Life Goes On

Tuesday it was back to class on a day of heavy fog.  Only 3 students showed up, but our visiting speaker was pleased to be able to have a lively discussion with them.  The others missed a good class.  On the way home we found thumbtacks.  David had gotten the name (stingers for cork boards) from his officemates and, despite our misgivings, the expression brought immediate response and a selection of “stingers”.  (It’s the same word as is used for bees and wasps).

Then H&S called and, when he’d finished work, we met them at Lyra for dinner.  We’d hoped to introduce them to a new place, but they were friends of the previous owner–the grandmother of my student. Still, again the food was delicious and the live music was soft, so we could talk.  Listening to Heinz, the recession in the Balkans is more serious than you would think.  The world is concentrating on Spain and Greece, but it seems that a uarter of the stores in Skopje are closed.  Strangely enough, the ones that remain are the high priced international and boutique places.  Guess some people always have enough money to shop.  The Apple Computer store, though, appears to be closed.  The doors are shut and the lights are out, but it remains fully stocked (just waiting for an improvement in the times?)

The week was a melange of classes, rain, an excellent massage, and more classes.  We have started our Macedonian for Foreigners class.  We were going along just fine until the teacher wrote something on the board in cursive small letters.  Oops, total incomprehension.  So we have to get familiar with that alphabet too.  It’s not as easy as the printed one.  For example, d in cursive is not the usual triangle, but a normal English small g.  Then there are the humps and valleys.  One point is an l, (unless the top is a curve instead of a point–then it’s g), two points is i (printed as a backward n), two points with a line over it is p, three points is sh (that’s normal–we learned it in Persian; it’s also in Arabic & (I think) Hebrew), but three points with a line over it is t.  Well, you get the idea.  For homework we had to rewrite a bunch of words we’d printed in class into cursive.  I had to look at the book for almost every letter.  Still, it was fun to be able to read a bunch of signs we’d ignored before.  Funny how the eye leaps to the familiar letters and just lets the other words slide by as if they didn’t exist.

That evening, the school had a cocktail party to promote the new M.A., M.S. and MBA programs.  The MBA is taught in English.  The Mill (Moulino) Restaurant was full of teachers, board members, and prospective students.  We are actually beginning to know a number of people who are associated with the college–makes these large gatherings more fun when we have people to talk to and to introduce us to others.  The food was good as well–the usual hors d’ouvres that you recognize from any large party, but these had been freshly made probably no more than an hour before the party.  And the desserts were heavenly.

We’d been told that there would be a priest visiting from England and that he would say Mass at 3 p.m. on Friday.  We went over to the Church (it’s the Church of the Sacred Heart, by the way, and is the Roman Catholic Cathedral), and found that only the Mother Teresa sisters were there.  (This week is a celebration of Mother Teresa with services, a movie, and the reburial of her father in a new grave.  It’s the 100th anniversary of her birth in Skopje.)  So Father Alexander invited all of us to come into the side chapel so we could talk more comfortably.  It turns out he was the person who drove Mother Teresa around London when she visited.  So it was an interesting conversation full of insights about her view of life.  But the Mass was going to be at the Sisters’ House after the rosary.  We’d promised Clarisse that we would arrive at dinner in time for the beginning of the Sabbath.  So we had to move on.

The dinner was arranged to bring together the people who were planning to make a movie with possible funders and with people who might be able to ease the way with the Macedonian Government.  Since it was on Saturday, and the majority of the people were Jewish, it was set up as a Sabbath dinner.  We started with the prayers (helpfully written in Latin letters–and because of singing with St. Joseph’s choir, I actually knew how to read them) over the candles said by our hostess, over the wine said by our host, and over the bread by the woman who had baked the still-warm challah.   After that we had the usual appetizers:  pinjur (made with eggplant); (a name I didn’t catch) potatoes/tomatoes/peppers whizzed and served with sliced green onions; baked large white beans; fried eggplant slices with white cheese.  After that it continued with the normal Macedonian dinner with a vegetable casserole along with other vegetables, and three kinds of meat: lamb cutlets, chicken, and hamburgers. I especially liked the way they served celeriac (celery root).  Later I asked our host, and he was pleased to tell me that the celeriac was the only genuine Israeli dish on the table.  The root was sliced, boiled in salted water, and served with garlic olive oil and lemon juice and a dusting of fresh parsley. Yum.   Wine, sparkling and plain water, of course.  Finished with baklava and cappuccino.  Wow.

