Teaching at UACS, Exploring Skopje, Meeting in Mavrovo

Monday, March 30

And so begins another week, but this one starts the serious work with David giving open lectures to students and the public, and then starting his first graduate class. It also begins the time when I am on my own to do whatever I want. So Monday (I think it was Monday) started with a rush to the TV station for a live on-air interview from 8:00 to 8:30/no, another phone call said 8:15 for an 8:30 to 9:00/ Furniture from Mother Teresa's house

no… We got there at 8:01, and the program had started one minute earlier, so we went home. (The interview got rescheduled to Thursday, 4/9 at 1:00, for a taped session – easier.) So David went to UACS and I went for a walk down the walking street (no cars, many interesting sights). I stopped in at the shrine to Mother Teresa. The outside is ornate, but the inside is just a simple museum of her possessions and history. It was fascinating to find that she attended the same parish as we do (not the same church, since the old one succumbed to the 1963 earthquake). But the statue of the Sacred Heart is the same one–that’s the name of the parish: Holy Heart of Jesus. And then when David got home we went off to Dal Fufo, our neighborhood restaurant,  for a delicious dinner.

Tuesday

David gave a seminar for the undergraduate International Relations & Diplomacy students on Changes in Europe since WWII. I went with him and hung around with Emily and her officemate Yelena. Emil, the Chief Academic Coordinator, tried to fix David’s dead Palm, (Oh yes, did I tell you that one morning it just failed to wake up? Not an electrical problem either, since my Palm was on the other cord of the same charger.) but it won’t rise at all. So, if you can imagine, David is keeping his schedule on pieces of paper in his pocket. He hasn’t done this since the first Casio came out in the 70s. Much coffee drinking. Then Emily took us to a new (to us) restaurant–Momis?–where they proudly announced that they use only olive oil for cooking (instead of pork fat or lard, which is common in traditional dishes). We contented ourselves with salads and bread with a trayful of assorted toppings from straight garlic, to ivar (the local favorite – peppers ground with oil and mixed with whatever spices your grandmother taught you were correct, and everyone else in Macedonia is quick to tell you it isn’t REALLY ivar, since his/her grandmother insisted that REAL ivar contained only….), to tomato/onion salsa, and several others as well. It made a lovely meal. Then we went to Emily’s apartment for coffee (her husband made it) and visited for a while with her and her two boys. Then we rushed home to meet the plumber who was to hook up the hot water in the kitchen. Yay, we now can actually wash our dishes.

Wednesday

A big day. David gave a seminar to the teachers at UACS on Cross Cultural Management- about 30 showed up(including a dozen students) and it was very well received . I went (by taxi by myself) to Makedonska Kuka for what was advertised as a nutrition seminar. The group included the presenter Maike (German), Vanessa (S. African/New Zealander), Karin, a German and Sisee, a Swede whose conversations were fascinating as were those of others from Turkey, Macedonia, Scotland/Canada, USA, and Italy. I got to try a few new dishes and I decided I prefer veg and beans to meat dishes that they served (mostly hamburger stuffed in something–cabbage, sausage casing–and very salty.) However, definitely anything cooked in a pottery dish is going to be great. It was a lovely way to spend the morning. Afterward I crossed the very busy street (it’s sort of like crossing in New York–you start when there is the slightest break in traffic and nobody hits you) to Vero, a new supermarket. About the same products as our local though. Except they have pants hangers. The best present I could get for David. (It’s always the little things.)

So after scoring the pants hanger, I took a taxi to the Church of Saint Clement of Ohrid (Sv. Clementi Ohridski) near which there was rumored to be a stationery store. No luck with a small notebook for David, but the Church was beautiful. It’s all arches and domes. Then on home, and we went to

Dal Fufo--must be Macedonian for good food

Dal Fufo--must be Macedonian for good food

Del Fufo in our neighborhood for a late lunch because David had to go back to the College for his 6-9 p.m. class. This is a compressed graduate course for (mostly) faculty trying to earn credits for a Master’s or PhD. I give two such courses–on the Middle East and on Peace & Conflict, and the students are intelligent, well-read, and overwhelmed at trying to fit so much material into such a short time. 3 hours a night for two weeks. I find it exhausting as well.One of the students (who is on the University Board) is the President of Macedonian Airways, and has not been in a classroom for years. He says it is fascinating, but that he is approaching overload. He contributes well, however, and I am sure he will see it through.

