Friday Gratitude: The Last Semester

I started the week with a typical vacation “hangover,” meaning I was feeling blue about returning to work and Kosovo after spending time in London and then Serbia. However, I am happy I started my last semester of teaching! πŸ™‚

Media Consumption this week …

  • I finished re-reading books 4, 5, and 6 of Harry Potter.

I’ve been feeling all Blanche DuBois lately, as I have had to depend on the kindness of strangers:

  • The bus ride to Serbia made several stops. At one station, I got off the bus to use the bathroom. Well, it was a pay toilet and I didn’t have any Serbian money. The money collector actually turned his back on me when I tried to offer him Euro. Then, another woman joined the line behind me. I explained my predicament to her, and she paid for me to use the bathroom.
  • When I turned down my road on Tuesday, I came upon a dog. Several months ago, I was almost attacked by a stray dog on my road, so I have been particularly wary of dogs since then. I turned around and walked the short distance back to the main road. A man walking by saw me pick up the rock, noticed the dog, and then he also picked up a rock and walked me all the way down my road until we safely reached my house.

I am grateful to have more Dunkin’ Donuts coffee! Sierra spent Christmas in the States and brought us presents! (You know you’re getting old when coffee, thermal socks, and floss excite you.) Thanks, Sierra!

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Grown-up Christmas gifts

You know what’s awesome? When your care package arrives on a day when you were at the Peace Corps office anyway … it’s only happened to me twice. Yesterday, I got this awesome care package from Whitney:

peace corps kosovo care package
THANK YOU, WHITNEY!

The package contains basically everything I could ever want: chips and salsa, Annie’s mac and cheese, my face cleanser kit, a tote bag for my yarn, a Hello Kitty crochet book (WHAT!?), Hershey’s and Reese’s candy, Muddy Buddies, and TWO board games (Clue and Sorry … I cannot wait to play these with my 13-year-old host cousin!)

Thank you so much Whitney! (Here is a close-up of the Hello Kitty crochet book. OMG, two greater mediums could not exist.)

hello kitty crochet book

I also got cards from my friend Katie and my uncle. I am feeling extra loved and adored this week. πŸ™‚ Thank you, everyone!

Happy weekend! Monday’s post will be all about my trip to Belgrade, Serbia, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

My Favorite Photos from The Third Quarter

On Monday, I mentioned how, by my own method of counting, I have completed my third quarter of Peace Corps service. Here are my favorite pictures from the third quarter.

I love pets! πŸ™‚

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Check out the bear paws …

I got a lot of good family photos when I visited the U.S. in June, but for privacy reasons I don’t want to post them here. Instead, I will post this picture of me eating Del Taco. Want to know why I love Del Taco? Because I can eat tacos and French fries AT THE SAME TIME!

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DEL TACO!

This is about the zillionth time I’ve mentioned my rug on this blog, but who cares? It’s my blog and I’ll talk about my rug as much as I want to. πŸ™‚

Albanian handmade wool rug
GORGEOUS!

My friend Chester and I spent a summer day at Batlava Lake in Kosovo.

Batlava Lake
Ridiculously beautiful view

Despite melt-your-face-off heat, Sierra, Chester and I made it to Pristina to have lunch together one day this summer.

These two … #friends #kosovo #100degrees πŸ”₯

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

I volunteered as the jury coordinator for the Anibar International Animation Festival in Peja, Kosovo. I can easily say it was the most fun week I’ve had in Kosovo!

2017 Jury Anibar Peja Kosovo
The jury

And, of course, there was partying after the film festival. πŸ™‚

Anibar
Thanks to Todd and Stephanee for this pic. πŸ™‚

I crocheted this cute Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for a friend.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crochet project 1
Totally radical

And I crocheted a minion trick-or-treat bag …

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Minion

Summer had me feeling a bit down, but encouraging words from Peace Corps volunteers serving in other parts of the world made me feel better.

While my visit to Kale Fortress in Skopje, Macedonia was a bit disappointing, I do like this photo:

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Kale Fortress in Skopje, Macedonia

I loved this door at Mother Teresa Cathedral in Pristina, Kosovo.

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Mother Teresa Cathedral in Pristina, Kosovo

I WENT TO GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN! Sorry for the caps but I got a little excited. I loved my trip!

