Friday Gratitude: And then there was a sheep …

“She left in the fall,
that’s her picture on the wall.
She always had that little drop of poison.” — Tom Waits

Because a barking dog and a crowing rooster weren’t enough … we had to add a bleating sheep to the mix. This is “Sheepie” (the name I use), who my host family purchased a few weeks ago. Don’t get too attached … Sheepie is scheduled to be slaughtered for some festival that’s happening December 5th.

sheep tractor kosovo

I finally stored away my summer clothes in order to create more space in my wardrobe. I didn’t bother doing that last fall, since I didn’t have a lot of clothing then. Since I’ve been living in Kosovo, I’ve purchased a few things, and I also brought back more clothes when I visited the U.S. I only have two shelves on which to store my clothes (the top shelf is for lines; the bottom for toiletries), so things were getting out of control. I feel much better now that things are thinned out and organized.


Media consumption this week …

  • I re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife, for the third time, I think. I was reading ferociously but then got stuck in the middle of a book I didn’t like and nothing seemed appealing. My goal is 52 books this year, so I’ve got to get back on it.
  • I finished the first season of Riviera. The ending was ridiculous.

Happy weekend!

Friday Gratitude: Friday the 13th in October

Boo! Happy Friday the 13th!

Media consumption this week …

  • Thanks to my friend, Dana, I’ve been watching an episode of Riviera each night before bedtime. This show reminds me of why I never want to be filthy rich. I want to be rich enough to care for my family and travel and own a home and not be chained to a job I hate, but I don’t need to be filthy rich to do that. I know some successful, well-off people, but no one in my circle is vacationing on a private yacht, you know? Perhaps, because I don’t know any actual rich people, I am assuming television is portraying these people accurately, and that is what makes me recoil. Juila Styles’ character discovers her husband has been burned to death in a horrific yacht accident, and in the next scene, she is impeccably dressed at the coroner’s office, prepared to identify her husband’s charred remains. If I were in that situation, I’d be wearing sweatpants and snot would be running down my make-up free face, but who am I to judge?


Kosovo had its first Gay Pride Parade this week. I did not attend. However, here is a photo released by the Embassy. I like the ambassador’s tie. πŸ™‚

Photo released by the U.S. Embassy

Because it is Friday the 13th in October, I thought I would post a photo of my favorite Halloween kitty, Oz. Oz owns my parents’ house and grudgingly allows them to live there.

Halloween kitty

Enjoy your weekend! πŸ™‚

Friday Gratitude: Red Rover, Red Rover, Send October Right Over

The busyness of last week (conference week) spilled over into this week: Saturday I presented at KETNET; Monday morning, my school hosted a “Day of Health” as part of our grant agreement (more on that project later); Monday afternoon, I went to an event at Kosovalive (I’m the one in blue, below); and Thursday was my second time teaching at the orphanage.


Also, as a nice surprise, the care package my best friend sent seven months ago finally arrived! (By far, this is the longest a package has taken to get to me.)

Thanks to her and a care package from my parents, my snack hoard is back up to snuff. πŸ™‚


However, don’t be discouraged if you would like to send me a package! I updated my wishlist (see blog sidebar) with a few items I could use this fall.

Media consumption this week …

  • I finished I’d Know You Anywhere. The premise was interesting (a woman is contacted by a man who had kidnapped her when she was a teenager; he is now on Death Row), but the characters were wooden. And after a lot of build-up, the ending fell flat.
  • Sunday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I spent the day in bed watching Broad City and finishing The Woman Upstairs. I liked the book at first, but slowly grew to dislike the main character. This book keeps with the theme of other books I’ve read this year, which is basically that if you’re a middle-aged woman, no matter what happens to you in life, you are bound to be dissatisfied. Ugh.
  • I read Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett’s non-fiction account of her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. This book was gorgeously written and one of my favorite things I’ve read all year.

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: Mid-Service Conference

Hello! I’ve been spending the week at a nice hotel, for a Peace Corps conference. We have four conferences during our service. This one was number three. The next one won’t be until May.

