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World March Blog
31 October 2009

Colder and colder!

This is day 2 of our trip through the country which the local people call Macedonia.  Yesterday was intense; travelling from 8:00am until 3:00pm on our World March Bus™, with brief stops to cross the border, to meet the local authorities in 2 towns and then to finish in the beautiful lakeside town of Ohrid where we met the Vice-Mayor and later had a public meeting to which were invited members of the Institute for Defence and Peace studies at the University in Skopje.

The day started in the rain and cold and finished with just the cold.  We’re about 10 degrees colder than in Turkey.  Going in and out of the warm bus and in and out of warm buildings has left me with a bit of a cold so I have a bag full of paper tissues and a box of anti-cold drugs to keep me going!

We marched in Ohrid for about 2 km with a group of very enthusiastic school children who carried all the flags and banners for us.  It looked like a children’s march and it was great to think that at least we are raising consciousness in the new generations.

Our local guide is a very gentle man called Dean (English speakers would pronounce it “Day-an”) who lived for 9 years in Italy and knew people of World without Wars there and has facilitated all of our stay in Macedonia.  He has the oldest car I’ve ever seen and looks like it will fall apart the first time it hits a hole in the road.  It’s clear that Macedonia’s standards of car maintenance are not quite at EU level yet.

The Republic of Macedonia is a new country which factions in Bulgaria, Greece and Albania would quite like to divide up between them. It’s still trying to find its way in the world of international politics.  The public are pro-European Union and pro-NATO, clearly we have a different image and we will have to be diplomatic.  Dean is worried that the press will turn the World March FOR peace and nonviolence into the World March AGAINST Nato.  Of course for us it’s all the same but Dean is keen that the message is the first one and not the second one.  Let’s see how the press react.  Today I have put on my shirt and tie as we will meet the President and propose that the government withdraws their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Let’s see if he kicks us out the country!

Last night we met a group of fantastic professors from the University in Skopje.   They are in the department of Defence and Peace studies and what they said was exactly our point of view.  They spoke about international, national and grassroots issues, everything was in line with what Humanists have been saying for the last 40 years.  It’s great that this kind of message is being taught at the highest level of education in the country.

Their latest area of research and development is directed towards getting peace and conflict resolution taught at the lowest levels of the education system targeting the youngest.  It’s so interesting for us.  Later today we will meet the professors again and we’ll see if there’s a chance to work with them to legalise World without Wars over here.

I don’t have many funny anecdotes on this trip yet.  However, we almost lost Marco (one of our camera men) in a petrol station when we first arrived from Turkey.  We had been hours without a stop and several people were starting to suffer so we found a petrol station.  Of course, everyone got off and went to buy stuff and do what they needed to do.  Ten minutes later we were on the bus again and with the usual call of “is everyone here?”  To which everyone always answers “yes”, we set off.  2 minutes later there was a call from Marco who had been in the toilet and no one had noticed him missing!

If that’s the worse thing that happens then we aren’t doing too badly.

With a big hug

Tony

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