Friday Gratitude: Back in the Game

Happy Friday!

My mailbox has been very empty the last few months, until I got this postcard from my friend Katie! It is a picture of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington. The postcard looks almost exactly like the picture I took when I hiked in Olympic National Park in 2009. See:

washington state postcard
Postcard
Hurricane Ridge
A photo I took in 2009 ๐Ÿ™‚

And, just for good measure, here is a picture of me hiking in Olympic National Park.

April Hurricane Ridge
Moi, circa 2009

I realize the postal service goes both ways. So, I got back on my postcard game and mailed three this week. It has been my goal to send at least one postcard to every person in my address book before the end of my Peace Corps service.

If you’d like to send me a postcard or a letter (cough, cough), I’d love to hear from you! My address is:

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

***

Media Consumption this week …

  • I’m going to have to start adding Sesame Street to my list. My 12-year-old host cousin has been staying with us. Every day, she and I watch an episode of Sesame Street to help her with her English.
  • Otherwise, it’s just been the usual suspects this week: Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.

Teaser: I am excited about Monday’s blog post. I’ll see you back here then! Have a good weekend, everyone. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Guest Blogger: Chelsea Coombes, Summer Camp

Kosovo Summer Camp 5
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

Hello again! My name is Chelsea. I am a currently serving Peace Corps volunteer and in the same cohort as April. I have guest blogged before and am so grateful to be back.

Kosovo Summer Camp 1
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

As you already know, Peace Corps assigns their volunteers to primary jobs. Like April, I am a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) volunteer. The wonderful thing about Peace Corps is the opportunity to develop secondary projects.ย  These projects can be anything from building a library or computer lab to creating lesson plans that will help our counterparts after we leave.

Kosovo Summer Camp 2
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

Back in February our cohort attended a conference specifically designed to help us gain access to knowledge and resources about starting our projects. It was a three-day conference, but for one of those days we were encouraged to bring our counterparts. Unfortunately, both of my teaching counterparts were unable to attend. I asked a woman who works in our municipality if she would like to come as my counterpart, she agreed and we left for Pristina. I knew I wanted to work on a summer camp for one of my secondary projects but it was really helpful working with a local to develop a better understanding of what that meant.

Kosovo Summer Camp 6
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

We began to plan our camp over the next few months. We even collaborated with UNICEF and UNWomen to sort out a theme and work on material. Overall the camp was a huge success! It lasted six days and we worked primarily with my 8th grade class, as well as 8th graders from the village a few kilometers over, Brod. The students heard presentations from locals working in the fields of environmental awareness, child rights, gender equality and advocacy training. They were then asked to prepare advocacy campaigns to solve an issue they saw in their own community as it related to these topics. It was so rewarding to see my students working together and showing such passion for their community! My favorite moment was an activity we did in regards to gender equality, where we talked about the importance of respecting individualโ€™s rights to like and participate in activities regardless of their gender.

Kosovo Summer Camp 7
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

On our third day of camp we took our students to Brod, a town very well known for its nature and beauty. Some of our campers were from this community and only spoke Bosnian. It was nice seeing all of the students use English as a neutral language to communicate. UNWomen even helped us hire a company to come out and teach our students some outdoor games!

Kosovo Summer Camp 8
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

It was challenging working on such a large project, but I am so grateful I had the hands of counterpart who even came out during his summer break to help, our local volunteers and our partners UNICEF and UNWoman. I couldnโ€™t have asked for a better summer camp!

Kosovo Summer Camp 4
Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Coombes

NOTE: If you would like to read Chelsea’s first guest blog post, click here.

Read posts by other guest bloggers:

July Landscape

I am doing a photo project where every month, I post a photo that captures the spirit of that month. Here is July’s photo:

July landscape.JPG

I took this from the balcony of an Airbnb in Pristina. (Which makes this the third “balcony photo” of this series.) I imagined doing more travel this summer, but it looks like my visit to the United States was my big trip for the season. I sat down with an Excel spreadsheet and figured out how many vacation days I have left. As a refresher, I went to Tirana, Albania last November (which counted as a business trip, so I did not have to use vacation time), Paris/London in December, Rome/Berlin/Budapest in April, and the U.S. in June. I have plans for a big trip this Christmas, and (hopefully) for spring break 2018. This means I only have 6 free vacation days. So, given that I only have a little time left, and that I need to save money for my bigger trips, it doesn’t look like I’ll be traveling again this summer. And I’m fine with that … there are places in Kosovo I’d like to explore, and weekend getaways in Pristina are nice.

Friday Gratitude: Ain’t No Cure

“Sometimes I wonder that I’m a gonna do, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” — Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues

The summertime blues have set in a bit (I’m BORED) … but, let’s focus on some good things about this last week.

I crocheted a mermaid using this easy pattern. I was inspired by the funkiness of the doll in the example photo, and decided I wanted my doll to have a Betty Boop look. I think she turned out okay (note: I think she’s actually much cuter in real life). Also, I ran out of yarn, but have since gotten more and will finish the fins for her tail.

crocheted mermaid

My (very kind and thoughtful) site mate brought me a bottle of wine from her vacation to Greece. I love a good port!

Greek port wine

And finally, here is what my new rug looks like in my current bedroom. Yes, this is the third photo I have posted of the rug. Because I love it and it makes me happy! ๐Ÿ™‚

hand made rug kosovo

As far as media consumption this week, I saw the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and have been re-watching Breaking Bad. I also finished reading A Year in Provence, which I thought was pretty “meh.”

***

I continue to try to find ways to fill my time, now that I’m on a break from teaching. As I mentioned previously, I’ll be hosting a writing workshop next month in Pristina. I had wanted to host a different workshop at a nearby NGO, but they are closing for the month of August due to extreme heat/no air conditioning. So, that project will have to wait.

