Friday Gratitude: The Last Semester

I started the week with a typical vacation “hangover,” meaning I was feeling blue about returning to work and Kosovo after spending time in London and then Serbia. However, I am happy I started my last semester of teaching! 🙂

Media Consumption this week …

  • I finished re-reading books 4, 5, and 6 of Harry Potter.

I’ve been feeling all Blanche DuBois lately, as I have had to depend on the kindness of strangers:

  • The bus ride to Serbia made several stops. At one station, I got off the bus to use the bathroom. Well, it was a pay toilet and I didn’t have any Serbian money. The money collector actually turned his back on me when I tried to offer him Euro. Then, another woman joined the line behind me. I explained my predicament to her, and she paid for me to use the bathroom.
  • When I turned down my road on Tuesday, I came upon a dog. Several months ago, I was almost attacked by a stray dog on my road, so I have been particularly wary of dogs since then. I turned around and walked the short distance back to the main road. A man walking by saw me pick up the rock, noticed the dog, and then he also picked up a rock and walked me all the way down my road until we safely reached my house.

I am grateful to have more Dunkin’ Donuts coffee! Sierra spent Christmas in the States and brought us presents! (You know you’re getting old when coffee, thermal socks, and floss excite you.) Thanks, Sierra!

grown up gifts.jpg
Grown-up Christmas gifts

You know what’s awesome? When your care package arrives on a day when you were at the Peace Corps office anyway … it’s only happened to me twice. Yesterday, I got this awesome care package from Whitney:

peace corps kosovo care package

The package contains basically everything I could ever want: chips and salsa, Annie’s mac and cheese, my face cleanser kit, a tote bag for my yarn, a Hello Kitty crochet book (WHAT!?), Hershey’s and Reese’s candy, Muddy Buddies, and TWO board games (Clue and Sorry … I cannot wait to play these with my 13-year-old host cousin!)

Thank you so much Whitney! (Here is a close-up of the Hello Kitty crochet book. OMG, two greater mediums could not exist.)

hello kitty crochet book

I also got cards from my friend Katie and my uncle. I am feeling extra loved and adored this week. 🙂 Thank you, everyone!

Happy weekend! Monday’s post will be all about my trip to Belgrade, Serbia, so stay tuned! 🙂

A Walk Around Skopje, Macedonia, Part Two

“If you want to know your future, look at your past.” — Macedonian saying, as told to me by a Macedonian I know

Fun Fact: Macedonia and Kosovo are the only Peace Corps host countries that share a medical unit. This means that, thanks to a persistent ear infection, I have been visiting Macedonia frequently.

Here are some photos I took during walk(s) around the city.

Macedonia ship
Controversial “ship” that might be removed
Macedonia stone bridge
Stone Bridge
Macedonia river
Macedonia Alexander the Great Statue
Expensive and controversial Alexander the Great statue

Macedonia has been undergoing a lot of political change lately. There is talk of removing its controversial statues and other monuments. You can read more about it here.

Here is a previous post I wrote with more pictures of Macedonia:

Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence

So, Macedonia totally gets props for having a museum with the longest name of any museum I have ever visited. 😉

Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence

The Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence focuses on Macedonia’s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (early 1900s) through World Wars I and II until the end of its communist rule in 1991.

Macedonian constitution
Macedonian Constitution

Some interesting things I learned:

  • Ellen Stone was an American missionary living in Macedonia. She was kidnapped and held captive for 6 months by a revolutionary group looking to fund their uprising against the Ottoman Empire. They eventually got the money they wanted and set Ms. Stone free. This is considered to be the first time an American was ever held hostage overseas.
  • During the second world war, Macedonia was not recognized as a country. Macedonians fought with the armies of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece.
  • In 1944, Macedonia was recognized as an independent state and its language was finally recognized.
  • The Macedonian declaration of independence was signed in 1991.
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence stairway
Front staircase in the entryway: Important figures from Macedonia’s history
museum exhibit 1
1944 — Macedonia was recognized as an independent state
museum exhibit 2
Soldiers + war scene
museum exhibit 3
Photographs hanging above a stairway depict the victims of communism (sorry it is so blurry!)
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence ceiling
Ceiling to represent the indigenous peoples of Macedonia

