As part of my language training the last week, we took an afternoon field trip to the Ecological Museum in Peja.
First, we saw two exhibits showcasing how things looked in a traditional Albanian home. Here is a living room. Men would be served beverages here. The long-handled pot you see in the left corner of the picture was used for washing hands.
Next, we saw a kitchen. Families used to sit on the floor or low stools around a table on the ground, which is called a soffit. (Note: I am not sure if I spelled that correctly.)
The clothing exhibit was probably my favorite part of the museum. This wool dress is 100 years old, and was based on an Illyrian design. The Illyrians are considered to be the first group of people to inhabit Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans.
The following is an example of what women used to wear in Kosovo. (I must have asked our tour guide three times, “They dressed like this EVERY DAY?” It seems an outfit this elaborate would get dirty … )
Here is what men in Kosovo used to wear. I was interested to learn the white cloth around their heads are actually burial shrouds. Men would wear their burial shrouds every day, in case they were killed.
As someone who likes to crochet, I appreciated this display of old sewing/looming tools.
The other part of the museum featured old coins and artifacts that had been discovered locally. I didn’t take pictures of those exhibits because it was dark in the room. (And honestly, I am just less interested in that stuff.)
Overall, my visit to the museum was enjoyable, and I learned a few tidbits about Kosovo that I did not know previously. Admission was only 1 Euro. If you ever find yourself in Peja, Kosovo, the Ecological Museum is worth checking out.
Last week, we had an in-service language training, which was very useful. I got to learn more about the Albanian language (Shqip, pronounced “Ship”).
One concept I previously had a hard time understanding was that of “cases” in the Albanian language. I am going to explain cases as best as I can, based on my understanding of what they are. Cases show the grammatical function of the word in a sentence.
In Shqip, the word endings of nouns change to show their function in a sentence. Let’s use my name, “April,” as an example. The word April is actually considered a masculine word in Shqip, because it ends in a consonant (feminine words end in a vowel). Here are the ways my name would change, depending on its function in a sentence:
Kyo eshte Aprili.(This is April.) My name gets an “i” at the end, because I am the direct object.
Lapsi eshte Aprilit. (The pencil is April’s.) My name gets a “it” at the end, because I am the owner of the pencil.
Dje e pashe Aprilin. (Yesterday I saw April.) My name gets an “in” at the end, because I am the receiver of an action.
Now consider the following sentence:
The postman brought the parcel. The order of the words gives us information about the sentence. If we changed the word order to “The parcel brought the postman,” the meaning of the sentence would change.
Let’s look at that same sentence in Shqip. It translates to “Postieri ([the] postman) e solli (brought) pakten ([the] parcel).” Because the words “postman” and “paketen” change endings to tell us what their functions are in the sentence, we can use the words in any order.
Paketen e solli postieri.
E solli postieri pakon.
E solli pakon postieri.
Postieri pakon e solli.
Pakon postieri e solli.
All of these sentences have the same meaning, and all of these sentences are grammatically correct.
This fact blew my mind!
So when I return from having lived in Kosovo for two years, and you ask me, “April, why aren’t you fluent in Albanian?” My answer will be, “Because of the cases.” 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this mini lesson on the Albanian language.
A while back, I asked my friends and family members to send me questions to answer on the blog. My Dad asked about sports and the outdoors in Kosovo. Since I’m not exactly Sporty Spice, I decided to outsource his questions to someone more knowledgeable than I. My friend Andrew has participated in a lot of outdoor fun since he moved to Kosovo. Without further adieu … –April
Përshëndetje! I am excited and honored to be taking over April’s blog this week. Apparently I have gained a bit of a reputation for loving the outdoors, especially in Kosovo. In fact, the nature here is so beautiful that I started documenting it, which led me to discover another passion of mine, photography.
Back in the U.S., I was just getting into hiking and kayaking before I moved to Kosovo for my service. I am from Atlanta, so it was quite common for my friends and I to flee the city for the weekend for some fresh air on the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t sure what to expect once I found out I was moving to Kosovo. I had read that Kosovo was mountainous and forested, so I knew there was potential, but I wasn’t sure how accessible outdoor activities would be.
During my first year, I went on a lot of hikes with other volunteers and we usually found some great trails on our own through trial and error. The town I live in is pretty flat, so I usually relied on my friends who live in the more rugged areas to ask around and get an idea of where we should go. Unfortunately, unexploded landmines from the war are still a concern, especially in the mountainous border regions. It’s best not to get too adventurous, unless you really know where you are going and that the area has been confirmed to be free of mines. Luckily, there are many public and private organizations in Kosovo that are actively working to rid Kosovo of mines and other unexploded ordnance. There are also a lot of resources available, such as maps and local tour guides, that will allow you to safely enjoy the nature here.
