Jan Menno Rozendal
2018-11-16 13:07 — Bitola, Macedonia
As often in life, the journey becomes the goal itself.
Such was the first sentence of my first blog during my stay in Macedonia, and applicable for the entire trip, now that I’m back in The Netherlands. Sure, I had goals I wanted to achieve in Bitola, both work-related and more personal. Some I reached, some I didn’t. But in the end, it were the unplanned, unexpected highs and lows that I will remember most. The things I saw and experienced, the people I met, with positive encounters (if you read this: you know who you are, and thank you for all the good times), as well as the negative (again, if you read this: you also know who you are, and yes you should be ashamed of yourself).
During my last week I visited Greece and Albania, went to Turkish class, met up with people from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria and, would you believe it, Frisia. But most of all I gleefully experienced a bit more of Macedonia, now that I still could. I took a long hike in the last of the Macedonian sun, visiting some places that started to mean something to me. I walked through the park, past the zoo, past the airplanes, up the hills... I had one more Shopska salad, one last Zlaten Dab (maybe two)... One last time I went to Heraclea, and sitting in the Theatre from the 2nd century AD, I looked back at a wonderful eight weeks.
During my stay, I read a book by Dutch actor Dolf de Vries about Macedonia. He stated it was a gloomy country, without much hope, which made him sad. Would I come to the same conclusion now? I have stated before that I was sometimes taken aback by the cynicism and negativity of the (young) people that I met. But now, walking through the city for the last time, I also saw a lot of quiet, satisfied men and women, just living their lives. I wonder: have I been spending too much time with outward-looking young people? Have I been involved with the average man (whoever that may be) too little?
Thoughts like these kept me occupied while a cat accompanied me in the midst of the Heraclea ruins. Me & cats: it’s an ongoing love story, whether at home or abroad. Matschka for cat was probably the first word I learned after being able to say hello, thank you and goodbye. The kitty started climbing up my legs until it was up my shoulders, allowing me to then walk around with it. When I left the archeological site for the last time, I left him at his friends, four of them lined up, just relaxing in the sun. Superior creatures.
All good things come to an end, I realize while I’m shifting through a couple of thousand (yes, it’s that bad…) pictures. I’ll be working at home on finishing the projects that I’ve started up in Bitola, so the connection will still be there for the next couple of weeks. But then again: won’t it always be there? A sad country, maybe, but one that I, despite all of its flaws, slowly fell in love with.
So yeah, Macedonia: this is not a farewell, it’s a see you later.