Friday Gratitude: MY PARENTS ARE COMING!

Hey, Everyone! This will be my last blog post of 2017! That’s right, I am taking two weeks off from blogging. It will be the longest break I’ve taken from this blog. If you miss me, you can always follow along with me on Instagram.

MY PARENTS ARE COMING TO KOSOVO NEXT WEEK! I am so excited! We are spending two nights in Pristina, two nights at my host family’s house, and then we are going to London for four nights.

We have many fun things planned, including a church service at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve, a bus tour, and a ghost tour. Visiting London with my mom has always been a dream of mine, since we both love many British musicians and actors. (Also, I’m excited that my dad is coming, too, of course!)

In his autobiography, Billy Idol refers to his parents as his “first friends.” I found that to be a very sweet description, and it is now how I think of my parents. They’re my parents but they are also my friends, you know? I am thrilled they are going to spend time with me before I leave Kosovo. Their visit will help break up the rest of my Peace Corps service.

(Side note: Funny how we tell our closest friends that they are “like family” in order to compliment them, and we assure our relatives that we would be friends with them even if we weren’t related.) πŸ™‚

Anyway, my next blog post will be Monday, January 1. I will be posting a video to share my goals for 2018.

Usually, I feel like years have “themes,” either being mostly good or mostly bad. But this year, the highs were really high and the lows were really low. I don’t even know how I’d characterize 2017. On the high side, I got to travel more than I ever have.

Places I visited in 2017:

  • Paris, France (I think of this trip as happening last year, but I left January 2, so I guess that counts!)
  • Skopje, Macedonia
  • Tirana, Albania
  • Rome, Italy
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Gothenburg, Sweden
  • London, England (soon-to-be)

Finally, thank you to ALL my friends and family, my friends who are like family, and my family who are like friends. I love you all so much and am so grateful for the tremendous support you’ve shown me. Every Facebook message, email, postcard, phone call, and care package means the world to me. I appreciate you as the awesome individuals you are, and wish you every good thing in the coming year. Happy (early) 2018, and best wishes for the holidays!

Talk to you January 1st!

Friday Gratitude: Here Comes the Snow, Do-En-Do-Do

Sunday morning, I opened my blinds and was shocked to see snow! I was so surprised I stood there for a moment, taking in the scene. We’d had pouring rain the few days previous, so I was not expecting snow. How cozy, I thought, looking out at the blanketed yard. Then I thought to myself, “I wonder how long it’ll be until I get sick of it.” Haha! I’d guess January. πŸ˜‰

Those living in the mountains of Kosovo will probably turn their noses up at me. The mountain villages had snow back in like, October. But I live in a valley (thank God), so this was the first snow I’d seen for the winter!

<– I made a few small changes to the blog. Now when you click on “my photography portfolio” or “my videos on Vimeo” you will be taken directly to those sites.

Media Consumption this week:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, so I was curious to read one of his novels. I read The Remains of the Day in one day. I wasn’t sure what to expect of a story about a stuffy English butler, but I thought the main character was sympathetic and I felt like I at least partially understood the choices he made in life. (Also, I was interested to learn Ishiguro wrote the book in just four weeks.)
  • I saw Murder on the Orient Express. While I didn’t think the mystery was that interesting, this was the most aesthetically-pleasing movie I have ever seen. 

scary nails made with paper
The latest fad at my school …
My host cousin brought home a letter puzzle her English teacher had given her. Supposedly, one could make 111 words with the letters in the puzzle. We worked together and came up with 115 words. HA!

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I’ve mentioned this before: there has been a huge spike in traffic to this blog from France. I’d love to hear from some of my French readers to learn what makes you so interested in Kosovo. If you’re game, please shoot me an email via the contact form. Merci!

