It was about 6 p.m., full dark, no stars. I had been sweeping my bedroom and I wanted to empty the debris into the outside garbage can. I paused on the front door step. The expanse of my host family’s yard was pitch-black, but beyond that, past the fence, our neighbors stood in a circle of warm light. Then I heard the horrible squealing of a pig. The light illuminated an arm moving down and then back up, down and then back up, down and then back up. The squealing stopped, and the only sound that remained was my neighbors’ murmurings. I stood with the broom in one hand and dustpan in the other, wishing I had not seen what I just had.
I don’t normally post on Sundays but I had to share this with you all. The water here disintegrated my razor!
Cafes are a big part of life here in Kosovo. (I’d love to see a report on the number of cafes per capita … there’s probably like one cafe for every five people in Kosovo. [I am making that up/exaggerating. But only a little.])
Tartine is a popular breakfast place among the Peace Corps volunteers. Tartine primarily serves quiche, smoothies, and coffee.
During a low point this last winter, I remember lying in bed and scrolling through Google images of “fruit smoothies,” fantasizing about colorful, healthy drinks and feeling sorry for myself. (Pathetic.) A few weeks later, a friend introduced me to Tartine. And I got a smoothie! I also got a quiche and some coffee. 🙂
Although cafes are a big part of the Kosovar culture, in the smaller villages (like mine), they are frequented almost exclusively by men. I’ve heard that Tartine is owned by a woman. While I don’t know if this is true, every time I have been to Tartine I have only seen women working.
Do you like to play cards? Would you like to learn a card game from another country, so that you can impress your friends and family at your next barbecue, party, or picnic? Read on, because I will give you step-by-step instructions (with pictures) for how to play Te Rrethi (meaning, “to the circle”), a popular card game in Kosovo.
Number of Players: Two to as many as you like. You can add additional decks if you have a large group. (Note: This demonstration uses three players.)
Objective: To be the first player with no cards.
Important Thing to Note: Cards are played “up,” or in ascending order, starting with the Ace and then building 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and then starting over again with an Ace.
Another Important Thing to Note: Cards are played first in the center of the circle, and then on the other players’ stacks.
Rule: If a player makes a mistake, all of the other players must give him or her a card from the bottom of their own stacks.
- First, take a deck of cards and remove the Jokers. Next, shuffle the deck and lay the cards face-down, in a circle.
- Go around the table. Each player draws a card from anywhere in the circle, and lays in face-up in front of himself or herself. Keep going around the table until someone draws an Ace.
- The person who draws the Ace lays it in the center of the circle.
- The person who lays down the Ace gets to play again. He or she can either play the top card from the face-up stack in front of them, or draw from the circle of cards at random.
- The player will either first play off the Ace in the center of the card, or will add to another players stack, or will have to discard into their own stack. (Example: I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 2. I will play the two in the center. Then I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 5. I see that a fellow player has a 4 face-up on their stack. I will lay my card on top of their card, adding to their pile. [Remember, the object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.] Then, I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 10. I don’t see anywhere to lay the 10 [none of my fellow players have a 9], so I must discard the 10 face-up on my own stack. My turn is over.)
- The next player goes.
- When all of the cards from the circle have been picked up by the players, the game still continues. Each player will flip over the stack in front of them (so that the cards are now face-down) and will pull a card from the bottom of the stack to continue playing. (Keep repeating this step as long as you have cards. Once you have played them all, flip your stack over [face down] and again, play the first card from the bottom of the stack.) You will continue to place cards on the center stack (which was the middle of the now-nonexistent circle) first, the other players second, and your own stack last.
- Continue until one player has no more cards in his or her stack. This player is the winner!
(Note: I first played this game with my counterpart months ago, but I couldn’t remember all the rules. Special thanks to my site mate and her co-worker for agreeing to play with me and allowing me to take photos.)
I fully expected that the last few weeks of school would drag by. I thought I’d be eager for the school year to be over, so I could visit home and then enjoy my summer vacation. But surprisingly, the last few weeks went by quickly.
Above: One of my fourth graders wrote me a sweet letter, and drew some pictures for me.
It is a tradition in Kosovo for the 9th grade to have a prom. I’ll admit, I didn’t want to attend (I don’t even teach the 9th grade). In my experience, celebrations in Kosovo can go one of two ways: they’re either fun, or they drag on forever. I tried to get out of going to prom by saying I didn’t have any money (because everyone had to pay their own way). Well, then my host father insisted on paying for me. So I kind of had to go.
The prom turned out to be pretty fun. My experience was in no way the night-long marathon my friend Chester experienced and wrote about here.
The only “bad” thing that happened is that I was unexpectedly pulled in front of a microphone and asked to give a speech. Not only do I hate being put on the spot (who doesn’t?), I also don’t possess the language skills to spout off an impromptu speech in Shqip (Albanian). I managed to say, “Urime!” (congratulations), and then I ran away.
And last, my host family threw me a little birthday party before I left for the States. (I spent my actual birthday at home.) My host mother made all of my favorite foods: mish pule me patate (literally translated: meat chicken with potatoes), sallat shope (a salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and cheese), homemade cheese, and (not pictured), petulla (pronounced “pate-la”), which is fried bread with sugar on top. They also got me a chocolate cake.
My host family invited my two site mates (Peace Corps speak for “other volunteers who live near you”) for dinner. Rachel brought Hello Kitty party hats.
Here is some of what I see when I walk around my village in Kosovo.
Now that spring is here, the local produce truck has come back to my village.
This is exciting, because it means the return of fresh, juicy strawberries. A carton is 1.50 Euro. When I used to shop at Mariano’s in Chicago, I think a carton was around $4.25. And the strawberries were not as plump as these. (Below is half a carton’s worth of strawberries. I ate the other half.)
All winter long, I’ve been eating peppers, pickles, and cabbage. And that’s about it in the fruits/veggie department. Stores still carry some fruits, like bananas and oranges, which are (obviously) shipped in from someplace else.
It is common for families in Kosovo, especially the ones living in smaller villages, to have their own gardens and farm animals. Remember when I wrote this post back in the fall, about the process of canning peppers?
I think I have single-handedly consumed the amount of peppers in the above-photo. Speca! Speca! Speca! (That means peppers in Shqip [Albanian].) I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say I eat speca every day.
A Person can only eat so many pickled vegetables before A Person wants to weep. I am excited by increasing food prospects now that winter is over. 🙂