Friday Gratitude: Gearing Up

Last year, the K2 cohort took us newbies on a hike in Peja. This year, Rachel and I did the same thing for some of our new people.

p hike.jpg

Since this has been my last week off school, I’ve spent some time crocheting. Remember my Betty Boop mermaid? I decided to give her some plastic surgery:

crocheted mermaid
Before
crochet mermaid
After

Media Consumption … this is an accumulation of the past few weeks:

  • A friend told me his favorite book is Where the Red Fern Grows. I had never read it, so I downloaded it from the library. It was a good story, but as my friend said, very much geared toward boys. I later pointed out that none of the sisters in the book have names … they’re just referred to as “the younger one” and “the oldest one,” etc.
  • I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower on my Kindle (I have lots of mysterious books on there, thanks to other people). The story was well-written but again, as someone who did not have a typical high school experience, I have a hard time relating to teen stories. I mostly just read this because I didn’t have anything else to read at the time.
  • A blogger I follow gave a great review to We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. It is a collection of essays written by Samantha Irby, a Chicagoan. While I got a few laughs out of this book, I had a much stronger reaction to her descriptions of life in Chicago. (She used to live in my old neighborhood.) When she mentioned restaurants and streets and el stops, I could feel the knife twisting in my heart. Chicago was my home for 12.5 years, and there are times when I miss it terribly.
  • A friend recommended The Kill Artist, which was a fun read about international spies.
  • The Silver Linings Playbookย was another mysterious Kindle find. I had seen and liked the movie. The book was good, too, though a bit different from the movie.
  • I finished my binge re-watch of Breaking Bad. I had different perceptions of it this time around.
  • I finished watching Game of Thrones! That zombie dragon, though!

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I am so thankful to have the time to write. I took a break while I was helping with the film festival the week before last, and when I got home, I just had words pouring out of me. I couldn’t sleep because I had so much on my mind, and so much I wanted to share.

I got a very sweet email recently, from someone who told me he was inspired to apply to Peace Corps Kosovo after reading my blog. That’s all I could ever really ask for from this blog — I try to provide information that is thoughtful, and useful, and hopefully inspiring to others.

Through this blog, I’ve also “met” several Peace Corps volunteers from other parts of the world. I recently got this postcard ๐Ÿ™‚ :

Happy weekend!ย I am looking forward to getting back to school next week. I am someone who appreciates structure and a purpose for daily life. This summer has been feeling really long, and not in a good way …

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 …ย agreeย … to be the Jury Coordinator?”

Anibar Film Festival Peja Kosovo 1.jpg
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.

2017 Jury Anibar Peja Kosovo.JPG

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?

Peja Kosovo.JPG

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.

theater kitten.JPG

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

Puppet Anibar.JPG

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Learn How to Play Te Rrethi, a Card Game

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.

Te Rrethi Card Game 6

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.

  1. First, take a deck of cards and remove the Jokers. Next, shuffle the deck and lay the cards face-down, in a circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 1.JPG
  2. 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.Te Rrethi Card Game 2
  3. The person who draws the Ace lays it in the center of the circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 3
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
    Te Rrethi Card Game 4
    Remember, always play on the center FIRST, if you have the appropriate card.

    Te Rrethi Card Game 5
    If you DON’T have a card to play in the center of the circle, you will THEN look to see if you can discard your card on another player’s stack.
  6. The next player goes.
  7. 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.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 7
    .

    Te Rrethi Card Game 8

    Te Rrethi Card Game 10

  8. Continue until one player has no more cards in his or her stack. This player is the winner!
    Te Rrethi Card Game 9
    No cards in front of me … I win!

    (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.)

The Last Few Weeks Before Summer Vacation

I fully expected that the last few weeks of school would drag by. I thought I’d be eager for the school year to be over, so I could visit home and then enjoy my summer vacation. But surprisingly, the last few weeks went by quickly.

Above: One of my fourth graders wrote me a sweet letter, and drew some pictures for me.

It is a tradition in Kosovo for the 9th grade to have a prom. I’ll admit, I didn’t want to attend (I don’t even teach the 9th grade). In my experience, celebrations in Kosovo can go one of two ways: they’re either fun, or they drag on forever. I tried to get out of going to prom by saying I didn’t have any money (because everyone had to pay their own way). Well, then my host father insisted on paying for me. So I kind of had to go.

