we just got back from the president's office. after going through security, we were escorted to the conference room by the president's secretary of protocol, and lined up properly for the photoshoot. the president came out and we all shook hands, then sat down. my father explained what the purpose of the visits and the talks on interreligious dialog were about. turns out that the president himself has been making overtures to the various churches and is having meetings this week with the various religious leaders for the purpose of getting them in all talking and working with each other to promote multi-cultural and multi-confessional tolerance. he offered his availability to the group for anything they could use his assistance with, and asked whether they would be willing to assist in his efforts as well. he's very charismatic, has a good smile. there was a certain amount of politics, statements made for the benefit of the macedonians in the party and for the press. kinda cool.
did some wandering this morning. gonna do some more in a little bit, maybe get a bite to eat.
well, this sucks. i lost a bunch of stuff i'd written to a computer freeze. need to remember to always save before suspending.
we went to dinner late, up on the the top of the mountain that borders skopje. there's a small, winding road that leads up the mountain to the old monastary. its a truly amazing piece of architecture, which i wish i'd had the opportunity to see in daylight. we got there late. reuvan [something] arrived today, and they met briefly with a contingent of the jewish community in skopje. the jewish community here is very small. apparently during wwII over the course of three days, they were all rounded up, sent to a camp, and gassed. Today, the numbers have grown to approximately 60. "briefly" ran for several hours, so we didn't arrive at the resturant that has been built into the old monastary until after 9. the resturant overlooks the city and is set up to maximize the view. peter postulated that the resturant is likely where the old dining hall was for the monastary.
one interesting conversation, sparked by the jew sitting between the catholic theologian and the orthodox priest, regarding the causes of the schism. i don't know about western europe, but in the US we don't really think much about the division between the catholic and orthodox churches. mostly, we don't think about the orthodox churches, except perhaps as an anachronism that shows up in certain ethnic neighborhoods. what we look at is the conflict between the catholic and the protestant churches, the history of Martin Luthar, of the Anglican church, and so on. but in 1150-something there was the Great Schism, that broke apart the church, creating the roman catholic church and the orthodox church. at the time, constantinople was the center of the church. over time, culture and language differences between rome and constantinople caused some friction. there were theological differences, for example, as to what kind of bread should be used for the sacrament. the orthodox maintained that leavened bread should be used, while the catholic insisted upon unleavened bread. in a sense, the schism was about yeast. the reality, of course, was more political thananything else, and involved the crowning of charlemagne by the roman church as the emperor. since there already was an emperor in constantinople, and there was only one empire, a division was inevitable. but i think the yeast story is more compelling.
what did the calvinist say after he fell down the stairs? "well, i'm glad *that's* finally over with."
macedonia has an unemployment rate of 50%. obviously this has to be their most pressing problem. idle hands and alla that. the city of skopje was devastated in 1963 by an earthquake that destroyed half the buildings. apparently some really interesting international efforts were made in response. all of yugoslavia pitched in to assist, and many countries lent assistance. apparently both the US and the USSR supplied assistance, sending troops to assist in the recovery. this was the first time the US and the USSR worked toward a common goal since WWII, and was entirely unprecedented in the era of the cold war. even more amazing - the US and Soviet troops shared barracks. the city rebuilt, choosing to sprawl rather than to build really tall buildings. currently, many of these buildings are in disrepair. jane tells me that the museum of contemporary art has an amazing collection - apparently picasso, rauschenberg and many other artists donated works to skopje after the earthquake - but the city is so poor that it is unable to maintain the collection or the building, so the roof leaks, and everything is in disrepair.
i think that the government has a long, hard task in front of them. without significant investment, and something akin to full employment, there will be tension and unrest. but there's no money for that investment, and the foreign investment may not be so forthcoming as long as the region is considered a tinderbox.
i find it strange that a culture in which some women feel compelled to wear full dresses that cover their ankles and headscarves to cover their hair also has copious breasts a-flashin' and nipples a-fondlin'. there's some sort of strange thing called "sexy sport clip" that involves a woman stripping in conjunction with some sort of sport paraphenelia - on a hang-glider, while holding a baseball bat, and so on. and there appear to be channels that at midnight become non-stop phone-sex advertisements. kinda interesting, channel-surfing, how many of these women are wearing crosses.