Young Life Macedonia Service Project 2013: Where the Old Ways Thrive

84 Horse in Valley SP Macedonia 2013

(A typical means of transport in villages.)

We stayed in the village of Bansko, near the city of Strumica, Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia. (That’s a mouthful.) This valley is covered with green houses growing vegetables. I’ve never eaten so much cabbage salad in my life. Just sayin’.We drove up into the mountains to get to our hotel. The area is breathtaking.

But let me digress for a moment. I do need to say something about the flight over. It was a first for me, in that my seat mate was holding a dog carrier complete with dog. The problem was it was too big to fit under the seat, which was not allowed. So, we crammed it in as far as possible and the teenage boy and I shared the crate at our feet. The sweet little dog kept escaping which made the flight attendant very upset, and she kept looking at me and speaking very, very sternly. I would just point to the young man, who was Greek, and smile. Okay, I must admit, I did laugh. She didn’t think it was funny at all, so Jim got up and moved toward the back (he was sitting in the aisle seat). Then I climbed up out of my tight little economy sized seat and retrieved the dog. This was all before take off. The boy then took the dog out during our climb up, up, and away because he was whining. The dog, not the boy. He pulled out a little bowl and hit the button for the cabin attendant. He obviously did not know the rules about seat belt signs and take off etiquette. So, being the kind person I am I poured some of my Evian into his bowl. The minute the seat belt light went off the attendant came to see what we needed, and again I was in trouble because the dog was out of his crate. I knew right then this was going to be the longest 2 hour flight EVER.

85 Puppy Seat Mate on Way to SP 2013

(Yes, that’s a dog crate.)

Our bus ride from the Thessaloniki Airport to Bansko was a two hour drive that took about four. The border crossing took over an hour, and there were only 20 of us. I knew when the buses of 50+ kids arrived in a couple of days it would be a bit crazy. We had 232 high school kids and their Young Life leaders arriving from all over Western Europe to build playgrounds and do work projects in the villages around Strumica.

Our hotel was a spa site for people with “ailments.” They had a hot springs fed pool and various rooms in the basement area for “treatments.” We took every room and every bed, and then some, for the week. However, the locals continued to come to the pool and for other things. I had a delightful conversation with an older gentleman who’d lived in New Jersey. He had returned home after suffering a stroke and was enjoying the pool.

86 Me and Brent at Hotel for SP Macedonia 2013

(Our home for the week. Shown here with Brent Wolff, camp director.)

Because of the hot springs, there was a Roman Bath ruins to the right of the hotel. And when I said to the right of the hotel, I mean you step off the sidewalk and there it is. The government is restoring the site, but we were able to walk all around inside the ruins. It was fascinating.

87 Me and Jim at Roman Ruins at SP 2013

(Jim and I in the Roman Bath ruins.)

The weather was beautiful most days. We had a wee bit of rain, which was a nice break. It also gave us beautiful clouds streaming through the valley between the mountains.

88 Clouds at SP 2013

(The building in the photo is the pool.)

There were cars, buses, motorbikes, bicycles and …horse drawn wagons everywhere. I tried all week to find a way to catch a ride on one of the wagons. But alas, it was not meant to be. Next trip.

89 Horse Carraige SP 2013

I would like to brag on the hotel staff and the people of this amazing country, in general. The hotel staff fed us delicious food all week. Our rooms were cleaned ever day (remember we had a hotel full of teenagers who spent the day on worksites, and were staying 4 to a room that was meant for 2). There were 280 of us in all. Everyone was so accommodating and the people in the villages where we did the projects were wonderful. Beautiful children! I will talk more about this on my next post, with more photos.

I would like to end this with a teeny rant by mentioning a few days after our arrival, the country experienced a time change. Yes, that’s right, day-light savings, where we fell backwards. Which I did, literally, at the end of the day. What I need to let you all know is that I had already done this earlier in Texas. So, have you already ascertained, I have now lost two, count them, two hours of my life. At my age, not a good thing. There it is. I just needed to get it out there. This, along with the long hours will help explain the picture at the end of my next post. You’ll see what I mean.

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