The prom turned out to be pretty fun. My experience was in no way the night-long marathon my friend Chester experienced and wrote about here.

FullSizeRender (19)
My counterpart, another teacher, and me
circle dancing
Circle dancing (of course!)

The only “bad” thing that happened is that I was unexpectedly pulled in front of a microphone and asked to give a speech. Not only do I hate being put on the spot (who doesn’t?), I also don’t possess the language skills to spout off an impromptu speech in Shqip (Albanian). I managed to say, “Urime!” (congratulations), and then I ran away.

And last, my host family threw me a little birthday party before I left for the States. (I spent my actual birthday at home.) My host mother made all of my favorite foods: mish pule me patate (literally translated: meat chicken with potatoes), sallat shope (a salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and cheese), homemade cheese, and (not pictured), petulla (pronounced “pate-la”), which is fried bread with sugar on top. They also got me a chocolate cake.

Kosovo food
Kosovar food

chocolate cake

My host family invited my two site mates (Peace Corps speak for “other volunteers who live near you”) for dinner. Rachel brought Hello Kitty party hats.

happy birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me

Friday Gratitude: Already July

“If I died choking on a piece of bacon, I’d liken it to being murdered by a lover.” — Jim Gaffigan, Food: A Love Story

IMG_6704.JPG

I spent this last weekend in Pristina/Gracanice, with a bunch of my volunteer friends. There was a beer and wine festival in the city’s center, so we had fun on Saturday night.

On Monday, the Peace Corps hosted an early 4th of July party for volunteers and trainees. I got to meet some members of the newest cohort, who arrived in Kosovo at the beginning of June.

Given that the weather lately has been really hot, and that the weather at last year’s party was really hot, I was unprepared for a cold, rainy day. I accompanied my old language teacher and a group of trainees on a tour of Pristina, and I was freezing the whole time. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I didn’t take any photos that day, since it was overcast. But here is a picture I took on last year’s tour and never posted:

downtown pristina national library
To the right, you can see the National Library (white bubbled roof). It is widely considered to be one of the world’s ugliest buildings. (I personally don’t think it’s ugly.)

My host mother was on vacation in Albania all last week. She got home on Monday. I was a bit nervous to hear what she’d have to say about my haircut — long hair seems to be the norm for women here in Kosovo, and Kosovars are pretty straight-forward with their opinions. But I told her I cut it for the summer, and she understood. She told me I have a lot of hair. ๐Ÿ™‚

Media Consumption this week:

  • I found a copy of Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story. While parts were a bit long, overall, it was a laugh-out-loud funny book. I haven’t read Gaffigan’s first best seller, Dad is Fat, but I am planning to get it to at some point.
  • I re-watched Bad Teacher. It makes me think of my sister, who is 1) a teacher but 2) not a bad one. (Kris, I bet you know which line of the movie I am thinking of as I type this ย … )

Have a good weekend!

Friday Gratitude: Being a Hippie

I had a blast last weekend at the Spark Yoga Festival in Gjakova, Kosovo.

Since moving to Kosovo, I’ve been good about practicing a little yoga each day. However, I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed practicing with other people. This is the first time in nearly a year that I’ve attended a yoga class.

I also got to spend some time with some volunteer friends. We made tacos … kind of. ๐Ÿ™‚ With no meat or beans on hand, we had to improvise with corn and rice. But it was still a decent meal.

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In December, the Peace Corps Kosovo post was evaluated by the Office of the Inspector General. Inspections are common in the PC world, and an inspection doesn’t necessarily mean something is gravely wrong with a post (or so, we’ve been told). The OIG inspector interviewed about half of the volunteers here in Kosovo, and I was one of them. The report was posted publicly last week. It is a whopping 69 pages long. (Personally, I found it to be an interesting read.) Click here to read the report.

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As far as media consumption goes, I am caught up with Handmaid’s Tale and I picked up a novel from the Peace Corps library. I also need a laugh last night, so I re-watched Legally Blonde. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I posted less frequently this week. I am going to post less frequently (only Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) for the next few weeks to see how I like it/how you all like it. Maybe I’ll do a little survey after that to see what you all think.

Thanks, as always, for following along! Have a great weekend.