Friday Gratitude: Anibar Animation Festival

August 14-20 was the best week I’ve had in Kosovo. HANDS DOWN! I volunteered at the Anibar Animation Festival in Peja, Kosovo.

The Anibar Animation Festival began eight years ago. It was founded by my friend’s counterpart, when he was only 17. (What was I doing at age 17? Certainly not founding international film festivals.)

My friend had asked me if I would be the festival’s Jury Coordinator. I told him I would think about it. The next thing I knew, I was having a meeting with his counterpart, where we discussed my role as the Jury Coordinator. I walked out of the meeting thinking, “Wait! Did I ever … agree … to be the Jury Coordinator?”

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It was the end of the week, and we were still smiling …

I’m not going to lie, I was dreading the whole thing. I pictured a bunch of high-powered Hollywood types who would call me in the middle of the night to make strange demands. Turns out, I was wrong to be so worried.

The jury was comprised of five lovely people who came from Spain, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States.

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I met many new people from all over the world. At one point, I was at lunch, and all four of us spoke different native languages (French, Chinese, English, and Albanian). I love that my native language is the one used to facilitate communication between people who speak other languages.

I also saw many films. The festival had two theaters, plus two screens they set up in a local park.

Anibar Animation Festival

Anibar Peja Kosovo

I loved some films, and hated others. Below are two of my favorite films shorts that were shown at the festival. (Warning: Don’t watch these if your boss or your kids are in the room!)

Volunteering at the Anibar Animation Festival also meant I got to spend time in Peja, which is my favorite city in Kosovo. I mean, would you look at this view?

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Even the weather cooperated, by backing away from the 100-degree mark.

I miss the little routine I developed every morning, where I bought iced coffee (!!!) and went to the Anibar theater to hang out with my friends (and the newly rescued theater kitten) before the start of the festival’s daily activities.

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It was a week full of friends, film screenings, workshops, talks, a gallery opening, and free food and drinks.

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The pouring rain on the night of the closing ceremony forced people to abandon the after-party at the park and stay at the theater. Group karaoke broke out across the theater’s stage and balcony. The night ended with a group of people dancing in the flooded streets of Peja.

Yeah, it was my best week in Kosovo …

Anibar
Thanks to Todd and Stephanee for this pic. 🙂

Surprise Saturday Post

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I wanted to share a few photos and stories I’ve seen on the web recently and liked. Happy weekend!

These photos, a collaboration between Polish photographer Marcin Nagraba and costume designer Angieszka Osipa, are stunning.

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By Marcin Nagraba, Agnieszka Osipa

I have long been an admirer of Jim Carey and a blogger I follow posted this inspiring video. “I needed color.”

I don’t think I would be brave enough to decorate my home this way, but this place is one-of-a-kind.

And last, this made me smile. 🙂

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From the Game of Slavs FB page

Traditional Clothing and Handmade Rugs

I was in Pristina over the weekend and had a chance to wander through this street fair. I previously posted about the Pristina Bazaar, which is like an expanded farmer’s market. In comparison, clothing and rugs were sold at this fair.

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OSCE Trade Fair
Pristina fair
Pristina fair
Albanian rugs
Handmade rugs
buy Albanian clothing
Traditional Kosovar clothing
Traditional Albanian dress
Traditional clothing, Kosovo
Kosovo Albanian childrens clothing
Children’s traditional clothing, Kosovo
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Handmade goods

I LOVED this handmade, wool rug. It was 120 Euro, which I think is very reasonable. While I have bought or been given a few little trinkets I’ll keep to remember my time in Kosovo, I’d really like a larger conversation piece for my home someday. (A “pièce de résistance,” as the French would say.)

Albanian handmade wool rug
GORGEOUS!

“Oh,” I’ll tell visitors to my home, with my eyes getting misty, “I bought that in Kosovo when I was serving in the Peace Corps.”

I think I could bring a rolled-up rug with me on an airplane. The problem is, I’ll already have about 100 lbs. of luggage to wrangle when I leave Kosovo.

I walked by the tent several times to gaze longingly at *my* rug … 🙂

A day later, I saw the following music video on tv. I thought it was cool because the singers and dancers are wearing traditional clothing. The video is an interesting blend of old and new (and appears to have been filmed somewhere in the Balkans).

I didn’t know the name of the video (it’s Hatixhe, a woman’s name) so I texted my teaching counterpart for help in finding it online. She’s really good at that. I’ll be like, “What’s the video with blahty-blah?” and she’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

If you’d like to see some other music videos, here are links to other posts I’ve written:

Friday Gratitude: Language In-Service Training (IST)

Hello! I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday attending an in-service language training with the Peace Corps. I learned a bit more Shqip (Albanian) and got to spend time in my favorite Kosovo city with some of my volunteer friends. It was a good week!

