Bear Sanctuary, Pristina, Kosovo

Chelsea, my favorite Peace Corps volunteer*, had a recent birthday. Since she is a known bear enthusiast, a group of her friends got together and we took her to the Pristina Bear Sanctuary. (*She told me I had to write that.)

bear sanctuary entrance
Entering the bear sanctuary

Some restaurants in Kosovo used to keep live bears in cages as a way of attracting customers. The bears were poorly fed and kept in deplorable conditions. They have since been rescued and brought to the bear sanctuary to live (since they are too domesticated to be returned to the wild).

My fear was that we wouldn’t see any of the bears, but we saw quite a few!

sleeping bear
First sighting, a sleeping bear!
just chillin
Second sighting, two bears!
close up
A close up

This bear was so roly-poly, I wanted to cuddle him. It’s a good thing they have fences up to keep people like me from trying to do that.

smell the flowers
A good lesson from a bear: It is important to stop and smell the flowers.
passed out
Look. At. Those. Feet!
Chelsea and bear
Chelsea and the bears!
bear biography
Bear Biography
bear facts
Information about different types of bears
bear mural
Chelsea and a bear mural
walking the path
Friends walking the path

This blonde bear was a favorite. She kept digging and digging.

blonde bear
Blonde bear
bear in a cage
A photograph of a bear in captivity. 😦
the view
A view of the sanctuary
bear chilling in the shade
A bear enjoying the shade
pristina bear sanctuary
Leaving the sanctuary

As another friend pointed out, calling this the “Pristina” bear sanctuary is a bit of a stretch, as it is several kilometers outside of the city. We had to take taxis to get there — two taxis for 9 people for 40 Euro round trip. Our taxi drivers went to get coffee for an hour while we explored the sanctuary. That’s Kosovar hospitality for you. 🙂

april bear sanctuary
April at the bear sanctuary

The bear sanctuary was very well done — very beautiful, lots of good information, cute touristy stuff to buy, and a cafe and places for kids to play. I highly recommend visiting!


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Friday Gratitude: All Good Things

Happy Friday! Here are some pictures of my host family’s new German Shepherd puppy.

german shepherd puppy kosovo 1.JPG
His name is Adam.
german shepherd puppy kosovo 2
He is already huge … oh, boy.

(My parents got to meet the puppy when they visited Kosovo, and my mom asked me to share some photos. Here you go, Mom.) 🙂

Cute story about a student … Last week, I noticed one of my fifth grade students had a key chain from the Melbourne Aquarium. I was reading a book about Australia, so Australia was on my mind. Plus, it isn’t a common place for Kosovars to travel so it stood out to me. I asked my student if she had been there and she told me her father had gone and brought back the key chain for her. This week, she brought in a photo album to show me pictures of her father’s trip to the aquarium. I thought it was so sweet of her to do that. 🙂

Media consumption this week …

  • I re-watched the movie The Ballad of Jack and Rose. I was in the mood to watch a Daniel Day-Lewis movie and it is the only one I have saved to my external hard drive. Ever since hearing about his newest (and supposedly, his last) film, Phantom Thread, I have been trying in vain to find it on one of the *ahem* websites here, but with no luck. (Maybe if one of my fellow volunteers is reading this, you could point me in a helpful direction?)
  • No finished books this week. *gasp* I’m in the middle of a long, non-fiction book … more on that later.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with kind words regarding my decision to feature blog posts dealing with heavier topics. I may up put a few more posts in the future, but next week’s posts will have lighter content.

I’m in Pristina today to attend a Peace Corps town hall meeting, and I’m staying in the city afterward to celebrate a friend’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Sierra!) I hope you all have a good weekend. I’ll talk to you on Monday.

Goodbye to Oz

My parents put their cat down this weekend. At first, I hesitated to write a tribute here because I didn’t want to be a bummer right before the holidays, talking about our dead cat. But then I figured, this is my blog, I loved our cat, and so I’m going to dedicate a post to how awesome he was.

My sister adopted Oz when she was in high school. She named him Oz after one of the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show my whole family enjoyed. When my sis moved out a few years later, my mom had gotten so attached to Oz that she asked Kristen to leave Oz behind. Thus, Oz became my parents’ cat.

Oz was abnormally shiny as a kitten. He looked like he was made of patent leather. Visitors to our house would say, “Your cat is so … shiny,” with a dazed look on their faces.

As Oz got older, his fur dulled to a more normal sheen. But his hatred for me sharpened. Oz liked my other family members to varying degrees, but he loathed the very sight of me. It became a running joke in our family. His hatred did not stop me from trying to heft his 16.5-lb. body (he was a big cat) into my arms and sticking my face in his fur. He would hiss and growl, swat me with his paws, and run away.

Oz + Chick
Me: “Why do you hate me, Oz? Is it because I put toys on you?”
When I lived in Chicago and would get ready to visit my family in Michigan, my excitement at getting to see Oz far eclipsed my excitement at getting to see my parents. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. You know where you stand in the line-up. After cats, is where.)

