My Easter was a bit off kilter this year, but enjoyable nonetheless. Orthodox Easter and Non-Orthodox Easter fell on the same date, leaving plenty of options for celebratory activities. While I do not consider myself a Christian, I grew up celebrating Easter (more as a tradition than a religious occasion), and didn’t want to let the day pass by without defining it from every other Sunday.
Ohrid, a beautiful resort town. is only about 45 minutes away from where I live and has a Catholic Church. As my parents were both Catholic, I decided that I would travel to Ohrid to attend the service there. I had reached out to another volunteer who lives in Ohrid and persuaded her to join me to attend the 11 am service on Sunday. I caught the 10 o’clock bus to Ohrid, but found out that on Sunday the bus only travels to Struga – a town which is about 15 minutes from Ohrid. The bus traveled at an agonizingly slow pace, stopping at every village between my point of origin and destination. One of the best and worst things about the buses in Macedonia is that they will stop (mostly) wherever they are asked. It is wonderful when you have to stop in a strange and random location, but you are less inclined to be happy when your fellow passengers are making the requests.
By the time we arrived in Struga, it was already 11 am. In my haste, I hopped into a taxi rather than waiting for the local bus. The taxi was crammed with other travelers making the journey to Ohrid, and upon hearing that I traveled to Ohrid merely to attend a service at the Catholic Church, the passengers were all concerned that I did not know that there were beautiful churches right in my town (I did know, but I had wanted to attend a Catholic service). They were quite sweet, and my taxi driver, who I learned was Muslim and had a Christian mother and Muslim father, wished me a “среќен Велигден” (Happy Easter) and dropped me off right in front of the Catholic Church at 11:20.
The church was cool and smelled the way I would expect – clean with a touch of incense. I scanned the room and saw about about 15 to 20 other people in attendance, none of whom were my friend. I settled in for the remaining 30 minutes of the service, pretending that I knew the prayers that were being expressed by my fellow parishioners in Macedonian. I did feel more relaxed and peaceful after the service, though this was perhaps was partially due to the fact that I was no longer rushing to get to the service. I tried to call my friend to see where she was, but there was no answer. I thought that perhaps her phone was not charged, so I made my way to the lakeside to hunt down a kafe with WiFi.
I am quite good at identifying a good, WiFi enabled kafe, and was soon comfortably seated by the lake with a cappuccino in one hand and my iPod touch in the other. There were no messages from my friend. Perplexed, I decided that I would just enjoy having the day to myself and wander around Ohrid, which is exactly what I did. I watched traditional Macedonian dancers and listened to the chanting of Orthodox monks – which was beautiful.
By 4:30 pm, I was ready to go home and began to walk to the local bus stop. As I was walking I heard my name being called, and turning around, I saw two girls running toward me…daughters of one of the English teachers from my town. I was so surprised, that at first I did not recognize them. They invited me to join their family for a stroll and dessert – how could I refuse? We chatted, ate and then journeyed home together – a much speedier and more pleasant journey than my morning bus trip.
I later spoke with my friend, who had been unable to meet up due to extenuating circumstances – for those who were concerned : )