It has been rejuvenating to get away, spend time with my friends, and re-focus a bit. It has also been helpful to talk about and understand that everyone goes through a “mid-service crisis,” which I have definitely been experiencing as of late.

To give you an idea of what a Peace Corps conference is like, here is the list of sessions we had:

  • Intercultural Competecies
  • Personal Leadership Development
  • Project Check-in with Program Managers
  • Exploring Secondary Projects
  • Working in a Post-Conflict Setting
  • Open Forum with Local Staff
  • Opportunities to Work with Gender Focal Points
  • Volunteer Resiliency Strategies
  • Updates on Peace Corps Policy

We did a team-building exercise where we passed around sheets of paper and wrote down words to describe one another. Here is my list. πŸ™‚


It is always interesting to learn what others think of me. I don’t consider myself particularly witty, so that was nice to see.

I am now participating in a second, optional Peace Corps conference, this one focused on youth development. I will be heading back to my site this afternoon.

A care package from my parents arrived yesterday, and PC staff brought it to the conference for me. I am excited to open it when I get back!

Media Consumption this week:

  • I read Born to Rock, which was okay. It’s a quick read about a teenager who discovers his biological father is a famous punk rocker.
  • Goodreads suggested I try The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket. Though I like Jim Carrey and Neil Patrick Harris, I’ve never been able to get beyond a few minutes of either of their screen versions of this story. The book was better, though I’m not interested in reading the rest of the series.
  • I started on season 3 of Broad City, after not watching the show for months. Lately, I’ve needed a laugh.

Happy weekend!

Friday Gratitude: So It Goes

Hello, Everyone. TGIF. This week has been full of ups and downs … power outages and an argument with Peace Corps staff had me down. But, the end of the week had some upturns, so let’s focus on that:

  • I am going to be working with KosovaLive (where I did this presentation) a few days per month, proofreading articles that have been translated from Shqip (Albanian) to English. I love their organization and am happy to be volunteering with them more regularly.
  • I started teaching at the orphanage yesterday (I’ll be teaching there every Thursday). The students are middle school age and we had fun. πŸ™‚
  • FINALLY, the grant money came through! As in, I literally have it in my hands! (Well, not this second, seeing as how I am typing.) This project has been a headache from start to finish. I’m so glad it is almost over.


Processed with MOLDIV
A recent photo of me, in Peja

Media consumption this week …

  • I read Best American Short Stories of 2011. Again, why the year 2011? As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, it was available through the Chicago Public Library as a free download. I skipped one or two stories I didn’t like, but overall, they were delightful. I should read more short stories.
  • I read My Horizontal Life, by Chelsea Handler. It was a funny, easy read.
  • After reading something I wrote, an acquaintance told me my writing style reminds him of Aimee Bender. I had never read Aimee Bender, so I downloaded The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I didn’t connect with the characters, and I thought the ending was not enough of a pay-off … it turns out, three members of one family have extra-sensory powers. But none of them accomplishes anything of note. Eh …


Today, I am going to Pristina to get my second-year temporary residence I.D. I have to get a new photo taken, and I’m a little sad because I like my current photo. I think I look like a Bond Girl:

IT'S OFFICIAL! UnΓ« jam Kosovar!

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

[Side story: My Illinois driver’s license had one of the best photos ever taken of me. People would comment on what a good photo it was. Then, when I moved to Massachusetts, the DMV made me turn it over to be destroyed. I’m STILL mad about it, and that was nine years ago … ]


When I went home this summer, I bought a couple U.S. wall maps at Dollar Tree. Now, they hang in my village schools in Kosovo. πŸ™‚



I got two pieces of mail this week!

And …


(Katie, to answer your question … I love New Orleans, but I have my heart set on returning to Vegas once I finish PC. πŸ™‚ )

Next week, I’ll be attending a week-long mid-service Peace Corps training. (I’ll be posting here regularly, though.) I am looking forward to seeing everyone in my cohort. Happy weekend!

Friday Gratitude: September So Far

This week, I’ve been settling a bit more into my schedule. I’ve been struggling with feelings of not wanting to be here. My summer funk has not gone away yet. Add to this we had a huge storm this week which knocked out our power for 12 hours. The powder has been cutting out since then. Ugh. We had a lot of outages this time last year, too. 

