I’ll be calling Sally cross-continents to let her know, don’t forget to call someone you care about, too.

The ajvar trilolgy – redux

Have autumn changes begun in your part of the world? In southwest Florida, where I live the changes are subtle, but perceivable if you slow down enough to notice.

As the weather begins to change, every country has it’s fall traditions. In Macedonia where I spent three years as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006 to 2009, and have been lucky enough to return every year since then. Macedonian fall weather is similar to the crisp, cool and colorful days of northeast Ohio where I grew-up, but one of their traditions is very different and so aromatic that the wonderfully rich and dusty scent of roasting red peppers in preparation of making ajvar stays with you for life.

Ajvar (pronounced I-var) is a delicious tasting, dark-orange to deep-red, roasted red-pepper spread that can make even the coldest winter day seem a bit sunnier. Every Macedonian home has their special recipe, and each is equally delicious. To honor and share the ajvar-making process, I wrote this post last year while visiting Macedonia; I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to give ajvar a try, which I whole-heartedly recommend, you can find it at Trader Joe’s and many Eastern-European grocery stores here in the States. It will add zest to your table and will be a perfect accompaniment to any fall party, where family and friends gather to share companionship and a respect for traditions – including football!

In Macedonia, making ajvar is not only a tradition, it’s part of the fabric of life.

Families gather in villages, towns and cities for days of roasting, plunging, peeling, cooking, and stirring deep red peppers to creamy perfection. The aroma of roasting peppers permeates the autumn air. Kilos of peppers are bought in Macedonian fresh markets (pazzars) for the equivalent of American pennies. (One kilo equals 2.2+ pounds.)

Fall pazzar favorites

Their pungent crimson, thick, flesh dominates the cooking scene at this time of year. It seems every family has a special recipe for creating this rich spread, which is scooped into sterilized jars, set on shelves and shared with family and guests throughout the winter.

Fresh peppers are stuffed with cheese or meat and baked to perfection. Peppers of all shapes, colors, and intensity – burn-your-mouth-hot to sweet and mild – are served at almost every meal swimming in oil. The remaining peppers adorn walls and balconies, and are dried so large chunks of their leathery, slightly crisp, dusty-flavored goodness can be added to a delicious array of meats and bean dishes to warm-up meals during the colder months.

This year my American guest, Annie, and I had the honor of being on-hand for part of my friend Dragica’s ajvar-making odyssey. Dragica’s spirit and love of life flavors everything she does, her tasty ajvar being no exception.

We arrived after the ruby red capsicum had been roasted and peeled – a full day’s work. Our day of ajvar making (watching) began when the wood was burning and the peppers were slid from a huge pail into an even wider-mouth enamel pot for the long and arduous cooking and stirring process. Ajvar is always made outdoors, and city neighbors set-up shop in garages and backyards.

This year, after enjoying Turkish coffee and rakija in the mid-morning shade and chatting in broken English and Macedonian with her friendly and interesting neighbors, we moved to the steamy garage to talk with Dragica’s husband and college-aged sons, Marjan and Dan, who were home for ajvar making.

We decided the process might benefit from some literary inspiration – Dragica loves writing poetry, and within minutes we had created the following masterpieces. (Please remember these words were created with love, just like ajvar, and followed some homemade rakija sipping, which is basically moonshine-light and another great part of the Macedonian way of life. I must admit not everyone was sipping, but those of us who did felt even warmer and cozier.)

And, now without further ado . . .

The Ajvar Trilogy

Created with love and inspired by moments shared by Dragica, Marjan, Dan, Annie and me.

The Flavor of Ajvar

Red as the burning coals
Hot as a chick
Ladle mixing food, family and friends
Circle of life
Tastes so fine, makes me want to drink a bottle of wine.
With bread and cheese, we will eat with ease
Rex sits watching like TV.

Notes: Rex is their huge German Shepard, who sat  quietly by. Can you guess which lines her sons added?

Lace in the window

Smiling faces looking down
Cooling breeze
Smell of smoke and peppers overtakes the day.
Mother and sons, paddling together.
More oil, much better.

Ajvar Beach

Many friendly people sit on ajvar beach.
Who asks what is that?
Foreign fires burning,
Roasting tradition.
Sharing time with family and friends as the earth tilts away from the sun, is a wonderful way to lighten your mood and warm-up your life. Do you have some favorite fall traditions? What do you love to do?
 

