It has been one and half months since I came to Macedonia so far. For me, coming to Macedonia was a fast and firm decision without all the prior planning and organizing. Don’t get me wrong, I checked my receiving organization as well as my project and its pros thoroughly, however, I hadn’t done any prior research about Macedonia and Bitola, because I wanted everything to be a big surprise for me. I wanted to explore everything through my own eyes and experiences (I love adventure!) instead of what I see on the Internet.
When I first set foot on Macedonian soil with a heavy backpack and small suitcase , I was extremely excited (and tired!) because I didn’t know what I was going to get from my EVS Journey. Am I going to love the city? People? Food? I had so many questions floating around in my mind, however, my answers were soon to be answered.
First, as I was traveling from Skopje to my project destination Bitola, I was mesmerized by the unique beauty of the nature which is extremely well preserved, so untouched. I was very amused by the friendliness and inquisitiveness of people around me. I felt almost like at home!
On my first day in Bitola, I had the chance to meet with other volunteers as well as my co-workers. They were so friendly towards me that I was very enthusiastic about working with them for the remaining months of my stay. They were eager to answer my questions which I had so many!
After a couple of days, I began to organize my own events and started to attend other events or workshops organized by Sfera. I was especially enthusiastic about going to Rehabilitation center to meet the kids with special needs and play with them for a couple of hours. It turned out to be my favorite activity here now.
I organized movie nights (I still do) where I met new people in Bitola. I also organize Language Cafe event, ArtAttack, I prepare posters for events, translate documents, participate in events organized by other volunteers and organizations such as Red Cross. Besides these, I organize my own workshops and activities in advance.
I take Macedonian classes one hour a week which is very helpful for interacting with locals. I have also participated in school events and food donation event for the needy during the Easter week. All of these activities and ‘tasks’ leave me with an overwhelming satisfaction because interacting with people is my favorite thing to.
In my leisure time, I had the opportunity to explore Bitola and surrounding places like Ohrid which left me very impressed with all the Turkish-Macedonian cultural similarities as well as historic bond between Turkey and Macedonia. I was surprised to see all the mosques, artifacts from Ottoman times, Hamams, similar foods like Türlü Tava, and linguistic similarities. I was expecting some similarities with Macedonians due to shared history but I wasn’t expecting that much. ?
Despite the similarities, I had the chance to experiment my firsts here too. For example, I celebrated Easter in Bitola which was very amazing. It was very different to see all those people in the church with candles in their hands praying and then eating eggs. That was definitely a first for me in every way.
I’m satisfied with my stay here so far with all the cultural stuff and friendliness of people. I have still three months to go, so still have time to have more experience with workshops, events, local life and Macedonian cuisine for sure. I will keep you updated.