The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 37

I’m behind on the writing challenges because all of my writing has been saved for my PhD. It is very slow going, and I am currently way behind on the word count, but it is progressing, and I am going to do my darndest to try to get myself out of the little funk I have been in and get my work done.

The writing challenge for this week is to open the first book near me, find the tenth word, Google image search the word, and then make an entire post about the photos I find….or something like that. I’m too lazy to open the page with the post guidelines again.

I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I opened to a random page and counted to ten. The word I landed on was ‘would’. When you Google image search the word ‘would’, you don’t get a whole lot of good options. It took me a long time, but I finally found two images that caught my eye:

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The caption for the first image said, would a Banksy make you buy a home? To be honest, yes, that would be enough to make me buy a house. I am a huge lover of art, and would love having some around the house….or maybe I would just like a house. I’m in the middle of filling out a job application, and it is terrifying. This job would not only allow me to stay in Scotland, but it would allow me to pay my bills and start paying my mom back for all the loan payments she has mae for me in the last two years. It would mean I could afford to get my driving licence and a car, and travel a bit more. It might even mean finding a little place of my own. I love my little flat, but it really isn’t mine. Truthfully, I wish I could buy it so I could stay here and make it my own a little (Which really means I saw an IKEA catalogue and saw all the pretty bathrooms and got a major green-eyed monster thing going). One day though….maybe.

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I’m not sure what my brain’s personal trainer would say about my brain, but I really like this picture. Little brains everywhere. I think I like it because I have been making a five year research plan that is aimed at helping Scottish school children getting into university, so all those little brains have been on my brain.

It is raining here….again. I should go out for a jog (yeah, I took up jogging and it is just as ridiculous an image as you think it is), but my couch, where I have been for most of the day, is just so comfy.

and so are my sweat pants.

 

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 34

Hello from the sick bay! I managed to catch a bug. I don’t feel great. I don’t sounds great.

The good news? The Fringe is over. Tourists will start to go home, and my city will quiet down a bit and settle down. This makes me very very very happy.

The not so good news? It is the end of the month and I am going to hit my 30,000 word goal for my thesis.

…which brings me to the writing challenge for the week: take the third line of the last song I listened to and make that the title and the subject of the post.  I was jamming to the new(ish) Paramore song ‘Hard Times’. The third, and the fourth line actually work well for the way I am currently feeling. They are:

Tell me that I’m alright
That I ain’t gonna die

Given that I feel like death, I know that if I went to see the doc right now, she would tell me I am fine. I need water, plenty of sleep and probably stop going to sleep with wet hair. It has been awhile since I’ve felt this crappy, and I am just happy that it is at the end of the summer and that a lot of the hard work I wanted to do on my PhD has been done.

That being said, knowing that I am falling short of my word count has me stressed. I don’t like falling short, and I would love it if my supervisors would tell me that I am doing okay. I had a really good meeting with them this month, but all I could hear is that I am a little behind the curve of where I should be as a third year, and I am constantly worried about how fucked I got in my second year on data collection.

I’ve already made it farther in this programme than I did in the one in California. I think I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But it is what comes after I make it through the tunnel that has me scared. I’ve made no secret about wanting to become a permanent resident of the UK, specifically, Edinburgh. Work visas are hard to get, especially when I am not exactly a specialist in the field. I still have about a year before I really have to worry, but worrying about finding a full time job here in the city is a constant part of my day.

I want someone to tell me that it’s alright, and that there will be a job for me and I can stay in my flat and continue to miss the sunshine.

Until that happens, I am going to sit on my couch, guzzle tea by the gallons and chip away at my word count. Only 60,000 words to go.

The Scamp and the Art of Being Yourself

Or….why I want to learn to be perception free.

Today is the 16th of August. If you looked out my window as I am doing now though, you would think it was late October. It is raining….again. This summer has been awful in terms of weather. I miss the sunshine. I miss warm weather. I miss the tan that I got in Croatia.

