The outskirts of Sveti Nikole is dotted with abandoned factories. When Macedonia was still a part of Yugoslavia, this small town thrived; when you talk to people about their lives before independence, they fondly remember how everyone had a job, and paint an idyllic picture of stability and success. The economic reality in Macedonia now – struggling industry, the mass exodus of young people to other countries, high unemployment – is visible all around. Despite these conditions, people in Macedonia take a pleasure in life that’s so hard to find in the US.
Yesterday I learned a new word (чмае) that literally means to sit around doing nothing, which is something you see going on all over the place at all hours of the day here – sitting around a coffee shop, sitting in the park, sitting and chatting the day away, watching the world go by. My American desire to always be productive has clashed with this slow approach to life on more than one frustrating occasion, but I’m slowly learning to enjoy sitting around doing nothing.
We also took our first trip to the family farm yesterday. Our family raises pigs, but also has goats and chickens, and an adorable guard dog. Their farm used to be bigger, but they had to sell part of their land to the government for the construction of the new highway that will eventually directly link us to Skopje. We ended up here accidentally; on our walk among the abandoned factories, we realized that we were right around the corner. Things I had forgotten about farms: pigs are enormous, and I am mildly afraid of chickens (I mean, with their beaks and claws and beady little eyes and unpredictable flight patterns, who wouldn’t be?)