Tuesday, 28 September 2021 | News today: 0

In Macedonia, I felt safe for the first time

Zabdiel Mejía is a Salvadorian who lives in Macedonia, Ohrid since 2014. He decided to come and live in Macedonia because of a scholarship he received from our country. Zabdiel revealed ‘Republika’ that the was most worried about the weather here since back in El Salvador it’s literally summer all year. He first saw snow here, but also felt safe here for the first time. He says his friends in Macedonia make him feel like he has never left home, like this country is his home too.

When did you first come to Macedonia?

Back in November 2014, I was very nervous because I had never been in Europe before and per what the little research I had done before coming it was definitely going to be a radical change. The first that I was worried about was the weather since back in El Salvador it’s literally summer all year; no autumn no winter. I bought a lot of clothes just to make sure that I would be able to keep myself warm. After some time I noticed that even though I had lived in an eternal summer all my life I enjoyed the winter much more. Even today I love the winter much more than summer.

The first flight that I had from El Salvador to Macedonia lasted 2 days more or less. It went from El Salvador to New York City in the United States and then went to Turkey where I waited for 11-12 hours due to the few flights to get to Macedonia. From the moment that I saw the mountains and the plains of Macedonia I started to get excited. From the way the trees looked to the feeling of the soil under my feet- It was different! So much different than home. I was very happy, surprised and intrigued about all the different things that I saw. You see, for me everything was so new and different that I even loved the way ravens look, the way the streets in Skopje are built. I was in impressed by the trees, just watching the trees I would spend 5 minutes on one, just looking at how different it was.

You wouldn’t imagine my face when I first saw snow. It was one of the most beautiful things that the world has allowed my eyes to appreciate and my hands to touch; so cold yet so gentle and peaceful. I lived in Ohrid most of the time I have lived here and people would tell me how rare it was so much snow in Ohrid. Back in 2014 we had a lot of snow, so much that the lights went out for a whole night. Even though cold, it was one of the happiest days in my life only beaten by when my best friend Adriana came to visit me all the way from El Salvador to Macedonia this past Christmas.

You come from a country with different culture and tradition than Macedonia. How did you manage to adapt to the life here?

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El Salvador is a beautiful country as well yet it comes with many flaws that are indeed relevant towards the Salvadorian everyday life. One of the most relevant things is that we have a very high crime rate. You never truly feel safe when using public transportation due to the fear of a Gang Member (or “marero” which is how we call them and they call themselves) stealing your wallet and your cellphone. It was very strange for me to walk out in the streets at night around here without having that fear, therefore it was very nice to adapt to that.

Another very strange thing for me is the celebration of Christmas and New Year. Since we are mostly catholic back in El Salvador it was quite strange to not see anyone else eating turkey that night or watching shows of fireworks. Even though the food, the music and even the day are different from what I’m used, it was not hard to get used to it due that the warmth of it’s people made it feel familiar. The other thing that is today still difficult for me to adapt to is the language. I can speak English, my mother tongue being Spanish and they both so different from Macedonian that I still have problems when trying to express myself in it. I love it, yet it is so difficult for me to perfect. One day I’ll get a hang of it.

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Do Macedonian people provide you help when you need it?

All the time and you still do. Macedonians are among the nicest people all over the world. I could even try to ask for help with directions from an old lady and even though she didn’t understood a word I said she still listened and tried to help. I even got an apple from her for no apparent reason.

Do you like the Macedonian food?

Yes, I love Macedonian food. Among my favorite I can mention ajvar, sarma, tavce-gravce and not very sure if this one is 100% Macedonian but I love kebapi. The other thing that I really enjoy is burek, so simple yet so delicious; it reminds me of something we have back home named pupusas. Pupusas are loved not only by Salvadorean people but people all over the world that try them. They are made out of maize or rice prepared like a tortilla filled in with basically whatever you want most commonly black beans and cheese. Burek reminds me of this, due that everyone eats it at all times, just like my people eats pupusas at all times.

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How much free time do you have to travel across Macedonia? What do you think, which are the best places to visit in Macedonia?

I rarely have free time due to university yet, I visit whatever I can around Macedonia. The most I have seen is this past December, when my best friend came to visit me and stayed for a month. We visited mostly Ohrid, Struga and Skopje. We had plans to go to Mavrovo but sadly we didn’t have enough time. The best places are Matka in Skopje, the Macedonian Village and then we have the river through Struga which is beautiful. Yet, then you have Ohrid. You have so many places here, it’s beautiful, so in synch with nature. There’s really no favorite place about Ohrid, everything in it is perfect. She loved it as much as I did. She greatly misses it and always tells she would like to come back.

Do you miss your home country?

I do, like everyone would, yet, Ohrid makes me feel so at home and its people make me feel like I’ve never left home; this is my home now too. When I go back to El Salvador I will greatly miss my favorite restaurants back in Ohrid. I will miss the friends I made, the football, the lake, the burek! I have two homes now.


What are your plans, are you staying in Macedonia?

For now I will stay until I finish my studies here, then depending on what the future holds, I would have to go or perhaps stay. I wouldn’t know. What I can tell you is that whenever or not I stay or go, Macedonia will always be in my heart and I will come back from time to time.

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By: K.N.K.