Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Air Quality in Macedonia

During  Air Quality Awareness week, the US Embassy in Macedonia posted this video

The US Embassy facebook page explained the purpose --
 "To mark Air Quality Awareness Week we are sharing with you a time-lapse video of Skopje. The view from the U.S. Embassy shows this beautiful city and how unfortunately air pollution makes the city invisible at times. Thanks to our Cultural and Educational AttachĂ© and dedicated environmentalist, Kris McElwee, for taking a photo a day for the last year and a half. Let’s all do our part to reduce air pollution."

The post reminded me that we never posted about the air quality here (and how bad it was when we first arrived in the winter).

You can learn more about air quality, and get updates from all over the world, on this website:

(During the winter, when we first arrived in Skopje) sometimes when we looked, the air quality was worse in Skopje than it was in Beijing. I found this shocking, as I had no idea that there were issues with air quality in Skopje when we were packing for the trip (let alone that things could be worse in Skopje than in Beijing).  (When you click on that link above, to get up-to-the-minute data on air quality, you will see how air quality varies by time of day. Some of the negative comparisons to Beijing may have been attributed to the time difference (that it was daytime in Skopje when it was evening in Beijing) - comparing the  worst part of the day in one place with the best time of day in the other. Nevertheless, there were serious issues with the air quality in the winter, regardless how things may be in other parts of the world.

Here is more information about air pollution in Macedonia from the World Bank: 

Initially, we looked into purchasing air purifiers for our apartment.  (There were air purifiers for the classrooms at my daughter's school - and they were limiting time for students outside during times when the air quality was not healthy.)  I thought we should purchase an air purifier for the apartment, but my search did not yield a unit (with replacement filters) that would work for us. 

We did purchase these masks (pictured below), from a pharmacy near the Vero, but, neither my daughter nor I felt comfortable wearing them. We did see a few elderly people wearing masks on occasion - and sometimes younger women with masks under their scarfs. But, for the most part, regardless of the air quality, we did not see many people wearing masks. And we did not want to stand out, or seem like we were not happy in our new environment. (Seems silly typing that, if there were a genuine threat to our health, appearances should take a backseat.)  My daughter did not have any negative side effects.  I, on the other hand, was taking cough syrup and sinus meds and allergy meds during our early weeks in Skopje.

I taught in Skopje and in Tetovo. There were times when my commute to Tetovo was (or could have been) disrupted by protesters blocking the road, seeking to encourage the owners of a factory in Tetovo to put (better) filters on the smokestacks to cut back on the air pollution. While I worried about the inconvenience to my schedule, and getting where I needed to go on time, I applauded the civic engagement and the activism of those citizens who wanted to do something to improve the environment - action that seemed entirely necessary, at least from the point of view of my lungs.

I was so relieved, and could breathe easier, when the spring came.

On clear days, we could see beautiful mountains from our kitchen window. And from our balcony, we could see mountains if we looked to the left and if we looked to the right.  (Skopje is in a valley.)  We lived there for many weeks before we realized what nice views that we had from our apartment.

we purchased these masks from a pharmacy - but - never used them
 I was so happy when we could finally sit outside and enjoy fresher air.

blue skies from our balcony

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