Cadets sent to Macedonia under the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) Program have spent the last week and half diving into the Macedonian cultural experience when not training with the military. Aside from trying every kind of foreign food we can get our hands on and learning local dances with the Macedonians, Cadets have climbed a mountain on which rests the largest religious symbol in the world, explored a Byzantine fortress, visited the Holocaust Museum of Macedonia, visited the villages surrounding the military academy in Pepelishte, and toured one of the oldest settlements in Europe, Ohrid. Allow attached pictures to give you a window into the cultural experiences of a deployed CULP Cadet.
The team members, Cadets and cadre alike, are earnestly trying to learn Macedonian. Cadet David MacDonald from the University of Vermont can be heard conversing with the Macedonians in their native tongue all the time.
Cadets climbed Mt. Vodno, on which a large cross adorns the mountain and towers over Skopje, the capital. The city illuminates the skyline at night with its thousands of lights. The cross can be seen from almost any point in the city, and serves as a fitting symbol for a region with deep Orthodox roots.
Kale Fortress, built at the height of the Byzantine Empire and located in the heart of Skopje, received a combing over by the military scholars in training.
During a land navigation exercise that called for interaction with the local populace, many Cadets took the opportunity to let loose just a bit and enjoy the beautiful countryside.
The team also found time to tour the ancient city of Ohrid, built on the shores of the “Pearl of the Balkans”, Lake Ohrid. One look at the water explains the name as one would be hard pressed to find such clear water anywhere else in Europe.
Lastly, as the Army transitions away from recent wars, it necessitates engaging the civilian population and creating allies and making friends. One such new acquaintance was a man we came across while he was swimming in the lake. He said he had recently returned from Chicago and seemed excited to meet such a great number of Americans all at once in his home country.
Stay tuned for more posts!