Keeping it Real in Skopje!

I love being in a politically exciting hot spot! Especially when I am safe in my hotel room and reading about it. Just like home in Oakland!

Last night we were in the old city of Skopje and saw all these young men and boys with the Albanian flag worn as capes.  We mused, “Must have been a win at soccer!”,  “Maybe Albania won the world series of the Balkans?” well no, actually it was the 100 year anniversary of their independence and so it was a big event with the Albanian flag draped over the fortress wall and crowds getting more excited with yelling and dancing. Then a bunch of cars drove by, as if in a parade, with the flags hanging out of the windows and kids were throwing fireworks. It felt both exciting to be around but also a bit scary to be among a crowd of young men. Since it gets dark here so early and since we are all ready to get to bed by 8:00 pm., we headed back to the Glam Hotel in the new city section and did a bit of Internet research to find out this: There was a bit of political provocation and not just an Independence Day celebration. You can read the article here:

So then I watched 2 episodes of “Homeland” from Showtime and made myself more anxious to be so far from home. I’m far more used to East Oakland scary than Balkan scary. But, in the morning, we were greeted by Borka, our cultural affairs contact. She is a confident and calm woman and like many others here, has a grounded and realistic attitude. ” Of course we’re fine. Nothing to worry about. Let’s get in the van and get going to Tetovo where the music students are waiting!”

Allrighty! That was super fun. It was our first real educational presentation for a large group of high school students. They are instrumentalists and singers who clearly love music because the enthusiasm and attention they gave us was very respectful.  They loved our version of “Sweet Honey Bee” because they all love Jazz (we joked–the folk music of America! not as old as the Macedonian folk music but just as groovy!)  We ended the set with a version of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” arranged by Dina.  She interpreted it like a blues tune and I had fun belting out the first verse.  On our way out of the school we caught up with an accordion player who played a traditional folk song for us–it was pretty great. Irene even got the balancing coca-cola bottle on the forehead treatment from some kids singing and dancing.

Now we have some time before our 7 p.m. concert and we are in the American Corner Library (free Internet!).  Borka took us on a quick jaunt to the “Painted Mosque” (Šarena dzamija) where we sat up in the woman’s balcony for the afternoon prayer.  It was just repainted so the colors and patterns were not only ornate but exquisitely clear and shiny!  Read about it here:

We have some yummy cookies to much on called “parachutes” they are walnut with pink cream and like a Macedonian macaroon. Yum!!

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