An afternoon in Ohrid

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hi, all,
It's been a busy week, and I've had little computer time, but didn't want more time going by without at least checking in. Tomorrow we're going to the bazaar. It occupies a huge space in Kumanovo, and is filled with harvest items, as well as about everything else you can think of. We're supposed to go there to practice asking about prices for things, both in Macedonian and in Albanian. Should be a hoot to watch us. We're supposed to bargain, but I'm not sure how much I can do that = things are already pretty cheap.

Generally twice a week I travel into Kumanovo for my practicum. There are 4 of us who are assigned to Community Development from my town and the neighboring town. I meet the other 3 in Kumanovo and we go and interview people working in the local opstina - muncipal government - and a couple of the local NGO's. Macedonia is a dream for people who love political science. As a professor told us a week ago, his grandmother, who lived until she was 90, lived in 6 different countries, and all without going more than 18 miles from the place she was born. Since the late 1800's, Macedonia's national politics and infrastructure has changed that many times. As I've said before, it's only been a country since 1991, and the laws and rules have always come from far away. As part of the treaty in 2001, more power was transferred to the local muncipalities so that more local control could mean that the government was more responsive to the people and the ethnic minorities. For the last 7 years, they've been working on that transfer. It's hard to describe the complexity - different skills are needed, funding sources, space, and attitudes. Everyone we've met has been amazing, and it's so interesting to see what they're doing. I keep thinking of New England and town meetings - the history of wonderful, inefficient and sometimes even unfair local control is so important, and here, at least as far as government is concerned, that's a completely foreign concept. How to find balance between what needs to be from the central government, what needs to be local, how to protect minority populations of all kinds - that's what we've been experimenting with for 200+ years, and here they're just starting to wrestle with it all. Okay, my political science lecture for the day - but I have loved the luxury of sitting and talking with people about it!

Hopefully Tuesday I'll have the chance to tell you about my trip to Skopje and to post some pictures. Hope everyone is keeping warm - we've had a stretch of unbelievable weather!

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