Volunteer's Blog

Study Visit on Development of Capacities for Work with (I)migrants project

Study Visit

Macedonia, 12 – 20 January 2017 (Act Global & Partners)

Struga is a town situated in the south-western region of the Republic of Macedonia, lying on the shore of Lake Ohrid. The town of Struga is the seat of Struga Municipality. Basic on the census on 2002, the city of Struga has 16,559 inhabitants and the ethnic composition was Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, others. As part of the country project, this town is a perfect for continuing our project on Development of Capacities for Work with (I)migrants”.

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Countries that involved in this project are Indonesia, Bulgaria, Germany, FYR-Macedonia. Indonesia as one of the participant country on this project, through Act Global Bali, gets involved by sending 3 Indonesian participants to Struga to bring more material of the projects and the activities in this city take 9 days, started from 12th January – 20th January 2017.

Our journey to Macedonia started with our flight from Bali on 11th January 2017 to Malaysia then Dubai and continued to Turkey and ‎Skopje as our last stop. The flight taking hours but we enjoyed because there was entertainment device provided on the flight. We can watch a movie or play the game.

During our flight trips, there were some exciting moments we had along the trips and we had the chance to see a glimpse of Turkey because when we arrived it was already dark and for the first time I had experienced to touch the real snow that night… It was a dream comes true for, at last, I touch the real snow.

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We spent a night at Sokullu Caddesi, a location of the apartment of one participant’s uncle from Turkey that joined the project with the Act Global Bali before. We received their warm welcome and their hospitality like we already know them for years. It was so wonderful to meet them and the next day they took us to the Macedonia embassy in Taksim to get our entrance visa before we continue our flight to our destination, Macedonia.

Turkey surely a nice country and before we left to an airport, the uncle took us to see around the area and tried their traditional food, kebab and some other more and I learned my first Turkish language, Çikiş in Turkish which means exit which I saw that sign on one supermarket we shopped.

There were quite nice things we saw along the way, like old buildings, unique shops, university and many more. Even it was cold that time and the ice start melted made the road wet and a bit slippery but the view looks wonderful and I love the fresh air that breeze. We went around to see some other places more and at last, we stopped and grab the taxi to reach the airport. Sadly we cannot see more of Turkey because we were running of time and must in hurry to reach the airport for our next flight. Wish next time there will be another chance to go and see everything more details and relax.

Our flight left Istanbul Ataturk airport at 20.10 p.m. and arrived in Skopje airport, Macedonia at about 19.40 p.m. it was so freezing when we arrived and it was surely much colder than Turkey. A taxi already waiting for us and the trip continued to our last stop in Struga, it took hours and along the way. It was amazing because everything I saw from the car’s window like covered with a white blanket; it was like in the fairy tales book. For the first time, I saw the beauties in the coldness, suddenly I can feel everything was so serene and peaceful. The view getting darker and hard to see because the snow kept falling and the temperature went down. It was so cold and even the warmer machine inside the taxi car still could not be blocked the coldness but we were very tired and soon all of us fall asleep. At last, we arrived at our hotel. We received a warm welcome from Ms. Aini, our project manager, and the hotel owner; we had a quick chat and then soon after went to our room and take a rest, so we will be ready with full energy for the next day activities.

The next morning, I woke up and saw throughout the room window, the snow this morning look so fabulous. We went down to have breakfast, tried the best fruit tea I ever taste and since then it was always my choice. I like the air in Montenegro hotel where we stayed, the hospitality and the location near to everywhere. I rushed to go outside to really enjoyed the snow and feel it falls on my head. It felt so good even could not stay too long outside without the thick jacket, hand glove and all equipment to prevent cold air. I will never forget that great sensation.

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A bit later that day, Igor, one of our host in Macedonia took us to see Vevcani Carnival, one of the most famous village festivals based on old pagan beliefs and rituals that the custom believe is over 1,400 years old and held on 13th and 14th of January each year, on the Vasilitza – Orthodox New Year. I found out more than the carnival itself is actually a tradition under masks, which is called Sveti Vasilja (Vasilica). All of us walking a bit to higher land and blended with our faces covered with masks. It was so cold and the snow falls during the time. The ice piles up but it’s made the scenery looks more beautiful and lovely. The more about the carnival said that this is dedicated to St. Vasilius, The Great. Most of the citizens participate in their own costume creations and makeup. They parade along the way down to the hill and went up again. The music played along the parade and still when all of us ready to go back to our hotel later on.

In the afternoon after we saw the carnival, we sat in one nice café and tried the home-produced hot Rakia or Rakija which said it was the collective term for fruit brandy. The alcohol content of rakia is normally 40% ABV, but home-produced rakia can be stronger (typically 50% to 80%, even going as high as 90% at times) but it tastes good and helps to reduce the coldness. We stay for more hours to see more of people coming, laughter and songs made the air that day a bit warmer and so lovely but then we have to go before it’s getting too dark and the temperature seems going down again.

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The next day, we met the other participants from Germany in the hotels and after breakfast, we had a city game, an activity about to fill the tasks written, to get pictures of places and things. It was so fun and awesome; even that morning really cold but the sunshine and places that I visited to make the air feels so perfect.