On April Fool’s Day the custom here is to dress up like for Hallowe’en at home. I (Elizabeth)  saw a few little girls in lovely gowns and fur-trimmed dresses (as I remember it, all in pink. We are working on a hypothesis that for girls from 5-14, the only color allowed is pink. It’s pink until they start wearing all black–hypothesis pretty much proved already.) David saw many adults dressed up, and he promised to write about it. (David) It started at the University, where it was largely restricted to strange hats and maybe red spots on cheeks (I thought it was a school club thing) but on the way home, about 10% of the adults and close to 100% of the kids were face-painted or masks and dressed in costume. (The sub-set of young women – ages @16-24, all aggressively thin, all dressed like the front pages of Vogue magazine, restricted themselves to cheek spots and fantastic hats – up to two foot tall, and mostly featuring animals or tall coils of hair a la Marie Antoinette.) When I got to the Mall near our home, it seemed like I was the only one not costumed–but that crowd quickly dissipated, and I found that the mall had been having a contest for best/strangest/sexiest costume, which ended as I got there.) When I inquired, I found that April 1 is not only a day for tricks, but is the best occasion to dress-up. Everyone assured me that the real costumes don’t come out til the clubs open about 11:00pm, and all the young people brave the weather in fantastic costumes (sort of Mardi Gras meets playboy magazine.) Elizabeth and I decided we would skip the club scene.

Thursday

David had to be at the college looking spiffy (think ironing a white shirt) at the crack of noon because he was interviewed on TV. I stayed at home with the laundry. We are promised a copy of the show, so I hope we’ll be able to share it. When he was finished, he called and we agreed to meet at Dal Met Fu (another branch of our favorite (so far) restaurant) in half an hour. So I left home and took off in the opposite direction. David took a taxi which left him off at a street into the square. The square and the main street leading to it–the way we always walk–are no-traffic zones. So I finally asked someone for The Stone Bridge, and he kindly suggested I turn around and walk past two lights and turn on the walking street in front of the old train station. Hey, I knew that when we walk home from the square we always see the old train station in front of us. But it never occurred to me to start from there (it’s big enough that if I had looked for it, it would have been hard to miss). Meanwhile, David thought he knew where he was on the square and so walked confidently in the wrong direction. But when he saw the Vardar River, all was clear, and he just had to walk across the square to the restaurant. I came in on an entirely different, and interesting street (I saw a real stationery shop as opposed to the bookstores where we’d been looking for notepads), and several dress shops. Then I got to the restaurant, looked at the Internet sign under which we were to meet and saw no David. So I prowled the length of the outdoor patio thinking David might have decided to sit down before coming face to top-of-hat of David leaning against a random lamppost reading a book. (Hah! Random – it was immediately in front of the entrance to the restaurant. She must have passed me three times.)

So we were starving–it was almost 4. And then there wasn’t an outside seat to be had. All the tables were taken or had reserved signs on them. However, as we continued to look around, a waitress came up and wisked off the Reserved sign on a table right at the edge. Best seat in town. So we decided to share a spinach and goat cheese salad, then David ordered pork chop and I chicken. I mean we were hungry, but in this country you are expected to be HUNGRY. The salad plate filled the table and there was a generous coating of spinach plus a 4×6 inch slab of goat cheese. No sprinkles here. Then the meals came–David had two inch-thick pork chops plus half a platter full of roast potatoes. I got two chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella and some kind of fruit–it wasn’t sun-dried tomatoes but that’s what it looked like–and rice. So we each ate one portion and left the rest. The cooks have to eat too. And we drank a couple of glasses of wine. And then we walked over to the store, and David got a pocket diary (not a Palm, but at least he can see where he’s supposed to be and what he’s supposed to be doing). Hard to imagine him with paper, I know. And then we stopped for coffee at Segafreddo (the same brand that was in the Pau d’ Azucar shopping center in Lisbon) at the end of a lovely afternoon. David got a taxi and went back to work and I walked home up the walking street noting just how it intersects with the old train station (it’s a museum now–it was damaged in the major 1963 earthquake. The clock in front is stopped at 5:20 a.m. when the earthquake occurred, and it’s being kept for a memorial). Apparently, most of the old buildings had to be torn down, and people wanted to have places to live, so high rise apartments went up at all angles. Heinz says that if you knew the city before 1963, you are always driving down streets that abruptly end in apartment buildings. Fortunately, we don’t have that problem.

Friday

birthdaylunch1

David and Elizabeth

So David went off to the college and then signed his name 200 times to establish, load, and empty a bank account–a procedure that was needed for the college’s tax files. He then came back home (with a bunch of lovely coral roses) to pick me up for a celebration of my 70th birthday at a lunch with Emily and Emil at Marshall Tito’s favorite restaurant. The place was amazing–like so many restaurants here, you wouldn’t even know it was there. You walk in through a narrow path and into a normal door to find yourself in an enormous room decorated with Communist flags, WWII posters, and photos of Tito with everyone who was anyone. David and I could get the American ones, but had a harder time with the Europeans. And then we settled down to another great lunch; we ordered the antipasto equivalent which is a huge salad plate with shredded cabbage, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, etc. plus a meat plate with ham, salami,

See the delicious birthday cake

What a delicious birthday cake

fried cheese, white cheese (2 kinds), tuna salad, again etc. Wonderful meal. Emily produced, at the end of the meal, the closest thing Skopje could come to an orange cake with chocolate icing (actually, it was sort of fudge-cream, with orange jelly, topped with dark chocolate and decorated with cream) and gave me a lovely book of things to see in Macedonia, and the best part is that some are already familiar- a wonderful picture/comment book about Macedonia–places I’ve seen and want to see.
Afterward, I went home to digest and David to the College to teach. I (David) am finding that the Macedonian habit of afternoon main meals doesn’t go terribly well with a 6-9pm class each day, but the food is so good that I am coping – lots and lots of thick, strong Macedonian coffee (sort of Turkish/Greek style.) Luckily, the University supplies it as often as we wish–even in the classrooms.

