Kuwait to Macedonia – Closing one door and opening another

On June 21st I finished work at Ajial Bilingual School in Kuwait knowing I would not return. I had had a wonderful two years teaching there but it was time to move forward and carry on with the next chapter in my life.

I thought I was going to meet up with a few of the other staff members so we could have dinner together. We were going to do this at 11pm behind security. I didn’t mind going early because it was either sit in the airport or sit in my apartment. I also wasn’t sure how long the drive would take because of Ramadan traffic that late at night.

I left at about 9pm and arrived at the airport around 9:30pm. There was not a lot of traffic and my taxi driver took alternate routes to avoid the worst of the congestion. When I got to the airport I go into my line and I was first. Not only was I first but the counter wasn’t even open. I realized that the counter wouldn’t open until 3 hours before the time of departure, or until midnight. I went to a different line to have my small bag wrapped, hopefully keeping out anyone who would think to take my PlayStation.

I couldn’t go to many places because I had 3 suitcases, my laptop, purse, and camera bag. I mostly sat and waited and played on my phone. I tried to let the girls know I wouldn’t be able to meet them for dinner but I never received a reply (Asil).

When the counter finally opened I checked my bags and headed to find VIVA to cancel my wireless router. Except for the abnormally long line at midnight, it only took a few minutes for everything to be cancelled.

Then it was through security and off to find my gate. I also looked for the others but they were already gone. I sat around for a few more hours before I was able to get on my flight.

On the plane I had three seats to myself so after take-off I laid down and tried for some sleep. I didn’t get very much but I had a few patches of sleep. Then I got into Turkey. I chose to stay in the airport, what with the expensive visa for a 9 hour layover and the recent incidences with car bombs.

In the gate areas there were nice (mostly clean) carpets. I found an area and lay my bags behind me and got a few more short cat naps. I also headed up to the sports bar around noon and had lunch and got a 1-hour pass to the internet.

The flight to Macedonia was an hour and a half. There was quite a bit of turbulence and the poor lady beside me was white knuckled for most of the trip.

At passport control the people around me were given a hard time with the guards. I was preparing myself for the same. I handed my passport over to the guard and he looked at it and said “Canada” then he showed it to the person he was sharing a booth with. He opened it, stamped it and said “Bye Canada”. Except for the kiosks in Vancouver I’ve never had an easier time at passport control.

Outside I found an ATM and discovered it took my NBK card from Kuwait. I have decided to use this card while I am abroad and save me the hassle of wondering what the balance on my credit card is. Also my NBK card does not have fees if used abroad, unlike my credit card that would charge me for cash advances and then charge me interest also.

I took a taxi to the hostel because I wasn’t managing a bus with all my luggage. I checked into the hostel and immediately took my two bags to the nearest port office (which was just down the road). It took me awhile to find the right door because each room was separate and had a separate function. I eventually got the right room. They were very friendly and helpful. It was the little old man who had the best English and had to play translator. In the end my two bags were 40KG and it cost me 8,400 Denar or just under 200$C. I had to go to the ATM and take it in cash to pay but that was easy to do.

When I shipped from Greece a few months earlier it was 17KG and 150$C. So it was a good deal and I have way less to carry. Still to much, with 4 bags but they are smaller and easier to manage.

I was surprised at how hot it was in Skopje. It wasn’t even the heat itself, it was the humidity. At 80% humidity the 36 Celsius was so hot. After taking my bags I was glad to be rid of them and I went on a wander of the downtown. I tried to find the Mother Teresa house (where the walking tour would begin) and failed. But I did find a grocery store and stopped to have dinner (sandwiches) by the river.

There are many bikers in Skopje. There are also many statues and fountains, many of which are equipped with speakers that release this high frequency noise that is supposed to be heard by the young (as you grow older you loose the ability to hear frequencies that high) and stop them from congregating. All it did was stop me from really enjoying my time in Skopje because they were in most of the main areas.

Many of the statues and buildings in the centre of town are new. From what I understood from the people working at the hostel they were built to attract tourists and give the city a certain feel but were also used to launder millions dollars that went into the pockets of the politicians and the contract holders. The buildings were built with cheap materials.

The people are angry because the social programs of the country are severely lacking. People have taken to the streets to begin the “Paintball Revolution”. To show their anger the people have defaced many of the buildings and statues with paint.

I went back to the hostel after sunset (about 8:30pm). I was really feeling the lack of good sleep the night before. Instead of sleeping I sat outside (where it was still sticky) to dry my hair after my shower. I talked with two Sweeds who were headed back home the next day after a month of travel. I also chatted with two Brits who had also just arrived. They all decided to find a club and I decided to hit the hay.