What I’ve Been Up To (May-June 2018)

In May, I attended my Peace Corps Close-of-Service conference. The U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, attended on our last day. I had met him twice before. At lunch I sat at his table and was able to speak with him for longer than I had before. It was an honor.

Ambassador COS photo
The ambassador is seated in the front row, wearing a blue tie.

Since I decided to stop blogging regularly around the time of the conference, I didn’t take many photos. It was an emotional week and I wanted to sit back and process my feelings. However, I did take this photo and it is one of my favorites:

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Sierra and Chester

As I mentioned in this post, my friend Ingrid visited from Amsterdam at the end of May/beginning of June.

rugova 1
Stephanee, Todd, April, Ingrid
rugova 2
Visiting Rugova
Ingrid visit
Group dinner with Ingrid
Prizren Sierra Ingrid Chelsea April
Visiting Prizren

My friend Val and I presented another writing workshop at KosovaLive.

April KosovaLive 2
Photo courtesy of KosovaLive

Sierra came to my site for a sleepover. I made her watch my favorite bad movie, Boxing Helena.

april sierra ztown
April and Sierra

Chester came to my site the next day and the three of us had lunch.

chester sierra april astro
Famous chicken restaurant!

I attended a Faces of Kosovo exhibit at the National Library.

faces of kosovo
Faces of Kosovo exhibit
national library
April at the National Library

I visited Mitrovice for the first time. Mitrovice is one of Kosovo’s largest cities, but I had never been there. Mitrovice is divided, Albanians in the south and Serbians in the north. The bridge behind us in this photo famously links the two halves of the city:

Mitrovice TedSylvie
Mitrovice bridge

I made a few “goodbye” gifts:

I attended my director’s retirement dinner, said goodbye to my students, and took my counterparts out for a “thank you” lunch.

director dinner
April, director, counterpart
school goodbye
Grades 1-5. Yep, it’s a tiny school!
A and D
Saying goodbye to students
chicken dinner
Lunch with my counterparts

In other news, I turned 37. Spending another milestone far away from home was rough. I really miss all of you at home and can’t wait to see you! xoxo

I Visited a Mosque

One thing I wanted to do while living in Kosovo was to visit a mosque. Though Kosovo is a predominately Islamic country, I live in a Catholic village and we don’t have a mosque, so I hadn’t been to one. I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know the rules for someone who 1) is a woman and 2) isn’t Muslim. I asked a local and he suggested covering my head as a sign of respect and taking care not to visit during the daily call to prayer times. Otherwise, he said visiting should be fine.

I’d seen this mosque in Pristina (pictures below) from the outside and decided that it was the one I’d visit. I covered my head with my scarf and took off my shoes (though I think that has more to do with culture and less to do with religion) before I went inside.

mosque 1.JPG
Outside view
mosque ceiling
Entrance ceiling
mosque light
Chandelier
mosque 2
My friend said only old mosques have corners like these and that they are probably used for prayer because the walls are thick.

It was dark inside the mosque and when I got home, I discovered most of my pictures were too dark or blurry to post. 😦

Here is a previous picture I had posted of the outside of a mosque and it is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken in Kosovo.

That Time I Wandered into a Horror Scene

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.

Learn How to Play Te Rrethi, a Card Game

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.

Te Rrethi Card Game 6

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.

  1. First, take a deck of cards and remove the Jokers. Next, shuffle the deck and lay the cards face-down, in a circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 1.JPG
  2. 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.Te Rrethi Card Game 2
  3. The person who draws the Ace lays it in the center of the circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 3
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
    Te Rrethi Card Game 4
    Remember, always play on the center FIRST, if you have the appropriate card.

    Te Rrethi Card Game 5
    If you DON’T have a card to play in the center of the circle, you will THEN look to see if you can discard your card on another player’s stack.
  6. The next player goes.
  7. 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.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 7
    .

    Te Rrethi Card Game 8

    Te Rrethi Card Game 10

  8. Continue until one player has no more cards in his or her stack. This player is the winner!
    Te Rrethi Card Game 9
    No cards in front of me … I win!

    (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.)

The Last Few Weeks Before Summer Vacation

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.

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My counterpart, another teacher, and me
circle dancing
Circle dancing (of course!)

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.

Kosovo food
Kosovar food

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.

happy birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me