I mentioned before how Skopje is still developing and how they have some issues with maintaining litter, however, they do have a good system in place for trash removal. There are numerous dumpsters throughout the city, and most folks have to take their garbage to the closest dumpster for removal, particularly around apartment buildings. Most of the time there are lots of cats climbing in and out, and it is heartbreaking to see the tiny kittens digging for food or sleeping underneath to stay cool. In our neighborhood, however, we have trash collection at our home twice a week, although we never really know when those 2 days will be! It seems to change weekly....lol. We were instructed to place our cans out on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but sometimes they pick up on Wednesday, sometimes Thursday, or sometimes not at all! Last week, on Friday, the sanitation service politely rang our doorbell to see if we had trash to remove, since he could not access our bins (our property is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence). He explained in Macedonian, which even Chris had trouble understanding, that this was a one-time exception Friday pick-up. We had to laugh at the insinuation that there was a regular schedule involved.
The most unusual thing about the service is the hours at which they conduct their business. After noticing that no one had placed their cans out on Tuesday, I waited until Wednesday morning to put ours out. Wednesday night, we checked before bedtime to see if it was picked up, and it was not. We lamented that perhaps there would not be a pick-up until Saturday, but at 11:37pm, I was startled by an extremely loud rumbling. Frightened, I woke up Chris, who determined that the sound was caused by the garbage men! At almost midnight, they were collecting the trash! Although, they conduct their business unusually, at least they keep our garbage moving.
Recycling is another curious thing here. I read on the USAID website a while back that they have provided guidance and grants to Macedonia to encourage/develop a recycling program. Although I have seen recycling bins inside the Embassy, I have only seen one on the streets, and it doesn't seem as though folks even attempt to recycle---except for the Roma. You can see them digging through dumpsters and pulling out all the plastic bottles and cardboard. Many even have specially equipped bicycles with huge metal baskets on a trailer to carry their finds. I assume that they must take it somewhere and receive some kind of reimbursement or they would do it, but I can't find any information about that. We have decided to save them the trouble of digging, and we bag our plastics separately and deposit them beside the closest dumpster to our house. They are usually gone in minutes!
It is truly an odd scenenario here-- on one corner there is a charming, shaded wrinkled old man selling tomatoes and melons from his garden, while across the street there will be a deeply tanned, dirty man digging through the dumpster for anything he can sell/use. One is fortunate to have a plot of land for a garden, one lives in squalor in a crowded camp. I hope that someday this society will find a way to curb the %30 unemployment rate and find both of these men a more productive way to survive, but for now both seem at ease with their lives. More on the Roma next time.