An afternoon in Ohrid

Sunday, October 17, 2010


You begin to realize shortly after getting here how much you consume and how unnecessary some of it is. One of the things that amuses me is how to invent uses for common things. For example, plastic water bottles. They are just starting to recycle plastic here, but it isn't widespread and you do have a work some to find plastic recycling bins in big cities - forget about villages. But you find plastic everywhere - Coke and other soda producers have definitely had a huge impact on Macedonian beverage selection. When I walk along the Vardar, there are places where the tree roots have reached out and caught islands of plastic bottles. Interestingly, the Roma are the big recyclers here - they do go around and gather bottles to make money. But anyway, I like to find a variety of ways to reuse plastic bottles. So far I use them to store water (we distill water here - Gostivar's water supply was breached last spring), for a hot water bottle (indispensable in the winter), a sprinkling bottle for ironing (who needs a spray bottle - just poke some holes in a bottle cap), an exercise ball (I developed plantar fasciitis and use the bottle with water in it instead of a tennis ball to exercise my foot), and, of course, a plant watering can. I never realized they were so golden!! Mail me your uses - I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking about.

It's pepper season here. Peppers are a huge staple for people in Macedonia. They roast them and can different recipes of slow cooked peppers. The main dish is called ajvar - the peppers are cooked over an outdoor bbq for hours. There are more kinds of peppers here than you can imagine - the bazaar is a red, green, yellow, pink rainbow of pepper colors and shapes. The main one, though is the red pepper above, which is also often dried for winter use. People use all kinds of nooks and crannies to hang their peppers, and it adds extra color to the city.

I also love the brooms they use here. The one above was being used by a street cleaner. Ah, twig technology - when you need a new one, just go out and collect twigs.

Finally I included a picture of the big hero of Albania - Shkenderbej - not sure of the correct spelling. Does he look like a big Viking or what?

Went to a week of seminars on tourism. It's interesting to hear about all the new trends - ecotourism, adventure tourism, rural tourism, agrotourism, and my favorite, integrated relational tourism. The last refers to tourism where you stay in a small venue, like a b&b or a family, and get to know the area, people and culture. Our lecturer was a professor from Malta, and now I'm dying to go to Malta and Sicily!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Harvest Festival in Gostivar

Hello, everyone, I still am alive!!! September flew by in a flash, filled with planning for the Harvest Festival, new volunteers arriving and another two weeks of sustainable agriculture seminars. In fact, so much happened in September we were cadging time in order to get the planning for the Festival done. I'm hoping to get some pictures up on my Facebook site soon. We are lucky enough to have a professional photographer in PC Macedonia - my friend Phil. He took hundreds of pictures while I was running around with my head cut off. But more about that later.

First more about the month. When September came it was as if someone told mother nature it was fall. In a day the weather turned from hot and summery to cool, rainy, and autumnal. My PC heater is turned on, blankets piled on my bed, and I'm layering my clothes. What happened to gentle transitions? Not this year, not in Macedonia.

The really fun part of the month was welcoming the new volunteers. As the facilitator of the Volunteer Support Network, I got to welcome them when they first arrived in the hotel. I'd already been in contact with all the over 60's, it was fun watching the bus roll in and all my new friends climb off the bus. Part of the fun was reliving that experience. I remember it very well, the anxiety and excitement blended in with trying to remember 30+ new names and faces. I remember the surprise at seeing Macedonia for the first time - I had pictured it looking like New Hampshire, but the topography and the natural background were very different, not to mention the houses and villages. And settling in with the host family - what a wonderful challenge that is. Knowing what they had facing them was part of the fun, and we worked hard to alleviate as much anxiety as possible.

Welcoming the newbies came right in the middle of another 2 weeks of sustainable agriculture seminars. We had wonderful lecturers from Belgium and the Azores, but their lectures often just highlighted the difference between the highly industrialized Western Europe and Macedonia. There were several hours of lecture on animal welfare legislation in Europe. Halfway through the first one I asked Luli if any of the lecture made sense to him. Unsurprisingly, it didn't. Thinking from the point of view of an animal is a luxury for poor countries. And I must admit, some of the laws didn't make sense to me, either. Things we used to do pretty routinely on the farm are now against the law in Europe.

And finally, the 5K fun run and Harvest Festival. Yikes! We were racing around up until it started putting things in place. Two days before the race we talked to the schools, and if the schools hadn't participated, we would have had about 15 runners. As it was, we had 130 who finished - a big success. The day before the festival, the people who were going to put up the booths threatened to pull out, so we had to run into Skopje to placate them. Plans changed, people were in and out, how we did things was adjusted, and then it happened. And amazingly all went well. We had t-shirts for the runners and those were popular items - a free t-shirt in Macedonia is like gold. But they looked great. The pictures above are Luli and my friend Kerry in race headquarters ready to sign up the runners, me and my wonderful bakery woman who came to the festival because I invited her, and me with the Cegrani folk group who entertained. I'm still recovering. But off to more things. I have another two weeks of sustainable agriculture, this time about rural tourism. When I can, I help Kerry teach English to the employees of the local emergency management center. And who knows what else will pop up.