Snail Harvesting in Chaska
by Dan Kearney
Certainly one of the most unforgettable parts of Pre-Service Training (PST) has been my host family’s snail farm. Amidst the rather
large gathering of more pedestrian crops (apples, cabbage, pears, carrots, etc…) lie two long rows fenced in by waist-high netting. Inside are
the snails, numbering well into the thousands. On sunny days, they hide in the shade awaiting their late-afternoon feeding. But when it rains,
watch out—it’s a veritable snail, er, jailbreak. By the droves, the snails climb over the top of the walls of their pen
and head off in whatever direction their itsy-bitsy hearts desire (assuming they have some semblance of a
This means that on a regular basis, my host family—and this fall, my wife and I, too—was
regularly out there, picking up fugitive snails and putting them back in the pen. You’d be surprised
how far a snail can get over the course of a rainy night. Snails were often discovered out in the road,
having escaped the pen and scaled yet another wall.
Then came the harvest, but hardly the type you’d see on MTB’s ??????. For two backbreaking days, the family was in the pens, picking out every snail one-by-one. This year’s catch: 55
three-kilogram bags ready for the wholesaler. My back just got over that effort a few days ago. And
the snails? Well, they’re no doubt sitting on plates in France as you read this. Bon appetite!
Working Out Cultural
Quirks in Macedonia
by Aryn Bloodworth
Over the past year, I have been perusing gyms in Macedonia.
Maybe a bit strange, but it’s something I did in America, too.
Not committed enough to actually join a gym, but continuously
toying with the idea, tagging along with friends whenever it’s
visitors day or when their regular gym partner takes the day
off. And in Macedonia, though most facilities have been nice,
modern, and busy, one in particular stands out as something…
well, something to tell a story about.
First, to set the scene, the gym has a room for men and a room
for women. Second, unlike many other fitness centers with
programs catering specifically to women, I am the only woman
there. I will admit that I am a bit excited to have everything
to myself—until I realize that none of the equipment works
(which could explain the lack of women). The treadmill
doesn’t turn on or move when I walk on it, the exercise bike
has no seat, there is nowhere to do sit-ups, and the climbing
rungs are about 7 feet tall—not much of a climb. So I decide
to use the elliptical. Lo and behold, there are no stirrups for
feet, only flat, narrow strips where th e footholds should have
been. So I steady myself on the metal sections and begin my
work out—i.e., trying not to fall off. A few minutes into my
adventure, a couple employees pass through on their way to the
break room (which is attached to the women’s part of the gym
by a half wall) to smoke their break cigarettes. I’m balancing on the elliptical, trying to do cardio, and I’m inhaling their
smoke. I decide to head to the other side of the gym to workout
my abs. Only this specific gym seems lacking the equipment
for that. There is some kind of leg lift machine that looks like
it might hold my feet with enough weight, so I start piling every weight in the entire room on it (which isn’t enough to hold
down my super strong gams) and the female employee leaves
the break room to try to help me. I can’t explain what I’m trying to do in Macedonian or with body language and I probably
look crazy, but I really just want to play with the dilapidated
equipment in peace, so I hope she’ll write me off and go smoke
another cigarette... Instead, the male employee emerges and
they consult about what to do with me. This conversation is
in Albanian (which I speak slightly better), so I explain that I
want to exercise my stomach. The woman is excited about my
semi-coherent language skills and shows me how to use an arm
machine, demonstrating that if I let it pull me up and down, it
will work my abs. Not exactly true, but I humor her and begin
the new process of pull down and release. However, the guy
is so intrigued by the fact that I speak Albanian that we begin
the standard interrogation. Where am I from? Why am I here?
How do I know Albanian? As it turns out, he went to the school
that I teach at and needs to know which teachers I know. When
I explain that I don’t know many names but I think I’ve met
all the teachers, he persists, “Vjollce?” Po. “Sveta?” Ndoshta.
“She’s a maths teacher.” Still not sure, sorry. At this point, my
friend (who works out at this gym) pokes his head in to see if I
am done. And we leave.
For $1.25, I got about 10 minutes in on the treadmill. I guess
I got about 10 minutes of round-trip walking in, too. As I
walked home, I felt a bit unsettled about the whole experience,
though not for the reasons I would have expected: after all the
Macedonian hospitality I received from the gym employees, I
realized that I was disappointed about not being invited to stay
for a coffee.