brni (brni) wrote,

macedonia log - day... who knows?

saturday afternoon

i finally feel human. it's about 2pm and i've managed to eat some bread with honey and drink some tea without breaking into a sweat and getting dizzy.

Friday was the lost day. entirely. dunno how much of that i was feverish for. my first thought was that i'd eaten something bad the night before, but i think actually that i picked up some sort of bug. couldn't even bring myself to pick up the computer and write. the pain in my back and kidneys is gone now, and i think that the remaining headache is caffiene withdrawal. watching "smallville" on tv. never did understand clark's fascination with lana, when chloe was so obviously superior.

learned some about the orthodox church. unlike the catholic church, which is strictly hierarchical, the orthodox church is more ... distributed. there are 2 terms for different levels of autonomy: "autonomous" and "autocephalous" (that's not quite the right spelling, but wtf). so for example, the greek orthodox church, the russian orthodox church, and the serbian orthodox church are autocephalous, which means that they are completely independant of each other. the macedonian orthodox church had been part of the serbian orthodox, but had requested to become autonomous (where they mostly make their own decisions, but certain key decisions were made by the serbian hierarchy), but this was denied. eventually, the serbs granted autonomy, but by this time the macedonians wanted full autocephaly.

this is where it gets interesting. the macedonian government has taken the side of the macedonian orthodox church, and when the serbian church assigned a new leader of the macedonian church, he was imprisoned. no serbian orthodox clergy are permitted in the country. the serbian church has blocked macedonian orthodox encephaly, and have solicited the support of the greek orthodox church. the greeks, of course, do not recognize the existence of macedonia (they claim that the *real* macedonia is part of greece, and that the macedonian state is a pretender to the name, probably out of fear that macedonians in greece will try to seceed and join the macedonians in macedonia. however, when lithuania was breaking free of russia, the greek orthodox church was very quick to recognize the independance of the lithuanian orthodox church, so there's some indication that the russian orthodox will recognize the macedonian church in retribution. in the meantime, the macedonian orthodox church is essentially isolated. those orthodox clergy who come to this country and talk with macedonian orthodox clergy are taking some political risks.

in the meantime, the albanian muslim minority (which constitutes some 30+%) is undergoing some internal conflict. there's even been some physical violence. the good news out of all this is that ismael bardok, the head of the islamic theological school, is poised to potentially come out on top in all this. he's the one that my dad has been working with setting up all these conferences. this would be good, as he is the one who has been pushing for greater discussion and peaceful coexistence between muslims and christians in the country.

which reminds me of the discussion with the president. at one point he took a point that my father had made about teaching ecumenism at the theological schools to make a statement that he said he knows will "upset some of those in the religious communities" - which is that he absolutely opposes the idea of allowing children to be segregated away of people of other religions at the youngest ages. i found it amusing that my dad didn't pick up that he was making a political statement at that point - this was a statement for the papers and for the religious communities, not really related to what my dad's group was there to talk about at all.

anyway, one of the things that happened was that the islamic community is undergoing some internal turbulence. when the president was talking of meeting with the religious leaders, he said something about meeting with the current head of the islamic community "if his delicate health permits." which is the story that is being told to the community while the power struggle is resolved - either he will recover, or he will resign due to "health issues." the latter seems more likely at this point, and then the question remains as to who will be the successor. one thing that has apparently helped counteract some of the bad press is that some of the interrelegious dialogue lectures and meetings have been televised, and this has had positive influence in the larger community, and may have an impact in whether ismael ends up playing a greater role than dean of the theological school. i wish him luck - he really is an amazingly nice person, with the personality that makes people want to work with him.


the sun came out. wow.


went walkabout until the sun came down. found the national archeological museum, but i got there after it closed. alas. i bought some slivovics to bring back to the states, and some sort of mystery liquer (Lavona Rakija). liquor is reasonably cheap. i was amused to find bottles of bush mills and jamisons in the supermarket, for less than 1100 denari. that translates to about $12.

i am still sorta taken aback at the high cost of goods, given a 50% unemployment rate. people are really scrounging for work. two doors down is a house that, well, to say that it is falling apart is to understate. half of it is in rubble on the side of the street. and yet, people are living in this house. it's got electric (the light was on in the remaining upstairs window tonight), and they've got clothes out on a line. next door to that is another house that appears to be assembled out of found objects. as i passed by this evening, an old man was grilling peppers on the street, and in the yard, a younger man was splitting wood while a dog watched. i'm in the center of the largest city in the country, and people are splitting firewood, only a few doors down from a high end exotic fabrics boutique.

