Friday Gratitude: Back in Kosovo

On Monday, I arrived back in Kosovo after a week-long visit to the United States.

I didn’t experience any culture shock at all. After a day of being back home, Kosovo felt like a distant memory. Having said that, I missed Kosovo by the end of the week. Just a little, but it was enough to bring me back here. 🙂

I talked to a volunteer friend who had visited the States a few weeks before my trip. She told me the food made her sick. A small, mean part of my brain thought: “She’s weak. That won’t happen to me.”

Pride goeth before a fall.

The food in the U.S. did make me sick. (Fun fact: I puked down the drain while showering.) I stopped going to restaurants and only ate at home, which helped. If I had to give advice to any returning Peace Corps volunteers, it would be: Don’t go hog-wild eating all of your favorite foods. Ease into it.

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DEL TACO!

I expected my reunion with my cat to be joyous on both our parts. I was joyous, while he was indifferent. I don’t know why I expected more. He IS a cat, after all. 🙂

Things I did in the U.S.: Went to the movies (Wonder Woman), went to yoga class 4x, ate a bunch of food, attended a family barbecue, painted ceramics, attended an art fair, and turned another year older.

I also got a bob hircut. I’ve had bobs before, and they aren’t my favorite haircut for myself. However, I was motivated by practical reasons and not aesthetics.

Anyway, it was a great trip and I am so grateful I was able to see my family. It helps to know that I’ll see my parents again in 6 months (when they visit Europe for the first time!). But, it is strange to think it’ll be another year before I see the rest of my family and friends. When I was home, I kept telling myself: “The next time I’m here, I’LL BE FREE.”

I haven’t posted about my media consumption for a few weeks, so here’s everything:

  • I watched the season finale of Handmaid’s Tale. It continues to scare the crap out of me.
  • I binged Orange is the New Black over 3 days. I am always impressed by the rich, complex, and varied female characters on that show.
  • As mentioned, I saw Wonder Woman while I was home. My mom and aunt liked it, but I thought it was only okay. It was a bit heavy-handed with the “love conquers all” messaging.
  • I read All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is told from a husband’s perspective, as he obsesses over his wife.
  • I read Beautiful Bodies. It was well-written, but irritated me to no end. Why are all books about 30-somethings (particularly women) all about the characters’ midlife crises? Is no one happy in their 30s? (For the record, I am. I’ve enjoyed my 30s far more than I ever enjoyed my 20s.)
  • I re-read White Oleander, which is probably my favorite novel of all time. It follows the story of a teenage girl as she moves through a series of foster homes in Los Angeles, after her poetess mother murders her ex-boyfriend.
  • When I was in the States, I was finally able to buy a hard copy of Feast of Sorrow, which was written by Crystal King. Crystal and I became acquainted when I lived in Boston. I was excited to have a chance to read her first novel, which was published this spring. It is a historical fiction novel set in ancient Rome. I started reading it on my long journey back to Kosovo. It is an entertaining, captivating novel, and I’m not just saying that because I know the author. I highly recommend it!

June Landscape

I’ve been doing a photo project where every month, I post a photo that I think captures the “spirit” of that month. Here’s June’s:

yard kosovo.JPG

If you’re interested to see other photos I’ve taken over the years (not just in Kosovo), you can check out my weebly photo gallery.

Also, several people have asked about my trip to the U.S. I’ll be posting about it Friday!

Guest Blogger, Garrett Wheeler: Agriculture in Kosovo

April’s Note: My friend Nicole asked me to write a post about gardening/agriculture in Kosovo. Since I don’t know much about the subject, I decided to outsource her question. Below is the account of one of my fellow volunteers, Garrett Wheeler.

With the advent of spring arises a slew of tasks pertinent to raising crops. After months of neglect, farmers begin restoring fields marred by frigid weather. Makeshift fences, comprised of wood and barbed wire, oft become loose or fall apart on account of the wind. A pair of pliers, hammer, digging bar (an instrument somewhat akin to the crowbar), and U-nails are needed to mend damage accrued. While pliers pull and twist wire until taut, U-nails are driven into wooden stakes. The digging bar, aside from punching holes in the ground, may act as a sledgehammer fastening poles that have wriggled free.

