This past week (and really, past 9 days because I am a bit behind on my posting this week) has been, far and away, the BUSIEST week of my time here. Work has been really picking up, travel is still going on, and now I’m trying to get stuff all in line for when I come back home in a month (one month from today, crazy to think about!)
Part of me is really glad work has been getting busier, because before this past week, I seemed to have a lot of downtime at work. In my normal 6.5 hour day, I’d maybe have work to do for 5 hours of it, and 90 minutes of nothing. This past week has completely changed that: I’ve been staying later a few days because there is just so much to get done, which is good, albeit a bit tiring.
I am part of this incredible opportunity to do work for the European Union in a cross-border project with Albania. My office, along with another in Skopje and one in Tirana, Albania, are developing a two year program to provides grants, trainings, and networking sessions to budding women entrepreneurs along the border of Macedonia and Albania. My role has been designing all of the communications material, which is fun, but there is just a lot to design. On top of that, communications between the offices is chaotic, with lots of changes being suggested constantly, and every material must be in three languages: English, Albanian, and Macedonian. It’s busy, but it’s better than being slow.
The weekend did not slow down at all either. Halle (the other UMich intern I am travelling with) and I caught a midnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria, except we first accidentally boarder a bus to Belgrade, Serbia, and only realized once the bus was down the road from the station. Luckily, we made it to Sofia with no hiccups after that.
Sofia is charming, captivating, and a good mix of history and modernism. We spent most of the day walking around the city, admiring the architecture and relative quietness of the city.
Other highlights of the trip included a lot of coffee drinking, meeting a cute cat friend in the streets (there’s lots of stray cats, he was just the nicest one we met), and stepping way back in time into the oldest building I had even been in. The Church of St. George was built in the 4th century, which means it is very casually about 1650 years old. The oddest part was that, built around the church and remains of a Roman city were a hotel and the Ministry of Education. The blending of history here was interesting for sure.
One final thing I would like to share is that Balkan food is INCREDIBLY good. Like, seriously good. We went on a free food tour of Sofia where they took us to 5 restaurants and fed us all kinds of delicious food. Here in Macedonia, I had a really delicious fish stew for lunch called телешка чорба. They also do it with beef, but the fish one just looked way better, and it tasted really good! A little oily, but very flavorful. Give Balkan food a chance when you can!