An afternoon in Ohrid

Monday, July 5, 2010

Business meetings and the 4th of July

I've talked a bit before about business meetings in Macedonia, and thought I'd elaborate. On Friday, Luli, Faton and I went to Vrapchiste to work with the municipality there and with one from Albania on a cross border grant proposal. Four men arrived from Belesh, a small municipality in the heart of Albania which has dozens of lakes, to talk about developing a project around rehabbing a lakefront park. First everyone shakes hands - "Mire mengjesi, si jeni?" After introductions, the man that gets coffee for everyone comes in and gets our orders, and in a few minutes we all have coffee, tea or water in front of us. The task for the day was to identify the project for the two municipalities, identify what kind of project it was (increasing tourism, preserving natural resources, etc.) and then write a logic model. The grant will be written in English because it's an EU grant, but only Luli, Faton, Bari and I speak any English. The meeting was conducted in Albanian, and I listened hard to try to get the gist of what everyone was saying with Faton occasionally stopping to catch me up. After identifying the projects and what type they were, Faton left for another meeting and several of the men took a break to go to the mosque since it was Friday. I walked around the town and bought a snack in Macedonian shop - all the Albanian ones were closed for prayer. After everyone returned, Luli had to leave, and the rest of us started hammering out a logic model, a challenge in any language. But we got done at about 3, and then headed out for lunch - the picture above is me and my meeting partners at the restaurant. This was a pretty typical meeting - trying to work out details of projects to improve the economic situation of Macedonia. Grants are a huge way of life here, with the EU and other countries pouring in funds to try to get Macedonia up to EU standards, but as anyone who has worked with grants knows, it's a double edged sword. There are very technical requirements to writing a grant, and you must find a grant to match what you want to do. Often NGO's here have what's called mission creep - they broaden their mission to match the grants they need to keep going. It's a hard way to operate and there are many, many NGO's that have gotten started on a grant but have been unable to sustain operations after funding dries up.

We celebrated the 4th of July here on both the 3rd and the 4th! The US Embassy in Skopje had a 4th of July celebration on the 3rd, and a few of us PC volunteers went. That's us above with the Ambassador. They grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and everyone brought side dishes - the food was fabulous. Macedonia has hamburgers, but they use a mix of beef and pork meet and season them differently, and they just don't taste the same. It was wonderful to have that taste of home!

On the 4th, the American Corner in Tetovo put on a 4th of July celebration for the citizens of Tetovo. There was an early morning hike up to the fort above town, two clowns to entertain the children and then children's games, a concert and fireworks. You might be able to tell which part I contributed to. Happie, the other clown, and I had a very interesting day! We got ready in Gostivar and then went to the bus station to take the bus up to Tetovo. One ethnic Turk, who is irritated with the US for its current relationship with Turkey, called the police to come and check us out and make sure we weren't terrorists. They don't really have many clowns here, so we were quite the novelty! A woman on the bus had her daughter stand by us for pictures, and I was interviewed by Macedonian TV. Their first question was "Why are you dressed like the devil and how does this relate to the children?" Yikes! I traded in my horns for an Uncle Sam hat and went to play with the children, who at first were pretty terrified by this crazy woman, but by the end we were playing together and having a great time! Afterwards Happie and I went over to MacDonalds - yes, there is a McD's in Tetovo - to have lunch, and the clerks kept staring at us and giggling. One of their little girls came over to our table to see us, and we chatted for awhile in my limited Albanian. Afterward we walked through town to a bus stop and flagged down a bus - all in our clown faces. I'm sure today much of Western Macedonia is talking about this weird sight they saw on Sunday......

My nephew Clark arrives on Saturday for a visit - I'm very excited to see him and show him some of Macedonia. I'll catch you up on my adventures after he heads back to the States!


  1. That was a good story. Sounds like you are still busy and enjoying your work. I didn't get to have a hamburger on the 4th and I wanted one. b

  2. Finally got around to reading your last 2 blogs. So interesting! Really concerned about the sheep farmers' dilemma with the rating system vs family farming. Writing grants to meet the requirements, also interesting/challenging! The clown story is a good one. Glad you were able to change out the horns, persevered with the children and had a fun time. Enjoyed seeing your pics of travels with Clark on facebook. Looks like you are having a very good time. That cheese plate!!Yum! I would like to swear off cheddar cheese for good, (overdone in our house) but Tom still likes it. It's okay, but there are so many other really good cheeses, but usually pricey!