Saturday

Got up at the crack of dawn to travel by bus with the entire faculty of American College to Mavrovo for an offsite with all the teachers from UACS. We’d been told the bus would leave at 8:15 so we should be there by 8:00. To be honest, we’d also been told 8:00/7:30, but the previous speaker was higher ranking. Both of our informants, however, were driving up and so were not at the bus. So Emily picked us up by taxi–she was a little late, we were a little slow, traffic was heavy, and when we got there, the bus had left. A quick phone call, and the bus came back for us. The first part of the trip was somewhat familiar–on the same road to Ohrid–but soon we turned off onto a

Summer houses in Mavrova

Summer houses in Mavrova

narrow road that curled higher and higher into the mountains. Bits of snow by the road, cold air, surrounded by snow-covered peaks but basically dry. The architecture changed to older looking Swiss-style tall cottages with sharply peaked roofs and understories (that is, the second floor is significantly wider than the ground floor, and those sheltered areas were filled with fire-wood,

Hotel Radika

Hotel Radika

tools, etc.) Soon there came the sign announcing the ski areas and our destination “The #1 hotel in Macedonia”. We reserved judgement, but needn’t have. The place is newly reconditioned, beautifully redecorated and with a magnificent view. A long white pillared building with mountains on one side and a steep ski-slope on the other

David and Lake Mavrova

David and Lake Mavrovo

going down to an alpine lake (artificial – you can see the dam that creates it below). There was little snow on the slopes, but everywhere we could see small purple crocuses poking up plus lots of other alpine flowers.

Spring in Mavrova

Spring in Mavrova

Our room is only slightly smaller (or even larger?) than our entire apartment in Skopje, and looks

A lamp in our room

A lamp in our room

like it was decorated by/for a Russian Count. The bathroom featured a two-person spa-bath, and everything was gilded, mirrored, or satin.

The conference/workshop on the future of American College started immediately, and revealed one negative–the halls of the hotel filled up with cigarette smoke, including right outside our room–so we kept the outside doors and windows open, and went outside whenever we could. We both went for the opening plenary, and found that one of the English teachers was a marvellous realtime translater/interpreter, as almost everthing was in Macedonian. Impressive statistics on the growth of the University to date, and ambitious plans for the future. I (Elizabeth) escaped then and went for a walk. Both in front and back of the hotel there was the most remarkable tree. Set in the snow so I couldn’t get too close, it looked like one of the many plum trees in bloom except all the flowers reflected the sun. I decided each flower was covered with ice and that’s what I told David when I finally got him to come for a walk with me. By the way, that’s when we saw the field of small, perfect purple crocuses. But later, as it got dark, the tree in front was lighted in cornflower blue and the one in back in red–the “flowers” were plastic lights.

Front tree in daylight

Front tree in daylight

Back tree at night

Back tree at night

While Elizabeth was misinterpreting the trees, I (David) attended all the workshops–mostly in English. I was able to contribute examples and suggestions from other schools I have known, and could practically taste the enthusiasms. Then Clarisse and I gave a session on Quality Improvement in University Education which proved both popular and effective. (I was at this one. It was more like a game than a session. A question: how do you treat your students if you want to create a colleagial learning environment? 90 seconds to prepare and answer and then discussion. Next question. A wonderful format for the late afternoon–everyone woke up; everyone wanted to add their two cents.) This was followed by the banquet (everyone assured us that the magnificent food was ‘merely good hotel food–you have to eat home cooking before you know Macedonian food’, but I, at least, ate too much. For everyone else, the banquet was followed by a party, featuring drink, dancing, and competitive singing, but we opted for the spa-bath and bed.

Meeting

Meeting

Sunday

From the red eyes the next morning, I think we were the only ones who got much sleep. the next days sessions were a little subdued, but productive of action-plans, at least, and then we got the bus home in the early afternoon (and there was a lot of sleeping on the bus.) David tried to buy some pretzels for a lunch-snack, and it turned out they were stick-pretzels with something like peanut butter inside the sticks. Strange, but wonderful.We got home about 4pm, and quickly changed and took off for the Catholic Church, where we had been promised an 5:00pm English Mass for Palm Sunday. When we go there, however, the church was dark. We finally found someone who told us that the English-speaking priest has not yet returned, so the Mass was canceled – but would definitely be here for Easter Sunday. So we went home and ate a light supper on the balcony.

Soup on the balcony

Soup on the balcony

Then we collapsed. All that walking in the mountain air (and trying not to breathe while inside the hotel) had gotten to us.

And so ends our second week.

This entry was posted in Macedonia, Spring 2009, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.