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Chaotic Beauty in Macedonia

Rooted and Roaming

MACEDONIA | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [153] | Scholarship Entry

“I am trying to find my place I never want to leave.”
The man spoke in a thick Macedonian accent, curling the “r” sounds around in his mouth. He was middle-aged, skinny but strong, with hardened muscle from a lifetime spent working on ships. I stared at him, surprised. A conversation ago he boisterously related his adventures to me, a complete stranger. He is Elia the Accomplished Sailor and Traveler Extraordinaire. I sat across from him, listening intently, but his change in tone was so sudden I could only sputter, “Sorry? What?”
Elia sipped at his homemade rakija and looked out over the water. We could see the outlines of the Albanian mountains framing the horizon line, darkening slowly into shadow as the sun fell.
“I said I am searching for my home.”

Earlier that day my two companions and I woke early with the intention of exploring Lagadin, a small Macedonian town along the banks of Lake Ohrid. We stayed with a kind woman named Ilina, who rents out rooms to travelers, providing insider tips for the best places to go. To me, the benefits of staying with locals far outweigh any comforts of a ritzy hotel.
On Ilina’s advice, we set out that morning to an abandoned village up in the mountains. The climb began mildly; we followed a sloping dirt path above the tree line. Unexpectedly the trail slanted vertically up, our conversation waned as the exertion demanded our full attention. The sweat soaked my shirt and dripped steadily down my neck, but I felt strangely cleansed.
“What did Ilina say again? Continue straight up, then veer left?”
We luxuriated in the freedom to be lost and the knowledge that we would arrive somewhere eventually. As land leveled out we saw shapes in the distance,
“Hey! I think that’s it!”
The village crumbled, creating a landscape of chaotic beauty: creeping vines smothered all available structure, rodents made nests in the rubble. We walked through with cautious reverence, staring at the strewn battleground between earth and edifice.
My memories of these broken down houses are linked inextricably with Elia’s soulful longing. His desire to be rooted, despite years of roaming is an abandoned dream: “I took another boat job. I didn’t want to, but an old dog….” He trailed off.
I wanted to tell him about the village, and the unexpected rough places that adopt us, but his longing is different from mine. He searches for a place he never wants to leave, I long for the electric moments that will never leave me.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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