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Photo courtesy of Garrett Wheeler

Upon completion of maintenance, a far more grueling chore awaits; fertilization. As a tractor, equipped with a trailer, positions itself near the accumulated pile of manure, workers, with the aid of pitchforks, start the loading process. Though precautions, like gloves and rain boots, are taken to promote cleanliness, the job is inherently dirty. It is not uncommon, for example, to have dung flung your direction; especially when fatigue sets in. With the trailer overflowing, tractor and crew make their way to the field. While the tractor cruises at a leisurely pace, compost is scattered left and right. A sore back and tired arms are typically awarded to all participants.

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Photo courtesy of Garrett Wheeler

In preparation for sowing, a plow is hauled the entirety of a field leaving neat rows of finely ground soil in its wake. Utensils for digging are then used to create holes. As one punctures the earth, another trailing behind deposits seed. Corn and beans are planted simultaneously. While maize grows upright, the latter coils around adjacent stalks. A nearby stream supplies water when barred.

Gleaning of produce occurs in September. Hefty bags are carted and stuffed with brown pods. Those still green are unripe and need not be plucked. Though the weather may be warm, long sleeve shirts are worn to prevent cuts (maize leaves possess jagged edges which tear skin if brushed). Work is long and tedious requiring numerous days to complete. Corn, conversely, is harvested quickly. Buckets filled to the brim are dumped in a close by trailer towed by a tractor.

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Photo courtesy of Garrett Wheeler

Beans reaped must then be strewn across a tarp and left to bathe in the sun. After several days, or when the shells become hard and brittle, the heap is battered with the shaft of a rake. Empty husks are then brushed away revealing seed below. Once the product has been gathered in containers, it is transferred to empty sacks. Prior to dumping, however, it is necessary to remove remaining debris. As one individual focuses on slowly pouring beans, the other uses a leaf blower to flush out unwanted material.

Within the next couple of weeks, sorting ensues. Spilling small sums onto a flat surface, beans malformed or gnawed by insects are discarded. What remains is either stored for consumption of whisked away to the nearest city and sold. Corn, depending on its strain, has two locales. A small granary houses a variation more red in hue used as fodder for chickens. Yellow corn is sent to the second floor of a neighboring building. A machine adeptly removes kernels dispelling bare cobs.

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Photo courtesy of Garrett Wheeler

Read posts by other guest bloggers:

Friday Gratitude: GOING HOME!

YOU GUYS! I AM GOING HOME TO THE UNITED STATES FOR A WEEK! I’ve been waiting for this vacation since the day I left! It’s hard to believe it has been a year since I’ve seen my home country.

I still tear up when I think of saying goodbye to my parents at the airport. BUT I’LL GET TO SEE THEM TOMORROW! I AM SO EXCITED, CAN YOU TELL BY MY CAPS LOCK?!? I will also be excited to push them aside so I can hug our kitties, Sweeney Todd (mine) and Oz (theirs). (Who are we kidding here? Of course I miss the cats the most!)

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A photo of Sweeney Todd and me from last spring

“Being American” is my defining characteristic here in Kosovo. But once I am back in the United States, “being American” will cease to be remarkable. Identity is a strange thing to consider … we think of it as something so “fixed” (as I wrote about nearly a year ago, in this post), but it really isn’t.

I’ve heard reverse culture shock (returning to one’s own country, after a long time away) is even harder than the initial culture shock of being in a new place. I have a hard time believing that America may seem strange to me, but maybe it will. So much about my country has changed since I’ve been away.

On a lighter note, it’s hard to believe I haven’t driven in a year. While I miss the convenience of having a car, I don’t miss the physical act of driving (and I thought I would). I also miss cooking (and I thought I wouldn’t).

Here are some other things I am looking forward to, in no particular order:

  • Yoga class! In a studio!
  • Dunkin Donuts iced coffee
  • Del Taco!
  • Shopping with my mom at Target, the Dollar Store, Goodwill, and Kohls. (I’m a Midwesterner … what can I say? We like good deals.)
  • Buying presents to bring back to Kosovo.
  • Shopping my own closet at my parents’ house. I don’t have tons of clothing left behind, but it’ll be nice to do some swapping.
  • AIR CONDITIONING! OMG, it’s already a billion degrees here in Kosovo. (It’s possible I am exaggerating. I dislike hot weather.) Family, if you want to know where you can find me, I’ll be lying across the air conditioning vent in my bedroom, weeping softly.
  • Sleeping at night without the sound of a barking dog(s) to wake me. And let’s add my usual 4:30 a.m. rooster wake up call to this bullet point. Sleeping! In peace! With a cat at my feet! That’s what I like.
screw you
Of course, I don’t actually mean this. I like my blog readers! But Cartman! He’s funny!

