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Better late than never . . .
Dispatch #1

In which our heroine is introduced to Macedonian hospitality rituals

It's been two weeks since I arrived, and a lot has happened.  I'm getting settled in the office.  I have my own office (so far - most people have to share, so I don't expect this to last indefinitely), on the sunny side of the building, which makes a big difference.  This office is very dark - dark wood walls, dark blue carpets, heavy black furniture.  Very Communist Corporate.  Not the most pleasant space I've ever worked in.  The microfinance team was kind enough to donate some posters, though, and once I unpack I'll bring in some of my own stuff and dress the place up a bit.
 
I haven't found an apartment yet, but I've moved out of the hotel and into the guest house, which is very nice.  I have started looking at apartments, and am now suffering from my usual decision-making disorder.  I found 2 apartments, both in good locations, that I like.  One is a bit too big and more expensive, but it has really nice stuff (the owner was a diplomat in Nigeria for 4 years), and is more convenient to the office.  The other is in a nicer building, really close to Vero (god's gift to expats - the almost American supermarket), in a neighborhood that generally has a higher proportion of expats.  It has satellite TV, so I can get English-language news, but I don't like the furniture.  It's very big and formal and floral.
 
Its interesting how the whole apartment situation works here.  The landlords generally aren't landlords in the American sense.  People move out of their apartments and leave all their stuff behind so they can get the extra income from renting their home.  It feels a little creepy, actually.  Part of what you have to contend with when you move in is whether you can live with the existing furniture.  You can negotiate to a point to have stuff removed, but the whole thing is yours, lock, stock and barrel, from the sofa to the rugs, the pictures on the walls and knick-knacks in the curio cabinet.  Anyway, I'll come to a decision this week.  I'm getting tired of living out of my suitcases.
 
The past two weekends, there's been a fair going on in Skopje.  (Actually, its more like a really big market.)  The microfinance staff set up a booth there to advertise to the vendors, so I spent a large part of the past two weekends hanging out with them.  They're a great group.  After the fair closed up last night, Aldijana invited us all over to her house for coffee.  It was a pleasant visit, but long.  Her parents came in and talked with us for about an hour and a half.  You don't just "do coffee" here - first you get the coffee, then your host brings out cookies, then they bring out more drinks - there's a whole procedure involved.  Macedonians take their hospitality very seriously.

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