Oz was a weird cat. Here are some fun facts about him:

  • He loved feet, particularly men’s feet, particularly my grandfather’s feet.
  • He loved human food. Cheese was his favorite, but I also saw him happily eat pepperoni, lettuce, and bread. He begged for food like a dog.
  • He loved a stuffed toy gorilla I’d left in my bedroom when I moved away to college. And by “loved,” I mean he “had intimate relations with it.”
  • He loved being groomed. It was the only time he allowed me to touch him. His love of being groomed outweighed his hatred for me.
  • He hated change and would freak out if you so much as left a sock on the floor.
  • Despite being a scaredy-cat, he loved the outdoors and would try to sneak out if you left the door open.
  • He could do yoga better than any human.

“Silly human. Yoga is for cats!”

“Let me go outside, damnit!”

Halloween kitty
FINALLY outside!

Black cats on Halloween ARE THE BEST!

Oz was a typical cat in some ways …

black cat gray cat
Oz and Sweeney Todd, my two great loves

Oz (1)
A close-up of Oz … probably getting ready to smack me.
Serving in the Peace Corps is hard. I had a distinct picture in my head of my joyous return home, but now that picture has to change. It will be hard to walk into my parents’ house for the first time knowing that Oz isn’t there anymore.

I last saw Oz this summer when I visited the United States. I don’t distinctly remember the last time I held or petted him. I wish I did. I didn’t know it would be the last time.

Rest in peace, Ozzymodo. You were a great pet. I love you so much.

(Note: I moved the post I originally had scheduled today to tomorrow, so I’ll be posting Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday this week.)

Friday Gratitude: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyone who knows me knows I love autumn and Halloween! 🙂

I played Halloween Bingo with my students, which was naturally a big hit. We used craft googly eyes as place markers. Halloween is celebrated here in Kosovo, but not as widely as in the U.S.

Halloween Bingo with googly eyes.JPG

Media Consumption this week:

  • My friend, Katie, had suggested I try reading Daniel Silva. I finished the second book in his series, The English Assassin. Silva’s books are spy thrillers set in cities all over Europe. Very fun reading.
  • I watched a little Broad City and, after about a million recommendations, finally watched a few episodes of Master of None. It is funny. 🙂

There is a stray cat I keep seeing in our yard. I was finally able to get close enough to pet him. He drooled. (I have that affect on everyone.) 🙂

cat Kosovo mace 1
Mew mew
cat kosovo mace 2
Nice eyeliner, cat

Wednesday was the “fest for family,” which means my host family had a big dinner. I don’t know if this is something Kosovo-wide, or maybe it just happens in the Catholic communities. I know I ragged on the food here a bit in Monday’s post. However, the desserts are spot on. This week, I had baklava (people seemed shocked to know I’ve had it in the U.S.) and tre leches cake (which my host mother made after I requested it.) 🙂

baklava kosovo dessert

I am spending the weekend in Pristina with some friends. We are going to binge-watch Halloween movies and eat a home-cooked meal. 🙂

Happy Weekend! Enjoy the weather and your Halloween prep.

P.S. Monday’s blog post will be a fun one … stay tuned! 🙂

Friday Gratitude: And then there was a sheep …

“She left in the fall,
that’s her picture on the wall.
She always had that little drop of poison.” — Tom Waits

Because a barking dog and a crowing rooster weren’t enough … we had to add a bleating sheep to the mix. This is “Sheepie” (the name I use), who my host family purchased a few weeks ago. Don’t get too attached … Sheepie is scheduled to be slaughtered for some festival that’s happening December 5th.

sheep tractor kosovo

I finally stored away my summer clothes in order to create more space in my wardrobe. I didn’t bother doing that last fall, since I didn’t have a lot of clothing then. Since I’ve been living in Kosovo, I’ve purchased a few things, and I also brought back more clothes when I visited the U.S. I only have two shelves on which to store my clothes (the top shelf is for lines; the bottom for toiletries), so things were getting out of control. I feel much better now that things are thinned out and organized.


Media consumption this week …

  • I re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife, for the third time, I think. I was reading ferociously but then got stuck in the middle of a book I didn’t like and nothing seemed appealing. My goal is 52 books this year, so I’ve got to get back on it.
  • I finished the first season of Riviera. The ending was ridiculous.

Happy weekend!

Friday Gratitude: Friday the 13th in October

Boo! Happy Friday the 13th!

Media consumption this week …

  • Thanks to my friend, Dana, I’ve been watching an episode of Riviera each night before bedtime. This show reminds me of why I never want to be filthy rich. I want to be rich enough to care for my family and travel and own a home and not be chained to a job I hate, but I don’t need to be filthy rich to do that. I know some successful, well-off people, but no one in my circle is vacationing on a private yacht, you know? Perhaps, because I don’t know any actual rich people, I am assuming television is portraying these people accurately, and that is what makes me recoil. Juila Styles’ character discovers her husband has been burned to death in a horrific yacht accident, and in the next scene, she is impeccably dressed at the coroner’s office, prepared to identify her husband’s charred remains. If I were in that situation, I’d be wearing sweatpants and snot would be running down my make-up free face, but who am I to judge?


Kosovo had its first Gay Pride Parade this week. I did not attend. However, here is a photo released by the Embassy. I like the ambassador’s tie. 🙂

Photo released by the U.S. Embassy

Because it is Friday the 13th in October, I thought I would post a photo of my favorite Halloween kitty, Oz. Oz owns my parents’ house and grudgingly allows them to live there.

Halloween kitty

Enjoy your weekend! 🙂