Monday, May 18, 2009

Skopje Top Ten List

Yesterday we had a meeting of the IWA Newsletter Committee to prepare for the September issue. As one of the new Co-Chairs, I thought it important to attend and see if I could assist in any way. There was a lively group a women full of fantastic ideas that fit with the "newcomers" theme for the issue. One idea in particular has inspired me to post my thoughts to this blog....our top ten favorite things about Skopje. In our discussion, we noticed how everyone is quick to discuss the negative things about life here i.e. the crazy drivers, the litter, the stray animals, the beggars, etc., but rarely do people talk about the things that make Skopje so wonderful. So, here it goes, my favorite things about Skopje.

1. (and my contribution to the group 10) The astounding mountain views that surround the city. I am amazed that after nearly a year here the mountains still captivate me with their texture, color, and absolute beauty. I am able to look past the overflowing dumpsters teeming with hungry cats and the boring Soviet Era architecture and be blown away by the majestic peaks. I love this most about Skopje.
2. I love watching children walking to and from school with their grandparents. When I was young, my grandmother lived 25 miles away and we saw her on occasional weekends. I love to see how family-based the society is, it warms my heart and I hope these children know how fortunate they are to have such close relationships with their extended family.
3. The amazing fresh vegetables and fruits, and I mean fresh. Many are locally grown, and when they are in season, the prices are rock-bottom. I bought gorgeous strawberries last week for less than a dollar a kilo (2.2 pounds). Cucumbers for 60 cents a kilo! You could never find prices like that in the US. Delicious tomatoes, fragrant herbs, and the list goes on...a veggie paradise.
4. Street vendors who sell the produce on corners. I remember last August when the watermelons were in season and there were carts full of them on the street corners. Deeply tanned men and women would attach their scales to the trees and weigh them for you on the spot. How charming is that?
5. Unlike most of my friends, I like that I have to buy a new loaf of bread every day or two. I love that they do not use preservatives and the bread is more natural. I love the many varieties of bread available. I love that there are at least 5 shops in walking distance of my home that sell fresh bread. And, I love watching people walking past my house carrying their purchases. I think it is a great reason to get out, chat with your neighbors, and get moving!
6. The smell of roasting peppers in the fall during ajvar preparation. Once the peppers are harvested and prepared for roasting, the air is perfumed with the most wonderful aromas. I am getting hungry just thinking of it!
7. The fact that I have seen very few insects inside our home. A couple of reasonable sized spiders show up every once in a while, and the occasional bee, but overall this has been the best place we have lived in terms of insect control. No monster sized spiders like in Lux, and no cockroaches like in Doha!
8. The IWA (International Women's Association) has been a terrific source of information and friendship for me. I feel like the transition to life here was simplified by my involvement with this great group of ladies, so I am happy to be a contributing member of the organization.
9. The relative safeness of life in this city. Yes, you do have to take precautions and be smart, but overall, things are pretty safe. Special care must be used in particular areas, but our neighborhood is not one of them. Kids can play unattended and freely, neighbors look out for one another, and everyone is out enjoying the weather. Of course, we still lock our doors and such, but when my husband is away, I still feel very safe alone in our home. That is priceless.
10. The fact that everything is so close. Skopje is a small city and very accessible. I can get wherever I need to go rather quickly and easily. Traffic is no where near as bad as in the US and that is quite refreshing. Heck, most of the things I need I can walk for anyway!

So, there you have it, a few of the things that have helped me enjoy our time here a bit more. Maybe you should come visit us and find some for yourself!

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