Today we went into the town of Ohrid and explored the cultural landmarks. We also took an hour long boat ride across lake Ohrid to a little island (close to the Albanian side), where we saw a church and had dinner.
Macedonia is a place that stands out in the ancient world for its role in inculcating Christianity into the Slavic cultures.
The Macedonian language is a Slavic language. It uses the Cyrillic alphabet that has 32 letters. It is not a phonetic alphabet, meaning it is not like the English alphabet which can be "sounded out."
The people here have a rich religious legacy, but interestingly, church does not figure largely into their general lives. The comics expert, whose name is Bosko, explained that under communist rule, religion was forbidden. (It's the "opium of the masses" a "tool of the state" and all of that), so church is not the go to institution on questions of ethics or morality. Church has only been allowed to be practiced openly since the fall of Yugoslavia in the 90's.
The director of the IDEA organization, Marjan, and his colleague Mite (pronounced Mee Tay) characterized the orthodoxed services as dark and frightening. They reported that "being quiet" was reverenced and that they looked to stories of charismatic black church in the US with fascination, because of the use of joy and music in the services.
I sang some gospel in my presentation, and more than one person was moved to tears. I appreciated that the same moving feeling I get from the emboldening lyrics and tones made it across the VERY different language and culture. However. I'm not sure I would wish the deeply conflicted place of the church and religion that the US has in our society.
Overall, the town is beautiful and the people are friendly. I have to report that climbing the hills to get the an ancient amphitheater almost killed me, but other than that a good time was had by all.
Check out the video here: