Thursday, March 17, 2011
It's been a crazy month - well, a crazy year for me so far. The Sheepbreeder's Ass'n is pretty quiet in the winter, so I frontloaded a lot of my vacation time. Besides my Africa trip, I flew to NYC for a 4 day weekend to celebrate my daughter turning 30! Yep, hard to believe, Kacy is now 30. But more about that later - first, Macedonia.
The picture above is of my friend Nicola above the village she lives in, Istabanje. I visited for a weekend and had a great time. As you can see, Istabanje is both small and located in a beautiful spot. I am really enjoying wandering around Macedonia and seeing a variety of places. Eastern Macedonia is quite different than Western Macedonia. It's almost entirely ethnic Macedonian and Macedonian Orthodox, so there is no call to prayer to measure your day by. It looks less prosperous and while hilly, does not have the towering mountains we have in the Polog valley. But it's beautiful in its own way and nice to visit.
It's an interesting time to be in Macedonia. The political scene is heating up - there have been multiple protests and rallies, and the government has been forced to call snap elections. The political gamesmanship is on! According to the Framework agreement signed after the uprising in 2001, the majority Macedonian party must form a coalition with the majority Albanian party. Political parties here are huge - in a country where official unemployment hovers around 40%, many, many jobs are political appointments, from the principals at schools, to all government workers, to professors at colleges. When one party loses and another wins, there is a terrific turnover as old party members are swept out and new appointments come in. If you don't belong to a party, it is difficult to find a job. So everyone is marshaling their troops and trying to get undeclared people into their party by offering incentives. VMRO, the party in power, won by a huge majority last time and tried to capitalize on its current strength by calling immediate snap elections. SDSM, the main opposition, countered by having the head of the elections committee resign and by walking out of parliament, which meant that nothing could happen. The dates haven't been set yet for the elections, but they will undoubtedly happen sometime this summer. From what I hear, VMRO and DUI, the main Macedonian and Albanian parties, will probably be elected again (wouldn't you vote for your job?), but people are hoping that they will have a smaller majority so they can't ride roughshod over everyone else. We'll see.
The picture above is Kacy and Chris on the Highline Trail in NYC. It's one of my favorite places. They converted an old elevated train track into a park, and people love it. It's a great place to go for a walk. You definitely get a different view of the city from above - you notice all the old facades and decorations on buildings, and it has a great view across the Hudson River and down to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. And, this being NYC, it's also famous for a hotel that straddles the park where people like to show themselves off in the buff! Kacy's party was fabulous. Udi had found a wonderful bar that gave us the space in the back and served delicious hors d'ouerves. Lots of Kacy's friends came and it was great to visit with them. The best of all, though, was the sweet speech Udi made to toast Kacy. I was so glad I was there.
A day after I returned from NY, I headed down to Thessaloniki on a business trip to Perrotis College, a part of the American Farm School. The people there were fantastically gracious and hospitable. We stayed on campus in a very luxurious new dorm and ate at the student cafeteria. You know you're in Greece when a cafeteria serves calamari to the students! One afternoon my friend Tracy and I took the bus to downtown Thessaloniki and ate at a cafe on the waterfront. That's a real Greek salad above. I had that and moussaka - absolutely delicious. The weather was gorgeous and Mt. Olympus shone snow-covered as a backdrop. What can you say? Magical. Friday morning we went out to a farm to meet one of the graduates. He has started an agro-business producing grape leaves for dolma, as well as making dolma and other goodies. They make something with every part of the grape plant - it was wonderful to hear about successful, thoughtful, and sustainable entrepreneurship. When we left he gave us a big pan of freshly made dolma. On the way back Luli and I stopped at the Popova Kula winery, enjoyed a glass of wine, and stuffed ourselves on dolma. It is a good life!
Posted by Candice Wiggum at 12:34 AM