30 April 2012

Digging in

"By the time you leave, you'll easily have 2-3 kilos more!" said our gracious host, as he ordered another round of kebaps to go with the beers. This is only our first day of LEADER teaching in Skopje, but judging by the level of hospitality extended to us so far (and the food served), I have little doubt his predictions will come true. Much like I am sure that the two weeks in Macedonia will be an exciting and insightful time.

I've come to this often overlooked country in the company of three business students, with the goal of teaching Canadian business skills and insights to an audience of aspiring entrepreneurs in an emerging economy. But we've quickly found that the participants in our course, selected by the Macedonian Chambers of Commerce, are not your typical group of young aspirants. Most of them own well-established businesses, or work for local branches of international companies, and have a decent understanding of business fundamentals. So out go the basics, and in comes the advanced curriculum. To provide real value to such an audience, our bunch of 20-somethings (my days under that desirable label are numbered) will have to give it all we've got. Acting more as moderators than as instructors, we will certainly learn a lot ourselves, too.

And not just in the classroom. The generous participant who took us out to late lunch (and pastries, and tea, and to the bazaar etc.) did not fail to stop by his own company HQ, to let us tour the facilities and see with our own eyes how firms are run in his country. With a history that is both long and turbulent, it is not the easiest place to do business. But the Macedonians are visibly proud of their achievements - which obviously extend to the wine cellar and the dining table.

Up on a hill, towering some 800m above Skopje, stands the Millennium Cross, one of the city's top attractions and a great observation spot. It's our destination for tomorrow's Labour Day holiday, and if we don't want our host's prediction to come true too soon, we better don't get there by cable car.


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