volunteer adventures

Set out your shoe
November 12, 2011, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The start of the mandarin season, a new kind of candy with marzipan from the shop around the corner and the smell of freshly baked gingerbread reminds me of the arrival of Saint Nicholas (‘Sinterklaas’). Coincidence or not, today children’s best friend arrived in Antwerp by boat from Spain. At least that is where he supposedly lives since the 19th century. Some say the tradition goes back to Nikolaos of Myra, a Greek bishop to whom many miracles were attributed.

In Belgium, the Netherlands and a part of Germany Saint Nicholas can be compared to Santa Claus. He is an old man with white hair and a long beard. He wears a long red cape and an alb and on his head stands a red mitre. He carries a big book with him stating whether the children have been good or not. If they have behaved well their names are written on the golden pages, if not, their names are written on the red pages and they risk go be taken in a bag to Spain. Saint Nicholas is always accompanied by his white horse and traditionally one Black Pete (‘Zwarte Piet’).  Black Pete helps Saint Nicholas by carrying the candy and the presents and going down the chimney to put the presents in the shoes of the children. On the evening of the 5th of December Belgian children set out their shoe and a plate with food for the horse near the chimney, a window or a door. In the morning they find gifts, tangerines and chocolate.

Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in Europe in many different ways. In Czech Republic for example children disguise as Saint Nicholas, the devil and the angel and sing songs from door to door. In the German part of Switzerland the saint sits on a donkey and does not come from Spain but out of the woods. In Croatia ‘Sveti Nikola’ visits on December 6 bringing presents to children as a reward for their good behavior. If the children have been bad, they will be visited by the creature of ‘Krampus’, who will make the parents punish the children.

Belgians most popular television show about the arrival of Saint Nicholas (‘Dag Sinterklaas’) is almost 20 years old but is still being shown on national television every year during the weeks before the 6th of December. I suggest you all set out your shoe…

“MANAKI BROTHERS” keep on watching
October 13, 2011, 11:09 am
Filed under: Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

It seemed not possible but it happened! Autumn came to Skopje! And I feel like in polish lift in my 15 floor block. You’re going up and your neighbor’s complaining about the hot temperature, you’re going down and the next one complaining that it’s going to rain! There is never good enough, isn’t? Anyway, the best way to spend chilly autumn days is cinema! And we have a great opportunity to try it just this weekend, during the Manaki Brothers Festival in Bitola!

It starts on Saturday and lasts one week. Many great films, meetings, workshop and additional events.  The website of festival is just perfect, easy to read, with all the information you may need, so just visit it and check the programme, finding the films you like the most http://manaki.com.mk/

During the festival we will have a chance to watch new productions from all over the world but also some older classic films like “The Last Of The Mohicans” by Michael Mann or romantic “Amelia” by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. These are the films you can see many times, also because of the great music.

Personally I am waiting for Canadian “Incendies”, which I haven’t had a chance to watch so far. It’s a story about twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history, and fulfill their mother’s last wishes. It was nominated to Oscar and got 2 awards in Venice Film Festival. I was also attracted by a description of “Burried” by Rodrigo Cortes Paul – “an American truck driver working in Iraq in 2006, realizes he is trapped inside a coffin, buried alive. With only a lighter and cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death rap…”, interesting, isn’t it?

We’ll have a chance to watch documentaries, including Balkan productions  and two, awarded during the DokuFest in Prizren this year – Polish film “Out of reach” and UK production People I Could Have Been And Maybe Am” by director Boris Gerrets. I’m looking forward to see my favorite movie form – Short Films, including Macedonian “Sarah, the Myth” by Sasha Stanishic or “Violent Youth” by Marko Gjokovik.

