Friday Gratitude: Cuddling Baby Animals

I was in Pristina yesterday to attend meetings. At the end of the day, I felt inspired and motivated to get started on secondary projects for the summer (workshops) and fall (volunteering with an orphanage). 🙂

While I was in Pristina, I took advantage of some down time to visit a pet shop. It feels wrong to be enamored of these animals when there are so many strays everywhere, but it is also nice to see healthy, well-tended animals for a change.

Why, yes, I did ask a pet shop employee to take photos of me.
He kept licking me with his little black tongue!
Selfie with a Siamese
siamese kitten blue eyes
Aww, makes me miss my kitty at home.

This is my favorite photo. I posted it to Instagram and inadvertently cropped out the Chow Chow’s bear-paw feet! And you can’t edit Instagram photos once they’re posted (another reason to dislike Instagram). Anyway, here’s the un-cropped version:

pets 2

Media consumption this week …

I mentioned last Friday that I needed some light/funny things to watch and read.

  • My friend Katie suggested trying a Peter Mayle novel for something lighthearted. I downloaded A Good Year from the Chicago Public Library. It is a story about a man who inherits a vineyard in France (yes, please). It was a fun read.
  • I downloaded The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri. This was an easy-to-read, whodunnit murder mystery set in Sicily.
  • After seeing this author’s apartment featured on one of my favorite blogs, I decided to download her book Mirror in the Sky. I usually avoid books about teenagers. I had an atypical high school experience, and don’t really relate to “normal” high school stories. However, this was an engaging read. It’s a teenage love story that takes place during a time when a new, Earth-like planet has just been discovered.

I’ve been reading A TON lately. I just haven’t felt like doing much else. A friend suggested writing a post about my summer reading plan. I was like, “I don’t have one.” But I think it’s a great idea! I’d like to compile a master list of books to tackle in my free time this summer. If you have a book suggestion, please message me. I like reading a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Also, I’d like to keep writing three times per week throughout the summer, but I’m already stumped for ideas. If you have a suggestion or questions, please also let me know!

Kosovo’s Giant Chicken

I hesitated to write about Kosovo’s giant chicken because it’s been all over the news lately, but in case you aren’t already aware, there is a giant chicken living in Kosovo. (No, I don’t know where.) It’s nice to know Kosovo has been in the American news for something fun.

Here is a picture of the giant chicken:

giant chicken
Image via

And if you’d like to see a video of it strutting around, click this link.

Back when I was living with my temporary host family, I wrote about chickens in Kosovo. When I first moved in with my current host family, they only had dogs. Now, they have added a cow and chickens. Our property is turning into a nice little farm. Within the last week, both my (real) mom and sister asked me, “What is that noise?” while we were talking on the phone. I was like, “It’s our damn rooster!”

You might be interested to know that the noise roosters make, according to Kosovars, is “kee kee kee kee caw.” Hey, it’s no dumber than “cockadoodle-do.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite bits from the television show Arrested Development. It’s a running joke that no one in the Bluth family can do a realistic chicken impression.


As my sister said to me, “You’re not in Chicago anymore.” Boy, don’t I know it!

Friday Gratitude

When I was a senior in college, I interned at a now-dysfunct arts magazine in Chicago. The magazine was the brainchild of a husband-wife team. I never saw the wife. The husband-half of this fantastic duo was a pretentious, chain-smoking a-hole with a major case of body odor. The other employees/interns were equally unpleasant. As if all of that weren’t bad enough, there were caged ferrets in the office.

They listened to National Public Radio (NPR) constantly. Now, when someone even mentions NPR, I cringe. It’s like I am transported back to that smokey, ferret-filled office.

So, I hate public radio. I also never listen to audio books. To this point, I have only ever listened to two podcasts (the first season of “Serial,” and “My Dad Wrote a Porno.”) When I drive, I listen only to music. It’s probably an introvert thing — I hate the sound of people jabbering in my ear.

This is all a very long-winded way of saying, I listened to a new podcast, and it was so interesting I am actually going to recommend it.

This podcast tries to uncover the mystery behind Richard Simmons’ (yes, THAT Richard Simmons) sudden and unexplained withdrawal from his public and social life. Personally, I’ve always had a good measure of respect for Richard Simmons. There are plenty of useless celebrities out there. Why not appreciate the ones who are actually trying to do good in the world?

I listened to the entire podcast on Sunday, while I cleaned my bedroom and then took a long walk.

As far as other media consumption goes, I finished reading The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams (more on that later). I also watched (of course) Girls.


Care packages have been taking a long time to reach me. It made me so happy to get one from my mom this week! Thanks, mom!


The weather has been PERFECT. And here is a picture of me with a puppy. 🙂


Happy, happy Friday! Talk to you next week.

Friday Gratitude: Still Standing

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.” — Elton John, I’m Still Standing

Well, we’ve reached another Friday. I’ve been in Kosovo for nine months now, which is 1/3 of the total time I’ll be here. Crazy to think …

Despite my recent blues, teaching has been going really well. I love my counterpart and we have a blast with the students. Several people have asked me if I’m considering becoming a teacher after Peace Corps. While the answer is NO, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy doing it for the moment.

Three of my 8th grade girls cornered me after class last week to give me a present out of the blue. I was really touched by their sweet gesture.


It would be easy to feel discouraged here if my professional life weren’t going well, but it is. I’m also working with my counterpart and another teacher on writing a grant, so that’s felt productive, too.

And, of course, the puppies make me happy.

