March 8th was Women’s Day in Macedonia….I know it was last week and I apologize for my tardiness in documenting a perfectly wonderful celebration. Not only a “Mother’s Day” or a Labor Day, or a Valentine’s Day……..but sort of all those things rolled into one and recognizing ALL women. It’s actually the International Day of women, recognizing women’s rights and labor contributions, but the Macedonians take it much farther than anything I’ve experienced elsewhere. I was told that all the women working in the Municipality would go to an off-site location for lunch and dancing. (OK, if only the women are going……dance with whom?) Monday I was told by my counterpart Lili to ‘wear a skirt’. And I’m thinking, “If I have to put on a skirt and wear heels in -5 degree weather, there BETTER be someone looking at my legs!” But I guess it’s one of those cultural differences because Tuesday when I waltzed into work wearing 2 pair of pantyhose with the requisite skirt and heels, (plus 2 jackets and a scarf), all the women were dressed in their festive best and ready to party. The mayor’s secretary went around handing out carnations with a little note signed by him (I’m hoping he didn’t do it himself because he was in Serbia) and there was much cheek-kissing and happy holiday-wishing. The men brought us food of various sorts and made a big deal over our appearance.
Now let me stop for a minute here and say that as an American businesswoman I questioned if this work-place celebration was really a positive thing for female professionals. In some ways, it’s another way of setting women apart and brings the focus on our appearance rather
than our work contribution. I asked if there was a similar day for men and was told–Every Day! And then on a more serious note was told that February 2nd was for men but nobody wanted to celebrate then because it was referred to as ‘Gay Day’ …..the general Macedonian
attitude towards homosexuality is decidedly negative, but that’s a whole different blog.
So at 12:30 all the women (24 of us) went to the front of the Municipality building and piled into taxis. About 25 minutes later, down a dirt road, we arrived at Restaurant Park. This little oasis turned out to be a complex including a large lake, 3 restaurants, a petting zoo, and a chapel. The place would be beautiful in summer, but when we walked in the main restaurant, I was loathe to remove even one of my jackets for cold. At
first the place was mostly empty but over the next 2 hours the place filled with over 100 women, the 2-man band started playing, wine, rakija and ouzo were served and dancing the Oro warmed the place up quite nicely. The meal started with a typical salad of shredded
cabbage, beets and carrots topped with an olive. After another hour of dancing there was chicken, the Macedonian version of a hamburger patty and boiled potatoes.
Back to dancing…the Oro is a rather nice dance–relatively easy and mostly irrelevant of
partners or music. Everyone holds hands and performs one grapevine step to the right, left kick, right kick, repeat. The person at the very front of the line is responsible for leading the group in whatever direction seems available and the person at the end of the line often has a napkin
or other such accoutrement twirling merrily in their free hand. Given the space, we sometimes ‘lapped’ each other. But the weirdest thing for me was when the CFO grabbed me and started slow-dancing with me….and we weren’t the only female ‘couple’ slow dancing together. So now the mystery of who we were going to dance with was solved….. and despite my cultural discomfort, I went with the experience. When in Macedonia……sorry, no pictures of that. I got home home around 6:30, a bit foot-sore from dancing in the beautiful sling-back heels my good friend Kim sent me, but happily tired.