My friend Ana invited me for a walk last Sunday. It was a beautiful day, very sunny and not too chilly. I didn’t take a coat. Together we walked to Duzlak. Duzlak is a section of town between Babi, where Ana currently lives, and Senjak, where I live. From Duzlak, Ana and I walked to her future home. Ana’s family has been working on their new home little by little for about ten years. It’s quite beautiful. The house has three floors and a wood-burning stove built into the second floor. From their balcony you can see almost all of Štip. It will be the perfect place to enjoy lots of sunsets.
Here in Macedonia buildings are built brick by brick rather than with wooden frames like in the US. After the bricks have been laid, the outside surfaces are coated with plaster. I’ve seen lots of buildings under construction here in Macedonia with these red bricks, but didn’t realize until this week that this is how most buildings in Macedonia are constructed. While we were walking, both Ana and I wondered why different countries make buildings differently.
After giving me a tour of her family’s future home, Ana and I visited the Church of Saint Sunday (Света Недела). There are many Eastern Orthodox churches in Štip, but Ana decided to take me to Света Недела because it was within a walking distance from her new house. As we walked we came across a bunch of pine trees that weren’t very big, but Ana said they have been around for at least twenty years. Some rays of sunlight were streaking through the trees, and I observed at least four different shades of green in the pines. The dirt roads to the monastery were very muddy. We had to dodge several mud holes, but it was worth it!
We entered the monastery of Света Недела by walking under a stone arch that opened into a small courtyard. The difference between the church and the monastery is that people live at the monastery. On our left we could see few windows with lights on. On the right, the monastery was still under construction. In front of us was the church. When Ana saw the construction, she mentioned that it is hard to build everything at once, because the people of the monastery have to raise money from the surrounding communities.
Macedonians are very hospitable and gracious hosts too! When we arrived, the church dedicated to Saint Sunday was closed, but one of the women living in the monastery came to the window and offered the keys to Ana so we could take a look inside the church. The paintings and drawings of the church icons were stunning. Icons are pictures of saints, Jesus, Mary, and Jesus’ disciples. The small church was filled with lots and lots of pictures. There were old writings and books in the church too. I’ve never seen such old, well-preserved paintings and books so close. It was like walking into my own small, personal museum. Several articles of clothing, money and other small gifts were placed in front of the pictures. Ana also showed me a place for lighting candles to offer prayer for loved ones. It was a very interesting experience.
The monastery of Saint Sunday sits just east of Štip. We started walking back a little after four o’clock in the afternoon and returned to Ana’s house after dusk, about an hour later. We saw a beautiful sunset on our way back, but when the sun went down, I was cold. Ana gave me her coat, and we stopped at her house to pick up another coat for her.
From Duzlak, Ana took me home by a different way than I’ve gone before. I have been in Štip for almost six months now. I know the city fairly well, but when walking back from Света Недела I really didn’t follow where we were going with my mental map. In fact, I was quite lost until we strolled up to my neighborhood. In a way, it was really exciting. It showed there’s still so much for me to discover in Štip!