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Jan Menno Rozendal

2018-10-10 09:00 — Bitola, Macedonia

Peace

'Our last prime minister was a monster, and the new one is an imbecile.’

Harsh words… Spoken by a young man, twenty-something, who should still have the age to be full of ideals, not fatalism, cynicism and resentment. But he’s not alone. A young woman I meet tells about her education: she was meant to be a journalist, but since the crisis there are no more jobs for people like her. Now she’s back to school to become a nurse, and in the evening she takes German classes. Maybe her future lies elsewhere, just as so many of her compatriots have left the country. Because as I hear time and time again: Macedonia is politics. And politics means corruption.

Thankfully the even younger generation still has some childlike enthusiasm and innocence. We are at a book presentation of an illustrated poetry book for children. When the kids, my guess is they’re about 8 years old, know the answer to a question (like: ‘who can tell me the name of a fruit?’) they all put up both fore- and middle finger. Unknowingly, they are all making the peace-sign. As a guest in this country, I like little differences from home like that.

A couple of days back, we were unexpected witnesses to a children's birthday party in a restaurant: Ana is turning 10. She has invited both girls and boys, everyone is wearing their nicest clothes. They eat pizza and drink cola, and sing Happy birthday to you, dear Ana. In English. The cake is too big for the party, and the parents offer us a piece. Well, it would be rude to refuse such a gesture, right?

On yet another night I visit a ‘dancing exhibition’. It’s funny, here in Bitola, I really don’t care how unclear the announcement is: I’m going! It turns out to be a contemporary dance of about a dozen girls, ages ranging from about 6 to 16. The music is ambient, and slowly I doze off while proud parents make recordings on their mobile devices…

It's just the same at the international classical music-festival Interfest, really: more proud parents, more mobile phones on camera-mode. On a sunday, I am watching the prizewinners of the piano-competition, in various age-groups. I think the youngest is about 10, but boy can she play...

So much talent here. Hopefully the country can thrive from them and with them. That this youngest generation will not grow up in bitterness because of politics and corruption

Peace.