I remember when we had our mid-term training in Skopje, the facilitator introduced us to the “Stages of a year abroad.” Thanks to that I can clearly tell that I am in the “Accepting and Embracing” phase. I have faced the cultural differences and I realise that my time in Macedonia will come to end next year so I am trying to make the best out of each day. So here are some of my favourite moments from the past months:
As summer passed and city park was not the main hangout spot anymore, we became more creative with our free time. For example, we organised two crime dinners with all the volunteers and our local friends. We traveled to Kosovo (once again) and we went to a Drag Queen show.
Autumn was the season of visits. My friend Sophie from Germany spent 10 days in Macedonia. On her first day we already traveled through the country to an Eco-village for our Podcast. We met a guy who built his own house in nature. Then his friend showed up and they announced to bring us to a special tree – a “holy tree”. So for three hours we regarded how the friend recorded interviews with the villagers about this tree. “That would only happen in Macedonia.”, we kept repeating our favourite mantra.
Also with Sophie and my Polish friend Ania we started the most unexpected friendship – with a 60 years old American woman who is traveling the world. All of that because we invited her to sit at our table in a crowded restaurant. For one week we were inseparable until it was time so say goodbye again. But a reunion in Turkey is already on the To-Do list!
A few weeks later my parents came to visit. I was proud how my German parents jumped into this very different culture with huge enthusiasm. They simply adapted to Balkan mentality and suddenly became quite chill.
What I didn’t expect from Macedonia was going to football matches regularly. But we started that and we even saw the German national team in Skopje. After Germany lost to Macedonia in March, this time Germany took revenge and won the match with “4:0”. However, it was just a weird feeling sitting next to all these Macedonians and not knowing who to cheer for. But we saw Manuel Neuer and we only paid 1,50 Euros for that.
Work wise I am super glad we have more projects now. We had a painting project in a school, NGO Fairs in the city park, we prepared Ajvar with our team and we went bowling for the Erasmus days. When the October edition of our magazine VOICES came out, we took a city tour and distributed it in coffee shops and youth centers.
It’s funny how we spent most of our summer traveling or in the city park and work wise very little was going on – because for now everything is coming together at once. We started doing weekly public events in our favourite bar Beertija: Pub Quizzes, “Speed Friending” or Karaoke. Each time I keep realising how many people I already know here (and how easy it is to gather people for events even on a Wednesday night!)
Alsoooo, I celebrated my 20th birthday which was like the best birthday ever. We ended up in a Rock club which resembled a huge Rock concert since everybody was jumping up and down in front of the live band.
I could go on and on with wonderful memories but all I want to get across is: Macedonia is such a hidden gem and if you ever look for a rather undiscovered travel (or ESC volunteering) destination you better consider the Balkans.
Clarissa is hosted by the Volunteers Center Skopje on the project “VOICES to be heard”, which is financed by the Europan Solidarity Corps and Jugend für Europa.