We arrived at the Alexander The Great Airport and took our place in the long Customs line, when we were encouraged to procede to a newly opened line, which of course, became the slowest one! Finally, we made it through and were greeted by the CLO and some other Embassy folks, who came to take us to our new home. Anastasia needed to use the bathroom, and that was a definite reminder that we were in for a new adventure. The facility was very basic, with pull cord toilet flusher, no tissue or paper towels, and the room reeked of cigarette smoke. It could have been cleaner, but it was usable. We found our way back to the rest of the family at the luggage retrieval area. The experience was dizzying--but I couldn't believe how smoothly everything went. Kudos to GSO crew for helping with all our luggage, loading it, and moving us out of the airport so quickly. Particularly for getting Melodie released from the Cargo Customs so fast! Yotee was actually unloaded and ready before our luggage showed up. I received instructions to keep Melodie quarantined in her cage, and to save her droppings until the vet came to do a thorough inspection. Two large vans sped us through the countryside and into Skopje to our new home.
The drive was very interesting. I tried very hard to soak in the view and get a sense of what our life would be like for the next two years. At first I was surprised to see a lot of arid land, almost reminiscent of Qatar, but without "desert". Then, however, the beautiful greenery that I had expected appeared. Macedonia is a very lush, mountainous country and I was pleased to see lots of park like settings, even if most were unmaintained and overgrown. I couldn't help but notice an unusual number of car wash stands. I was very puzzled by this, but I suppose car washes are a terrific way to earn a living, especially in a place where many people take great pride in their cars, regardless of their age or condition. What stuck out most for my husband was the amount of graffiti, particularly the amount of graffiti written in English, that sullies so much of the city.
Skopje has so much potential. It has a very charming quality that could rival most Western European cities. Corner fruit stands compete with supermarkets; horse driven carts share the road with old rusty Yugos and flashy new BMWs; fisherman angle for the day's catch in a beautiful, yet polluted river; pleasant open air cafes border large tree-lined overgrown park areas. With a bit of effort in maintaining litter, lawn care, and covering up the unfortunate graffiti, this place could be so much more beautiful. Of course, all that would require more money and manpower than is probably available, so I imagine it will stay this way for a while. As it is, it is still a very interesting and fascinating place to explore, and I am so happy to be here.
We entered our neighborhood, a quiet peaceful street, tucked away and surrounded by small homes and large apartment buildings, just blocks from the Vardar river. We had received a few photos of the home before arriving, but they clearly didn't do it justice! We were overwhelmed by the character and beauty of this house and feel very fortunate to live here. The kids spent two days deciding who would get which room, since they were too exhausted to argue about it the first day! The yard is simply beautiful--well landscaped and very large with a fence all around to keep Yotee in. We knew immediately that we were all going to be very happy and comfortable living here in Macedonia.