Friday Gratitude: i ShkurtΓ«r

It has been a good, easy week (love those) so this week’s recap is short …

Media consumption this week:

  • Since I’ve lived in Kosovo, I’ve read three historical fiction novels set in the WWII time period. I just read The Nightingale, and it was my favorite (the other two being All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief).
  • I watch plenty of videos on YouTube every week (mostly yoga, music performances, and sleep aids), and I rarely post about them. But, I found this video to be particularly interesting. Though the context is leadership (yuck), I think these tips can apply to other areas of life. I am trying to get into the habit of writing every day. A point made in the video is this: if you brush your teeth once, it will do nothing for you. But if you brush your teeth every day, the consistent behavior will keep your teeth healthy. Same thing with working out — do it once, no difference. Do it every day, and eventually you’ll get into shape. I began to think about how to apply this to writing. I can’t sit down and write a novel in one day, but if I write a little every day, I will eventually have a novel.
  • I had the chance to go to the movies Thursday night. I saw The Killing of a Sacred Deer. It’s been getting a lot of critical praise. I am not entirely sure why. The dialogue is flippin’ terrible. (Maybe it’s supposed to be a commentary on the falseness/woodenness of contemporary American ideals … or maybe it is just bad writing.) Minuses: aforementioned bad dialogue, characters were largely unlikable (seems to be a Nicole Kidman theme), very slow moving in the beginning. Pluses: creative premise once the movie got to the point, disturbing/thought-provoking ending.
chi-chis salsa cup
It is a sad day when the salsa runs out, my friends …

Talk to you on Monday! πŸ™‚

Friday Gratitude: Is This Thing On?

For last Friday’s gratitude post, I forgot to add a title. Haha. Sorry!

I am predicting blog traffic will be low today, as those of you in the U.S. are probably recovering from your turkey-induced comas. But I will soldier on …

Media consumption this week:

  • I read Let the Right One In. Since I was going to Sweden right after Halloween, I thought it would be fun to read a Swedish vampire book. Alas, I had to wait on the download from the Chicago Public Library, so I started reading it after my trip. I’d seen the movie version years ago and remember finding it dull and strange. But the book was outstanding. It is one of the most disturbing things I’ve read but in a good way. There were a few pages of gore I had to skip, though.
  • So then I re-watched the movie version. There was so much going on in the book that they had to cut a lot out of the movie. It is pretty slow moving. There are certain parts you wouldn’t understand unless you read the book first. (The book is much better.)
  • I finished watching Master of None. Many people had recommended the show to me. Some episodes really hit the mark for me, while others I thought were too twee. Overall, though, it’s a good show. Next, it’s on to season two ofΒ Stranger Things
coca cola with shqip albanian writing
“Thanks for smiles”
IMG_7529
April, Rachel, Christian, Todd, and Stephanee at a JFK photo exhibit in Peja, Kosovo.

Yesterday (Thanksgiving), I treated myself to my favorite pasta dish in Pristina, and then I taught at the orphanage. Then I went home and called my entire family. πŸ™‚ I’ll be celebrating the holiday with friends this weekend. πŸ™‚

Happy Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚ Talk to you Monday …

Friday Gratitude:

“‘I hope you don’t quit,’ he said. ‘I think we’re goin to need all of you we can get.'” — Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Lately, my web traffic from France has been booming. I’m not sure why, but … Bonjour, French readers! Bienvenue!

I had a blast at my friend’s wedding in Tirana, Albania last weekend. Normally, I hate weddings, but this one was fun. PCVs know how to party. I participated in some circle dancing (very popular in Albanian culture!), but sometimes it got a little too hardcore for me. Check this out …

I was happy to spend the weekend traveling with my friends. πŸ™‚ (Despite the fact that it was pouring rain in Tirana.)

Christian Val April
Christian, Val, and April visiting the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania.
Sierra April Chelsea Sam Christian
The family looking fancy: Sierra, April, Chelsea, Sam and Christian before the wedding.
Todd April Stephanee
At the wedding: Todd, April, and Stephanee

Media consumption this week:

  • No Country for Old Men is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I’d never read the book by Cormac McCarthy (so I did). The movie faithfully followed the book, so much so that when I was reading, the movie was playing in my head.

This is the 52nd book I’ve read this year, so I hit my goal of reading one book per week! (Not that I’m going to stop reading.)

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Yesterday, I went to Rachel’s school. Christian, Tim, and I were judges for her school’s poetry recitation competition. (P.S. All three of them are volunteers.) (P.P.S. I am helping to organize the national poetry recitation competition next month.)

