Do you like to play cards? Would you like to learn a card game from another country, so that you can impress your friends and family at your next barbecue, party, or picnic? Read on, because I will give you step-by-step instructions (with pictures) for how to play Te Rrethi (meaning, “to the circle”), a popular card game in Kosovo.
Number of Players: Two to as many as you like. You can add additional decks if you have a large group. (Note: This demonstration uses three players.)
Objective: To be the first player with no cards.
Important Thing to Note: Cards are played “up,” or in ascending order, starting with the Ace and then building 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and then starting over again with an Ace.
Another Important Thing to Note: Cards are played first in the center of the circle, and then on the other players’ stacks.
Rule: If a player makes a mistake, all of the other players must give him or her a card from the bottom of their own stacks.
- First, take a deck of cards and remove the Jokers. Next, shuffle the deck and lay the cards face-down, in a circle.
- Go around the table. Each player draws a card from anywhere in the circle, and lays in face-up in front of himself or herself. Keep going around the table until someone draws an Ace.
- The person who draws the Ace lays it in the center of the circle.
- The person who lays down the Ace gets to play again. He or she can either play the top card from the face-up stack in front of them, or draw from the circle of cards at random.
- The player will either first play off the Ace in the center of the card, or will add to another players stack, or will have to discard into their own stack. (Example: I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 2. I will play the two in the center. Then I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 5. I see that a fellow player has a 4 face-up on their stack. I will lay my card on top of their card, adding to their pile. [Remember, the object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.] Then, I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 10. I don’t see anywhere to lay the 10 [none of my fellow players have a 9], so I must discard the 10 face-up on my own stack. My turn is over.)
- The next player goes.
- When all of the cards from the circle have been picked up by the players, the game still continues. Each player will flip over the stack in front of them (so that the cards are now face-down) and will pull a card from the bottom of the stack to continue playing. (Keep repeating this step as long as you have cards. Once you have played them all, flip your stack over [face down] and again, play the first card from the bottom of the stack.) You will continue to place cards on the center stack (which was the middle of the now-nonexistent circle) first, the other players second, and your own stack last.
- Continue until one player has no more cards in his or her stack. This player is the winner!
(Note: I first played this game with my counterpart months ago, but I couldn’t remember all the rules. Special thanks to my site mate and her co-worker for agreeing to play with me and allowing me to take photos.)
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.
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.)
“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.
When I visited the village of Gračanica this spring, my friend provided me with two tourists guides put out by the municipality. These glossy booklets are filled with all kinds of interesting information — history, notes on culture and religion, recipes, etc. They are accompanied by color photos, too.
I pulled the following list of superstitions from one of these booklets. This list is slightly abridged; I included my “favorite” superstitions, or the ones I found most interesting.
- When the left palm itches, you’ll receive money. If the right palm itches, you’ll spend money. (Don’t we have some version of this in the U.S.?)
- If a rabbit crosses a road to a traveler, it means an accident will happen. (Sounds like the old “black cat crossing your path” superstition. I hate that superstition. I love black cats.)
- On Sundays and Wednesdays, you shouldn’t cut your nails. It brings trouble. (Duly noted.)
- When a cat warms its back near the fire, winter will be cold. (This one just seems like common sense to me. “Oh, kitty is cold? I bet that means winter will be cold!” [Also, when is winter ever not cold, at least comparatively?])
- When a rooster crows on the sunrise, weather will be bad. (If this were true, the weather would be bad every day in Kosovo … at least according to my host family’s rooster.)
- When a donkey rolls in mud, it will rain. (If there’s mud, doesn’t that mean it already rained?)
- If you drop a bite while bringing it to your mouth, that means the devil took it. (Yikes.)
- You shouldn’t hold a child by the neck, because it will not grow. (You shouldn’t hold a child by the neck because it’s a mean thing to do.)
- You shouldn’t burn a broom; you’ll get a toothache. (Why would I want to burn my broom?)
