The Night the Lights Went Out

We had a spectacular thunderstorm Thursday night, which resulted in a loss of power for about 12 hours. 😦 Our power has intermittently cut out here and there since then.

Losing power is a pretty common occurrence in Kosovo, and something I had read about prior to moving here. I’ve heard different parts of the country tend to lose power at different times. For example, I’ve been told my village loses power more often in the summer (which I suppose is a good thing, as no power in winter = no heat).

Thursday’s power loss revealed some interesting things. First, my host family has a bathroom in the garden — just a sink and a toilet. It is not hooked up to the electric pump and instead, gets its water from a reservoir sitting on its roof. That means there is just enough water in the sink to brush your teeth/wash your face (and — bonus — the toilet flushes). We also have a well from which we can pump buckets of water.

Losing power is never fun, but at least I feel a little better about the water situation. The other thing that worries me is losing charge on my phone. Peace Corps is adamant that they be able to reach us at all times in case of an emergency. (I need to investigate buying a power bank, as a friend suggested.)

I met with an NGO Friday morning to discuss providing English lessons for teenagers at their facility. I rolled into my meeting with my power strip, computer, and phone charger (because I am classy like that).


Friday Gratitude

This week has been super chill. When I’m not out with friends, I’m at home, working on crochet projects. I talked to my (real) mom the other night, and she asked what I’ve been doing. I said, “nothing but crocheting.” Then she asked if I’ve been reading any good books and I was said, “No! I’ve been crocheting.” Like, literally, that’s all I’ve been doing!

After three months of searching, I FINALLY found a yoga mat! I wish I could’ve brought mine from the U.S., but wouldn’t have fit in my luggage. I went with my host dad and brother to a Menards-type store because they were looking for a table. I started poking around and I found it — the only mat in the whole store!

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We were meant to be together!

In the States, I was always good about getting myself to yoga class, but I was terrible about practicing at home. I’ve actually been consistent doing yoga on my own since I’ve gotten to Kosovo. I found a teacher on YouTube I really like — Cole Chance from Yoga Tx, if you’re interested.


My new favorite snack is Milka choco-cake cookies and Alpsko milk. 🙂


I went on another hike in Peja. This time, as my friend said, it was “a slower hike with more wine.” 😉 I took this photo from the place we got lunch beforehand.

Have a good weekend, everyone!




My Favorite Instagram Photos

I wanted to title this blog post: “My Favorite Instagram Photos (that other people took)” but that seemed ridiculously long. Anyway …

I’ve had a cautious relationship with my own Instagram account. I didn’t start one until just before I moved to Kosovo, because I didn’t know what to post about previously. I have complaints about the app (mainly in how it is used — every random account I scroll is laden with selfies and pictures of meals.) But, Instagram is an easy way for people to share their experiences through pictures, so it is not completely devoid of merit.

I have especially enjoyed looking at the accounts of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. On one hand, we are all sharing the experience of serving in Kosovo. But on the other hand, we are having our own unique, individual experiences, too. There are so many times when I’ve seen a picture and thought, “I wish I were doing that!” or “I know where that is!”

A lot of my friends/fellow volunteers are also really great photographers. I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos here. All photos are being posted with the permission of those who took them.

I’ve previously linked to Nicole’s photos. I love the moment she captured here:

Nicole’s Photo

Cait (pronounced like the word “cloth” without the “L,” as she likes to say) took this gorgeous picture of a mosque, which inspired me to go out and take my own pic. Here is hers:

Cait’s photo

Charlie is probably the most integrated volunteer I know. We used to live in the same small village and I swear he knew everyone. His language ability is also superior to my own, which makes me mildly hate him. (I told him I was going to caption this photo: “[MEAN WORD] INTEGRATING.” Haha, just kidding!) To use his description instead: “Volunteer/Friend Charlie with traditional Albanian musicians prior to wedding performance.”

Charlie’s Photo

The Peace Corps gave us volunteer t-shirts. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain about a free shirt, but they’re a really ugly khaki color. However, Rachel put them to good use (and wisely posted this photo in black and white). Isn’t this great?

