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.

KETNET Presentation on Po-e-ZΓ«

On Saturday, my friend Val and I presented at Kosovo’s 7th annual KETNET conference. KETNET stands for Kosova English Teachers’ Network (their website is here).

kosovo ketnet teacher conference.jpg

I am helping Val organize Po-e-ZΓ«, a national English language poetry recitation competition. The competition started in Albania. Val and another Peace Corps volunteer brought it to Kosovo last year. My students participated, which I wrote about in this post.

Our goal in presenting at KETNET was to spread the word and get more local teachers involved in the competition, even if they don’t have a Peace Corps volunteer at their school.

After our presentation, a student who competed last year gave a speech on what competing meant to her. Then, she recited her poem.

Getting ready to present …

This is one of the bigger secondary projects in which I’ve been involved. I am looking forward to working with my students on memorizing their poems, hosting a local competition, and then organizing the national competition in Pristina in December.

Coffee afterward

Related post:

Hello! by Alba Arifi (a poem by a Kosovar high school student)


Happy Birthday to my Parents

Today is my dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Last week was my mom’s birthday. And I forgot. 😦 This is the first time in my life I have ever forgotten her birthday. My only excuse is that I was busy at a conference.

During the conference, we participated in a reflection exercise where we had to consider who has been most influential in different aspects of life. My exercise partner and I both said our parents have been major influences on us, and that furthermore, we couldn’t think of anyone else who has had as much of an impact on our lives.

Do you think the reflection exercise jolted my memory? Like, oh hey, this person who has had a major influence on my life HAD A BIRTHDAY TWO DAYS AGO THAT I FORGOT? Nope.

It wasn’t until I was talking to my mom and she casually mentioned her birthday dinner that I was like, “Oh, NO! Your birthday!”

So, Mom, I am sorry. (This is even worse because I kept reminding myself this week is Dad’s birthday. How did I forget your birthday is the week before his?)

I hope you both had/have very happy days! And this time next year, I hope I am with you to celebrate in person! xo

A Dog With Many Names

Before moving to Kosovo, I had never heard of the following type of dog (it has many names):Β Sarplaninac, Shar Mountain Dog, Illyrian Sheepdog, Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog. All of those names describe one basic breed of dog, which is common in Kosovo and looks like this:


Clearly, this is a dog that displays maximum fluffitude, but do not be fooled — they are bred to protect sheep from wolves.

Though I have never seen an actual working dog (as in, up in the mountains, herding sheep), many of the street dogs in Kosovo look like they’re part Illyrian Sheepdog (my preferred name for them). Here is a picture of a stray dog I took in Peja (he was just sleeping, not dead):

sleeping shar mountain dog
zzzzzzzz …

I don’t know why there are so many names for this breed. They are beautiful animals, though. I am not the first Peace Corps volunteer to become fascinated by them (and we all know I’m a cat person). I may have to find a puppy and bring it home to my dad once I am done with my service. πŸ™‚ (Dad, you have been warned … )

If you would like to learn more about Illyrian Sheepdogs, you can click this link.

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!

Adjective Contest at School

On Wednesday, my counterpart and I hosted an adjective memorization contest at school. I had the idea for it at the end of Β last school year. I was tired of hearing students use the word “beautiful” to describe everything. “My friend is beautiful.” “The shirt is beautiful.” “The apple is beautiful.” All right. Time to learn some new adjectives.

I wrote a list of about 80 adjectives in English, and my counterpart wrote the corresponding words in Shqip (Albanian). We photocopied the list and passed it out to the students, telling them to memorize it over the summer. We told them we would host a content with prizes when they came back to school.

adjectives english albanian shqip

Between my counterpart and me, we came up with the following prizes:


(A stuffed dog and Venice puzzle that came in a care package from my parents; an American flag pencil from a pack I bought at Target; Hello Kitty candies I got in other care packages [I like Hello Kitty but don’t eat candy that isn’t chocolate]; and my counterpart brought in a book of Albanian poetry; a stuff bear; and a notebook.)

Seven students participated, and two girls actually memorized the entire list! Wow. πŸ™‚

To put this into context, my second village school only averages about eight students per grade. So, a 7-student turnout is pretty good!