Crochted Christmas Lights

Crocheted Christmas Lights
Crocheted Christmas Lights

My mom recently told me about a cute crochet project she’d seen — Christmas Lights! I decided to make some for her as a surprise (but then I ruined the surprise by telling her about them).

I followed this easy pattern. The project was easy, just a bit slow and tedious. I am pretty happy with the end result, though.

A string of crocheted Christmas lights
I don’t have a mantle …
Crocheted bulb
For scale

Umm … Merry Christmas in February?

Lights
Christmas, Christmas time is here …

Market in Tirana, Albania

I took these photos a while ago but never got around to posting them. I visited a farmer’s market the last time I was in Albania. Fruits and vegetables abounded, but I was also surprised to see other goods for sale. I really wanted to buy an antique clock (isn’t the one with the owl cute?), but the 30 Euro price tag was too steep.

vintage clocks Tirana market
Antique clocks

goods for sale tirana market

Though sheep’s head soup is a delicacy, I have never seen it or had it served to me (though my host family eats mutton). I was surprised to see sheep’s heads roasting on a spit (bottom row).

roasting sheep heads Tirana Albania

I’ve had chicken cooked in a clay pot (see below) in Kosovo, and it is really good!

earthenware Tirana Albania
Clay pots for sale
orange tree Tirana market
Orange (?) tree

I am not someone who visits farmer’s markets with any regularity, but Tirana’s is small, clean, not at all crowded, and had a variety of foods and goods for sale. I will definitely be back!

Friday Gratitude: In Amsterdam

Hi! I am in Amsterdam! Yay! I am here for the long weekend (tomorrow is Kosovo’s 10th anniversary of independence, hence, no school on Monday) to visit a friend. Expect an Amsterdam-related blog post or two in the coming weeks.

During this time last year, I was going through a long depression. I told myself that this winter, I would take a trip over independence day weekend in order to break up my service time more effectively. 🙂

Also, I was especially excited to learn that Amsterdam has Dunkin’ Donuts. DD’s Valentine’s Day donuts are my FAVORITE, and I didn’t get one last year because, you know, I live in Kosovo. I don’t do drugs, but I am all for a nice sugar high. 😉

donut
Photo from brandeating.com

Media consumption this week …

  • In continuing on a Daniel Day-Lewis kick, I watched The Last of the Mohicans. I hadn’t ever seen it. I was surprised by how much I liked it.
  • I finished reading Albania’s Mountain Queen. I have so much to say I’m going to write a future blog post about it.

I hope you all enjoyed Wednesday’s “Love Letter” for Valentine’s Day. Writing the letter and filming the video put me in such a good mood. You all have done so much for me and it was a joy to reflect on the people I know and love and can count on for support.

I read a lovely speech about love on author Neil Gaiman’s blog. Here are a few of my favorite parts:

“… there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,
and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,
is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze,

and not to be alone.”

Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn’t want to rescue you or send for the army to rescue them.”

“… it’s a road you can only learn by walking it,
a dance you cannot be taught,
a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.”

— Neil Gaiman

Love and thanks to all of you! Have a happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

An Open Love Letter to My Family and Friends

“The way I feel is the way I write.” — Jose Gonzalez, Stay Alive

Happy Valentine’s Day to my family and friends. I wrote an open love letter to you all to thank you for seeing me through my Peace Corps service so far. (Sorry that the video’s volume is so soft. I suggest plugging in your headphones if you need to!)

If you’d like to skip ahead and only watch your part of the video, here are the time markers:

Mom (0:12)
Dad (0:25)
Kris (0:50)
Grandpa (1:10)
Aunt Nancy and Uncle Dave, Matt, Aunt Pat, and Aunt Tina (1:30)
Lisa (1:45)
Whitney (2:20)
Nicole (2:42)
Katie from Oakland (3:08)
Pauline (3:21)
Dana (3:40)
Katie from Chicago (4:00)
Jocelyn, Erica, Nina and Kristin (4:11)
Patrick, Lily, and Josh (4:29)
Heather (4:40)
Miriam (4:51)
Anna, Peg, Mary, Renee, and Paul (5:01)
Cheryl, Jodie, Shelby, Denise, Jennifer and Vandana (5:10)
Kushtrim (5:25)
Sierra (5:48)
Chelsea (6:06)
Chester (6:30)
Christian (6:56)
Val (7:11)
Charlie (7:29)
Todd (7:42)
Stephanee (7:54)
SJ (8:10)
Ingrid and Emily (8:17)
My entire cohort (8:29)
Blog readers (8:40)

Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

Q & A About Serving in the Peace Corps in Kosovo

Hello! A potential new volunteer recently emailed me some questions about serving in Peace Corps Kosovo, so I thought I would use them to create a blog post. At the end, I also included a question that a friend recently asked me.

1) How safe do you feel in Kosovo? Fairly safe. Have you ever felt threatened or in danger? The two worst things that have happened to me are: 1) A student threw a rock at me as I was crossing the school yard, and it hit me on the back of my shoulder. Three students were suspended for a week as a result, and I no longer teach their classes. 2) I was taking a walk one morning, rounded a bend in the road, and came upon a large, angry stray dog. It approached me several times and barked at me, but it eventually moved on. I would say I find environmental concerns (stray dogs, lack of seat belts in cars, lack of adequate nutrition and exercise, and exposure to second-hand smoke and air pollution) more worrisome than my experiences with people here. I mostly feel safe around Kosovar people. Do you think a self defense class would be a good idea? I think taking a self defense class is always a good idea, and is something every woman should do.

