February Landscape

If I could only use one word to describe February, it would be “brown.” The ridiculously cold and snowy January we experienced here in Kosovo suddenly gave way to almost springlike weather. We had pouring rain and lots of mud. Yesterday, I sat at an outdoor cafe without my coat.

I took this photo from the balcony of my hotel room in Pristina, during my stay for a Peace Corps conference. (Last month’s photo was taken from the balcony of my host family’s house. I guess I like balcony photos.)



Teaching Activity: City Matching Game

I created the following easy matching game for my students.



  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Color printer
  • Paper cutter
  • Paper clips

Using an old textbook, I cut out two illustrations, one of Los Angeles and the other of San Francisco. Then, using markers, I made three matching cards for each city. I chose descriptive words and wrote them in a fun, illustrative way to help students memorize them.

I used a color printer to make copies of everything, and then cut into cards with a paper cutter. Then, I divided all the cards into individual packets, each containing the two city pictures and six matching words.

Students each received a packet and had to sort the words into the appropriate city. We talked about the new vocabulary words. When doing this activity with older students, I asked them to write sentences to describe each city, using the new words.

What I liked about this was that it was a simple, short activity that didn’t require much in terms of resources. I liked that it is adaptable depending on ability/grade level. I also like that it paired a little kinesthetic learning (sorting) with visual learning.

Other teaching resources:

Friday Gratitude: Puppies!

January and February have been tough months. I think it’s a combination of many things — returning from vacationing in Paris, cold weather/shorter days, the feeling like more travel is a long way off, the feeling that the end of my Peace Corps service is a long way off, etc. I’ll start to feel better about things, and then something will happen to make me feel blue.

But, I am trying to focus on positive things. My host family’s dog gave birth to five puppies last Saturday morning! While I have opinions on pets not being spayed (oh, I have so many opinions about animals in Kosovo!) only a monster would be unhappy about puppies.

Our dog’s name is Pandousha. (We used to have a second dog, but the family got rid of him.) Anyway, Pandousha and I have become good buddies, as I’m usually the one who feeds her. I often say this aloud to her, “I would like you more if you were a cat, but I accept what the Universe brings to me.” When I pet her, I always get the feeling something is missing. Then I realize I’m waiting for her to purr.

I attempted to take pictures of the puppies. I picked up one of the puppies with one hand and held my camera in the other. Pandousha leaned over, plucked the puppy from my hand, and placed it beneath her. I picked up another puppy. Pandousha leaned over, plucked that puppy from my hand, and again, placed it beneath her. It’s like she was saying, “Excuse me, but, NO.” I took the hint and left them alone.

(And yes, I know it’s bad to touch newborn puppies. But the dog and I have a tight relationship. If any human can touch her puppies, it is me.)

I’ll post more pictures once the puppies are a little bigger and more photo friendly.


Media consumption:

  • I finished A Man Called Ove. I know several of my friends recommended it … I forget which friends, specifically (sorry). It was charming, heart-warming, and laugh-out-loud funny in some places. Parts of it annoyed me for its obviousness/contrivance. But overall, I’d say it’s worth a read.


I am off to spend this coming weekend with my pre-service training (PST)/temporary host family from last summer. I haven’t seen them since August.

Have a good one!

Fun Links (Kosovo and Albania)

Below are some links to articles I’ve enjoyed about Kosovo (and Albania).

  • Makeup is a big deal in Kosovo. Women, especially in the larger cities, tend to be much more made up than what I think is typical in the States. I got a kick out of Blonde Gypsy’s look at beauty routines in Pristina.

    Photo credit: Blonde Gypsy
  • Heart My Backpack posted some gorgeous photos of Pristina during her trip to Kosovo. It was also fun to read someone else’s take on the city.

    Photo credit: Heart My Backpack
  • This great post captures 23 “Day in the Life” photos of Kosovo from around the country.

    Musliman u vremenu
    Photo credit: Admir Idrizi via rferl.org
  • I loved visiting Tirana, Albania’s capital city. It’s got a mild, Mediterranean climate, a varied history, and a gorgeous public park. (I previously wrote about its nature, history, and the city today.) So I was super excited when this article popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s a great, one-day itinerary for visiting Tirana.

    Photo Credit: One Day Itinerary
  • I don’t cook much in Kosovo, for many reasons. 1) I think it would be rude not to eat with my host family. 2) I don’t like to cook often. 3) My village doesn’t have a grocery store. 4) My host family owns a wood-burning stove, and I have no idea how to use it. However, many of my friends like to cook, so I wanted to link to another recipe for traditional food. (I previously posted some good recipe links in this post.) In the One Day Itinerary article above, Oda was suggested as a good traditional dining spot in Tirana. I ate at Oda during my trip to Tirana and loved it. Fasule, a popular bean dish, was one of the dishes I ordered. I found this blog post (written by a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Albania) that lists a simple fasule recipe (in English).