Rachel’s photo

I saved the my favorite for last. Here is Hannah, at a shepard’s hangout. I saw this picture and was like, “I have been out-cooled.” Hannah looks like a wild princess. I wish I were a wild princess. Here is the photo that inspired me to write this post:

Hannah’s photo




Hiking in Peja, Kosovo

School doesn’t start until Monday, so I’ve had free time this week and last (which has been really nice!). I’ve been settling in and getting to know a different part of Kosovo. There are a couple of K2 volunteers (Peace Corps Volunteers from the group before mine, who are in the middle of their service) who live in my general area. They have been really helpful in showing us newbies around.

One of the K2s organized a hike in Peja last Thursday. (I wrote a previous post about Kosovo’s first Olympic gold medal winner, Majlinda Kelmendi. Peja is her hometown.) As I mentioned, Peja is in the BIG mountains. 🙂

It was a beautiful day, clear and sunny and not too hot. Here are some pictures from the trip.


Shumë Speca!

You know that old saying, “You are what you eat.” If that is true, I am a pepper.

The Albanian word for peppers is “speca” (I pronounce it  SPAYT-SA, and to me, it sounds like others pronounce it this way, to. [Even though there is no “t.”]). I hear “speca” so often that in complete honesty, I sometimes have trouble remembering the English word for it.

I like speca, but over this past summer I have eaten enough to grow tired of it. But, I thought, Ah-ha! Autumn is coming. And that means no more speca.

I thought wrong. I forgot about canning. It seems I will be enjoying speca for months (and years) to come!

My host mother asked me if I’d like to accompany her to her sister’s house to see the canning process. We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and did not leave until 8:30 p.m. (I had been warned this would be an all-day affair.)

Speca for days …
There’s more where that came from …
Speca! I mean, peppers


Literally, my only contribution to the process
In the future, there will never be a time when I am not eating speca.




Swearing-in Speech

Our Peace Corps trainee group, K3, elected two members of our group to give a speech (entirely in Albanian) at our swearing-in ceremony. We elected Valeriana Dema and Michael Kuriyama. With Val and Michael’s permission, I am posting the English version of their speech below.

Welcome all and thank you for being with us today. We would like to especially thank Mr. President Hashim Thaqi for coming here today. We also would like to thank the U.S. Ambassador, Greg Delawie. We would like to thank volunteers, teachers, the Peace Corps staff, and most importantly we would like to thank our host families.

Michael: Eleven weeks ago, when we got on the plane in Washington DC and took the first step in our PC journey, we never imagined that we would have the honor of addressing you today, as we take the next major step in our service as PCVs

Val: We have spent the past eleven weeks training and preparing for our two year service in Kosovo. We got through it with plenty of laughs, some tears, and a lot of sweat. Most importantly, however, we got through it together with many of the people in this room.

Michael: When looking at our fellow volunteers, we see a group of intelligent and kind people working together to do something good here in Kosovo. We come from different places and backgrounds that give us unique perspectives.

Val: And as an Albanian American, the volunteers here have opened my eyes to seeing Kosovo from new angles. One day when I was feeling down some volunteers showed me a new path in the hills behind our village. When we finally made it all the way up the mountain, the sun was setting. The view from the top was breathtaking, and I asked myself why people would leave this beautiful place? The family rituals and slower rhythms here in Kosovo seemed to make more sense to me than the more hectic and faster paced lifestyle I had in America. I thought about Albanian families, my own and others, split up across continents and realized leaving was no easy decision for them. I’ve realized that my biggest hope as volunteer is that I can help Kosovo in some small way become a place that people don’t feel that they have to leave. I don’t think I could have come to these sentiments about myself and the people here in Kosovo without having my fellow volunteers and host national children show me the way. They’re the ones who took me up the mountain to a new path that I’d never seen before, and I think they’re the people that are going to continue to show me new and beautiful things about Kosovo throughout my two years here.