2) How hot and cold does it really get there? I am from the Midwest, and weather in Kosovo is like the weather in the Midwest. It gets very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. A major factor here is that central heat and central air conditioning are rare to nonexistent. Do I need to bring a long down jacket for winter? Yes, absolutely! Are the summers too hot for jeans and a T-shirt? I don’t wear jeans in the summer because it is too hot. I recommend wearing long skirts, linen pants, capri pants, etc. Some people wear shorts, but I would recommend dressing more conservatively here than you might in the United States.

3) Have you gotten placed next to any other Peace Corps volunteers? My first year here, I had two site mates. They didn’t live in my village but they were only a ten-minute drive away. They are both gone now. This year, I am alone at my site. The next-closest volunteer is probably an hour away from me by bus. However, I see other volunteers all the time in Pristina. Kosovo is small so I wanted to know if it is pretty standard to work at a school with other Peace Corps volunteers. Volunteers are never placed at the same school, even if they live in the same village.

4) Do you have daily access to fruits or vegetables? Mostly (kinda?) yes. My host family eats peppers almost daily. Sometimes, we also have cabbage or pickled vegetables. There is not much variety, however, in vegetables or in meals in general. If you are curious to know what I eat, you can read my 5-Day Food DiaryHow much of a say do you have in your diet? Almost none. If I say that I would prefer to eat less of something (like sugar or bread), will the family take extreme offense to that? No, not at all, at least in my experience. I think it is important to be honest with your host family about what you will or will not eat. For example, I hate onion and my host family knows this. If my host mother makes something with onion in it, she will make me a smaller, separate portion with no onion.  Can I just buy my own food and cook my own meals? You will negotiate the meal situation with your host family and yes, some volunteers do cook their own meals.

5) How often is it considered appropriate to shower in Kosovo before it becomes rude (as in your host family gets irritated with you for using up amenities)? I shower and wash my hair every day. As far as toiletries go, I buy my own soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Having good hygiene has always been important to me — it’s just a part of who I am. I compromise on plenty of stuff as a volunteer, but I am not willing to compromise on maintaining good hygiene.

I think volunteers (especially in the beginning of service) are really nervous about being seen as “weird” or doing something offensive, but remember, you will be a foreigner in Kosovo. You are bound to do things that are “weird” because you come from a different country with a different culture. You are not going to perfectly blend in. As long as you aren’t being deliberately disrespectful or offensive, do what makes you happy. Is [showering] every other day excessive? I don’t think so.

6) What has been the hardest cultural aspect for you to adjust to in Kosovo? All of it has been a huge adjustment. As far as the hardest thing, I would say that because Kosovo is a patriarchal society, experiencing the way women are thought of and treated has really been hard. I also hate all the smoking!

7) My friend Dana (hi, Dana!) recently asked me how many Americans are on staff here in Kosovo. All Peace Corps posts (meaning, host countries) have to have three Americans on staff: the Country Director, the Director of Programming and Training, and the Director of Management and Operations. All other staff members (administrative assistants, medical staff, IT director, accounts payable/receivable, program managers, small grants manager, supply chain manager, and drivers) are from Kosovo.

As always, I hope my answers are helpful! Thank you for reading.

Friday Gratitude: All Good Things

Happy Friday! Here are some pictures of my host family’s new German Shepherd puppy.

german shepherd puppy kosovo 1.JPG
His name is Adam.
german shepherd puppy kosovo 2
He is already huge … oh, boy.

(My parents got to meet the puppy when they visited Kosovo, and my mom asked me to share some photos. Here you go, Mom.) 🙂

Cute story about a student … Last week, I noticed one of my fifth grade students had a key chain from the Melbourne Aquarium. I was reading a book about Australia, so Australia was on my mind. Plus, it isn’t a common place for Kosovars to travel so it stood out to me. I asked my student if she had been there and she told me her father had gone and brought back the key chain for her. This week, she brought in a photo album to show me pictures of her father’s trip to the aquarium. I thought it was so sweet of her to do that. 🙂

Media consumption this week …

  • I re-watched the movie The Ballad of Jack and Rose. I was in the mood to watch a Daniel Day-Lewis movie and it is the only one I have saved to my external hard drive. Ever since hearing about his newest (and supposedly, his last) film, Phantom Thread, I have been trying in vain to find it on one of the *ahem* websites here, but with no luck. (Maybe if one of my fellow volunteers is reading this, you could point me in a helpful direction?)
  • No finished books this week. *gasp* I’m in the middle of a long, non-fiction book … more on that later.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with kind words regarding my decision to feature blog posts dealing with heavier topics. I may up put a few more posts in the future, but next week’s posts will have lighter content.

I’m in Pristina today to attend a Peace Corps town hall meeting, and I’m staying in the city afterward to celebrate a friend’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Sierra!) I hope you all have a good weekend. I’ll talk to you on Monday.

Silver Filigree Jewelry from Kosovo

There are a number of artisans in Kosovo who are known for making silver filigree jewelry. After seeing several members of my cohort sporting beautiful, handcrafted rings, I decided it was time to buy one for myself.

wearing ring
Silver filigree ring from Kosovo
ring front
Silver filigree ring from Kosovo
ring gift wrapped
Silver filigree ring from Kosovo
ring side
Silver filigree ring from Kosovo

My ring comes from Peja, though if you are interested in learning about how the history of this type of jewelry in Kosovo, Balkan Insight recently wrote an article about artisans in Prizren.

I hope I make a habit of wearing this … I am not usually a ring-wearer. However, this was so pretty I had to get it!