We visited places written in the tasks given; we went to the clear water of The Black Drin river (Crn Drim) that said starts at the lake and divide the city, we went to some churches too but we were not allowed to take pictures because each painting was protected from the camera light or anything that might harm the quality of the paintings, the gracious colorful paintings with story on each image, therefore, we took pictures from outside buildings. We continue our step to another task and at one time, we stop and tried the cake at the local cake shop and had a cup of nice tea for each of us. The sky still cloudy and more tasks to do, this time we getting local nuts and tried it and in the end of the task, all of the participants were gathered in one nice restaurant near the river.

The restaurant looks so nice outside and it was warm inside. On the brick wall, decorated with traditional clothes of woman and man and I saw pottery in a different shape. We enjoyed hours sitting there with the local great food and nice traditional music playing. It was a wonderful lunchtime we had. After lunch, we returned to our hotel but we stop at shoe shop at local market and Diana bought a pair of new boots and I captured the process how she started to bargain and at last get pair of boots.

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In the afternoon, we were preparing for Inter-Cultural Night or I.C.E. We arranged the snack and souvenirs from our country, Indonesia. We decorated and wore traditional clothes to represent Java Island and Bali Island of Indonesia. We prepared the snack and beverage on the table and with the tablecloth that purposely using Balinese famous motive, square black and white. Other participants from other countries prepare theirs too with delicious chocolate, liquor, cookies and much more and each country introduced what they brought and later on, we tried what they served. I brought gifts for each country but it turns that I bought wrong images because it supposed to be for little kid but I was happy because everybody like it and it was a happy ending. It was a little surprised when suddenly cabbage given as a present. Everybody laughs and telling about giving a surprise gift from secret admire. The night goes on until we got tired and went to our bed.

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The next day, we went to visit the main office and we discussed more about our project topic with title ‘Development of capacities for work with (i)migrants’. To support more data, questionnaire spread in purpose to compiling some data and some point of view about this topic to create a publication for latest project about immigration. Some question from questionnaire quote:  What is the percentage and the approximate number of (i)migrants in your country according to the most recent data? (This question is optional), Where these (i)migrants are coming from?, What are the primary factors of (i)migration to your country?, Is there any other information you think is important that we should be aware of in the context of your country on this topic? And more questions that related with the topic given and the feedback collected and put as a supporting data, NGO who related or in charge on the case of labors and immigrants. Our discussion and data search takes few hours before we get back to our hotel again and we continued to collect more data and info and put it in our report.

In next day, we had a chance to visit Ohrid, another city in the Republic of Macedonia and the seat of Ohrid Municipality. I read from the trustable source that Ohrid is the largest city on Lake Ohrid and the eighth-largest city in the country. Ohrid is notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and has been referred to as a “Jerusalem (of the Balkans)”. The city is rich in picturesque houses and monuments, and tourism is predominant. Ohrid and Lake Ohrid were accepted as Cultural and Natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Ohrid is one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage that are Cultural as well as Natural sites. We saw a statue soonest we arrived and the statue itself stand on the side of Ohrid Beach and name Cross monument, the statue of a diver who’s retrieved across from the lake’s waters. We walked more to higher ground and along the path, I was amazed by the unique stone path there and the marvelous stone wall along the way we went up to the hill. Even the air still cold and the ice still can see everywhere but that day the sunshine quite bright and the trip becomes more fun. It was not easy to walk to higher ground and most the time I was left behind because I stopped few times to enjoy the scenery and taking pictures.

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In one stop, we visited National Workshop for Handmade Paper, which is said that one of the seven in the world and its printing on Gutenberg Press (XV century). We saw the processing how to make a piece of paper from started from pulp, dried it by pressing manually and let it sits for sometimes then take it out from the wooden mold and let it dry naturally and we saw the process how to press wording or image on those papers. Some of the genuine leather covers can be found in the display there. Mostly the pictures that press are the image of the church or the lake of Ohrid which we can get by giving few Euros. I bought 2 pieces of pictures of the lake and the image of the church as souvenirs.

We continue to visit another church, which is St. Sophia Church. If the church looks familiar, it is because it is on the back of one of the country’s banknotes. The Church of St. Sophia dates from the 9th century. Inside, the church has one of the richest sources of art from the Middle Ages anywhere in the region. When the church was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire, the priceless frescoes inside were covered and preserved. The gardens outside are a convenient meeting point for locals. We look around to see more and no activity happens in the church that day, therefore we just spent few minutes, after taking pictures and we continue to go to the next place,  the weather still good even though the sun so bright and the walk were going up and down. Mostly the street floor looks like made from material from ancient and natural stone which make it looks pretty and strong.

The next site we visited was another beautiful church which name is Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta or Saint Bogorodica Perivlepta. I get the info more about this church and this is what I found, Just inside the Gorna Porta (Upper Gate), this 13th-century Byzantine church whose name translates as ‘Our Lady the Most Glorious’ has vivid biblical frescoes painted by masters Michael and Eutychius, and superb lake and Old Town views from its terrace. There’s also an icon gallery highlighting the founders’ artistic achievements. At the time of research, the church was in the midst of restoration work to protect the frescoes and the opening hours were erratic. Started we get into the gate, we can feel the air and the surround that peaceful and like getting back to ancient age and most part of the building still stay the same even some part need renovation because the building aging along the time but still look marvelous.

