Young Life Macedonia Service Project 2013: Crossing Cultures Through Service

90 Me and Macedonian Girl's Dance Troup

(Such beautiful girls! And you should see them dance!)

On the last day of our trip, the mayor of Strumica put together a celebration from the city for our group. It was incredible! They have a huge plaza in the center of city, and that’s where it was held. Lots of music, lots of dancing, lots of celebrating!

91 Kandern:Basel Worksite SP 2013

(This is the Kandern/Basel/Croatia group.)

This is the beginning of what we were celebrating. Kids and their Young Life leaders building a playground at an elementary school. They also painted the mural on the building in the background.

92 Completed Service Project 2013

(Here’s the final product! And the children are loving it! So fun! This is one of the two Munich sites.)

We built six playgrounds, painted and repaired fences, painted murals on school buildings, to name a few of the things that happened during the week. The kids that came on the service project are from international schools in the London area, Munich, Brussels, Kandern, Basel, and Croatia. These are all areas where Young Life is taking place. At the end of each work day we had Young Life Club! It was a great week.

93 Me and Macedonian kids

(Rachel Miller, Lucie Crighton, and myself with Macedonian kids from the middle school in Strumica.)

94 Service Project Macedonia 2013

(All 280 of us in the Strumica Town Plaza!)

The above photo was taken Friday afternoon. We had our final Young Life Club that evening back at the hotel. Then it was time to begin packing up. Jim and I had an 8:00 am flight out of Thessaloniki the next morning. We, along with about 10 other staff, loaded back onto the same small bus we had arrived in the week before. Bad news being it was 2:00 am. We rode the two hours, which turned into four hours plus one because of changing time zones, back to the Thessaloniki Airport. Checked in and waited another two hours for our flight to take off for Munich. I’ll close with the final photo of me at the airport just before boarding. This is where the two hours I lost in the last couple of months due to “day-light savings time” comes into play. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

95 Me at End of Service Project

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.