“Maybe, we are not supposed to be here” my friend says, looking around the room filled with smoke and men. Heads turn in our direction as we enter after we were invited to do so. We had taken a wrong turn during our hike. After surviving the steep and slippery descent from the mountains we ended up in a small village instead of the Canyon Matka.
We enjoy our drinks (macchiato: 50 cents) under the close watch of the regulars of “Café Schatzi” who are playing chess and smoking.
A young man follows us as we leave; he offers his help. He not only shows us where to catch a bus back to Skopje but also waits with us and offers to drive if the bus doesn’t show up. He eagerly shares everything about his village with us, even showing a YouTube video from 2001 titled “Village where Slavs and ethnic Albanians live in harmony”. He is famous in Macedonia for having publicly ripped his law diploma in protest of a legislative reform. And yes, the café is for men only. No, he doesn’t know where women meet.
I can’t believe that almost four months have passed. What plays into that is how fast things are changing here. Volunteers are coming and leaving, which means making new friend, getting used to new flatmates, and saying goodbye. At Go Green, things are also changing. We have a new President, and some colleagues are leaving the organisation.
In December, we had our final event for the biodiversity project. I also recorded, edited and published my first Podcast episode “Fear, Guilt, and Anger: Growing up in the Climate Crisis”. It was my first time in a professional recording studio, and I really enjoyed the whole process of it. I continued the weekly quiz on Fridays on Instagram, which reaches more people than I initially realised. Especially in comparison to the podcasts: My episode immediately ranked first- with just a few plays, predominantly from Germany. We also held a clothing swap event in a school, which, in retrospective, was not a good location. Additionally, the collaboration with the school has been stopped and I had prepared two out of three workshops without ever doing them.
It is not always easy for me to get up each morning and be motivated. I worked from home quite often, where I am more creative in my ideas, but also alone. I must come up with my own projects and ideas the whole time. I am actually really grateful for all the freedom I get from Go Green. That way, I can really think about activities that make sense in my eyes and I am motivated to execute. On a Saturday night out, a Macedonian friend asked me to attend a workshop he organised in the French Faculty of the University. The workshop inspired me to create a new one myself. It is about the Climate Crisis and Climate Justice. I created over 20 cards explaining different aspects of the climate crisis. Students are supposed to create a poster with those cards. Also, inspired from a workshop that I attended years ago in Germany, I created a game. It consists of a world map, chocolate money, small dak clouds and paper cones with people on them. Students are supposed to guess how wealth, cumulative emissions and people are distributed around the world. Some friends tried it, and I think it can teach people of any age a lot about climate justice. Now, I am waiting for schools to respond to my invitation, so I can work with students again. You can not force people to listen to a podcast when there is no interest. I think what I really have to do is to reach as many young people as possible through (hopefully fun) workshops like this.
When I opened my window out of habit, the air in the room got even worse. You could see and smell the pollution. “We love Skopje for the social life” is something we live by. We did a Secret Santa on Christmas, we cook and bake together and celebrated New Year’s Eve out of town. What I really love are our weekend trips to other towns or hiking in the beautiful mountains. The down after the “honeymoon phase” I have been warned about never happened and I am never homesick. My Macedonian skills are a work in progress, but I understand more and more. Such as a campaign poster for the elections. It said “Listen to Macedonian music, preserve Macedonian Identity”. It is very interesting to talk about politics here and to experience the country. I am no longer so surprised when random strangers we meet and talk to want to invite us to their house for dinner or answer a question in German. And I love it when taking a wrong turn during a hike ends up teaching me so much about this country. I can’t wait to continue exploring this region during the coming months.
Frieda verbringt ihren Freiwilligendienst bei Go Green, ihr Projekt wird ko-finanziert von der Europäischen Union.