- You shouldn’t jump over a coffin, because the dead will rise. (I can’t help but wonder if “coffin jumping” was ever a real problem … )
I’ve mentioned before that I live in a minority, Catholic community in Kosovo (the majority of Kosovars are Muslim). I was interested to learn two things regarding Easter in Kosovo:
- They dye eggs here. (I was gifted pretty eggs by students and teachers alike.)
- They do not have the Easter Bunny. Most of my students had never heard of him (her?). When they asked me if he is real, I said he is as real as Santa Claus. 🙂
Another fun fact: Dyed eggs may or may not be hard boiled. I found this out the hard way as I was hiding eggs for my 3rd graders. I dropped one and it splattered on the floor. Oops.
I’m devoting this week’s posts to useful information for the next group of Kosovo volunteers, who are starting to get their acceptance letters for the Peace Corps. –April
I polled my fellow volunteers to ask: “What do you wish you’d known about Kosovo before you moved here?” I recorded their responses below. For privacy reasons, I decided not to include names, though I promise, this is actual advice from other actual volunteers. (And not just stuff I made up.) Based on the responses I received, I broke them into different categories.
“I wish I’d appreciated the importance of learning Kosovo dialect sooner because Kosovar Albanian is significantly different from standard Albanian.”
“The lack of independence for 3 months is real.”
“Be prepared for a lot of walking and lots of sweating.”
“Keep in mind PST (pre-service training) is nothing like your service, and remember to slow down.”
“In PST (pre-service training), though it’s important to be inquisitive and to ask questions, don’t burden yourself with more information than necessary. In other words, I don’t think it does you any good to get too far ahead of yourself. It’ll make your PST (slightly) less hectic.”
“Non-specific and overly general questions to staff, PCVs, and/or your LCFs will yield non-specific and overly general answers. If you paint with a broad brush, you will absolutely receive the responses: ‘It depends,’ ‘It’s different at every site,’ and/or ‘This is a single story.'”
“Don’t tell your family you like something because you will get it all of the time. Be upfront about your likes and dislikes or be prepared to just put up with it for 3 months.”
“My advice is to be prepared for more bread than you imagine. Even though we were warned … ”
“Alone time can be really hard to manage sometimes without offending your host family; figure it out early and avoid unrealistic expectations.”
“I hesitate to ask about it but, in my experience, I’ve seen that Kosovars don’t have too many qualms about bringing up their Kosovo War stories, sometimes unprompted. It’s important to only listen with an open mind and an open heart.”
“The families here are absolutely wonderful and so loving. Prepare to be taken into your family completely.”
“The respect you receive simply for being an American can sometimes be overwhelming and humbling. We are very lucky here. Appreciate it and try to live up to those expectations.”
“Pack clothes that are versatile, and to lean more conservatively because of the likelihood of being placed in village.”
“Bring warm pajamas for the winter.”
If you’re in CD, bring more professional clothes than you’d possibly ever believe you’d actually wear during your service in the Peace Corps. You’ll regret it otherwise.”
Most of my suitcase space was used for normal clothes and outdoor gear. Considering that Kosovo has all seasons and beautiful, mountainous scenery, I’m happy with this decision.”
“Bring long running shorts, index cards, and Ziplock bags.”
Life in Kosovo
“My feminist beliefs being challenged daily is exhausting and although expected, wasn’t prepared for this degree of difference in thought.”
“Bring a hobby that doesn’t require battery or power cause the power goes out all the time.”
“You will have Internet or probably be able to buy a package for a decent price.”
“You WILL be placed with a host family as a trainee and volunteer. As a trainee for the first three months you’re given the housing payment, €2/day walk around allowance, plus transportation if you’re in a village outside the training site. As a volunteer you will be making around €200/month after housing payment.”
“Smoking is widespread in Kosovo, even in restaurants and some other public places.”