The one good thing about this weather is that I have been able to get a lot of work done on my thesis. While I am not quite at the word count I would like to be at, I am making good, steady progress and that is making me feel a bit less stressed. I had a productive meeting with my supervisors yesterday, and while I should feel really good about it, the only thing that I can focus on is that one of my supervisors said that I was behind the curve. I wish I could focus on the help they gave me with my lit review/theory chapter, and focus on the fact that they told me the interviews that I conducted with staff have provided me with some really great insight.

Sometimes I just like being a grump.

The writing challenge for this week (it’s week 33…seriously though….week 33 already?) doesn’t have a theme, but this week I had a conversation class with one of my English students and I showed him a TedTalk that has really stuck with me.

First. Caroline McHugh is a badass Scotswoman, and the living embodiment of everything she believes in. She is the founder and CEO of IDology, and has her bio page states:

Speaker, teacher, coach and author of Never Not a Lovely Moon, Caroline delivers keynotes and masterclasses at dozens of Fortune 500 companies, on Leadership, Reputation Management and Women at Work. Experience has only redoubled her long obedience in the same direction – that people who are afraid to be themselves will work for people who aren’t. In a world that’s ever more competitive and precarious, her message has brought a whole new meaning to ROI – a Return on Individuality.

Second, she believes that the best thing a person can be in life is themselves. Her company, and it seems her mission in life is to help people figure out how to be the best version of themselves. Her TedTalk is called ‘The Art of Being Yourself’

It is worth the watch. Not only are her words important, but the persona that she has created for herself speaks to her individuality. Her shaved head, her Glasgow accent, and her impeccable fashion sense, and her honest, engaged presence immediately made me sit up and listen to what she had to say. I’ll admit that I selected this particular talk because McHugh is Scottish and my student needs to practice listening to accents, but now that I’ve heard it, I want everyone I know to hear it.

Her message is simple: “Your only job while you’re here, on this planet is to be good at being you as they (your role models and whoever you look up to) are good at being them.”

While that may seem simple and easy, let me tell you, that is a hard thing to do. We as a society are bombarded with ads telling us what we should wear to look good, or what we should do to be successful. Most of us seem to have an almost obsessive need to be accepted in the eyes of those around us. We chase Facebook likes, Instagram hearts, followers and friend requests. We edit and filter photos until we are almost unrecognizable, and we let the words and thoughts of others influence everything from how we dress to what we eat….and even how we feel about ourselves.

According to McHugh,  when you’re young you’re great at being yourself; when you’re old you’re great at being yourself; but the bit in the middle is sometimes the most problematic. That’s the bit where you have to socialise; you have to accommodate; you have to adapt. So I’ve developed the “I complex,” and the “I complex” is a model to help you figure out which “I” you mean when you say “I.”

There are 4 different types of “I”

  1. This is the most visible “You”. This is the you that you represent to the outside world. This is what everyone thinks of you, or how they perceive you. It is impossible to be perception-less in the world, but one of the key elements to becoming the best you possible is to become perception free. By letting the view of others affect the way you view yourself, you can never be completely you.

For the sake of this post, I asked my friends and family on Facebook to share their impression of me. Much the way my research is going for my thesis, my response rate was not quite what I hoped, but it did give me some interesting insight to the way people view me.

Here is what was said

Uni pal who has known me more than 10 years: “I love tattoos and boys are stupid”

ExBoyfriend: You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and it is not just your looks, but the fact that you are so driven (okay, this one emotionally abused me for the year we were dating, but I think he was honest when he said that to me before he broke up with me)

Partner is Snark and mother to my Meow: “Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd! She was a vixen when she went to school. And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

