‘Twas the day before Christmas (American), and all through the Municipality, they wanted to party, but the Mayor was thinking practicality. Though the celebration was planned, and the budget was allocated, word from the central government came that no party should be tolerated.
OK, it wasn’t a mandate, but the central government ‘recommended’ that no funds be spent for a general office party and my co-workers were sad. I left for Veles on Thursday
evening anyway and was going to miss being the only one in the room that didn’t understand a single thing(NOT!), but I later heard that a modest celebration took place at the restaurant ‘Tourist” that Friday. (I still shudder when I think about the 2 nights I had to spend in that
hotel during my site visit back in November.)
Not to worry–my ‘department’ of Communications and Development had its own celebration planned for Tuesday, Dec. 29th. We left work at 3:00 and went to a nearby restaurant.
Now ‘restaurant’ does not compare with your local Macaroni Grill or Chile’s. For one thing, this is a small town with a >40% unemployment rate. The size of this restaurant was only a little larger than my Florida living room. We entered and immediately went upstairs to the seating
area…I suspect downstairs was the kitchen, but I never actually saw it. There was a tiny bar tucked in the corner and a wood stove to heat the place. Our table for 12 was already set up with plates and salads.
Now have I told you how delicious the salads are here? 1) Potato salad made with sunflower oil and vinegar, 2) Platters of pickled cabbage, beets, green tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers. These served with glasses of Rakija, Ouzo or Vodka as the recipient requests. We were joined by the Mayor who made a point of shaking hands with
me as well as recognizing everyone at the table. There was no ‘ordering’. We were there for the traditional dish: Pastermaika. Each town does it a little differently, but think elongated pizza dough with a thin layer of egg and a ton of ham. This was served with home-made wine
provided by the director of the department….the one on the chair.
Dinner was followed by dancing the traditional Oro where people hold hands and continue in one direction around the room. (Grape-vine for those who recognize dance steps.) There was other dancing, too
and I have to admit how much I love to dance. Everything was light, and fun, and when you’re dancing you usually don’t have to worry about TALKING–a weak skill for me in this country. The party was over around 9:00–a very sensible time, and it was quite pleasant to walk home with a take-home
bag in hand and a glow in my heart!
The next day one of my colleagues came around surreptitiously ‘collecting’ for the party. I think it was subsidized because they were only asking for 500 Denari per person…about $11.00. When I tried to ask ‘how much’ a finger was
shaken at me and I was told NO. Everyone wanted copies of the pictures I’d taken and said how much they enjoyed having me with them–what magnificent people!
And New Year’s Eve is the big event around here. Work was over at 2:00 on Thursday and we only worked from 8:00-10:00 on Friday….I know, I also thought, “Why bother?” but that’s what they do over here. This 2-hour work day was followed by a small gathering in a coffee shop, and then the weekend began. My New Years was very quiet. I walked down to the city center expecting crowds, music and fireworks, but alas…the city celebration was apparently another casualty of the economy. I still got to watch various fireworks going off in the hills and surrounding neighborhoods and reflected on what really embodies a “Happy” New Year. But that’s food for another post.