Michael: There is a contagious energy that makes us hopeful that anything is possible, that every project or task we set out to accomplish will succeed. We have been a great support network for each other, and we will continue to be so after we move to our permanent sites across Kosovo.

Val: I’m sure that we are all anxious about moving to our new homes in just a few hours, but we are prepared for this move thanks to a special group of people – our teachers. Our teachers have worked hard to provide us with a foundation to learn the languages of Kosovo, but they were way more than just the people who taught us.

Michael: They were the person who helped us interpret a new culture, the person who watched us grow, and the friend we’re grateful to have. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, and seeing how intelligent and driven our teachers are has made us extremely hopeful for the future of Kosovo.

Val: We spent time with our teachers every day, but there was also always staff working hard behind the scenes to help us. They helped us with whatever we needed: from providing medical care and giving technical training, to meeting us at the airport and helping set up our bank accounts.

Michael: Regardless of the task, the Peace corps staff was eager to help. However, we believe what we’re most thankful for is the hard work they put into finding the perfect host families to live with.

Val: Throughout the summer, you cooked us delicious pita, pasul, and flija and poured us endless juice, Turkish coffee, and Russian tea. But more than just providing a place to stay and something to eat or drink, you welcomed us into your homes and invited us into your families.

Michael: I remember when we arrived at the school in Kamenice with our luggage and no idea of with whom we were going to be living with. I had a few phrases memorized and could say shume mire and s’ka problem relatively well. My host dad picked me up and brought me back to his home, showed me to my room, and invited me to have coffee with him and his wife. I nervously sat down and frantically used my phrase book and google translate to come up with small talk. When I said I didn’t understand something, they didn’t give up and kept on trying to communicate with me. We smiled and laughed at my mistakes, and sometime before I had finished my coffee, my nervousness disappeared. Despite not being able to communicate with words, we always understood your hospitality, your generosity, and your care. While the volunteers didn’t always have the words to say how much our families meant to us, we hope you understood through our actions.

Val: We’re so grateful to have spent the past few months with you. You invited us to your celebrations. At weddings, you grabbed our hands and took to us to dance in the valla. My family even threw me a wonderful birthday party.

Michael: During Bajram, you took us from house to house to meet your families who served us countless dishes of delicious baklava like we were your own sons and daughters. You introduced us to your family who came back home from all over Europe and who were just as nice as you are. You were some of the kindest, warmest, and most welcoming people we have ever met.

Val: We might be moving to different parts of the country, but no matter where we go, we will always have a home and family with you all.

Friday Gratitude

“It’s really good to be here and as I always say, it’s really good to be anywhere!” — Keith Richards

Happy Friday! I’ve been settling into my new (and permanent!) site this week. It’s so nice to be fully unpacked — that means even my winter clothes are out of my suitcase now. My host family has been very kind thus far; happy to include me in things, but respectful of my time and space, too.

Here are some things I am grateful for this week:


I’ve been enjoying my morning coffee in my new mug, which was a sweet gift from a friend.


My host parents brought this bracelet back from their vacation in Albania. I haven’t taken it off, not even to shower or sleep.


One thing I love about being in other countries is the sheer randomness of everything. I don’t know what the difference between “sheep” or “butterfly” is when it comes to clothing … maybe a fluffy wash versus a light wash? My clothes are clean, at any rate.


I (stupidly) did not bring any printed photos to Kosovo. With the help of my friends, I found a printer and pulled some photos off my phone to have printed. It’s nice to be able to look at my family, friends, and our pets in the States. (Also, I plan to post my photos of my new room once I am a bit more settled in.)


I found yarn at the grocery store without even l00king for it. I just rounded a corner and bam! There it was. I’ve got a couple of ambitious crochet projects in mind … we’ll see how they pan out.


I bought a lamp for my new room … and managed to break it the next morning. My host father made a new lamp stand for me. Isn’t this so cute?! It seriously made my day. 🙂

Also, I downloaded The Joy Luck Club to my Kindle (thanks, still-working Chicago Public Library card!) and re-read it this week. I think I was a teenager the last time I read it … I’d forgotten what a great novel it is. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!