Jet lag. Different food. Great booze.
Wonderful friends and hosts who love us despite our quirky American ways.
I love the Balkans. My home away from home. I wish I could beam myself the 4,500 miles from Pennsylvania because I hate flying--it feels unnatural for bipeds.
Even so, airfare is fairly cheap and easy, even more so than last year at this time.
It's amazing, though, how small the world has become, especially with the internet. Back in 1989, when we lived here, we might as well lived on the moon; we lost an entire year of cultural literacy, and Macedonia was a republic of Yugoslavia and still very socialistic. Inflation was 100% a month. My husband was paid in dinars, though the amount was tied to the dollar, so by the end of our stay, his pay had to be stashed in a large bag. Now the denar (new currency) is stronger than the dollar. Go figure. Capitalism is the next big thing.
The Balkan war had not yet started, although the signs were becoming apparent: police searches, military planes flying overhead, the spot bombings in Croatia. An uneasy tension in the air.
Now CNN International is on cable, and we were able to follow the Iowa Caucus. I'm from Iowa, so this was an event of great interest. Also, CNN.com keeps us informed whenever we want. Skopje itself has become very Western and somewhat trendy and overrun with foreigners.
In 1989, Skopje was anything but trendy; five known Americans lived here (we were two of them and Philip Wright, Director of the American Center, was the third). There was a suspected American living in the hills somewhere, but we never met him. Hardly anyone spoke English, and now English is spoken everywhere.
Once, we did get CNN on cable TV, but only for a week or so (perhaps pirated). For about a month, we did get Days of Our Lives, subtitled in Macedonian, but then it, too, disappeared. When the United jet crashed in Sioux City, I read about it in Vecher in Cyrillic because that's where we got our news. I read Macedonian at about a first grade level and understand some of the language. Forget about speaking it, though. I mostly trip over my own tongue.
There is something calming about the Balkans--my attitude changes. Things that bother me in the states seem silly here. My friend Lile tells me that when she crosses borders, she begins to think in the language of that country--she calls it "code shifting." Maybe I'm experiencing "cultural shifting."
Today, I bought a new coat and poncho. Nothing was cheap, but I needed a new coat due to a fatal zipper malfunction.
As you can see, I have nothing important to say today: no jokes or snark. I just wanted to keep in touch.
Happy New Year!
Best to all,