Friday Gratitude: Madness

Here are some things that are making me happy this week:

  • I bought plane tickets this week. Buying plane tickets makes my bank account sad. But it makes me very happy!
  • I finally decided to stop being lazy and upload my crochet projects to ravelry. You can see them here (not sure if you need an account): http://www.ravelry.com/projects/hellofromkosovo
  • I am heading to a language training for Peace Corps early next week. Good things: I’ll get to be in a city I like with friends I like. Bad things: I’ll be evaluated on my Shqip progress. *gulp*
  • I had a lovely dinner with another volunteer. You will get to “meet” him next week, when he guest blogs for me.

Media consumption:

  • I re-watched the movie Notes on a Scandal. It is one of the only movies I think is better than the book upon which it is based (the other is Revolutionary Road). In it, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett play teachers at the same school. The movie is told from the perspective of Judi Dench’s character, as she learns of Cate Blanchett’s character’s affair with a 15-year-old student. Though CB is the one having the affair, JD plays such a creepy, evil character you end up hating her more.
  • I decided to treat myself to a movie and went to see Beauty and the Beast. It was the second time I’ve visited a movie theater since I’ve lived in Kosovo. I didn’t care for the movie much. But these days, I appreciate stimulation of any kind.

On a sad note … They say things happen in threes and I know three families in the U.S. who have lost loved ones within the last week. A lot of people are on my mind, and a lot of people are in my thoughts and prayers. I am sending love to you all.

Feeling the Loss of Autonomy

I try to find the balance between keeping it real on this blog, while not complaining too much. But I’ve been feeling the blues on and off for the last two months. Things will start to look up and then something will happen to bring them back down again.

Friends and family often ask me, “What do you miss most?” And I think they expect the answer to be something like a person, or my cat, or some type of food. But the thing I miss most is getting to feel like an adult.

I don’t control what I eat or when I eat. I don’t control the temperature in my bedroom (currently, there’s no heat). I can’t decorate my bedroom in any real way. My means of transportation is limited. My monthly budget is tiny. I live in someone else’s house, meaning I have to do things based on someone else’s preferences.

I’m running out of ideas for this blog. I’ve got several half-finished crochet projects lying around. I’m losing focus in some ways. My bedtime has been getting earlier and earlier because after I accomplish what I want to for the day, I don’t see the point in finding more to do.

My poor mom has had to bear the brunt of my complaining. My end of our telephone conversations sound like, “UUUUGGGHHH.” (Thanks, Mom.)

I had coffee with another volunteer friend the other week. We were talking about time, and whether it has been passing quickly or slowly while we’re here. We couldn’t figure it out. He said, “The days are misery but then a month goes by.” I agree with that statement.

I suspected my first winter in Kosovo would be one of the hardest stretches of my Peace Corps service. And so far, it has been. I am trying to remind myself of the positive things that are coming.

I am going on vacation for spring break in 32 days. (Don’t you just hate me? All this complaining, and then I tell you I’m going on vacation soon.) I’m hoping this is what I need to pull me through this slump, to officially put an end to this winter chapter of my service.

Photo Project: Graveyard

“Every day, a little death.” — Stephen Sondheim

I pass by this graveyard whenever I take the bus into Pristina. (And I took these photos from the bus, so I apologize for the poor quality.)

Processed with MOLDIV

 

Processed with MOLDIV

I wondered if the cages are to keep stray dogs from digging up the bodies. After asking around, it seems my guess is correct.

Last Thursday, I talked a bit about the differences between how Americans and Kosovars view/value animals. I can understand why people here are wary of stray dogs. Still, I am hopeful these attitudes can and will change over time.

Four and Twenty

For as much as I count myself an animal lover, I’ve never been able to decide how I feel about birds. Part of me thinks they’re cute. Another part of me is creeped out by their scaly feet, and the awkward way they jerk their heads around.

However, I keep seeing the most beautiful birds flying around my house. After some investigation (meaning, a quick Google search), I discovered they are Black-Billed Magpies.

black-billed-magpie-kosovo
Black-Billed Magpie in Kosovo

According to the Birds of Europe website, Black-Billed Magpies are “probably the bird most people recognize.” (I didn’t recognize them. Thanks for making me feel dumb, Birds of Europe.) A further search led me to discover that Black-Billed Magpies also live in the western half of the United States. I’ve only lived in the Midwest and New England, so maybe that’s why I don’t recall ever seeing them in America.

I tried for weeks (literally) to get better pictures. I kept my camera on my desk, ready to snap photos at a moment’s notice. I took a walk around my (freezing) backyard, trying to get a picture. I left Cheerio’s on my windowsill, hoping to lure the birds over. Then I read that they like fruit, so I left a half-peeled orange on my windowsill. Nothing worked. (Stupid birds.) I got impatient waiting to write this post, so here you go … these are the best I could do.

tail-black-billed-magpie-kosovo
Booty shot
black-billed-magpies-in-trees-kosovo
Friends!
black-billed-magpie-in-flight-kosovo
Goodbye!