one thing that has not changed in the former yugoslavia since i was a kid is the large number of stray dogs and cats. can't go for too many blocks without seeing a cat perched on a trash bin, looking for food. when i was a kid hanging out in Novi Sad, we used to go out to the park. All the kids gathered there. On one side of the park they were building a new apartment building, and we'd break into the lot and steal wire; the thick wire was bent into the shape of a slingshot, the thin wire we'd cut and bend into horseshoe shapes and those were the shots. I'm sure my mother thought I'd put my eye out, but that didn't happen to any of us. The other thing we'd do is light fires. We used old wood, stuff taken from the work site, and so on, but discovered that the best fires were dried catshit fires. There was a lot of fuel.

i was drenched in sweat when i got back. it was too cool for just a shirt, and too hot for a coat. i'm not sure if the sweat was just a little overheating, or if i overexerted myself. this is the first time i have been out of the room in the last two days, and coming back in it was hot, and smelled of sour sweat. i'm in the lounge now, having opened the windows to air things out.

my gut is still sorta tense. bleh.

my dad called from ohrid. it is apparently raining and bitterly cold there. he said that they got to tour some beautiful monasteries, but that he is chilled to the bone. he expects that they'll be back around 7 or so.

one of the strange things in this part of the world are the squatlets. for example, the resturant we went to on thursday is a reasonably fancy resturant. it's in the old turkish part of town. to enter the resturant, you walk in, and then up some spiral stairs, and that's the resturant. downstairs is the kitchen and the WC. the WC is unisex, i guess - there's only one door. inside, everything is marble - marble floor, marble tile. it's really quite beautiful. to the right and to the left are two sinks, and on the opposite side of the sinks are doors. through the door is the toilet: again, marble floors and walls, and in the center, a porcelain hole with a place for your feet. no rail, no support of any kind. i haven't yet figured out how to use one of these things for anything but peeing. it does explain why nobody here wears a coat that goes past their waist. i am the only person here with a trenchcoat. and the only people i saw with coats that went below the waist were the three american women in the peace corps.

i've always been somewhat clueless about fashion, about interpreting the minute signs that many people use as their primary non-verbal communications skill. i think this is why i've never felt comfortable just walking into a club where i don't really know anyone. i don't know how to connect. here i feel even more clueless. there's a shriekback song about this: "do you know what rubber means? do you know what leather means? can you read the signs?" here i can't read them, or fear that i may be misreading.

speaking of which, the fashion channel dropped off the TV right as ramadan started. i'm wondering whether that is because of ramadan (perhaps the occassional nipplage is offensive to some), or if there is some other reason. it is interesting to be in a place where ramadan is actually relevant.

i finished "Vanishing Point," btw. great book. thanks kim. :) i guess the best description would be a mix of tim powers and connie willis. michaela roessner is the author. i'll need to check out some of her other stuff. currently blowing through a thin macedonian fairy tale book which is really cheesy. hopefully the macedonian folk tale book i got will be a little more intellectually stimulating. but i think that i'll be working on the caitlin r. keirnan book i'd gotten, "low red moon." who'd have thought that someone with such a sweet name could produce a book this gritty? i started it before and decided to read something lighter - mood wasn't right.

the label on this tea bag says:


go figure.

i'm debating whether dinner would be a good thing. or not. so far in the past 2 days i've had 1 piece of break, 1 piece of cheese, one sesame ring thing (sort of like a bagel, but not dense), and some napolitanke wafer cookies.

interesting thing. folk music is very popular here. i've heard workmen whistling traditional folk songs as the mix cement. you're as likely to hear folk music on the radio as you are to hear anything else. and there's this thing called "turbofolk" (you have to roll the r in turbo for this to sound right). jane was telling me about turbofolk - it's like folk with pop, and the most important part of it are the women with big breasts. i've seen some videos that i'm guessing are turbofolk - it's like britney spears does folk music or somesuch. "tasteless" is the word that jane used.

ceca (svetlana raznatovic), one of the most famous turbofolk stars in yugoslavia was recently arrested. she was married to Arkan, who was the leader of one of the serbian death squad militias - far more radical and evil than milosevic. there was some fear for a while that Arkan would stage a coup. I believe that Arkan was killed. later on, the prime minister of serbia was assassinated. so now she has been arrested for involvement in the assisination plot, and madonna has taken notice and now wants to produce a movie about this poor turbofolk star, starring herself, of course. all things i need to look up when i have an internet connection.

speaking of which, the astoria cafe got a new internet connection, and were advertising their new high speed connection: 64k/512k. damn have i been spoiled.

satuday night, a little after midnight

is there meat in this? no, no meat. what's this then? ham.


wake up call is at 4am. for some reason, i'm not sleepy. can't imagine why. it's not like i didn't sleep for a day and a half.

it looks like the phone sex ads are still on tv, so i'm guessing that the fashion channel going away had nothing to do with ramadan. it was probably pirated and they got caught...

so i guess sleep is indicated. i guess.

i think i want a new tattoo.
Tags: macedonia
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