Shumë Speca!

You know that old saying, “You are what you eat.” If that is true, I am a pepper.

The Albanian word for peppers is “speca” (I pronounce it  SPAYT-SA, and to me, it sounds like others pronounce it this way, to. [Even though there is no “t.”]). I hear “speca” so often that in complete honesty, I sometimes have trouble remembering the English word for it.

I like speca, but over this past summer I have eaten enough to grow tired of it. But, I thought, Ah-ha! Autumn is coming. And that means no more speca.

I thought wrong. I forgot about canning. It seems I will be enjoying speca for months (and years) to come!

My host mother asked me if I’d like to accompany her to her sister’s house to see the canning process. We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and did not leave until 8:30 p.m. (I had been warned this would be an all-day affair.)

Speca for days …
There’s more where that came from …
Speca! I mean, peppers


Literally, my only contribution to the process
In the future, there will never be a time when I am not eating speca.




Guest Blogger: Chelsea Coombes

Hi, everyone! My friend and fellow Peace Corps trainee, Chelsea Coombes, graciously agreed to write a guest post for my blog. (I figured you all might appreciate hearing a perspective other than mine!) Her post is below. — April

April and Chelsea


I am extremely grateful to April for including me in her blog as a guest. I find myself constantly reading her posts. We all acknowledge that we have our single stories, however it is great to be going through this experience with such an inspiring new friend.

I had a very hard time choosing what I wanted to write about. I myself have not started a blog. I have been thinking how I would like to document my time here in Kosovo and I am not much of a blogger, but this is a good chance to try it out! While I was pondering what I wanted to write about I asked myself “what do you love most about Kosovo?” the answer, my host family.

I am a 24-year-old grad student who has only been out of her mother’s home for one year. I lived in Florida most of my life. Last year I moved to New Hampshire for school and at the time I thought that was the biggest decision of my life. That is of course until I moved thousands of miles away to Kosovo for Peace Corps. These last few months have been incredibly challenging, but extremely rewarding.

With that being said, I have never felt more included. The beginning of pre-service training (PST) is a blur, but I do remember meeting my PST family. Standing at the school with fear radiating through my entire body I was paired with the family who would take me in for the next three months. I have a host brother around age 20, two host sisters one who is the same age as me and one around 27, and a host mother. We awkwardly stared at each other and made small gestures while they helped me with my bags to their car and drove me to the house. Once at home we all sat around the table outside and the first thing they asked me, that I had to later translate was “do you feel at home?” I look back at this moment often. Here I am, miles away from my home and everything I know with a family whom I couldn’t communicate with in Albanian or English, and all I can think about is how generous they are. How they went out of their way to make me feel at home, even from day one.

Every day they make sure I am included in their family plans. I was invited to my host sister’s wedding the second day I arrived in country.

Their kindness and closeness has been overwhelmingly gracious. But it was a few weeks ago that really solidified my place in this family. It was storming and our power was out. I opened my door to find them settling down in the hall, the door was open and they had a flashlight. My host mom pulled up a cushion and encouraged me to sit. We ate chocolate, laughed about the rain and huddled up to each other. I felt like such an important member of a family, I felt loved.

PST is coming to a close and I know that the hardest part is going to be leaving them. My permanent site is about a 6-hour bus ride, and though I know I will visit it still feels like goodbye. I have seen my host mom sick, my sister leave for school to Germany, my host brother in goofy moments and my older sister become a wife. Being with a family through big transitions and being a part of them really makes you feel connected.

To the family that put up with my strange eating habits, laughed at my poor language skills and constantly let me know I was not a guest but part of this family, thank you.

Teaching for the First Time

FullSizeRender (6)
My fellow teacher trainees

My Peace Corps assignment in Kosovo is to Teach English as a Foreign Language. As part of our practicum, we ran a free, 6-session English summer camp over the last two weeks. We were broken into groups of 3 to 4 trainees, and had to come up with lesson plans for each day. My group was assigned grades 3rd-5th.

I had no actual classroom experience prior to last week. I spent a semester in college volunteering at my university’s Literacy Center, and ended up tutoring a man from China. I also spent 6 months as an undergraduate tutoring a 4-year-old boy with autism. And, as a social worker, I’ve run therapy groups with adolescents. Finally, I bought a Groupon and completed an online TEFL certificate course prior to applying for the Peace Corps. All of this to say, I have related experience, but had never actually taught.

I had a lot more fun than I expected to. The kids were surprisingly well-behaved and eager to learn. My group taught lessons on animals, colors, shapes, numbers, time, days of the week, months of the year, and seasons.

I will move to my permanent site after swearing in August 19, and school starts the first of September. I am both nervous and excited to begin working with my counterpart in the classroom.

In related news, my drawing ability has marginally improved.

My First Kosovar Wedding

My middle host brother got married on Saturday. It was my first Kosovar wedding!


From Tuesday night-Friday night, our house was busy with music and relatives every night. There was a long table set up in the driveway, and our family served snacks and beverages. Loud music played until about 11 p.m., and people would circle dance. The bride-to-be was absent during these festivities. Perhaps she was celebrating with her own family … I’m not sure.

Saturday was the actual wedding day. At about 11 a.m., a traditional band showed up, along with all of the relatives. People danced and took pictures with my host brother and his family.



Albanian Musicians

Then, the family left to go pick up the bride. (I didn’t go — not enough room in the car.) It is tradition for the bride to be driven by a long procession back to the groom’s family’s house. Relatives and neighbors on our end were waiting to receive her when she arrived.




There was more music and picture taking. Then, there was a lull of about 3 hours. Most of the relatives left, and we all kind of sat around and waited until it was time to go to the restaurant.

(One thing I found interesting about this wedding is that there was no actual ceremony. I asked one of my host brothers, and he said the bride and groom go to the cleric at the mosque to sign paperwork about a month in advance. The actual wedding day is just the party.)

We left at about 7:00 p.m. to go to the restaurant, about a mile or so up the main road. There was a lot of circle dancing! The woman all had beautiful dresses (and some changed into other beautiful dresses midway through the evening).


We had appetizers throughout the night. Dinner was served at 11:00 p.m. I ran into a local friend (who I didn’t know would be at the wedding). She and her boyfriend drove me home at 1:00 a.m. The party was still going strong — the cake cutting didn’t happen until 1:30, so I missed out.

(You’ll notice I didn’t include too many photos of my host family. I want to balance sharing my cultural experiences while respecting my host family’s privacy.)