Guest Bloggers: Todd and Stephanee Smith (Serving as a Married Couple in the Peace Corps)

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” — Antoine De Saint-Exupery

stephanee-and-todd

Thanks to April for asking us to be guest bloggers on what it’s like to serve as a married couple in the Peace Corps. As one of two married couples in our cohort, we are probably having a different experience than our fellow volunteers.

Some background: We’ve been married over 20 years, no kids, and left behind steady, comfortable jobs. We were both ready for a life and career change. It was a decision that we took very seriously, and worked through the pros and cons together. We think that when you serve as a couple, you both need to be all in because if one person has reservations, it’s going to be a difficult experience for both of you.

Pre-service training (PST) was the biggest challenge of our service. Peace Corps required us to live separately (different home/different village) for our first 3 months of training. We knew this going into our service, so it didn’t come as a surprise. And while it did allow us to have our own, separate experiences while developing our own identities within our cohort, it was definitely a very challenging experience. PST has a lot of ups and downs and when you are used to sharing those types of life experiences with your partner, and he/she isn’t around, it can be difficult. While not being able to see your partner whenever you wanted was difficult, we will say that the PST set-up did allow for a lot of interaction. Our villages were only a few miles apart and there were plenty of hub days or sector training that, for the most part, we were able to see each other in person more often than not.

Once we finished PST, however, a sense of normalcy returned. We resumed living together, cooking for ourselves, having similar schedules and just a feeling of being a married couple once again. Some advantages of serving together is that you always have someone to hang out with, whether it’s at the café, at home, dinner, or simply riding the bus. We are in the same sector so we have that in common, and we even share tutoring lessons. We always have a travel partner. Loneliness isn’t as big of an issue as it may be with other volunteers. In the winter, the advantages are even better—never underestimate the power of body heat in an unheated bedroom.

However, there are some disadvantages as well. Our language learning isn’t progressing as quickly as we would like as we always have someone to talk to in English. As a married couple, our host family gives us plenty of privacy so we probably don’t have as much interaction as many other volunteers may have with their families which also hampers our language skills. We also sometimes feel that we probably haven’t formed as many close relationships with our cohort due to the fact we have a “built-in” friend. Of course, that could be because not only are we a married couple, but we’re also older than most everyone in our cohort!

Despite some disadvantages, being a married couple has only enhanced our experiences. Neither of us can imagine trying to go through this adventure alone. We rely on one another to get through our struggles and are able to enjoy small successes together. So far, our experience in the Peace Corps has been pretty much what we expected. Some ups, some downs; but all made easier by having someone to share it with.

April’s Note: Happy Valentine’s Day! If you’d like to read more from other guest bloggers, here are some links:

A Mysterious Phrase

I’ve been on a hunt for the last week or so to discover the meaning of a mysterious phrase. It’s something my host mother says often: “të myt e dala.” (Sounds something like “tuh-meet-uh-dala.”)

My host brother speaks some English, so I asked him what it means. He said he he didn’t know. He said it might be a phrase borrowed from Turkish.

Side note: Not only are there two different major dialects of Shqip (Albanian), there are also words borrowed from other languages, like Turkish and Serbian, and then also different regional words and phrases. It’s a wonder people in Kosovo can understand each other. (And good luck if you’re a foreigner.)

I decided to ask my pre-service training (PST) language teacher about this mysterious phrase. I even had my host brother type out the text message for me, so I could be sure it was spelled correctly. (My host family was laughing as we did. I think they were amused by my determination to figure it out). Well, my PST language teacher said he didn’t know what it means. He lives in a different region of Kosovo and had never heard “të myt e dala.”

The next day at school, I asked one of my counterparts what it means. She started to laugh. She told me “të myt” means “to kill,”but then hastily added, “It’s a joke.” Then she told me she didn’t know how to further explain it in English.

“Does it mean, ‘I’m going to kill you?'” I asked.

Nope, that’s wasn’t it.

By that point, I was super curious to know what “të myt e dala” means. How can people use it and yet not be able to explain it?

A few days later, I asked my Shqip tutor what it means. Then she started to laugh. She reiterated that “të myt” means “to kill,” but in a joking way. She also didn’t know how to explain the rest, but promised she would find an answer.

“You’re the fourth Albanian I’ve asked!” I told her.

I saw her again the following day, and I FINALLY got my answer! (She’d gone home the previous night and asked her parents.)

“Të myt e dala,” means … “May the cholera kill you.”

Happy Monday! 🙂

Friday Gratitude: The Gang’s All Here

These last three days, I’ve been in Pristina for a Peace Corps conference. We’ve been learning how to apply for grants for different projects. 


I’m grateful, as always, for my fellow volunteers. I’m especially grateful for my site mate this week, as she saved me from a yarn shortage emergency (don’t laugh). I tried to make a mini London bus for Sierra’s birthday, but after several failed attempts, I had to admit defeat.


I spent 1.5 hours of my week on the phone with United Airlines. I tried to book a ticket with them and they couldn’t get their partner airline to confirm it. (Please help, I want to give you money!) But I finally got things sorted (I went with another airline). I’m glad to have it finally booked.

Last, I went to the movies for the first time in Kosovo! I saw La La Land. It took me a while to get into it, but I liked it by the end. 

Happy Friday!