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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Riots, Garbage, Language, Sheep - A Glimpse of Life in Macedonia

Shortly after we returned to Macedonia from America there was a riot in Shutka. There was a street full of businesses that were being run illegally, not paying tax. The police and inspectors came in to shut them down, and a riot ensued. The people were throwing rocks and in the process seventeen policemen were injured. The following day we went to the church to help in the soup kitchen. It was strange seeing the once busy street with shops full of people shut down, and so quiet. As we neared the church there was a group of children standing in front of the gate. When they saw us coming, they began throwing rocks at us, apparently copying the example of their parents from the day before. This has happened three times, though thankfully we have not been injured, and I believe the worst of it is over. The thing that saddens me is that the children are just copying what they see. They so desperately need an example of something different. I pray that what they see and hear at the church will make a difference in their lives and will give them something to copy that will be of benefit to them.

Today as we walked toward the church we were overtaken by a group of children heading in the same direction. They insisted on taking us by a shortcut which turned out to be through a field of garbage, full of broken glass and ceramic, overgrown weeds, old shoes, and who knows what else. Two of them took Jenn a different way, which ended up being slower, so the girls with me were chanting, "Ние побрзо!" (we're faster!). For a couple of months now the church has had a second kitchen open in a poorer section of town. Friday was it's closing day, and so beginning with this week, we had a huge increase in numbers at the main kitchen. There are normally anywhere from 40 to 70. Monday there were over 100 and today over 90. We switched from the winter menu of soup to the summer menu of sandwiches and bananas. Today one child decided it would be fun to throw his banana peel across the room. Well, then others thought that was a fabulous idea, and peels started flying. Fortunately a few strict warnings and maybe a few kids getting escorted out nipped it in the bud. I was having visions of an all out banana peel fight with 90 children throwing banana peels around the room.

The resident dog, Spike, recently disappeared from inside the church compound. Shortly thereafter another dog appeared, apparently having been dumped over the fence by a passerby. The poor thing was not in good shape, and would lie listlessly in the corner, or under the desk that is randomly sitting in the yard. He finally gave up the fight and died last week.

There was a team visiting a couple weeks ago, and their presence brought a revelation about my language skills development that I'm glad for on one hand, and nervous about on the other. They all spoke English, and the local kitchen helpers that day only spoke Macedonian. The people who usually translate were not present, and one of the ladies was more confident of my language skills than I was, and she informed everyone that I knew Macedonian. So, I was pressed into service as translator, and was surprised at how much I knew. That was a huge step for me in language learning, but now I can't as effectively hide and not use it, which is somewhat uncomfortable, but good for me as well.

Walking home today I came across a man and two children with a middle sized lamb that had a rope tied around it's middle. The stout little shirtless boy was doing his best to push the lamb out of the luscious, green grass to wherever they wanted it to go, but it stubbornly refused. The man proceeded to grab it's wool and lift it to the path, but just as soon as he put it down, it found the grass again. I had to laugh, the boy reminded me so much of my brother and our days on the farm, only this was in the middle of the city, surrounded by apartment buildings. It's truly a different world here, but one I love very much.