 Partner in Snark and one of the strongest people I know: The word that pops into my head when I think of you is ‘journey’. I know that might seem strange…but I think I associate that word with you because of your love of travel and because you, of all my friends, seem to be on a journey discovering and creating your self.
One of my best friends in the entire world besides the wombmate (also known as my mother): wish I could be just a little less dramatic like a, Kennedy when Camelot went down in flames Leave it to me to be holdin’ the matches When the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame (thanks mom….I am not that great at hiding my crazy am I?)
One of my mother’s best friends: Brave, awesome, fearless, intelligent, funny.
People from the CSUF programme: Racist. Cheater. Liar. Brash. Someone who will never be a good educator because she refuses to apologise for her position of privilege and make her classes easier for her students of colour
My students: Hard. Really helpful. Super cool. She will help you as much as she can.
An incredible soul I met at Napier: Kim: Lovely, kind, inclusive, giving, family orientated, edgy, rocky, cool, sweet xxx
My cousin, another one of the strongest people I know: You are a bright light to those around you. You shine through real life and you are incredibly interesting and mysterious:)
My Supervisor: Emotional, reluctant, stubborn
The lawyer I loved in my mid 20s: Comes on strong. Not a typical good Jewish girl.
My manpanion: Stubborn. Sexy. Tiny but mighty. frustrating. Very American.
These are the things that people see when they look at me. Some bad. Some good, all very different.  Some even different from the way I view myself.
2. Persona. The “You” that you think you are presenting to the world. As McHugh states:
 This is what you would like everybody else to think of you, and it’s not about being fake, or fad, or pretending. It’s about moving; it’s about possibility; it’s about potential; it’s about supposition. So, whilst there’s a part of you that’s like your backbone, this part of you is like your wishbone. This one is your adaptive personality, your construct self, and even that’s unique because nobody in the world has had the same experiences or influences that you have. But this is the you that keeps moving, that keeps changing all the time.
I want people to see me as a badass gypsy soul, someone who would rather collect life experiences than things. A Scottish woman trapped in an American body. A person wh wants to make higher education a better place, who wants to really have learned from past mistakes, and does her best not to repeat them. I want to be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons. Flamingos are derpy and weird, but they certainly are not boring.
3. Ego. For this McHugh presents two extremes:
The thing that might stop you being the woman of your dreams is the next circle, and that’s what you think of you. So now you’ve got what others think of you, what you would like others to think of you, and this is what you think of you. And you have good days and bad days, right? There’s days where you wake up and you think you’re the bee’s knees. And other days you wake up and you can’t even say your name. Even your cellphone feels too heavy. On the days when you wake up and you feel like the bee’s knees, it’s not even like you’ve got a reason. It’s like free-floating joy in your body just looking for a target, and you know how it feels on those days because (sizzling sound). You just think, “Somebody give me an audience; I’m on fire! Quick, point me somewhere!” And your hair’s fabulous, and everything just works, everything works on those days. But the other days nothing works. Your legs don’t work, your mouth doesn’t work. The word thief comes and steals your entire vocabulary.
I’d say my ego, more often then not, lays with the second one. I’m really good at self doubt, really good at noticing my flaws and caring way too much what people think of me. I spend a lot of time wanting more people to read my words, more time to prove to others that I’m smart and capable, and I really wish that I could get past the fact that I am willing to do more for people sometimes then they are for me. I have not yet gotten to the perception-free part of my life, and that may in fact be one of the very things that keeps me from being able to finish my thesis with confidence. Now, depression also plays a small role in my ego, but I believe if I stick with therapy, and continue to work on myself, that I can make that a little less of a barrier between me and being myself.
The way to get to the last “You” is to keep the ego in check. The best way to do that is through humility.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking about yourself less.”
4. Self. This is the most important one. This is the “You” that has always been there. This is the perfect version of you that you need to let the world see. This is what is going to allow you to be the best version of you, which is possibly the whole reason for living. McHugh’s most powerful takeaway, at least for me is this:
your life has to be your message. Otherwise, why are you here? It’s not like you’ve got a spare. So when you think about your identity, when you think about what it means to be alive, when you think about why you deserve to exist, you’re not your thoughts, because you think them. And you can’t be your feelings, because otherwise, who’s the you that feels them? You’re not what you have; you’re not what you do; you’re not even who you love, or who loves you. There has to be something underneath all that.
She ends her talk with this: So if you can do this, not only will the speed of your life get quicker, not only will the substance of your life get richer, but you will never feel superfluous again.
So while I work on trying to be the best me I can, and possibly make my little corner of the world a better place, and you might have felt TL;DR, I will leave you with the words of my favourite author, who I believe would have really loved the message of Caroline McHugh.
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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 31

