Hello From A Smoking Hell

Over the past year, I’ve eagerly awaited Washington DC’s approaching non-smoking legislation. Smoke Free DC makes all indoor spaces, even bars and restaurants, smoke free establishments. Smokers are relegated to the streets, like the social lepers they are.

But before I could truly enjoy the wondrous clean air of a burning tobacco free city, I was hustled off to Macedonia and into my own personal hell. A thick, stinky hell of chain smokers.

See these two guys at the left? They sat next to me at a big table of people and chain smoked the entire party. And they were not alone. Seemingly, the entire country chain smoked. And I’m not talking about a cigarette here or there, or maybe two or three a day.

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Want a Social Life in Skopje? Live Alone!

In America, its odd to be living at home after you graduate from college. You better have a damn good explanation if you’re still eating Mom’s cooking if you’re old enough to drink her under the table.

Not so in many parts of the world. In many countries, and not just the religiously conservative states, children are expected to live at home until they are married. Sometimes even after that.

When talking with such people, they often cite economic reasons for still living at home. Reasons I think are bunk. I’ve gone over the math with them, and yes, the numbers prove me right – they could afford to live alone, or with housemates, if they so desired.

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A Noon-Time Epiphany

Are you religious? Or as least Biblically learned? Then, do you know what a “epiphany” is? I had no clue until noon today. That’s when I found out it was a Macedonian Orthodox Christian celebration in memory of the day Jesus was baptized.

In Macedonian its called “Bogojavlenie Vodici” and there was an entire procession from the city’s main Orthodox Christian church to the Stone Bridge over the River Vardar where the cold, muddy waters were blessed by the priest for at least an hour.

Now, ordinarily, I would’ve passed such a service right by without a thought, and so would many other Skopje citizens. But this was no ordinary blessing. At the conclusion of the oration, the high priest tossed the blessing cross into the rushing river.

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Seriously Masticate a Macedonian Sandwich

Are you hungry? And I am not talking about a “I might like something” hungry. I am talking about a “I missed breakfast, crazy busy day, and its now 3pm and I am starving” kinda hunger.

If you’re stomach is in knots with emptiness, feeding upon itself to give you strength, then it might just be time for you to experience a Macedonian sandwich. And this ain’t no White Castle. This is serious man-wich!

First off, don’t dare think you’ll find a real Macedonian sandwich at some sit-down restaurant, or, heaven forbid, a fast food chain. No, you’ll only find this gastronomical delight in little hide-aways.

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Hold On! It’s a Skopje Taxi Ride

When I travel for business, I need to get to meetings fast. Meetings that can be across town or across a (small) country. Often, taxi drivers have a much different view of driving than you or I might.

Traffic rules are flexible, lanes are fluid, and cops are irrelevant in more places and ways than you can imagine. And I have the hardest time conveying both the speed and agility in which they drive and my paradoxically calm nature when zipping across a city on a Thai motorcycle taxi for example.

Here in Skopje, taxis are a little less insane in their lane jumping rush to earn my $1-2 per ride. But don’t think it’s a calm drive. Better yet, live a few moments of a taxi ride I took this week with this short backseat video of the experience.

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