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Language training

Other bonuses: the weather was gorgeous (I was outside without a coat most of the time), I got to visit Sweet Bean Bakery several times, and I spent the night with another volunteer friend who lives closer to the training site. We (well, mostly he) made a delicious chicken stir fry for dinner.

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Christian making stir fry. 🙂

As far as media consumption goes, I finally finished reading Stephen King’s The Stand. I’d seen the mini-series but don’t think I had previously read the book. I also caught up on Girls.

I’ll be writing a post soon about some of what I learned about the Shqip language, and I’ll be posting about a field trip we took to the Peja Ecological Museum. Have a good weekend and stay tuned!

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Field trip: Sarah Jessica, April, and Kushtrim

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

At the beginning of December, before a week-long Peace Corps training, I was hanging out with some other volunteers in Pristina. They were going to a poetry slam competition at a local high school. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to tag along. Honestly, I expected to be bored for two hours. (How exciting can a high school poetry slam competition be, #amIright?) But I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the talent of these students.

Another volunteer helped judge the competition, and she put me in touch with Alba Arifi, who wrote my favorite poem. Alba has graciously agreed to allow me to post her poem, Hello!, on this blog. So without further adieu …

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Poet Alba Arifi

Hello! by Alba Arifi

Hello you!
You know me, for sure.
I come from far away, risen from the ashes of my childhood
Hello! I know this is unexpected
You never thought you’d see me again, for sure.
But I saw you today
So I thought I’d say hello!
Not that I am a big fan, I already have your signature, written all over me.
Not that I wanted to hear your voice,
It still haunts me in the dark, like a terrifying lullaby that takes your sleep away.
Not that I missed your touch, for I can still feel it, everyday, every minute, ripping away my purity.
Because I still have trouble breathing from the day you used my halo to choke me on my innocence
Hello! I’m the one you left in ruins, you said you mean no harm, and I didn’t know you have no idea what “no harm” means.
Hello! The ghost of the past Christmas.
Not pleased to see you here, on the bus, who knew! You’re just another person.
Isn’t it funny? How no one in this bus has any idea what a horrifying beast you are,
how that young lady sits next to you,
never knowing what you are.
Makes you really wonder,
how many vicious animals do we cross paths with,
never to know what they really are.
Hello! I want to ask you if you know that your touch is some kind of dark magic.
Do you know that it can ruin a life?
Hello! I wanted my first time to be special,
with someone I feel deeply for but I didn’t mean this.
Because I feel a deep hate for you,
but I meant for it to be love.
I never asked for it to be THIS “special”
I wanted to remember my first time, but I guess I should have been more careful with what I wished for, because now I can never get it out of my mind.
Perhaps the best way to improve memory is trying to forget
See, wishes do come true.
Hello! I’m sorry for disturbing,
I just want to feed you with a little of this poetic poison inside of me.
From the touch that I deeply abhor
Make you eat the forbidden fruit that feeds your ego
And take from me the felicity that makes me whole.
And when the night comes, I’m stuck with the ambiguousity of life
“To be or not to be?”
From what I’ve tasted of sorrow
I stand with those who live for tomorrow
Even though life made me the prey
with my pain I’ll be the hunter
And I’ll sure make you pay
In a non poetic way.

Friday Gratitude: Tirana, Albania

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April and Val, outside the National Art Gallery of Albania

This week, I am so grateful I had the opportunity to visit Tirana, Albania. I am grateful to my friend, Val, for suggesting we visit (and for putting up with me for 3 days straight).

I feel especially fortunate I was able to explore with someone who has a connection to the city, and who was every bit as excited to be there as I was. Thank you, Val. 🙂

tirana

Val took me to a traditional Albanian restaurant (we ended up eating there twice). I’m not a food pornographer so I didn’t take any pictures of my meal, but we had eggplant, beans, lamb, bread, and rice-stuffed peppers. If you ever find yourself in Tirana, look for a restaurant called Oda.

traditional-albanian-restaurant

Like I said in an earlier post, Albania is a huge mix of influences … Mediterranean, Islamic, communist, western … and there’s a pyramid in the middle of everything. I can honestly say Tirana is the most thought-provoking place I have ever visited. I am still processing everything I learned on my trip.

This coming week, I am heading into Pristina for a 4-day Peace Corps conference. It will be the first time since our swearing in ceremony that my cohort will be together. Another friend and I were laughing about this: Why are we so excited for what is, essentially, a business trip? Welcome to life in the Peace Corps, where every little thing becomes exciting …