I was talking with a local friend the other day and we were discussing how we have both noticed the recent increase in opportunities to take part in organized outdoor events. It has been amazing to watch Kosovo develop in this way during my nearly two years of living here because I truly believe that Kosovo has an incredible potential for ecotourism. Seeing that potential slowly turn into reality is pretty cool. Every week you can see new tour companies popping up on your newsfeed, advertising organized group hikes, bike rides, rock climbing, cultural tours, etc. These offers are usually at a pretty low price and they include transportation, food, and an expert guide. I recently took advantage of one of these opportunities and I went snowshoeing for the first time. We started in a village called Restelica and walked 10+ km over a mountain to the village of Brod. This was in one of the most remote regions of Kosovo and I never would have felt comfortable to do this without a guide, especially in the snow when visibility is so low and avalanches are such a risk. It was certainly a challenge, my legs are still burning three days after the fact, but it was an amazing experience. The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and I was able to learn the basics. My only disappointment is that it is the end of winter and I only just now discovered that I love snowshoeing. Next winter I plan to snowshoe as often as possible. I am also hoping to pick up skiing. I went once when I was in high school, but I would hardly call myself an expert. Kosovo is definitely a great place to learn! Depending on where you are, you can find slopes for beginners, or more challenging ones if you already know what you’re doing. I’ve also seen a lot of snowmobiles during my visits to Brezovica (the main ski resort in Kosovo) and I think it would be awesome to learn how to do that as well. With that said, PCVs aren’t allowed to drive cars or motorcycles, so I assume there is some sort of rule about snowmobiles. If you are currently serving, it’s probably just best to wait until you close your service before you give that a shot.
I think a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers in Kosovo will tell you that winter is tough. My first winter was the most difficult part of my service. I didn’t know how to deal with it and I spent far too much time sitting inside and feeling sorry for myself. My second winter has been the exact opposite. Yes, it was still cold, but I got out as often as possible, enjoyed myself, and stayed busy. Winter was still there, it didn’t change, actually it was colder this winter, but my perspective changed and it made all the difference in the world. My family and friends back home have been shocked to see me enjoying the snow so much. I was never really a winter-type of guy, but I suppose you can count it among the MANY things I have learned to love during my almost two years in Kosovo.
The following is a simple exercise I created for my classes. I have named it “15 Objects” because it uses … 15 objects.
My teaching counterpart really liked this exercise. (I’m always proud when I come up with an idea she especially likes.) What I like about it is that it incorporates kinesthetic learning into the classroom, something I struggle to do. As a primarily visual learner myself, I tend to favor visual exercises.
I also like this exercise because it was easy to create, and free! I just used 15 things I found around the house and yard.
You could use anything for this exercise. I used:
A piece of yarn
A bottle cap
A post-it note
A candy wrapper
A Popsicle stick
A paper clip
A plastic toothpick
A cotton ball
A craft googly eye
I asked students to come up to the room 5 at a time and take one object from the bag I was holding. Then I asked the student to describe the object. Students answered questions like, What color is it? What shape is it? Is it big or small? Hard or soft? Thick or thin?
I spent last weekend visiting my pre-service training (PST) host family. I lived with them last June, July, and August. I hadn’t been back to visit them since.
My trip was exactly what I needed. I was in a familiar place, but a place that is no longer a part of my daily life. It gave me a break from the tedium I’ve been feeling lately. My previous village is also much prettier than where I am now. Kosovo is the first land-locked place I have ever lived. It didn’t bother me last summer, when I was surrounded by beautiful mountains. But my current village is located a valley, so it’s a flat/boring landscape with no water. It was so nice to be back in the mountains again!
I also hadn’t realized how much I miss my previous family. It’s funny — there are parallels between my two host families. Both sets of parents are ages 50-55, and both have grown sons/no daughters. But they live on opposite sides of Kosovo and have never met. Also, one family is Catholic and the other is Muslim.
Having been away from my PST host family for so long meant I had plenty to tell them. That’s one struggle I have in living with a host family — my day-to-day life is the same, so all I ever have to say is, “I went to school today. It was good.” I don’t have the language skills to talk about anything deeper or more meaningful, so I run out of topics to discuss. It was nice to be able to have a longer conversation in Shqip.
My trip there took 3 buses, 4 hours, and cost 5.50 Euro one-way (a lot, on a tiny Peace Corps budget). I was pulling my little wheelie suitcase up our dark country road I ran into my host parents, on their way to greet me. 🙂 Back at the house, I told them about life in my new village. I answered a million questions about my new host family, including “Do they make their bread or buy it?” (Yes, that was a real question.) When my host sister-in-law arrived, my host parents recounted everything I had just said to her. Then, when my host brother arrived, they recounted everything again. It was funny.
And, of course, I was excited to see the cats again!
Have a good weekend, everyone! I’ll talk to you on Monday.