I had a meeting in Peja about helping out with a film festival next month. It’ll be nice to work on a project that has nothing to do with teaching English. I’m ready for a change.

Aaaand … it took almost 5 months, but my grant proposal has finally been approved. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll be posting more about that project this fall.

***

The weather has been slightly cooler (though humid) this week. I took an evening walk with my host mother and 12-year-old host cousin. Along the way, we picked up a neighbor and her granddaughter. There was a wedding going on down the road, and the sound of traditional dance music filled the air. The sun was just setting and the moon was a sliver tucked among the clouds. Occasionally, someone at the wedding would set off a burst of fireworks. I told myself to remember the walk, because someday I won’t live in Kosovo anymore, and I won’t have nights like that to enjoy.

***

If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed I made some updates to the sidebar. <—- I added links to my photography portfolio (non-Kosovo, non-Peace Corps stuff) and to my Vimeo video page (all are videos I’ve previously published within blog posts). I keep playing around to see how I like the layout and if I need to add or remove anything. Feedback is welcome!

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

The Peace Corps’ Work to Eradicate Smallpox

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I get a free copy of WorldView, the magazine Peace Corps puts out. I read an interesting article in their spring issue I thought I would share. (All information is pulled from an article titled “The Eradicators,” by Patricia A. Wand. I summarize parts of the article. Any direct quotes will be in quotation marks.)

In 1966, the World Health Organization (WHO) wanted to eradicate smallpox, so it enlisted the help of the Peace Corps. “In 1966 an estimated 10-million people had smallpox and two million died from the disease.” Due to the efforts of the WHO and its partners, the last cases of smallpox were reported in 1971. (Kind of amazing that they made such a huge change in just five years.)

The Peace Corps’ Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning released the following information in a report:

“During the 1960s in Afghanistan only males worked in health care and tradition dictated that men could not touch women and children outside their families. Following a pilot project with Peace Corps nurses in 1966, Peace Corps recruited and trained volunteers for women-only groups. These American women traveled with Afghan male health workers into the far reaches of the deserts and mountains to vaccinate rural and nomadic women and children. Local men, seeing the activity, often stepped up with arms ready for vaccination. The program reached far more people than expected. The volunteers helped devise a way for Afghans themselves to continue the program after 1970 by instructing women and girls to extend only one arm through the tent door so no identification took place.”

In addition to Afghanistan, Peace Corps Volunteers also served in smallpox eradication programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, and Togo. (The full report is available online, if you search “Peace Corps Global Smallpox.”)

WorldView magazine is full of interesting stories related to the Peace Corps. I don’t know where you can get a copy in the United States, but it appears to be for sale, as it has a price marked in the corner. The spring issue largely focuses on the world wide refugee crisis and brings to light an interesting question — should Peace Corps Volunteers be placed in refugee camps? It draws comparison to smallpox eradication efforts, noting that Peace Corps has been recruited to partner with other organizations in the past.

WorldView magazine

 

 

Batlava Lake, Kosovo

Living in Kosovo is the first time I have ever been landlocked. The town where I grew up shares a border river with Canada. When I lived in Boston for two years, I would sometimes spend my lunch break at the harbor. And my last apartment in Chicago (which I rented for 4.5 years) had a view of Lake Michigan from every window.

When I was home last month, my family and I went to a local arts and crafts fair along the water. As we watched a giant freighter float down the river, my Dad asked, “Are there boats like that in Kosovo?” And I said, “We don’t have water in Kosovo. It’s all mountains.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. Kosovo is mountainous and shares land borders with four other countries (Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro). However, it does have a few lakes. On Friday, my friend Chester and I visited Batlava Lake, a man-made lake.

When we arrived, we walked halfway around the lake, and decided to rent a paddleboat. (Cost: 5 Euro for one hour.)

When we were done paddling, we walked halfway back around the lake and had lunch at a restaurant on the water.

Batlava Lake was clean and quiet. I was surprised more people weren’t there. It was aย nice little summer day trip. ๐Ÿ™‚

Batlava Lake sign
Walking to the lake
Batlava Lake
Ridiculously beautiful view
Batlava Lake
The beach
B Lake
Representing America
Batlava Lake 6
Boat rental … We opted for a paddle boat.
Batlava Lake 9
On the water
Batlava Lake 7
Tall trees
Kosovo
Moo

If you plan to visit Batlava Lake, here is something to note: You don’t catch the bus at the main bus station in Pristina. Instead, you catch the bus at a stop near here:

take the bus to lake batlava kosovo

The cost is 1.70 Euro each way (it is about a 45-minute trip from Pristina to the lake).

Batlava Lake
So pretty

Friday Gratitude: Short and Sweet

yoga in kosovo
A friend sent me this photo from the Spark Yoga Festival. I hadn’t seen it prior to this week. (I’m the one in purple.) ๐Ÿ™‚

It has been a quiet week, mostly filled with errands. I had to go to the police station and court house to get documentation confirming I am not a criminal, in order to extend my residency in Kosovo.

Media Consumption this week:

I (strangely) read two books about parenting, though I am not a parent.

  • My friend Dana (hi, Dana!) sent me an audiobook version of Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan. This was after I mentioned on an earlier blog post that I’d like to read it. (Good looking out, Dana.) It was a cute, light-hearted book that nicely balanced the other parenting book I read, which was …
  • A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold

I also:

  • Saw the new Spiderman movie.ย The lead actor was a squeaky-voiced, adolescent ball-of-energy. I spent the entire movie wanting to smack him.
  • Caught up on Game of Thrones. (!!!) Happy it’s back on … finally.
  • Binge-re-watched episodes of Breaking Bad. The Chicken Man Cometh …

In other news …

I BOUGHT THE RUG!

I promise to love it forever.

Happy weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