April Christian Tim
April, Christian, Tim

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I was talking to my sister a few days ago and she mentioned Thanksgiving is next week. I was like, “whaaaaat?!” So soon?

With the holidays coming up, if you’d like to send me a holiday card *cough, cough* you can reach me here:

April Gardner
Peace Corps
Str. Mujo Ulqinaku No. 3
10000 Pristina
Kosovo

Hope you all have a great weekend and a great upcoming holiday week. Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: More Travel

This weekend, I am going to Tirana, Albania to attend a wedding. I am traveling with a bunch of Peace Corps friends, as it is a mutual friend who is getting married. While I’ve only been to three Balkan capital cities (including Pristina, Kosovo and Skopje, Macedonia), Tirana is my favorite. I flew out of the Tirana airport back in April, but I haven’t been to the city center since this time last year.

Again, I am so glad I was able to travel to Sweden this past weekend. It was a lot of travel packed into a short amount of time, but it was worth it to see Jose Gonzalez in concert. If you’d like to learn more about him, here’s a performance/interview I really like:

I am fascinated to read about the creative processes of my favorite artists, so I also really enjoyed this interview The Telegraph did with Jose Gonzalez.

When I was leaving Sweden last Saturday morning, I saw this bus go by. I was amused by the name. (This bus is “angered.”) πŸ™‚

angered bus in Sweden

Also, I am glad to have some point of reference for Sweden beyond just Ikea and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Visiting did little to dispel my idea that it is utopia, though. Gothenburg is a beautiful, clean, bike-friendly city full of beautiful, friendly people.

Sweden was the ninth country I have been to this year. I hadn’t done much international travel before joining the Peace Corps, and I am so grateful I’m able to do so now.

On another note, my parents are on their care package game! I got this in the mail this week. πŸ™‚ Thank you, Mom and Dad!

peace corps care package

Media consumption (a combo from the last few weeks):

  • My friend, Lisa, suggested I read Eleanor and Park. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. It is a teenage love story, which is not something I’d normally read. However, the characters were believable and likable. The story was great.
  • When news of a Billy Idol autobiography came out a few years ago, I got really excited. Then I forgot to read the book. I finally did! It was an interesting, honest account of his life and musical journey. He really does not pull any punches.

Okay, I am off to Tirana! If you’d like to read more about my previous trip there, you can read these posts:

national-art-gallery-of-albania-1
My friend, Val, and me in Tirana last November

 

Friday Gratitude: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyone who knows me knows I love autumn and Halloween! πŸ™‚

I played Halloween Bingo with my students, which was naturally a big hit. We used craft googly eyes as place markers. Halloween is celebrated here in Kosovo, but not as widely as in the U.S.

Halloween Bingo with googly eyes.JPG

Media Consumption this week:

  • My friend, Katie, had suggested I try reading Daniel Silva. I finished the second book in his series, The English Assassin. Silva’s books are spy thrillers set in cities all over Europe. Very fun reading.
  • I watched a little Broad City and, after about a million recommendations, finally watched a few episodes of Master of None. It is funny. πŸ™‚

There is a stray cat I keep seeing in our yard. I was finally able to get close enough to pet him. He drooled. (I have that affect on everyone.) πŸ™‚

cat Kosovo mace 1
Mew mew
cat kosovo mace 2
Nice eyeliner, cat

Wednesday was the “fest for family,” which means my host family had a big dinner. I don’t know if this is something Kosovo-wide, or maybe it just happens in the Catholic communities. I know I ragged on the food here a bit in Monday’s post. However, the desserts are spot on. This week, I had baklava (people seemed shocked to know I’ve had it in the U.S.) and tre leches cake (which my host mother made after I requested it.) πŸ™‚

baklava kosovo dessert

I am spending the weekend in Pristina with some friends. We are going to binge-watch Halloween movies and eat a home-cooked meal. πŸ™‚

Happy Weekend! Enjoy the weather and your Halloween prep.

P.S. Monday’s blog post will be a fun one … stay tuned! πŸ™‚