    Photo Credit: Albania Adventure

Living Comfortably During Power Outages

Frequent power outages are a part of life here in Kosovo. The times and duration vary depending on where you live. For example, I’ve been told my village experiences greater outages in summer than in winter.

As of right now, the longest outage I’ve experienced was probably about 15 hours. And since moving to my permanent site, the longest we go without losing power at all is probably 2-3 days. I guess I’d describe our outages as “frequent but brief.”

Once, the power cut out while I was in the shower. I was standing in the pitch dark, frantically trying to rinse the shampoo from my hair, knowing I only had about 30 seconds until the water cut out, too. When I emerged from the bathroom, my host mother was standing outside the door with a flashlight pointed at me. Haha.

Losing power isn’t very fun (although it does lead to spontaneous candlelit dinners). I use the following resources to stay as comfortable as possible.

I keep a supply of tap water stored in 2-liter bottles in my bedroom. If the power goes out, I can still wash my face and brush my teeth. (Or, if things got really desperate, I guess I could also “shower” using bottled water. Luckily, the outages have never been that long.)


Every home in Kosovo has at least one of these mini gas burners. I’ve used them to make coffee and tea, and also to heat up soup and boil water for pasta. This one is about 12″ tall.


The Peace Corps requires us to have a working phone at all times. Well, if the power cuts out when my phone battery is low, that could be a problem. I purchased this power bank, which has given me peace of mind.


I bought this hard drive and loaded it with my favorite movies before I moved to Kosovo. When the power cuts out and I’m sitting in the dark and bored, I plug my hard drive into my laptop (which I always keep charged) and watch a movie or a t.v. show.


A friend bought me my favorite candle (Chicago-based Chandler Candle Company’s “Tobacco” scent) as a going away present before I moved to Kosovo. I’ve used it frequently when the power cuts out.


A Walk Around Pristina, Kosovo

I’ve visited Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city, probably dozens of times now. But I tend to follow the same path through the city, sticking to streets and places I know.

I mentioned to a friend who lives in Pristina that I wanted to explore the city a bit more. She offered to take me on walk up through a part of the city I’d never seen.

We climbed a steep hill and reached a neighborhood filled with beautiful homes.




We ended up at a large cemetery.




Many of the tombstones displayed pictures of the deceased.


It is common for graves in Kosovo to have “cages” around them to keep stray dogs away.




We walked further.



Next, we came to a small park at the very top of the city.


When we came down from the hill, we visited the Newborn sign (which I posted about last week). Here’s what the new design looks like, in person.

New …

None of the letters in “Newborn” really corresponds with my name, so I decided to take a picture with the “B.” Because why not?

#Urime, #Kosovo! 🎉9 years of independence. #newbornsign #pristina #newdesign 🇽🇰

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

Friday Gratitude: Happy Independence Day, Kosovo!

Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008. Today, on its 9th anniversary, a new design for its Newborn sign will be revealed (as it is every year on Independence Day). Here is a picture of the past year’s design:

Thanks @sierra211 for taking this photo. #Pristina #Kosovo #newborn

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

(I previously wrote a post about Kosovo’s Newborn sign here.)

This is what the new design looks like. I’ll be sure to post pictures when I see it in real life.

Photo Credit: Balkan Insight

You can read more about the new design in this article.

I wondered what I was doing on February 17, 2008, so I went through my old email in search of that date. (I never delete email. Bad habit.) Apparently, I bought tickets to an amateur burlesque show in Chicago (I remember that show), and emailed a friend about a guy she was dating at the time (she has since married a much nicer man). It’s strange to think how unaware I was at the time … that a country I would one day live in was declaring its independence, and 5,000 miles away, I didn’t know it.

Media Consumption this week:

    • I watched Nocturnal Animals. It’s one of those movies that takes a while to process … It held my attention (usually a problem for me if I’m watching a movie at home). It was disturbing. I think Amy Adams is one of the most compelling actresses out there. And … that’s pretty much all I have to say.
    • I finished The Book Thief. This is the second fictional account of WWII I’ve read since I got to Kosovo. I enjoyed it.

The thing I am most grateful for is that my cat back in the U.S. is healthy. He was acting strangely, so my parents took him to the vet. After x-rays and blood work, the problem turned out to be minor. I’m so lucky to have parents who love him and take good care of him while I am away.

Happy Friday!