After both classes of creative writing students and our adventure up to the Kale or fortification and discussions with the archeologists, I returned to Skopje yesterday evening for an embassy party.  There I met many senior embassy officials and rode into town with the director of the Tetova Theatre.  We had such interesting conversations about his early years starting the Tetova Theatre immediately after the political conflicts in this country and his continuing work both at the theatre and at the university. Tetova is becoming an international university town, and he discussed how exciting it has been to see this take place.

At the party there were many professors on Fulbrights, a second year law student who had originally been scheduled to go to Burma (Myanmar) and Macedonian intellectuals who were scheduled to come to the United States for cultural exchanges. The level of cultural exchange was very impressive, and I had to think about what a huge amount of work went into the programs that were sponsored by the United States Embassy.

The party honored a senior diplomat who was fresh from a meeting with the president of Macedonia.  This diplomat had very impressive scholarly and diplomatic credentials, and it occurred to me that some people select both the contemplative and the active life. That choice can make a huge difference in both your own life and the lives and welfare of others. Her career also made me realize how much we need to work on language acquisition and second language acquisition in our country if we are to continue to function diplomatically in this global village of ours.

Tomorrow is a travel day for me. The embassy will send a car for me, and I will leave this beautiful mountain city and head for Bitola and my final four-day workshops in the Balkans. I will miss Tetova in a way that I have only experienced missing Sicily.  Its mountains and children and intellectuals somehow enter your heart, as you see how hard they work to further their culture, how earnestly the children attempt to succeed at the assignments, and how committed the staff at the American Corner in Tetova is to the programs they provide. It was also good, as an old Peace Corp volunteer myself, to see Melissa, the hardworking Peace Corp volunteer who did so much for our project with her amazing experience in teaching. Finally, we put together a great team here in Tetova, just as we had done in Skopje.

Now let’s see how the Macedonian Express does in Bitola, just a half an hour’s walk from Philip of Macedonian’s Heracula. Wherever Hercules was worshipped in the ancient world in classical times, difficult physical tasks were admired such as agricultural feats so I look forward to discovering if Philip named this city because of the flourishing agricultural community to be found around there.  Much of Heracula has not yet been archeologically uncovered, I have been told, but I will still take the hike out there the first chance I get and report on the city of the father of Alexander the Great.

Until Monday then, this is the Macedonian Express, on the way out of my beloved Tetova and on southward towards Bitola.

More Anon,  Merrilee, WITS Writer in the Balkans

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