Nordic girl in the southern world -culture shocks

Trip Start Jul 05, 2006
Trip End Jan 08, 2007

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Flag of Macedonia  ,
Saturday, August 5, 2006

Dear people,

greetings from sunny Macedonia! Because of the lack of time to write all of you,
in this travel diary i tell about my experiences here in Struga. I hope you'll enjoy.

During the last month so much has happened , and I'm still really confused about everything.
One month ago I had to leave the Netherlands, the VIA-office where i had worked as a volunteer and the cool, caring people there. Good-byes were hard, especially with one particularly special person.

After Amsterdam I travelled mainly by train to Macedonia stopping for example in Rome. It was great, that trip. I for example had a great boat trip from Bari to Bar, met talkative people in Montenegro, waited on the train in Nis for ages etc. The absolute highlight was to meet my ex-placement officer collegue Vida in Rome. Days with her in the parks of that lovely town were just so relaxing. We were laughing all the time, just as we had done in April in Bern . Vida is one of the most special people i have ever met. So Vida: Zagreb and Rovinj, here I come -sooner or later. :)

On 13th of July i finally arrived in my new place of recidence, Struga. What to tell? Well, facing the local mentality has been harder than I expected. For example now i have had basically a holiday, since the centre we I will work is closed. Holidays are nice, but as a child of the protestant work ethics, I'm stressed. You can imagine.

But in fact it is good to have time to think, because things are just so different. I wouldn't like to say that some things are worse than, say, in Finland, but that they just need a bit another kind of acting than what I'm used to have. For example our hosting organisation is not the most loyal one, money is simply playing too important role and, therefore, affecting on the conditions of the volunteers as well. It seems to me, that i have to kind of learm to play in their rules and not to be too honest, now matter how much is appreciate honesty. When in Rome, do like the Romans do. This will be propably the hardest lesson to learn.

I have to admit that now i see everything in a pretty black-and-white way.However, I'm happy to have opportunity to spend here that much time that i can see deeper, propably understand even a bit, why people act in the different way. This is a real culture shock now, but after that i may become a bit stronger person.

Two week ago i already went for one youth exchange to Novi Sad, Serbia. it was interesting, the topic of the exchange was prejudice, and in the end we figured out that the prejudice were confirmed, not broken. But that's how it goes. I faced real intercultural misunderstandings with the Macedonian group leader, who didn't like, when i questionized his auctority. We also faced heavy language problems and one Maria was simply too direct. I should start to understand that i'm not in the Netherlands or in Finland anymore. But I have to give myself time, to get used to everything.

Anyway, the exchange was cool in general. I met so interesting people again and, paradoxically, we started to stick together with Estonian Kristi and with couple of German people. It just felt so much easier, even though I had great discussions with many serbians also. I really hope i will meet in Kristi, Moritz and Anne and many others sooner or later. I cried when saying farewalls, and didn't see any point in that, but now I do.
Cool, caring people are always needed.

After the exchange I travelled to Bela Palanka, south-east Serbia to meet my Polish work-camp friend Chris, who was -surprise- doing a work camp in the refugee centre in that village . It was great to see him, after 1,5-year and i was also happy to meet the children with whom they worked. I could have taken some of them to Struga. :) i have to tell that in the station of Bela Palanka i got also hit by one railway worker who lend me his phone. I didn't like that i didn't pay him 300 dinars for sending an sms. Anything is possible, but that wasn't normal. Most of the people in Serbia are just great.

What about Struga then? Now it is full of tourist because of the ohrid-lake. The place is not real now and in fact it is village. I live with two Slovenian volunteer Barbara and Jelka and barbara is just great. it is possible to talk to her, to discuss. Now she is travelling and i miss her already. And i will travel, too, again. Tommorrow I go to another yoth exchange to Slovenia. This time i know that the group leader and hopefully i can learn something about the experiences in Novi Sad. We will see. And i will meet Anne, who is doing EVS in Ljubljana, so cool. :)

My favourite place here is the lake Ohrid (!), but not on the day time. I normally go there to swim in the morning and in the evening, when the stars appear on the sky. At that time it is all mine, and i need that place to calm down. During the last month i have felt so much, everything and things are simply going so deep, everything, happiness and sorrow. But I'm not afraid of those feelings, they just show that I'm still me, very much alive. Maybe i need to change the way I behave sometimes, but I will not change myself. Macedonia may be sometimes hard, but I have to be grateful for these lessons. Wish me luck.

I miss you all!

Yuo are really welcome here!

Hugs and smiles,

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