Macedonia

Macedonia
An afternoon in Ohrid

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer in Macedonia

Ahhh, summer in Macedonia.  The weather is hot and steamy, and things move slowly.  Everyone comes alive at night after the sun goes down and it cools off.  The diaspora are home visiting, so the city is alive.  Ramazan starts in two weeks, so now is the time to eat and make merry!

Blake, Linda, Sam me and Happie in front of the State Dept. logo.
And I have been making merry.  I went to two events for the 4th of July, the annual embassy party on July 2nd and then our own private 4th of July outside of Gostivar.   While for the most part we are not supposed to commingle with embassy staff, the 4th of July is the exception.  They do it up for the Americans (along with many Macedonians that they work with), and we enjoyed traditional American burgers and hot dogs along with beer, wine, soft drinks, salads and desserts.  And look at that great group of volunteers! 

White mulberries
For the 4th, Kerry and I went out to our friend Vjosa's family house along with her cousin Marta.  The house is in the village of Belovishte right outside of Gostivar, and it is in such a gorgeous spot in the country.  Her dad has created one of the most beautiful vegetable gardens I have ever seen - I was jealous and missed my own gardening days, though my gardens were sad affairs in comparison.  When we arrived we feasted on white mulberries from a huge mulberry tree - have you ever heard of them?  I hadn't, and they were so sweet and refreshing.  We barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, ate potato and macaroni salad, and had peach pie for dessert - yum.  We celebrated in style with glow sticks and sparklers.
Mickey signing the big red book confirming their marriage

The bride and her mom dancing the oro
A few days later I had the privilege of going to my friend Gordana's wedding.  She had a traditional Macedonian wedding and we were able to see all parts of it.  Macedonians actually have two weddings, one civil ceremony, usually at the municipality, and then a church wedding.  Gordana's civil ceremony was on Thursday.  She arrived at the Municipality with family and they all danced the oro to the steps of the municipality.  The civil ceremony was short, and everyone returned to her house for a big feast.  Her church wedding was on Sunday.  It's interesting to think about how weddings reflect culture.  While we 'give' away the bride and the couple go off to their new life alone, Macedonian weddings reflect their communal culture.  On Sunday the bride was sequestered in her room, and her groom's friends came and kept slipping money under the door to get her to come out.  Everyone, in the meantime, is crowded around waiting for her appearance and, of course, enjoying lots of food and drink.  When the bride is finally 'convinced' to come out, she bows at the door of her parent's house 3 times to demonstrate her respect for her family.  Then everyone dances the oro in front of the house for awhile, before the groom arrives and they head off to the church. 

The church ceremony was beautiful.  The bride and groom don't say anything during the service - it's all chanting by the priest and a cantor.  There are many parts to it - the blessing and exchanging of the rings, switching crowns, communion, and circling the table holding the holy book and bowing to it from all directions.  I'll attach a short clip so you can get an idea of it.  Afterwards we went to a big restaurant, had a wonderful meal, and danced the oro all night! A couple of days later the bride and groom went on their honeymoon to the Albanian 'Riveria', accompanied by a group of their friends.
video
The spartan shepherd's cottage

Judging cheese

The view from Galichnik
On to Sheep Day up in the high pasture on Mount Bistra!  Luli was in charge this year, so we were much more involved than last year, and I got to know some of the major players.  Ten PCV's came, and it was wonderful to share the fun with them.  Luli put me in charge of monitoring and helping out the cheese-judging, and I was delighted because I had missed that last year and really wanted to see it.  It was held in the shepherd's cottage, and I had always been curious to see how the shepherds lived while they spent their summers in the mountains.  They were as sweet and accommodating as could be.  There were milking and shearing contests, Turkish wrestling, local Macedonian and Albanian entertainment groups and a horse race.  The day was perfect, and it was nice to be up in the cooler mountain air.  At the end we partied in the organizers tent and shared rakija, lamb and other goodies with everyone.  Day of the Raisers of Sheep ad Goats kicks off the the weekend of the Galichnik wedding, a famous festival in Macedonia, and after we were done I went up to Galichnik with some friends and looked around.  The festivities didn't start until that night, but people had started arriving and it was fun to see the village and feel all that energy.  It's high, high up in the mountains.  People no longer live there year round, but many still have summer places there and once a year a huge group of tourists come up to watch the wedding celebration.  I had a great day filled with activities, old friends and new friends.  Who could ask for more?

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