Somebody's got the right idea! #kosovopets #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #belgianmalinois

A post shared by Kosovo Pets (@kosovopets) on

(Though I am tired of rescuing them whenever one escapes from the doghouse. C’mon, mama dog, corral your children better!)

Media Consumption this week:

  • I’m all caught up on the most recent episode of HBO’s Girls. Does anyone else watch this show? Since it’s the last season, I am curious to see how they’ll end it. So far, the characters are still exhibiting every bit of bad behavior they always have.
  • After years of having it on my “to watch” list, I finally saw The Salton Sea. It tried way too hard to be cool, but it was watchable.

As always, thanks for reading! Have a good weekend. XO

Friday Gratitude: My PST Host Family

I spent last weekend visiting my pre-service training (PST) host family. I lived with them last June, July, and August. I hadn’t been back to visit them since.

My trip was exactly what I needed. I was in a familiar place, but a place that is no longer a part of my daily life. It gave me a break from the tedium I’ve been feeling lately. My previous village is also much prettier than where I am now. Kosovo is the first land-locked place I have ever lived. It didn’t bother me last summer, when I was surrounded by beautiful mountains. But my current village is located a valley, so it’s a flat/boring landscape with no water. It was so nice to be back in the mountains again!

I also hadn’t realized how much I miss my previous family. It’s funny — there are parallels between my two host families. Both sets of parents are ages 50-55, and both have grown sons/no daughters. But they live on opposite sides of Kosovo and have never met. Also, one family is Catholic and the other is Muslim.

Having been away from my PST host family for so long meant I had plenty to tell them. That’s one struggle I have in living with a host family — my day-to-day life is the same, so all I ever have to say is, “I went to school today. It was good.” I don’t have the language skills to talk about anything deeper or more meaningful, so I run out of topics to discuss. It was nice to be able to have a longer conversation in Shqip.

My trip there took 3 buses, 4 hours, and cost 5.50 Euro one-way (a lot, on a tiny Peace Corps budget). I was pulling my little wheelie suitcase up our dark country road I ran into my host parents, on their way to greet me. 🙂 Back at the house, I told them about life in my new village. I answered a million questions about my new host family, including “Do they make their bread or buy it?” (Yes, that was a real question.) When my host sister-in-law arrived, my host parents recounted everything I had just said to her. Then, when my host brother arrived, they recounted everything again. It was funny.

And, of course, I was excited to see the cats again! Especially “the Kitten.” I call her that because the cats don’t have names. Remember when I met her on my birthday last year?

The Kitten then and now

I took a walk around the property with her cuddled in my arms. 🙂

Media consumption …

I started and finished two books over the last weekend, and discovered a new author I really like!

  • The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon. This is a story of a woman who believes her mother was the victim of a serial killer (only her hand was ever found). But, 25 years later, her mother shows up alive. I couldn’t put this one down! (Though the killer is someone you’d NEVER suspect, and I actually thought there were more plausible/compelling options.) I read this curled by the wood burning stove, as my host parents puttered around the kitchen and the rain fell outside. It was an ideal murder-mystery-reading situation. I don’t recommend reading this novel while you’re home alone.
  • I decided to read another of Jennifer McMahon’s novels, so I downloaded Don’t Breathe a Word. (Thanks, Chicago Public Library!) It was creepy and bizarre, a grown-up fairy tale that reminded me of the movie Pan’s Labyrinth.

Have a good weekend, everyone! I’ll talk to you on Monday.

She looks like she’s smiling. 🙂

Friday Gratitude: Puppies!

January and February have been tough months. I think it’s a combination of many things — returning from vacationing in Paris, cold weather/shorter days, the feeling like more travel is a long way off, the feeling that the end of my Peace Corps service is a long way off, etc. I’ll start to feel better about things, and then something will happen to make me feel blue.

But, I am trying to focus on positive things. My host family’s dog gave birth to five puppies last Saturday morning! While I have opinions on pets not being spayed (oh, I have so many opinions about animals in Kosovo!) only a monster would be unhappy about puppies.

Our dog’s name is Pandousha. (We used to have a second dog, but the family got rid of him.) Anyway, Pandousha and I have become good buddies, as I’m usually the one who feeds her. I often say this aloud to her, “I would like you more if you were a cat, but I accept what the Universe brings to me.” When I pet her, I always get the feeling something is missing. Then I realize I’m waiting for her to purr.

I attempted to take pictures of the puppies. I picked up one of the puppies with one hand and held my camera in the other. Pandousha leaned over, plucked the puppy from my hand, and placed it beneath her. I picked up another puppy. Pandousha leaned over, plucked that puppy from my hand, and again, placed it beneath her. It’s like she was saying, “Excuse me, but, NO.” I took the hint and left them alone.

(And yes, I know it’s bad to touch newborn puppies. But the dog and I have a tight relationship. If any human can touch her puppies, it is me.)

My host family's dog gave birth to five #puppies this morning! #kosovopets #belgianmalinois 🐶

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

I’ll post more pictures once the puppies are a little bigger and more photo friendly.


Media consumption:

  • I finished A Man Called Ove. I know several of my friends recommended it … I forget which friends, specifically (sorry). It was charming, heart-warming, and laugh-out-loud funny in some places. Parts of it annoyed me for its obviousness/contrivance. But overall, I’d say it’s worth a read.


I am off to spend this coming weekend with my pre-service training (PST)/temporary host family from last summer. I haven’t seen them since August.

Have a good one!

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 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.

Booty shot