Hooray for technology. I was in my favorite place, a bakery with free wifi, and had tea and baclava and called my folks, sister, Chris, and my out-laws on Skype! Chris had a web cam so I even got to see him sitting in his office - it can't get better than that.
Yesterday was a 'hub' day - a day when all of us trainees in Macdonia gather with some volunteers and the Peace Corps staff for training. The staff is super-supportive. We couldn't ask for nicer. One of the sessions yesterday was a panel of folks representing the main ethnic groups in Macedonia - Macedonian, Albanian, Roma, Vlad, Bosnian, Serb - the Turk representative ended up with a last minute conflict and had to cancel. One of the challenges of any democracy is tyranny of the majority - how do you keep minority interests honored? Certainly America has and continues to struggle with this concept. When Yugoslavia fell apart and the troubles started in Serbia and Bosnia, there were considerable tensions in Macedonia between the different ethnicities. The Albanian, Roma, and Bosniacs are, for the most part, Mulism the Serbs, Macedonians, and Vlads are for the most part Orthodox. They all have different languages and traditions - think of the French Canadians and you get a small sense of the challenge - how to integrate but not assimilate. In the US we say how to have a tossed salad as opposed to a melting pot. Macedonia was able to avoid the kind of conflict that developed elsewhere by signing the Ohrid Peace Accord. It allows the different communities to have at least primary schools in their own language, allows each group to designate a holiday especially for that group to go along with other holidays, and mandates representation in governance along with some other strategies to protect the interest of the different groups. There still is tension, but it is an amazingly thoughtful attempt to solve this basic problem in democracies and the world should be watching to see how it works. It's only been 7 or 8 years since the Accords, and it is definitely still a work in progress. As one panelist said - a supernova went off, and we're still in the cooling phase. There is so much happening in this small country - am I not one of the most fortunate people in the world to be here?