While being in Bitola don’t forget to visit places connected with Manakis brothers – like a house of Milto Manaki, his statue and of course the Museum of the Manaki Brothers, where you can find more about the creators of the first motion pictures in the Balkans. Also the beautiful cathedral church St. Dimitrija, one of the largest Orthodox churches in Macedonia. It’s about films so I have to mention that the opening scenes of the film “The Peacemaker”, with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman were shot there, as well as some “Welcome to Sarajevo” scenes!

by Sylwia Gorska

Paramount Styles live in concert with support from Constantine Odessa 18th November at Art Cinema Frosina, Skopje
November 20, 2009, 10:42 am
Filed under: Culture

It must be strange to play a show in the Art Cinema Frosina to a seated audience, especially with so many of those seats empty. But personally, I thought there was an intimacy and comfort about this show, and I feel privileged to have been there. Some bands prefer more energy from their audience, but Paramount Styles are the kind of band whose dark and brooding music seems to engulf the band to the point that they are oblivious to their listeners anyway. Support act Constantine Odessa and his band opened for Paramount Styles on the night. They play tuneful americana, and Constantine reminds me of the American songwriter Josh Ritter. Most of the songs are quite poppy, and feature synth, organ, harmonica accompaniment, with upright bouble-bass. Others are more blusey and quirky. Constantine’s songcraft is complimented by very neat lead guitar flourishes which add colour to them and bring them to life in the live setting. After the interval, Paramount Styles opened their set with ‘Alleyesareonyounowmypet’ – a song full of driving intensity and Marlan Barry’s dramatic cello. Their set comprised songs from 2008’s ‘Failure American Style’ with the exception of the band’s encore, for which they played a stripped down version of a new song. For almost the entirety of the show, frontman Scott McCloud sits perched on the edge of a bar stool by his microphone. Half on, half off the stool, it’s a wonder he never falls off as he stretches for his distortion pedal in his suede boots. McCloud sings in a raspy American drawl reminiscent of Lou Reed. On ‘The Crazy Years’ the beautifully plucked cello strings haunt the melancholic guitar and vocal intro, straining and weeping. McLoud sings “tonight I’m making a list…”as the song unfolds and builds dramatically. Next the band plays ‘These stary nights’ – a song steeped in sense of place and nostalgia for New York city. This song also builds in intensity toward some climax that it never quite reaches, instead it’s diffused by a breakdown in tempo and McColud’s refrain: ‘these starry nights...’. The piano on this song is simply enchanting. ‘One last surprise’ opens with light drum kit work, and often dischordant cello and melodic guitar.It  manages to be sad and passionate at the same time –  like Paramount Styles really – impassioned, dramatic indie rock from men you just know are often in the thrall of spells of brooding and deep thinking. Long may they remain there.

Christopher Fleming

All that jazz…by Christopher Fleming and Andrzej Bukowski, 23 October, Universall Hall, Skopje
October 24, 2009, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Culture

Two EVS volunteers recently had the pleasure of spending an evening in the company of two absurdly talented middle-aged women…

Aki Takase plays Fats Waller

The second night of the Skopje Jazz festival opened with Japanese virtuoso Jazz pianist Aki Takase playing the music of Fats Waller.

Aki sat at her piano in a black evening dress and throughout the evening would occasionally place objects inside the piano during the quieter more experimental sections of the performance.

Christopher at Jazz festival

Christopher at Skopje Jazz Festival 2009.

At one point she even dropped a ping-pong ball in there!

Throughout the set she pounded the piano keys with her wrists and elbows as well as her fingers.

Her band, in particular her drummer, were excellent musicians too.

They played quirky jazz and full on swing numbers, and the banjo player sang in a throaty, blusey rasp.

But the Jazz sound was maybe too old school, and there was no real deviation from this style.

Sometimes the sound was a cacophony of cymbal crashes and trombone and saxaphone blasts, but the classic jazz shuffle was always restored after any improvised break down in the songs.

Marylin Mazur Group

The Marylin Mazur group began their set after a short interval.

Their sound was much more contemporary – with progressive rock leanings, which was much more to our liking.

Marylin Mazur sat behind her drum kit like some kind of ancient queen on a throne – and her kit reminded us of the late John Bonham’s of Led Zepplin – kitted out as it was with gongs, chimes and bells.

The guitar player in the band used alot more effects, like delay, reverb and feedback, and there may also have been digital effects on the saxaphone.

The music sounded cinematic and at times ambient and atmospheric.

The bassist switched between upright fretless bass and bass guitar and spoke to the audience between songs.

Marylin played an unusual piece on what sounded like a xylophone, which had strange vocals and haunting flute and sounded almost African.

