Carry the Future

Team 23 – Macedonia

Macedonia

We both had a bit of a sleep in, knowing we only had a three-hour drive and all day to get to Skopje, Macedonia. Thankfully we didn’t get too lazy, because the border we thought would be the easiest turned out not to be.

From northern Greece to the Macedonian border was only about an hour away. The sun was shining and the roads were fantastic. We arrived at the border about 11 a.m. We are driving a nine-passenger rental van, with like a million windows. The immigration guy in Greece raised an eyebrow when he looked into the van, but put the stamp in our passports and waved us to the immigration on the Macedonia side. These guys were not so nice; they took one look in the van and waved us to a parking area. Since my Macedonian is non-existent, and his English was not much better, he said he needed paper. Well, happy day, we had papers. But not the RIGHT papers. He said we could not bring the baby carriers in. Me: sad face. Him, pointing to a building: “Go.” So we locked up the van and got to go stand in another office. Same answer, “No.” With an added “impossible” for measure.

This “no” guy then went on to say we would need to hire someone from customs to drive along with us to the Serbian border. We would have to spend the night in our van. And be escorted out of the country. You see, they are afraid that we are going to sell these carriers, which means they would not get their duty and taxes. The horrified look on my face told him my answer to that scenario! The temperature is literally below freezing. Then he said: “Maybe a customs broker will help you, but mostly no.” So we walked up a hill to the broker building and went to the company “Gil” because one, customs guy said to, and two, it’s my name!

Customs

This guy looked at our papers, asked for our folder of papers, and went to work typing. We had to follow him outside to our van, where we had to move it to be weighed. More stamps and we were on our way! It only took 2.5 hours! So we are still moving towards Serbia with the carriers! Just like we need to be doing.

This morning I looked to see where the refugee camps are located in Macedonia. It looked like there are two, and while addresses are not given, they do show on a map where the camps are. The first city over the Macedonian border had a camp, so we looked at my screen shot photo of the map I’d taken a picture of, and went driving to the part of town we thought the camp should be. Once the pavement ended and we were on dirt, not very well maintained roads, we knew we were getting closer! Sure enough around a bend we saw the camp. White tents, ISO boxes, guards. Perfect.

We put on our Carry the Future vests and mimed baby and the guards called on the phone. About two minutes later, a jeep came from the interior of the camp with “Red Cross” written on it. We learned that most of the residents had “gone back to Greece,” most likely not because they wanted to, and that they did not need baby beds or carriers (because they had them). They needed baby clothes. For new babies. But they had to be new and could only be brought to the Red Cross warehouse in town who would then in turn bring out to the camp.

Big sigh. Why does this have to be so hard? Across in Greece, maybe 25 miles away, is a warehouse FULL of newborn baby clothes. Not new, but sorted and like-new. Okay, there are other things besides baby clothes in the warehouse, but still, there are TONS of baby clothes. But mostly not new. This is “government speak,” such easy solutions, but barriers are put up at most every turn.

It was an easy two-hour drive to Skopje. Roads were interesting. We had to keep passing from one side of the four-lane highway to the other side every five miles or so. There are snow-topped mountains everywhere you look. This must be wine country, because there are acres and acres of vines and cabbage, fields and fields of cabbage that is being harvested. Looks like lots of road projects going on – not the best roads, but we have both seen far worse. We had an early dinner and will get up early tomorrow – fingers crossed all goes smoothly and the baby carriers are with our partner organization in Belgrade this time tomorrow.