Send Cilantro to Macedonia: June 30, 2012
There are two things that I've been hunting in Skopje. The first one was a portable fan to supplement and redirect the flow from our air conditioner. In Macedonia, and indeed in the entire Balkans, the word "fan" when translated means hair blow dryer. So, first I had to use the right word which is "ventilator." I began my search at our local mall. Ramstore grocery has almost everything, but it does not have ventilators. And, no other store in the entire mall carried ventilators. With no car and no idea where to look, I asked some of my friends for leads.
Ventilators are not a common appliance in Macedonia because most Macedonians do not like to feel any breeze. Тhe Macedonian word for draft is "promaya." In Macedonia the Promaya has achieved mythical status. No matter what the season or temperature, the Promaya must be avoided because the Promaya will cause neck aches, back aches, loss of hearing, etc. This is why ventilators and air conditioners are not common in Macedonian homes. If I roll down the back window of a taxi, the driver will often close his window so there is no cross current of air. But Macedonians are not alone in this fear of a draft. We faced the same issue in Tajikistan, Georgia, and Egypt although fans were much easier to find. I'm old enough to recall being warned of drafts when I was growing up in California. I haven't heard that warning in many years so I think Western medicine finally put an end to the belief that drafts are to be feared.
Before we went to Ohrid, Olivera called me and said she heard there were ventilators for sale along the "plastics street." The day was hot and the last thing I wanted to do was search the outdoor markets for a ventilator. I put the search off until we returned.
While I was in Ohrid, I received a text message from my friend Eszter saying she had seen ventilators at a store called Реплек Хубо (Replek Hubo). The store was described to me as like Home Depot. So, on our way back from Ohrid with our rental car, we stopped at Реплек Хубо to buy a ventilator. They had some very nice assembled fans as floor models but the fans they were selling were unassembled and in boxes. We bought a бентилатор (ventilator) in a box. The ventilator at 1027 MKD ($20.83) was slightly less than the parking ticket. The ventilator box was one of the reasons why we wanted to park near our building that night.
The assembly steps seemed straight forward, but after finishing step 1 I couldn't proceed to step 2 because a cap was stuck on the motor rod and I couldn't get it off so I could put on the ventilator blade. Yesterday morning I consulted Olivera to see if perhaps her brother Andrea could look at it. She didn't think he had any particular skill at fixing things. I tried again, but no luck. This morning Olivera called again and said she and her brother would come over and see if they could solve the assembly problem.
They ran into the same issue as I did. The cap would not come off so the blade could not be installed. So, at Olivera's suggestion, we grabbed the pieces and Andrea drove us back to Реплек Хубо. Olivera charmingly explained the issue and an employee volunteered to assemble the ventilator. He simply turned the cap the other direction and it unscrewed. That was it. He put it all together in less than 5 minutes and we were on our way again.
The second thing I have been hunting for lately is cilantro AKA coriander. It is not sold at the green markets because coriander is not an ingredient in Macedonian cooking. Periodically, I have found coriander at Ramstore or Vero, but for the last several weeks it has disappeared.
Cilantro/coriander was always available in Georgia, Egypt, and Tajikistan, but in those countries, I couldn't buy tortilla chips. Now I have tortilla chips, but no cilantro for my tomato salsa.
SEND CILANTRO TO MACEDONIA!