The way this song unfolded was so organic and showed just how much control the band had over their sound.

Except for this all the other  pieces of music were instrumental.

At other moments Marylin’s eccentricity was evident in the way she moved around behind the kit and struck different drums and even proceeded to kick a box which sat near her!

We definitely preferred the Marylin Mazur Group.

Skopje Jazz Festival 2009. Photo: Andrzej Bukowski

Skopje Jazz Festival 2009. Photo: Andrzej Bukowski

Skopje Jazz Festival 2009. Photo: Andrzej Bukowski

Skopje Jazz Festival 2009. Photo: Andrzej Bukowski

 Marylin Mazur Group, Jazz Festival 2009

Skopje Jazz Festival 2009. Photo: Andrzej Bukowski

Skopje, Macedonia, Biennale by eyes of short term EVS volunteers
September 10, 2009, 9:15 am
Filed under: Culture, EVS

Antonio Di Gaula, EVS volunteer from Italy

1. Can you please by describe your first feelings in Macedonia?

The first feeling was terribly conditionated by Pelagonija and workers……after two weeks my impression is a lot better thanks to kind people and better personal orientation.

2. What do you think about Skopje?

Skopje is a very strange city, different styles of life and people of different origins share an active and continuously developping urban space.

3. Your EVS…can you please shortly describe your way from your home country to Macedonia? Why did you chose this EVS project and what do you think about it…

My trip to Skopje was nice because I have done it with nice smiling people….I choosed this EVS project because I was curious about this country and because I like to be involved in artistic programms.

4. and now Bienale…so what is your first reaction when somebody says BIENALE…

Biennale….it is nice to see how it is preparing to set

Skopje, Macedonia, Biennale by eyes of short term EVS volunteers
September 10, 2009, 9:11 am
Filed under: Culture, EVS

With Help of EVS Volunteers Art  Found The Way

The exhibitions, fashion shows, gastronomy events or workshops are open for all people from Skopje. You can find the program of the Bienale here (http://www.bjcem.org/). Just one click will take you to the world where art is law and where creativy and innovation are in the air. This event will not be possible without the volunteers who are helping to make the Bienale alive. These volunteers from European Voluntary Service are hosted by Volunteers Centre Skopje, which is providing mentors and organizing different events for example cultural nights, trips to Matka and Ohrid…

The 18 EVS volunteers came to Macedonia from four different countries: France, Hungary, Italy and Belgium. They will spend one month in Skopje, a month full of art and intercultural experiences.

And what do they think about Skopje and about their EVS project?

Chiara Monteverdi,  EVS volunteer from Italy

1. Can you please describe your first feelings in Macedonia with three words?

hot weather – mess – new language

2.  How you see Macedonia now, after two weeks?

It seems to have changed aspect : ). In my eyes the mess has become a ferment, a force which motivate me to understand what at first i couldn‘t get. Now when I walk in the street I try to read what‘s written on the shops and everywhere, I try to catch everything I can. I like some things (the market, the river, the old part of Skopje, the couple burek-yogurt…), I don‘t like some other things (the way the Macedonians drive cars, the absence of a civic sense …).

3. What do you think about Skopje?

I think that it is more „alive“ than I thought. The parks are beautiful, the old part is very nice and I would like to have time for more sightseeing in the next days

4. Your EVS…can you please shortly describe your way from your home country to Macedonia? Why did you choose this EVS project and what do you think about it…

I chose this project because I thought the content was really close to my interests such as the participation of youngsters in city life, art and culture. Moreover I had never been in the Balkan area before, and I was curious because some friends of mine who were here have told me it enters in your heart when you know it. And it is so different from my country, so I wanted to be here once in my life! I already knew the EVS projects, and I thought they are a good instrument to improve the skills, learn a language, do something for your future job, know different people and have fun at the same time!

5. and now Bienale…so what is your first reaction when somebody says BIENALE…

It will be great. Now that it`s close I can see everyday that something is changing. Art is in the air! I can`t even imagine so many artists, so many people here in Skopje to share their own cultures.

March 12, 2009, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Culture, EVS, Life in Skopje, On the way


Welcome to our great volunteer blog. Now who want’s to be the first to write something?