Up next

Patrice Koerper, American Corner, Bitola, Macedonia

That’s me. Happy and fulfilled because I was using my strengths and was very grateful to be where I was, doing what I was doing – talking about positive psychology at the American Corner in Bitola, Macedonia to a great group of people!

For my next project I am heading to the Republic of Georgia for three months as a Response Corps Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps. I love the Peace Corps; 2011 is their 50th anniversary. Who knew during the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps I would be a volunteer with them again! That’s the fun of creating the life you want, it is often a mystery – until it unfolds in front of you, like Macedonia and Georgia have done for me.

I will live in the capital of Tbilisi, and will work with the Ministry of Environment Protection writing a public relations plan for them. Before becoming a life coach, I worked in public relations for 25+ years, but could never have predicted I would someday be using those skills in Macedonia or in Georgia.

Georgia and Macedonia have a number of things in common, they have both been republics since 1991, and they are both beautiful mountainous countries with lots of vineyards; wonderful, warm people and rich histories. Their climates are similar, and much like Cleveland, Ohio were I was born and lived for 36 years.

I cannot wait to begin my assignment in Georgia, but it is just as difficult to say goodbye to Macedonia and my friends and “family” here, as it was to leave my family and friends in the States. Change and courage go hand in hand with each new adventure. We can never be certain where our journeys will take us, but I know that happiness is my constant traveling companion if I only remember to open my suitcase!

I hope wherever you are in the process of creating the life you want, you are experiencing fun, flow and fulfillment and are surrounded by friends and are finding ways to use your strengths, because as noted on the screen in the above photo those five things combined are the key to creating the life you want, PERMAnently.

Below is the next stop of my journey, where will yours take you? (Please remember, the internal places we travel and the friends we make are as important, and are usually more life changing and lasting, than the locations we visit.)

The Republic of Georgia

And, in true Georgian tradition, I will toast to you and your journey as soon as I can in my new location. You see, in Georgia . . .

“Toasts, however, are not simple declarations; they are expected to be speeches mixed with mirth, spoken verse and insight. Toasts are usually made with wine, toasting with beer is an insult to the one toasted. We are very generous with our wine, but since toasts are the only time you are supposed to drink your wine, we have many toasts (we have always been a practical people). In fact, we will use just about anything as an excuse to toast, a foreign guest happens to work quite well. So get used to your family, your country and friendship and your character being toasted. ”

http://georgia.travel/culture/food/toasting/

And, since Georgians never toast without a table laden with delicious homemade food, I know I will be feeling at home very soon!

PS  This post is filled with interesting links and videos about Georgia and posts about Macedonia and Wishful Thinking Works. Please take a minute to scroll up and click to learn more about where I am heading next, where I have been and what I’ve been thinking about along the way.

Why positive psychology matters

This Thursday at 6 p.m. I will be presenting my second “Why Positive Psychology Matters” talk in Macedonia at the American Corner in Bitola. I presented my first via the Internet in March at the American Corner in Skopje.

We will be discussing gratitude, the 3 F’s of Happiness, PERMA, personal stories and strengths and how are brains are designed to help us create the lives we really want.

If you are in the area, please join us! If you can’t make it, clink on the links above to read some of what we’ll be talking about. It may change your life.

And, if you like what you read, you can subscribe to Wishful Thinking Works, and follow on Facebook.

Stepping back

 

 

Going to the rural village of Dihovo just outside of Bitola, Macedonia is like stepping back in time.

I think stepping back, taking time to absorb life and see what rises and what really matters is a very good thing. In 2005, stepping back from my life led me to one of the best decisions of my life – to join the Peace Corps. In 2006, I found myself in Macedonia and soon after in Dihovo.

Dihovo is a place where the word quiet is a way of life and soft-edged stone homes hug the winding narrow roads. Natural time is the only clock that really matters here – the light of the sun and the tilt of the earth’s axis predict activities.  If you rise early you may meet a shepherd and his flock heading up the mountains, if you stay-up late you will experience the deep, rich sounds of silence. If you visit in late spring, lettuce will be ready to pick and flowers will be blooming everywhere. If you wait until fall, someone is sure to be stirring ajvar or fermenting grapes. 

