My last day had arrived, or rather, my last proper day, as next morning I had to be at the airport at 4am !!! Asan had suggested bringing all my stuff to their house, so we would go after the rehearsal to the festive activities and party in Šutka. This promised to be sooooo exciting !!!!
I thought I have to do some more sight-seeing, as I have hardly been a tourist at all on this trip. I went to the centre of Skopje, sat at the Vardar River, no, not washing my cloths as in the song ‘Jovano, Jovanke’, just dreaming… and I went to the theatre once more and the old Market, the Pit Bazar.
It is quite amazing on what scale Skopje’s renovation and re-inventing activities are taking place, one would think it is a rich country !!!
I checked out from my hotel in the afternoon and went to Topana, for the last time on this visit. The Topana residents, who had given me strange looks on a normal day (foreigners are true aliens there, never to be seen), were quite puzzled this time, when I went through the tiny alleyways with my suitcase, and stuff. I might have carried with me more possessions just as my travelling luggage then they own altogether.
We did a little bit of a rehearsal, but we were all a little out of our heads from the intense music making the previous days, we started with all those childish games like instrument swapping and taking silly pictures….
It started raining :-( - after I have had a week of mostly sunshine and early-summer temperatures, it turned cold and ugly when we were heading to the big outdoor party.
Up in Šutka, it was so packed, one could hardly move anywhere near the stage. Roma singers and musicians from all over the world had come to perform.
So in the first stage we heard a great big mix of old and new, brass, violin, clarinet-led groups and lots of singers. Unfortunately, the later it got, the more it settled onto a style between Chalga and Turbo folk, and it was not so interesting anymore.
The strangest thing for me was: PEOPLE WERE NOT DANCING ! Here I was in the middle of an entire Romany crowd, and there were not much livelier than the British (before they get drunk). Also, they did not applaud, I still could not find out if this is a cultural thing, as there were some stunning solos performed, which would have deserved a storm of ovations…
Next to me, there were some little girls, between 13 and 15 years old, there were just as beautiful as you see in those Russian Gypsy movies, and there were laughing their heads off about me, maybe because I was one of the few people who moved with the music. When they asked me to dance, and I made some comical dance movements in response, they laughed even more. The communication reached as far as establishing, that I’m very very funny, but good-funny.
When the music went more and more naff, we left the place to get some dinner, as I was hungry. Like everywhere in the Balkans, the hospitality is overwhelming. Most Romany people in Šutka and Tomana are quite poor, as there is little work and badly paid. However, I was not allowed to pay for my dinner, neither any cabs we took when we were travelling together. Even the Rakija, which I still had to buy to bring back to London to share with friends, I could not pay…
Anyway, the rest of the night was disappointing. No Gypsy disco, as we had planned to go to, we were just sitting at the house of a friend of Asan, watching Romany Television, until it was time to leave. When we arrived back at Amit’s house to pick up my luggage I was slightly shocked. They didn’t sleep in beds, just on the various sofa’s. Private rooms seem not to be their way of life. There were 2 more rooms, but they were used for instruments and cloths, rather than using them as separate bedrooms. Mhm, Asan had offered me to stay at his house next time I come, I have to think now carefully if I could handle that for 2 or 3 weeks in Summer!
Anyway, a lift to the airport had been arranged for me, and with big tears I was seen off through the gate and back into a completely different life in London, which took me a full week to get used to again !!!