Happy 4th of July! This weekend, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in style – we hobnobbed with the Ambassador at the embassy picnic for Americans in Macedonia, and then spent a couple of days in Ohrid swimming in the lake and walking down the beautiful, winding streets of the old town.
Living overseas as a Peace Corps Volunteer has made me think a lot more about exactly what my views of my own country are. It can be frustrating to be treated as the spokesperson for your nationality, particularly when you don’t feel like you can relate to so many people you share that nationality with *coughdonaldtrumpsupporterscough*. Working for an organization whose mission includes promoting a better understanding of America around the world does come with a territory though, and over the last several months I’ve had the chance to engage in conversations about the United States, share my holidays, and generally be The American in the room.
My first experience at the US Embassy in Skopje was when I was there to take the foreign service exam, so it was nice to be able to enjoy the surroundings without so much stress. The embassy itself is a huge complex in the center of the city, up on top of a hill. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the embassy itself, but you can see the view from the huge lawn that overlooks the city. We were technically on US soil, and it definitely felt like being home – we ate cheeseburgers, drank beer, and played lawn games. People brought desserts from home, and I had my first funfetti cupcake in almost a year. It was wonderful.
Friday night we left the embassy and hopped on a bus to Ohrid for the weekend. Saturday morning we walked around Ohrid and explored the city, although I had a hard time tearing myself away from the gorgeous views of the water. Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest lakes in the world, and it sits on the border between Macedonia and Albania. We were there on a bit of a whirlwind tour in the fall, and in typical beach town fashion it really comes alive in the summer.
In the afternoon, we headed to the beach for a picnic. The water is cool and crystal clear, and after sweating to death in the heat for the last few weeks it felt heavenly to float around for a few hours.
The only downside to this whole trip is that it was a bit crazy figuring out how to get home. Buses run less frequently on Sundays in Macedonia and posted schedules aren’t exactly reliable, so it took a couple of trips back and forth to the bus station before we figured out how to get home. After almost 5 excruciatingly twisty hours through the mountains, the bus dropped us off on the side of the highway in Ovche Pole, about a 15 minute drive from Sveti Nikole, and we were treated to a beautiful sunset while we waited for Zoki to pick us up.