A few things to note about The Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence:

  • Entrance fee: 300 Denar (about 4.80 Euro)
  • You can only walk through the museum as part of a guided tour.
  • The museum offers tours in English.
  • No photos are allowed inside the museum aside from the entrance hall. I was bad and snuck around the corner to snap three photos inside. Normally I try to respect “no photography” rules but this one just seemed excessive.
  • Mannequins are heavily used in the exhibits.

Note: I took notes as best I could on my phone while I was touring the museum. Apologies if any information is incorrect (though I think what I have posted is accurate).

Friday Gratitude: Survey

Hi, everyone! I am doing a little travel around the Balkans this week before heading back to school on Monday. I’ll be posting more about my travels within the next week or two.

Media consumption this week:

  • I watched Lady Bird. It was a cute movie — nothing earth shattering. I thought it also did a good job of capturing the complicated relationships that arise in a family with teenagers. After recently re-watching the movie Brooklyn, I will also say Saoirse Ronan is a hell of an actress.
  • I am steadily re-reading all the books in the Harry Potter series.

Also, a shout-out to Patrick for suggesting that Monday’s blog post should have been titled “The Silence of the Hams.” Ugh, brilliant! A missed opportunity!

Finally, I would appreciate it if you would please take a moment to fill out this 10-question survey about my blog:

That Time I Wandered into a Horror Scene

It was about 6 p.m., full dark, no stars. I had been sweeping my bedroom and I wanted to empty the debris into the outside garbage can. I paused on the front door step. The expanse of my host family’s yard was pitch-black, but beyond that, past the fence, our neighbors stood in a circle of warm light. Then I heard the horrible squealing of a pig. The light illuminated an arm moving down and then back up, down and then back up, down and then back up. The squealing stopped, and the only sound that remained was my neighbors’ murmurings. I stood with the broom in one hand and dustpan in the other, wishing I had not seen what I just had.

Friday Gratitude: Welcome, 2018!

Hi, Friends! I am so excited that it is 2018! It is the end year of my Peace Corps service (2016-2018)! Hip hip, hooray!

It was great to have my parents visit Kosovo for a few days to meet my host family, counterpart, and a few of my friends. It was interesting for me to see how they experienced Kosovo and to hear their observations. I am also grateful they were able to gain a better understanding of my life here.

Media consumption … Remember when I said I had read 56 books in 2017? Well, I pushed through and read an additional 6 books, bringing my year-end total to 62! I read:

  • Still Life by Louise Penny. I’d read another of her books, later in this series, after buying it on the cheap at a used book sale. I decided to go back and read the first. It was an engaging murder mystery. My favorite thing about both books was the setting — Quebec! (Somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.)
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I watched the movie version of this story on the first evening I moved in with my current host family. The book was thoroughly enjoyable, though a bit heavy-handed with the “inspiring me to be a better person” parts.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This book has gotten tons of hype and after a recommendation from Dana (thanks!), I put my name down for it on the Chicago Public Library waiting list. I burned right through it — it’s worth the hype.
  • I have been saving the Harry Potter series as a re-read (my fourth, I think) for my last winter in Kosovo. As some of you know, I had a hell of a time getting back home from London. Being stuck at Luton Airport for 21 hours straight prompted me to get an early start on my re-reading. I love Harry Potter every bit as much as I did the first time I started the series.

I read a blog post by a woman who read 75 books last year (Good Lord, where did she find the time?) I agree with everything she says here.

Thanks to Pauline for sending the following Ted-Talk to me a few weeks back. It is hilarious and inspiring … it offers food for thought and I wanted to share it as we start a new year. 🙂