The film is a true story about how the Macedonian football (soccer) team protected their Jewish coach and his family from the holocaust.  Writer/director is Macedonian-American who heard hints of the story and then met the (Jewish) wife of the Captain of the team who told him the whole thing.  The  producer is Bulgarian, the company is American from Los Angeles, and support comes from everyone who has heard the story. One of the U.S. backers, who sat near us, realized when he first heard this story that his survival was connected to it. I can’t wait to see the final–in four or more languages for authenticity.  It should be an amazing film.

This party was thrown by Macedonian-Israeli cardiologist who has returned to Macedonia to open a hospital specializing in heart problems.    His father was a well-known surgeon and hospital director who had to flee the country during WWII, so he was educated in the U.S.  But now he is back and was celebrating the 100th successful cardiac operation since his return.  It was an amazing group of people rejoicing in the survival and growth of the Jewish community.  And all, it seems, giving back to the community and to Macedonia.

Well, it turns out to have been a busy week even though it didn’t feel like it.  What I wanted to do in this post is show you some photos

Autumn arrives

of places we spend our time.  I’ve posted a photo off our balcony before, but now the trees are beginning to turn yellow.  And the mountains are often shrugging a cloud off their tops. Autumn is definitely coming.  We had rain all week, but we managed to miss the falling if not the splashing.

Here’s a photo of our apartment from the ground outside.  We have the whole width of the building and the two

From the ground

gables you see on the right.  The balcony is off the great room and the windows to the left are in our bedroom. The kitchen is just an alcove off the great room and we have two bathrooms, one a tiny half bath and the other an enormous room across the great room from our bedroom.  By the way, this apartment is on the fifth European floor or the sixth American-style floor (they count the first floor as the ground floor).  So we are far away from traffic noise and have a marvelous view.  I thought the enormous bathroom was a little much, but it contains the water heater, the mighty ZUG, a clothes drying rack, an iron and ironing board and a vacuum cleaner.  Probably if we had a properly set up house, there would be even more stored in there.  So it’s well used space.

XXL-you can see 3 of 5 TVs

Sometimes we go out to lunch at the XXL restaurant in the Vesar (pearl) shopping center.  (Yes, I know I said Besar before.  In Macedonian the letter B is pronounced V, so now I’m spelling it phonetically.)  This restaurant, called Twenty-One in English (although it’s I think 30 in Roman) has good Macedonian fried food.  So the last time we had a huge shopska salad (tomatoes and cucumbers with white cheese grated over the top) and ten kabobs (of which we were only able to eat 6), and a lovely fresh bread–and Schweppes Bitter Lemon and tonic.  It cost 360 denar or about $7.50 for the two of us.

Also for you to be jealous of how well we’re eating, I include a photo of a pork chop dinner

Pork Chops and trimmings

David made with broad noodles, baked butternut squash, and a sauce of apples, onions, garlic, and a small blue berry called “Bear-berry”(wild currant?) that is too not-sweet (meaning we don’t want it in our cereal, but it’s great with meat). The container holds tarator sauce that we buy at Vero. It’s a thick yoghurt with cucumbers and garlic. Delicious on bread or as a sauce for dinner.

Speaking of Vero, here’s a shot of one section of the vast store in the new Vero Center. Along the back wall, you can see a Special bakery store.  Best bread in Skopje–and they make jelly donuts, although they have apple

Note the wide aisles

jelly filling rather than raspberry.  We just found out the other day that Vero is actually a consignment shop. Producers get shelf space and get paid depending on how much they sell.  So the prices are good and instead of an insipid grocery store bakery, you have the best.  There’s also a Special in Vesar, so we are well supplied
with bread.

Also in Vero Center there’s a store called Jumbo.  The

The Barbie Wall

whole first floor is kid’s stuff–and it’s not a small store.  Here’s one wall of the Barbie section.  I didn’t know there were so many kinds of Barbies.  Opposite it on the other side of the aisle are all the Barbie accessories.  Upstairs is much more practical stuff and we’ve gotten a lot of little things from them.

Finally, you’ve seen my (barren) office–now have a look at David’s fully supplied one. You can’t see his desk which is against the wall in the lefthand corner, but you can see some of the bookcases and cabinets that his office mates have.  David, in addition to his desk, has a floor to ceiling bookcase.

David's Office

If I had known about the bennies, I might have gone on for a Ph.D. (just kidding).

So on Saturday we went to the City Mall and bought an HP F4580 printer.  Not what I’d been researching, but Goran of the IT Office recommended it and said the ink is widely available.  We’ve installed it on the network and can both send docs to it, so it should be just fine.  And if you look long and hard, you can find instructions in English.  The warranty, however, is in Turkish. And so it goes.  Each day a little more organized than the last and each day we find out about another special occasion to keep us busy.  Jazz festival this week–we’re invited to the opening cocktail party. But enough for now.

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