I’m not even sure when the last challenge was. I have been so focused on getting draft chapters of my thesis done, that all I really do is work on that and then binge watch bad TV. My goal is to have 30 thousand words written by the end of this month, but I am starting to think that is a pipe dream. I’m a little over the halfway point, but I am finding it harder and harder to actually motivate myself to sit down and work on my theory chapter. If anyone wants to write it for me, please let me know. I’ll happily let anyone work on it at this point.

It should come as no shock to anyone then that the challenge this week is to write about something I am procrastinating on. I am not putting nearly enough into working on my thesis. There is a reason.

Or, at least, what I think the reason is anyway.

I have no motivation to finish my thesis because the moment I finish my thesis is the moment that I stop being a student and my visa ends. When that visa ends, I am no longer eligible to live in Scotland without full-time employment and someone willing to sponsor my work visa. Given the current thoughts and feelings on immigration all over the world right now, I am having some trouble being optimistic.

My therapist seems to think I will have no problem finding a job, but really, a thousand people can do my job, and they are all here in the UK already authorised to work in this country.  I will probably have to go back to the US where I have no money, only a couple of friends (who don’t even really live in the area) and no job. My family is there, and that will never ever be a bad thing, but it would be really hard for me to adjust to living in the United States again. I am still traumatized from the last time I lived there full-time. So now that I have wasted some time not working on my thesis, and not really writing anything of substance, I think it is time to share something good with the world.

That would be my new nephew JJ. He arrived on the 24th of July, after 9 months of the cushy life in a warm safe place, and he is a little charmer. I’ve only met him over Skype, and believe me, that killed me, but he’s cute, likes to be wrapped like a burrito, and is already making his mommy crazy.

In other words? He is perfect.

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See? Perfect. It is August, which means that the festival is here. I have a slew of funny free shows to see, and since all I have seen all summer is rain, I am hoping that a little free comedy will help me find some motivation for my writing.

First up? A group of comedians playing board games. It’s a live action version of TableTop, which I love, so even if it sucks it will probably still be pretty good.

The Scamp in Bosnia

…and now for the final post of my epic adventure. This also happens to be one of the highlights of the trip for me. The surprise favourite. A friend of mine told me that Sarajevo was perhaps the most beautiful capital city that he had ever been to, and he’s been to a lot of capital cities, so I was both curious and excited to see what surprises the city had in store for me.

Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Sarajevo, but the beautiful fusion of East and West in the ‘plains around the palace’ offered me a regular feast for my eyes. We  got into Bosnia a bit late in the evening, so after checking into a lovely hotel, we went to perhaps one of the best houses in the city for dinner.

The Spite House has a very interesting story. According to Atlas Obscura:

An elderly Bosnian fellow named Benderija refused to agree to the destruction of his house, even after being offered more money than the property was worth. Without the land under his house, there would be no way for the city hall to be built at the desired location, right next to the River Miljacka. Lengthy negotiations ensued between the old man and the city (with even the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Finances getting involved) until finally, in 1895, he agreed to sell his property for the extravagant price of a sackful of gold ducats, but only under one condition: the authorities would have to move his Ottoman-era house, brick by brick, and rebuild it on the other side of the river.

Benderija got his way; in the popular account of the story, the old man spent every day of the move sitting in the middle of a nearby bridge, smoking cigarettes and carefully watching the workers transport each brick across the river. When the house was finally rebuilt, it was aptly named Inat Kuća, or the House of Spite. 

Today, this proud symbol of Bosnian stubbornness serves a more practical purpose: it was converted into a Bosnian restaurant in 1997.

The government got the last laugh though because while the man’s favorite spot used to face the river, it now faced a mountain.