Because of its beauty of the view then we take took a group picture. There were a lot of memories that brought home along with the pictures taken.

The next site we visited was Ancient Theater. The builders of Ohrid’s ancient theater have estimated very precisely where to put the building – in the center of the elevated old town. From the source I get, it said that the open theater holds a perfect location, as the two hills (Gorni Saraj and Deboj) keep it protected from winds that could interfere with acoustics during performances. The Ancient theatre of Ohrid of the Hellenistic period was built in 200 BC and is the only Hellenistic-type theatre in the country as the other three in Scupi, Stobi and Heraclea Lyncestis are from Roman times. It is unclear how many people the original theater used to seat, as only the lower section still exists.

During Roman times, the theater was also used for gladiator fights. However, since the theater was also a site of executions of Christians by the Romans, it rapidly turned to a highly disliked site by the locals. In fact, as a result of this dislike, the theater was abandoned and buried by the locals after the demise of the Roman Empire. Discovered accidentally and later excavated completely, this 4,000 square meter monument to antique Greco-Roman culture is being used today during the annual Ohrid Summer Festival for performances of ancient tragedies and comedies. The Theatre offers a wonderful view of Lake Ohrid and Mt. Galichica to the southeast.

We still can see the remains of the theater, sadly though after knowing the history behind the site but all become a history and life knowledge for everyone.

More down we went to visit Church St. John Theologian-Kaneo. Saint John the Theologian, Kaneo (Macedonian: Свети Јован Канео, Latinic: Sveti Jovan Kaneo) or simply Saint John at Kaneo is a Macedonian Orthodox church situated on the cliff over Kaneo Beach overlooking Lake Ohrid in the city of Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia. It looks so beautiful and very nature if we spread wide our view to the lake which looks so clear and fresh. The church is dedicated to John of Patmos, the writer of Revelation, who has been by some considered to be the same person as John the Apostle. The construction date of the church remains unknown but documents detailing the church property suggest that it was built before the year 1447. Archaeologists believe that the church was constructed sometime before the rise of the Ottoman Empire very likely in the 13th century. Restoration work in 1964 led to the discovery of frescoes in its dome.

The church has a cruciform architectural plan, with a rectangular base. The architect of the church is unknown but it is believed that he was influenced by the architecture of Armenian churches, particularly the roof. Reconstruction work was carried out on the church in the 14th century, shortly before the arrival of Ottoman Turks in Macedonia. A wooden iconostasis was constructed within the church and by the 20th century, numerous saints along with the Virgin Mary have been portrayed on the apse. A fresco of Christ Pantocrator can be seen on the dome of the church. A fresco of Saint Clement of Ohrid (whose monastery, Saint Panteleimon, is located close to the church) accompanied by Saint Erasmus of Ohrid can also be seen on a wall of the church. All the info was taken from trustable info site.

Then we continued to walk back and on the way back I saw an interesting announcement that never I saw in my country. They put the info of the dead on the wall and the picture on a piece of paper and I saw few more in the other wall along the way. I found another thing that interesting to me that the manhole cover that looks artistic and I can’t stand for not taking the picture of it.

We stopped to get our food in one nice “NOA’ restaurant and we have the same table inside with Dimitar Balista, one youth that joined Act Global project in Bali before. After we finished our food, we went back to Struga and spent more time to walk around before the night falls down and get back to our hotel to get rest.

The next morning, we went to the nearest river because we got information that every 19th of January, Macedonian Orthodox believers celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ in Jordan River, with a ritual that comes from the belief in the purifying powers of water. Traditionally, each year, the priest throws a wooden cross in the river and the believers only who can jump for it. The water really cold and still can see the snow everywhere but for them it was not a problem for them it is believed that the one who catches the cross will be blessed and will be accompanied with happiness throughout the year and the local government provides a quite interesting and lot of presents to anyone who gets the wooden cross first and anyone who gets the cross will take the cross the next day to each housing area and give the blessed to anyone who accepted. The central celebrations, marking the Epiphany, are those on the Stone Bridge, over the river Vardar,  in Skopje and Ohrid Lake surround by thick ice. To the people there believe anyine who jump to the river on that day will never get sick and after the wooden win by someone, then the crowd took the water from the river. I tried myself to wash my face and drink it. I am amazed with the strength of the participant who dares to swim over the ice-cold river. I have a chance to take a picture with one of a young man that join the competition.
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Lot of things that we can see and learn from this country and other countries that join this project, besides of the multicultural society, the beauty and amazing in heritage sites, the way the government and NGO tried to solve and find solution about refugees that enter the country which still become a big issue for them, various problem like funding and safeties and more and which they still working on it about the matter of refugees that enter the country but nevertheless  they do not stop to find solution on this. The problems that facing most European countries.