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Jan Menno Rozendal

2018-10-03 18:00 — Bitola, Macedonia

Identity

Everything’s an adventure in Macedonia: even something as trivial as applying for a library card. Every time that question: will we deal with someone who’s well in command of the English language, or will it be another use-your-hands-and-feet kinda thing? This time, we’re lucky: Aleksander (yes, another one) welcomes us in English and shows us around the building. In the cellar there is an English section, as well as a German one.

Of course Aleksander wants to know where we’re from, before our pictures are taken and we can receive our membership cards. The Netherlands, is my usual answer: Frisia would only cause misunderstandings and delay, I presume. As always Ainara is more fanatic: The Basque Country is her clear answer. Only when she meets a blank look, she gives in: Spain.

Am I less of a hairsplitter, or is it just part of my pragmatic Northern European identity? Speaking about that last word: the now infamous referendum about Macedonia’s name-change has been taken last sunday. A great majority voted YES, but the turnout was extremely low due to calls for a boycott of the entire voting. Both sides now claim victory over another: a new deadlock seems apparent.

To be honest, we don’t perceive a lot in Bitola of this ‘most historic day in Macedonian history in 27 years.’ In the afternoon, we check out one of the polling stations. It’s quiet there, the only thing that catches our eye is the sign that states it’s illegal to bring firearms to the place… For the rest, everything seems business as usual.

But is it? In the evening there’s some outcry in the main street: about a hundred people are parading with Macedonian flags, shouting the name of the country. To be clear: without ‘Northern’ in front of it. Our waiter seems unimpressed. When I ask him about it, he declares not to have voted. He didn’t like the phrasing of the referendum: too many loose ends. Just like the result, really: too many loose ends.