“Dating, while more common in the city, is not the norm in most areas. My Pre-Service Training (PST) host parents were married after two months of knowing each other, and PST host sibling after six months.”
“If you own an unlocked smart phone, bring it. You can simply pop in a local SIM card to use it here. Peace Corps will help you set it up and pay for your first package. After that, I’ve been paying €2.50 every two weeks for two GB.”
“Most major libraries (like NYPL) have an option to digitally check out books, but you need to get a card beforehand (which is free). Something I should have thought of previously, since I keep running out of books … ”
“Once you get here, buy a pack of wet wipes or toilet paper and always carry some with you. It will be a hot, sweaty summer and you’re very likely to encounter restrooms with no paper.”
“I would say, “‘Don’t do any research at all.'”
April: My own piece of advice similar to the above: Try not to anticipate too much what this experience will be. For me, I read one book about Kosovo and started practicing my Albanian language with Pimsleur’s Speak and Read Essential Albanian CDs. I thought I would do a lot more prep, but I didn’t. I didn’t even reach out to my fellow volunteers on Facebook much. I wanted to wait and meet them in person before trying to create any sort of opinion about who they were.
I’ve written about promaja (pruh-MOY-uh) previously. Of all the cultural differences I have experienced, I still find this to be one of the more perplexing. (Although there are others that come close. Anyone care for spaghetti with ketchup sauce? :-P)
In case you didn’t know, “promaja” refers to cross-breezes. Apparently, they are very dangerous here in the Balkans.
I first learned of promaja while riding in a taxi with my two sitemates and my language teacher. It was 95 degrees out, and our taxi driver had the windows rolled up (also note: there was no air conditioning in the taxi). I thought the taxi driver was 1) oblivious to the heat or 2) just being a jerk. But then my language teacher told us about promaja (mind BLOWN!). I had never heard of such a thing.
This story has come to illustrate something important to me: Sometimes, people do things, and they might not be doing those things for the reasons I think (or reasons I know).
Still, that doesn’t mean I believe in promaja. 🙂
Happy Halloween! 🙂
My middle host brother got married on Saturday. It was my first Kosovar wedding!
From Tuesday night-Friday night, our house was busy with music and relatives every night. There was a long table set up in the driveway, and our family served snacks and beverages. Loud music played until about 11 p.m., and people would circle dance. The bride-to-be was absent during these festivities. Perhaps she was celebrating with her own family … I’m not sure.
Saturday was the actual wedding day. At about 11 a.m., a traditional band showed up, along with all of the relatives. People danced and took pictures with my host brother and his family.
Then, the family left to go pick up the bride. (I didn’t go — not enough room in the car.) It is tradition for the bride to be driven by a long procession back to the groom’s family’s house. Relatives and neighbors on our end were waiting to receive her when she arrived.
There was more music and picture taking. Then, there was a lull of about 3 hours. Most of the relatives left, and we all kind of sat around and waited until it was time to go to the restaurant.
(One thing I found interesting about this wedding is that there was no actual ceremony. I asked one of my host brothers, and he said the bride and groom go to the cleric at the mosque to sign paperwork about a month in advance. The actual wedding day is just the party.)
We left at about 7:00 p.m. to go to the restaurant, about a mile or so up the main road. There was a lot of circle dancing! The woman all had beautiful dresses (and some changed into other beautiful dresses midway through the evening).
We had appetizers throughout the night. Dinner was served at 11:00 p.m. I ran into a local friend (who I didn’t know would be at the wedding). She and her boyfriend drove me home at 1:00 a.m. The party was still going strong — the cake cutting didn’t happen until 1:30, so I missed out.
(You’ll notice I didn’t include too many photos of my host family. I want to balance sharing my cultural experiences while respecting my host family’s privacy.)
“I was alone, I took a ride,
I didn’t know what I would find there.
Another road where maybe
I could see another kind of life there.” — The Beatles, Got to Get You Into My Life
The man is this photo is wearing a plis, a traditional cap worn by Albanian men.