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We were treated to a tour of the city by a local guide of about my age. He was full of the typical stories, and showed us the site where the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand happened. It was an odd bit of history to walk over, and the unfortunately for Sarajevo, it was not the last of the struggles that happened there.

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It was interesting to see the influences of the West on side of the city, and the East on the other. There are markets that look much like I imagine the markets of Istanbul to look, and they sell Turkish coffee, Turkish delights (which are not a delight), and beautiful weavings, jewelery and tourist fluff. There are traditional bars and fancy brand name shops there as well.

We were able to take a trip outside the city to see the Sarajevo War Tunnel. Before this trip, I was pretty ignorant to the history of Bosnia, but I was aware of the war that plagued them in the early 90s. I remember seeing news reports of fighting, and hearing that bad things were happening, but I was little and did not really understand what it meant, or who was actually in the wrong. The Tunnel of Hope is just one of the examples of resistance.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I hate that site too, but it is the best place for quick summaries to help paint a clear picture to a complicated story):

The Sarajevo Tunnel (BosnianCroatian and Serbian: Sarajevski tunel / Сарајевски тунел), also known as Tunel spasa (Тунел спаса, English: Tunnel of rescue) and Tunnel of Hope, was an underground tunnel constructed between March and June 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian War. It was built by the Bosnian Army in order to link the city of Sarajevo, which was entirely cut off by Serbian forces, with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the Sarajevo Airport, an area controlled by the United Nations. The tunnel linked the Sarajevo neighbourhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir, allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and allowing people to get out. The tunnel became a major way of bypassing the international arms embargo and providing the city defenders with weaponry. 

We got to go through a small part of the tunnel, and the house that hides it (and well, a lot of buildings in the city) or still covered in bullet holes.

In fact, bullet holes, and bullet shell are quite the popular tourist attraction. Many of the trinkets that tourists can buy are made with spent casings. I found this to be really dark, and somewhat distasteful, but plenty of people seem to think it is a good idea. We had some time to wander after the tour, and while I would have liked to hike to the old bobsled track, I instead went in search of Jewish people. I dragged the Golden Girls to an old temple and got to see the Jewish people of the city lived, and how many of them were protected by the Muslims in WWII. It was rare on this trip to be able to see this little bit of culture, but I am glad that the girls indulged me and let me have a wander in the sacred space.

The Golden Girls and I completed our day climbing the fortress and looking out over the city. We were hot and sweaty, but it the views were lovely.

One of the hidden gems of the city was the bar that is  decorated like a granny’s house. It is called Zlanta Ribica. I’d go back there are put on a funny hat and some big sunglasses and drink cocktails until the day is done.

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We left Bosnia to head to Mostrar, one of the most important cities in Herzegovina. I do not remember most of what we were told about the city, but the famous old bridge. It was built in the 16th century and is said to be one of the best examples of Islamic architecture. It has become famous with the tourists because the men of Mostrar jump off the 25 meter bridge to transition to manhood. It looks crazy, and scary, and one of our very own did it while we were there. It has been completed almost 500 times, and I get to say that I know someone who has done it and survived.

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The end of the guided tour took us back to Split, and I spent the last day of holiday laying on the beach and wishing that I had 17 more days of warm weather. This trip was truly one of the most fun adventures that I have ever had, and although I did complain about some of the people, it would not have been the same  without the people I was with. I have a sincere hope that I will get to meet some of these people again, whether in my home or in theres.

 

The Scamp in Serbia

I can’t believe that I haven’t finished updating my travels. I have been out of my routine and feeling a bit out of sorts with all of the rain. I was so tired when I wrote about Macedonia that I completely forgot that while I was there I saw where Mother Teresa was born. She was born in the capital city, but eventually made her way to India. I stood on the spot where her childhood home used to be, and we saw the memorial house that has now been constructed in her honor.

Figures that I would be too tired to remember something that important.

From Macedonia we headed to Nis, Serbia. I’m not sure what I expected from Serbia, but Nis was something else. We only stopped for lunch, but I spent that time in a beautiful fortress.