Dihovo is nestled in the foothills of the Baba Mountains, where each step you take, every move you make is an uplifting experience – all puns intended. 

Under the protection of the mountains, the summers are cooler; the winters a bit warmer. Fall weather adds vibrant color to the surrounding hills, and on a snowy day nature’s gifts seem to almost too much to bear. Like an over-eager guest, who brings more than wine or chocolates to dinner, nature has presented Dihovo with an abundance of goodies. 

I first visited this tiny enclave at the invitation of one of its summer and weekend residents in 2007, my love of the village and its people quickly grew and has expanded over the years. Dihovo is alway on my mind, often on my lips, and can easily be found on my virtual fingertips as I find new ways and places to write about its peaceful wonders.

This weekend I was in Dihovo when Macedonia’s summer-like weather abruptly ended as rain fell and the temperature dramatically dropped. This brisk change served to enhance the village’s beauty as the dark sleek colors of stones emerged and the aroma of wood burning stoves, roasting red-peppers, and slow-cooking meat dishes filled the air. Walking the streets with my collar-up and umbrella opened, here is a bit of what I was lucky enough to enjoy this weekend in Dihovo. There is an emphasis on the chimneys that warmed the homes and my heart:

 

 

 

As always, lots more photos, but will save for another day. If you want to visit Dihovo, I suggest Villa Dihovo or Villa Patrice (named for me, not mine). Both are also listed in the Macedonia section of the Lonely Planet Guide Western Balkans (pg 315) and on Facebook. You can “Like” us all there! Also there are lots of great videos for Macedonian foods on You Tube. 

If you would like to create the life you really want, try stepping back by giving yourself a bit more free and alone time to see what happens. Turn off the TV, put down your book, and stop trying to do everything at once. Stretch a bit or take a walk and try not to think too much. It might feel odd at first, but if you keep trying you may find there is something entirely new or something you have wanted but have ignored, waiting for you. Stepping back can help you discover your dreams.

Stepping back is leading me on a new adventure; next Monday I leave Macedonia for the Republic of Georgia for a 3 month assignment with Response Corps Peace Corps. I’ll tell you more about it when I’m settled in there. Until then, I will be spending time with all my wonderful friends in Macedonia.

When a door closes

 
 

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

I believe this to be true, and seem to be spending a great deal of time wandering the streets of Macedonia and Greece capturing these beautiful and motivating symbols of change. Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I do. Your window of opportunity may be just around the corner.

 

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia

Don't let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia

What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it's always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia

Mixed messages; "Should I knock or should I go?" Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia

A lost cause, time to let it go? Ohrid, Macedonia

Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece

Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia

Some choices may seeming confusing or a bit cluttered. Bitola, Macedonia

Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia

Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia

Some will be super sweet, like curly rolled baklava. Leptokaria, Greece

Some may be salty. Leptokaria, Greece

Some will be combinations, and still like a seem warm and cozy option. Bitola, Macedonia

Previously closed doors, may reopen. Bitola, Macedonia

Fancy opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia

Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia

Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia

 
 

Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia

You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia

 
 

Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia

With an open mind, you will surely see . . . Bitola, Macedonia

. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

 

Have a great weekend, pondering the possibilities.

PS Thanks for the “Likes” on Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook!

Waiting and watching

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

G.K. Chesterton via Jason Miko’s web page

My three years in the Peace Corps taught me the value of waiting and watching to see what unfolds. Here’s a few moments that unfolded while having coffee in the market this week.

 

Shoemaker, making things better.

Not so much a throwaway society.

I like the idea of second chances.

 

Wishful Thinking Works: Create the life you really want.

Patrice Koerper is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, who served in Macedonia from 2006-2009. She is happy to have traveled back to Macedonia in the fall of 2010 for two months, where she hosted 5 Americans for 3-4 weeks while visiting friends and working on projects. This year, she is thrilled to return to Macedonia, hosting one American, working and playing in a country she loves. Next, she is heading to the Republic of Georgia for a three month Response Corps assignment with the United States Peace Corps.

Patrice’s main passion and occupation is Wishful Thinking Works life coaching and workshops, which combined with her family and friends, and travels are all part of the life she is really wants. 

 

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