The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Sunday, May 3

No Pandora Here

They don't have Pandora in Macedonia.

It's a surprise as I take a break from language training and click on my tablet for some music. “No Pandora in your current country.” It probably has something to do with copyrights and other legal stuff.

Back in America, I got use to listening to Folk Rock from the 60s and 70s. It's music of my social activist era. But it's not available in Skopje.

It's not that Skopje is backwards. Actually this Capitol City appears quite modern. It's a city of about 550,000 where almost a third of the Country's people live.

My living space with fold down futon
My one room efficiency is in a modern part of town. I'm on the third floor and trees surround me. In the morning, sunlight floods through the windows dancing dappled patterns on the floor and walls. 

Earlier today, a couple of crow like birds (black with white on the body) squawked to wake up the morning and me too!

Morning coffee among the trees

I can walk out onto a large balcony. I love having an outdoor space. I have one chair, but my landlord says he'll bring another and a small table. In the corner, a flower pot sits neglected, but not for long. Planting time!

Outside tall sycamore trees line a wide boulevard – two lanes each way and a grassy area in the middle with more trees. Between highrise apartments, distant mountains hover over the horizon. Some are still snow capped. Lovely. It gives me a refreshing feeling even though cars wiz by.  

My boulevard and double decked bus with snow capped mountains in the distance
Across the boulevard about a block away, there's a cluster of stores including a supermarket. Wow, I've lucked out. Good karma is with me.

Though today, I'm hunting for the Green Market. It's called a bazaar in Ukraine and a farmer's market in the USA – a place for garden fresh produce.

Down a narrow alley lined by shops, I go. I walk past several clothing shops, a toy store, a barber shop and a bedding store. I'll remember the latter for another day since I'll need some sheets. These are not chain stores like the ones that have taken over America. They are run by Mon and Pop entrepreneurs.

Opening into a parking lot area, I find the Green Market. I congratulate myself. My first adventure. Success!

Today is a day for fresh salad. Big heads of lettuce, spinach, spring onions, radishes and more are displayed on the ground or in small stalls. I walk the aisles feeling a little intimidated since I'm not sure how I'll navigate through the purchasing of tonight's meal.

Peace Corps has been great in orienting us PCRV (Peace Corps Response Volunteers), but it's only been a week. Over the past 4 days, they answered questions and outlined essential health, safety, administrative and IT issues. And everyday we had 4 hours of language learning with an excellent teacher.  

Language learning works. I'm speaking “Makedonski.” I can say hello and goodbye, please and thank you. I can ask where, how much, how are you and even say, “nice to meet you.”

Of course there's more. I can introduce myself. Tell locals a little about the Peace Corps and what I'll be doing. Given enough time, I can sound out signs and guess at their meaning. But is it enough for the Green Market?

Alexandra introduced herself in English.  She worked for two years in London
Not to worry. The vendors are friendly and patient. You can communicate a lot with a few words and lots and lots of gestures. When in doubt of a price, ask for it to be written down. Numbers are universal.

One man insists that I take a “digital” of his eggs. Obviously he's proud. One of these XXL egg easily equals two large ones. As I say goodbye, he grabs my hand and I think he is saying, “Come back, come back again.” I will. His big smile makes me feel quite welcomed.
I'm ready to cook my first meal in my new home. It'll be curried lentils with olives, feta and spinach salad.

A 1st meal at home
It occurs to me that this is a meal I could share with my counterparts at Public.” 

 We only met for a few hours at the end of training, but already I'm getting a positive feeling for the leaders of Public, a civic engagement NGO.

I sense dedication. They talk about making Macedonia a better place by including the poor and marginalized.

Their passions hook into my social activism of earlier years when I worked with street gangs in Pittsburgh, organized for the inclusion of black construction workers in trade unions and started work at the Lafayette Urban Ministry.

My counterparts greet me with a gift bag. Inside is a bottle of Macedonian wine, a guide book of must-see sights and a big container of curry powder!

Imagine. They've been reading my blog and wanted to be sure that I didn't run out of curry. How sweet and thoughtful is that! We're going to get along just fine.

Natural trees to enjoy
So I'm thinking, “Tonight's meal will be a preparation for my first dinner party.” I'm looking forward to that gathering.

Macedonia may not have Pandora, but it has urban style, natural settings and a Green Market with the freshest seasonal foods. It has friendly caring people and an organization that wants to make a difference.

Who needs nostalgic feelings from folk rock music of the 60s and 70s when the challenges of real-life social activism awaits me at Public, my new NGO home for a year.  


  1. Jud, what a lovely description of your new home. I love the green market, the mountains and how fortunate you are to have personal outdoor space. The pictures look like vacation shots.

    1. Yes, it's been a great beginning of my assignment in Skopje.

  2. whoops, I think I already wrote the comment... but here it goes again. Just wanted to tell you how wonderful it all looks--your beautiful apartment, the view of the snow covered mountains, the double decker bus, the green market--all much more prosperous looking than Ukraine, isn't it? But still much to be done, I am sure. They are lucky to have you. And so sweet to make sure you have curry! Good luck on your new adventure.

  3. I keep trying to comment....see if this takes! Fantastic area and love your description of it. Trees and market. And Internet! Ilene