My host family’s dog is pregnant with her third litter since I’ve lived here. (Do I have an opinion about this? You bet I do.) She has been barking even more than normal. I try to have patience with this poor creature, but having been awakened in the middle of the night more often than not, my patience is wearing thin.

Ugh. In a week, we have our Peace Corps mid-service training, and I am really hoping it helps me re-energize and re-focus. Anyway …

Last Friday night, I attend Hardh Fest. (Hardh is the Shqip [Albanian] word for “vine.”) I got to visit Rahovec for the first time, which is Kosovo’s wine country (I’d previously mentioned it in this post). It was beautiful. I wish I had taken some pictures from the bus window in the daylight.

Here is a picture of Stone Castle, probably the biggest/most well-known wine producer in Kosovo.

stone castle winery rahovec kosovo
Looks like Medieval Times …
Two local bands played at the fest that evening. I thought this violin player was incredible:

Media Consumption this week:

  • I read The Power of Now, twice. I have so much to say about it that I might write a separate post. I haven’t decided yet. But I will say, this book provided answers to spiritual questions I’ve had all my life. It has started to change the way I live daily. (I know you’re thinking, “She complained at the beginning of this post.” But truthfully, the teachings in this book have been helping me cope.)
  • A friend here and a friend at home both recommended Broadchurch, which I binge-watched in two days. It is about the murder of an 11-year-old boy in a British beach town. It was awesome, except I thought the murderer was totally implausible! Has anyone else watched this/care to weigh in?
  • I watched The Big Sick, which was equal parts funny/cute/sad. It is set in Chicago, which means I felt homesickness stabbing at me throughout the time I was watching. Fun fact: I know several people who are friends with comedienne/actress Aidy Bryant. Go ahead, be impressed with the cool. 😎

Happy weekend. Thanks for listening, as always. Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: Sweater Weather!

Now that September has come, the temperature in Kosovo has dropped and it feels like autumn. I am happy that my favorite two-month stretch of the year has begun. πŸ™‚

For the start of the school year, I decided to deep clean my room and re-arrange the furniture. I spent a lot of time in my room this summer. I needed the space to feel different. Living in someone else’s house is hard, so being in control of my own space feels good psychologically.

I was a little nervous about moving stuff around for fear of scratching the floor, but I was careful and that didn’t happen. After years of living alone, I am a champion furniture mover. The only thing I didn’t move was my bed, which is way too heavy, and I don’t know where else I’d put it.

Peace Corps Kosovo bedroom 2
Look! The rug I WILL NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT, because I love it so much.
Peace Corps Kosovo bedroom
My little couch is perfect for reading and watching movies on my laptop. πŸ™‚
displaying crochet projects
My bedside tables always break because they’re old/crappy. I fixed these drawers yet again, and used the top to display some of my crochet projects.
bedside book storage
The bottom drawer of my other beside table was beyond hope, so I removed it and use it as a place to store books and electrical chargers.
Serbian Cross
I bought this cross for myself at the Serbian Monastery in Peja, Kosovo. It hangs on my bedside lamp.
organized desk
My desk. I bought the wood carving on my first trip to Tirana, Albania. I think of it as my “future island,” something that will one day hang in my home to remind me of my travels. πŸ™‚

When we first moved to our permanent sites, Peace Corps gave us a “settling in allowance.” I wish we got another one our second year. I’ve bought several new things for my room this summer, including a fan, a better pillow, and an electric kettle.

Media Consumption …

  • My mom suggested that I read Dolores Claiborne, a timely choice of fiction about a woman who kills her husband during an eclipse. The narrative was strange, but I enjoyed the story.

Monday was our first day back to school. As I looked at the familiar faces of my students, I thought about how I won’t be here next year. It made me sadder than I imagined feeling.

I went to Skopje, Macedonia on Wednesday, and will be posting more pictures next week.

Today, I am going to Rahovec, a Kosovo city I haven’t yet visited. I’ll be attending their annual wine festival with some friends. πŸ™‚

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.