We then moved on to the city of Belgrade. A lot of my friends have been here, and told me how much they loved it. We went on a walking tour with a very very enthusiastic tour guide who gave us the bare bones history as he lived it for his entire 26 (He might have been older, but that is the age in my mind for some reason) years. We walked through the fortress and saw an amazing sunset over the Danube, and the Knez Mihailova, a popular shopping street in the area. We spent the first day having dinner as a group, and it was an unorganized mess. Things got worse when we then went for a ‘pub crawl’ that started an hour late. After being dragged from a nice bar to two places that weren’t open, I made my way back to the hotel with the super cool married couple and let Kelsey have all the fun for me.

She was feeling a bit under the weather the next day so I wandered around the city with some of the people from the tour and ended up having the most amazing burrito. Burrito Madre was everything I didn’t know I ever wanted. By this point in the journey I was tired of only having meat options for dinners, or soggy veg, wilted salads and the like. I was ready to be in clean clothes, sleep in my own bed, or at least have a beach near by. This burrito was heaven. The fresh squeezed strawberry juice was heaven. The churros and chat with Kelsey when she was ready to eat was heaven.

Kelsey and I wandered around a bit once she had the burrito and we had rolled ice cream for dinner. It was nice to be out in the sunshine and walk through the streets looking at the street art. I always thought that Lisbon had the best street art, but Belgrade might take the cake. I even found a book of street art in Belgrade with stories behind some of the more popular art. It was a one of my best purchases of the trip.

Until I got to Bosnia that is.

Belgrade was the most westernized of the all the cities that we visited on this trip, and while that is not necessarily a good or bad thing, I also found this to be one of the easiest cities to navigate without the need for GPS. It also felt really safe, with (mostly) friendly people and a lot of deep rooted history.

I am almost halfway through July and I still do not have any of the things on my list and without an office, I am finding it hard to stay motivated. Tomorrow is another day.

The Scamp in Macedonia

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of my granddad Verle. He wasn’t really my granddad, but just the same, he is someone who deserves to be acknowledged.

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Verle was a spunky one. All of his WWII stories had a happy ending. He met a general….then slept with the general’s daughter. He was in Egypt meeting a prince….the princess slept with him. My mom always wanted him to come to her classroom to talk to her students, but knew she couldn’t because none of his stories were safe for work. He refused to go to the events at the senior centre because he said all the people there were too old. When my dad was having a hard time with the death of my step-brother, Verle told him to bring the ashes to his house so Eric would have a good view of the lake and could be at peace. He had a taste for Scottish vodka, and he was always humming and whistling. He was a great father, brother, granddad, and great granddad, veteran and friend. The world is going to be a little duller without him in it.

For the last five years or so, my dad has been the only person looking after him. My dad went to all the doc appointments, made sure that the cabin was always clean and in good working order, and all but killed himself as a caretaker. He was with my granddad when he died, and told him that it is was okay to go, and to stay out of trouble. I’m really sad that I was not there to see him one more time, but I am really hoping now that this means my dad can work on healing and taking care of himself for a bit.

It makes me wish I could go back to California.

It also makes me think about Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Verle would have liked it there. It was one of the places we were shortchanged on seeing, but I have a feeling I will be going back there to try and get some writing done before I hand in my thesis.

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Macedonia is a beautiful place. I realized how dumb I was when the trip started and I thought Macedonia was a part of Greece. It is a city in Greece, but it there is also a country (and a very contentious legal battle for the use of the name). I could have stayed by the lake for a week. Unfortunately we got half an evening there.

We then went to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This is one of the most unique places I have ever been. It’s like Disneyland for adults (or at least, that is what Busabout says). There are more statures in the city than people.  Every time you turn around you see another statue.

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I feel really bad, but to be honest, I cannot really say a whole lot about Macedonia because I do not think I really got to spend enough time there. I would like to go back and really spend some time there, and I would tell people to go there, but this one was a bit of a blur in the trip for me.