This past weekend marked the National Spelling Bee. I was the first person to arrive and the gentleman that was waiting for us at Nova International School told me I needed to call a teacher in Kumanovo as they couldn’t get out of town due to gunfire. Not a good sign! Shortly after this we began getting word from our colleagues in Kumanovo that the city was indeed on lock down status. Then our safety and security manager sent us all messages telling us to “be vigilant” and to let us know that our friends were all accounted for and were safe. However, they would not be joining us at the Spelling Bee or for the Wizz Air Skopje marathon the next day. We were also cautioned to be off the streets by 6 PM. There have been daily protests here in the capital city and the concern was that this could quickly escalate because of what was happening in Kumanovo. We digested that information and proceeded to conduct our spelling bee.
It was an incredibly exciting spelling bee. The 5th grade contestants made it all the way to the 3rd/4th year (high school) spelling list and caused us to be an hour off schedule right off the bat. The 6th graders were almost the same and the 7th graders made it to “the secret list” – a list with words that most of us had trouble pronouncing or even knowing what they meant and that had not been given to the students to study. Words like cacophony, effulgent, inchoate, pellucid and solipsistic. Really hard words! There were many tears and many jubilant spellers. It was great fun.
Susie and I headed back to the apartment where we were staying and wrote our lesson plans for summer camp. Got those done quickly and headed out for dinner and to check out the start/finish line for the marathon. We had about half a dozen people running so we were trying to scope out the best spots to cheer on our compatriots. Start/finish line was at the arch so this would be easy to see where our friends would finish. Okay, nice dinner- We shared gnocchi with quarto formaggio and a shopska salad. Probably the best gnocchi I’ve had in a long time. Obviously hand made and not out of a bag or box. (Looking forward to being able to play in my kitchen.) Back to the apartment, chat for a bit and then to bed as it will be an early morning and long day.
0500! Let me see if we have any more news from Goce on the Kumanovo crisis. What is this!? The marathon has been cancelled. Apparently Sunday and Monday have been declared national days of mourning for the eight police officers killed and 14 injured ones involved in the action in Kumanovo. We have also received a message letting us know that our friends have been evacuated to Skopje and once again to “be vigilant” (Vigilant is Goce’s favorite word next to ointment)
There are a number of theories as to what has happened in Kumanovo and since I am not a political expert I will not attempt to analyze the incident. Instead, I would suggest you read one of these reports from the BBC or Al Jazeera. There is also a website called Balkanist.net that has a couple of very insightful articles. Make your own decisions based on this. We are to take no sides in political issues and interestingly enough, both sides of the current political strife are urging calm. I try to stay informed and impartial and keep my blog the same. There is no doubt that there is unrest in Macedonia and I do have opinions but this is not the place for me to express them.
With all of this said, I am safe. Yes, I live in an Albanian village that is not more than 40 miles from the action, and they are just as puzzled and concerned as I am, but no one is ready to run out and do something stupid. We will get on with our daily lives and monitor the news of the protests that will be ongoing this week and through next weekend. The Kumanovo crisis seems to be over at the moment. They have arrested what they believe are all of the perpetrators. We are constantly updated–that is why we have to keep our cell phones close at hand. Goce will keep me safe.