Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going to Macedonia

You would think I would be ecstatic about traveling to Eastern Europe, starting tomorrow (the 16th) when you have the ticket and travel expenses paid for. But no, I am actually dreading it. This will entail more than a day of travel in each direction, and I am not going to take any personal time of my own.

In my former life I did this a couple of times a year: travel to a foreign spot with Mickey (my old boss) and sit through conferences (filled with pontificating academics who use twice as many words as necessary), taking notes on my laptop and writing up the report afterward. Occasionally I am quite interested in the proceedings, since they involve climate change and extreme events, and I am now pretty well versed in those subjects.

I am being called to do this once more, as the UN organizer (who I worked with in Hanoi) asked Mickey if I could be persuaded to help with one more conference. I agreed, mostly because I feel that Mickey and Claudio are good guys, and I know I could help with the website and the report (link takes you to the website as it exists prior to the conference).

The meeting will be held in Skopje, Macedonia. I have provided a link to the time and weather that really helped me figure out what to bring (I'm still in the packing stage, however). The city is very old (inhabited since at least 4000 BC) and has lots to explore between working hours. This old aqueduct was built in the Roman era sometime after 148 BC (nobody knows for sure but that is when this area became part of the Roman province of Macedonia). So I will be thrilled to learn more about this part of the world.

In a strange twist of fate, Skopje is also only a few miles from the place where my son Chris died in 2002. He was stationed at an Army base between Kosovo and Macedonia, and I will be in Skopje for Easter. I am very much looking forward to going to church on Sunday and hopefully lighting a candle for Chris' soul. Years ago, but not long after he died, I had a very vivid dream: Chris and another deceased friend were walking along a path towards me, smiling and laughing. They waved at me, and Chris said, "see, Mom, we're doing just fine!" The sunlight was shining down on their shoulders, and that image has stayed with me as if I had seen it in real life.

With what I have learned about the brain, I now realize that within my memories, that picture is every bit as real as those I remember which actually took place. So I will spend this time in Skopje appreciating what I can find out about this ancient part of the world, to which I have a very special link. Today Skopje is very much a modern city with a wide range of cultural monuments. I will arrive at Alexander the Great Airport. How cool is that?

I also look forward to the Skopje Bazaar. According to Wikipedia,
In the past all economic activities in the city were taking place in this bazaar. In the period between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Old Bazaar reached its urban and economic zenith, developing into one of the largest and most significant oriental old bazaars in the Balkans. It is full of bustling shops that beckon visitors. This bazaar is an interesting mixture of Eastern and Western culture.
In the past, it was my habit on these trips to buy some small trinket for friends who would not be able to visit such an exotic place, and I will do that again with my new friends here in Bellingham. In China, it was silk scarves; in Vietnam, little carved boxes. What will it be in Skopje?


  1. It will be over before you know it, so stop dreading it (right now!) and make the absolute most of it. Have an awesome trip, take some pics, and we'll all be here waiting for your next blog post!

  2. Thank you, dear brother! I am going to try to blog each day from wherever I am at the time. Should be interesting, and yes, I am now PACKED so I'll make the absolute most of it!

  3. Have a great time DJan. Use every precious moment to enrich your life experience and tell us all about it, in every glowing detail.
    Blessings, Star

  4. Even Skopje is so old it is new :-) So many devastations happened, so the oldest building you will find is the 11th century Monastery of St. Panteleimon . And the city was rebuilt in 1963 in a modern (should I say uglish) city and it was never actually finished.
    Anyway, Macedonia has it all... Less than 1000 km from Rome, Athens, Constantinople (Istanbul) and 1000km from Switzerland, it has always been in the center of the world. Maybe too much.
    If you have plenty of time, you will see a lots of things that are outside of Skopje, but, except for the Monasteries, Churches, Mosques, I recommend visiting Ohrid and its lake, and especially Biljana springs near St. Naum Monastery. Somehow, after Ohrid visit, I think that the artificial Ohrid pearls will be the things you will bring back to your home :-) Check for some other things here too.

    Have a nice trip, and welcome to Macedonia,

  5. Thank you, Kiro! I am now sitting in my home in Bellingham, Washington, but in a few hours I begin my journey to your home, and I have started to look forward to it, more now than ever. Ohrid pearls! I can't wait!

  6. Ohrid is great, but the old Skopje was destroyed in the 1963 earthquake and they didn't do a good job at rebuilding it.


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