I won’t be posting next week. I’ll catch you on Monday, June 26!

Pristina Bazaar

A volunteer friend suggested visiting the bazaar in Pristina, so a small group of us went last week. I had no idea there was a bazaar in Pristina!

There was SO MUCH produce for sale, for prices even cheaper than what I can find in my village. (Fifty cents for a carton of strawberries, versus 1.50 Euro in my village.) You can also finds lots of other goods at the bazaar, everything from clothing and yarn, to household items, to cigarettes.

SO much produce! This was just one stall.
So delicious …
Dry goods, honey, and çifteli (2-stringed instrument)
Wall upon wall of cigarettes
We kept waiting for a box avalanche. It didn’t happen.

As far as I know, the bazaar is open every week day. You can find it here:

 

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Creating Worksheets for School

There are millions of teaching materials available on the Internet. I spend a good amount of time pinning worksheets and activities to my TEFL Pinterest board. The problem is, I don’t have an easy way to get things from my computer to the copier at my school. I either end up copying/drawing worksheets by hand, or going to the Peace Corps office in Pristina, printing a copy of something from the Internet, and taking it back to my school to make more copies for my students. (I recently learned I can use my school director’s computer to print directly from the Internet, but I don’t want to make a habit of it.)

A while back, my mom sent me some workbooks from the United States (thanks, mama!). I’ve been cutting them up and taping them to computer paper to create my own worksheets. This eliminates the cumbersome need to find a printer. Also, it’s kind of fun to make my own stuff. 🙂

Here are some examples of worksheets I’ve “created” recently:

fruits and vegetables classroom worksheet
Fruits and Vegetables worksheet
summerfun classroom worksheet
Summer fun worksheet
travel brochure classroom worksheet
Travel brochure for Kosovo

Here are some more links to materials and activities I’ve used in the classroom:

Friday Gratitude: Cuddling Baby Animals

I was in Pristina yesterday to attend meetings. At the end of the day, I felt inspired and motivated to get started on secondary projects for the summer (workshops) and fall (volunteering with an orphanage). 🙂

While I was in Pristina, I took advantage of some down time to visit a pet shop. It feels wrong to be enamored of these animals when there are so many strays everywhere, but it is also nice to see healthy, well-tended animals for a change.

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Why, yes, I did ask a pet shop employee to take photos of me.
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He kept licking me with his little black tongue!
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Selfie with a Siamese
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Aww, makes me miss my kitty at home.

This is my favorite photo. I posted it to Instagram and inadvertently cropped out the Chow Chow’s bear-paw feet! And you can’t edit Instagram photos once they’re posted (another reason to dislike Instagram). Anyway, here’s the un-cropped version:

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BEAR PAWS!

Media consumption this week …

I mentioned last Friday that I needed some light/funny things to watch and read.

  • My friend Katie suggested trying a Peter Mayle novel for something lighthearted. I downloaded A Good Year from the Chicago Public Library. It is a story about a man who inherits a vineyard in France (yes, please). It was a fun read.
  • I downloaded The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri. This was an easy-to-read, whodunnit murder mystery set in Sicily.
  • After seeing this author’s apartment featured on one of my favorite blogs, I decided to download her book Mirror in the Sky. I usually avoid books about teenagers. I had an atypical high school experience, and don’t really relate to “normal” high school stories. However, this was an engaging read. It’s a teenage love story that takes place during a time when a new, Earth-like planet has just been discovered.

I’ve been reading A TON lately. I just haven’t felt like doing much else. A friend suggested writing a post about my summer reading plan. I was like, “I don’t have one.” But I think it’s a great idea! I’d like to compile a master list of books to tackle in my free time this summer. If you have a book suggestion, please message me. I like reading a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Also, I’d like to keep writing three times per week throughout the summer, but I’m already stumped for ideas. If you have a suggestion or questions, please also let me know!