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Walking through a park in Gothenburg, Sweden
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View of Feskekorka “fish church” (I ate here the next day)
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Sunrise, Gothenburg, Sweden

This photo cracks me up for some reason. There are so many stories it could tell. Did the one lion get mad at the other, and shove him off his post? Or, did a drunk person walk by and kick the lion?

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Aww … what happened here?

I GOT TO SEE JOSE GONZALEZ IN CONCERT! (More excitement.)

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Third row from the stage … Jose Gonzalez!
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Jose Gonzalez performing with String Theory

The following weekend, I attended a wedding in Tirana, Albania. Though it poured rain, I had fun with my friends.

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Christian, Val, and April visiting the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania.

The weekend after that, I went to a JFK photo exhibit with more friends …

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April, Rachel, Christian, Todd, and Stephanee, JFK photo exhibit in Peja, Kosovo

And then, it was Thanksgiving!

Giving thanks! #thanksgiving #kosovo #sharingculture #howiseepc

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

So, there is my photo summary of the last six months. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading.

Friday Gratitude: Is This Thing On?

For last Friday’s gratitude post, I forgot to add a title. Haha. Sorry!

I am predicting blog traffic will be low today, as those of you in the U.S. are probably recovering from your turkey-induced comas. But I will soldier on …

Media consumption this week:

  • I read Let the Right One In. Since I was going to Sweden right after Halloween, I thought it would be fun to read a Swedish vampire book. Alas, I had to wait on the download from the Chicago Public Library, so I started reading it after my trip. I’d seen the movie version years ago and remember finding it dull and strange. But the book was outstanding. It is one of the most disturbing things I’ve read but in a good way. There were a few pages of gore I had to skip, though.
  • So then I re-watched the movie version. There was so much going on in the book that they had to cut a lot out of the movie. It is pretty slow moving. There are certain parts you wouldn’t understand unless you read the book first. (The book is much better.)
  • I finished watching Master of None. Many people had recommended the show to me. Some episodes really hit the mark for me, while others I thought were too twee. Overall, though, it’s a good show. Next, it’s on to season two ofΒ Stranger Things
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“Thanks for smiles”
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April, Rachel, Christian, Todd, and Stephanee at a JFK photo exhibit in Peja, Kosovo.

Yesterday (Thanksgiving), I treated myself to my favorite pasta dish in Pristina, and then I taught at the orphanage. Then I went home and called my entire family. πŸ™‚ I’ll be celebrating the holiday with friends this weekend. πŸ™‚

Happy Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚ Talk to you Monday …

Friday Gratitude:

“‘I hope you don’t quit,’ he said. ‘I think we’re goin to need all of you we can get.'” — Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Lately, my web traffic from France has been booming. I’m not sure why, but … Bonjour, French readers! Bienvenue!

I had a blast at my friend’s wedding in Tirana, Albania last weekend. Normally, I hate weddings, but this one was fun. PCVs know how to party. I participated in some circle dancing (very popular in Albanian culture!), but sometimes it got a little too hardcore for me. Check this out …

I was happy to spend the weekend traveling with my friends. πŸ™‚ (Despite the fact that it was pouring rain in Tirana.)

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Christian, Val, and April visiting the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania.
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The family looking fancy: Sierra, April, Chelsea, Sam and Christian before the wedding.
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At the wedding: Todd, April, and Stephanee

Media consumption this week:

  • No Country for Old Men is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I’d never read the book by Cormac McCarthy (so I did). The movie faithfully followed the book, so much so that when I was reading, the movie was playing in my head.

This is the 52nd book I’ve read this year, so I hit my goal of reading one book per week! (Not that I’m going to stop reading.)

***

Yesterday, I went to Rachel’s school. Christian, Tim, and I were judges for her school’s poetry recitation competition. (P.S. All three of them are volunteers.) (P.P.S. I am helping to organize the national poetry recitation competition next month.)

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April, Christian, Tim

***

I was talking to my sister a few days ago and she mentioned Thanksgiving is next week. I was like, “whaaaaat?!” So soon?

With the holidays coming up, if you’d like to send me a holiday card *cough, cough* you can reach me here:

April Gardner
Peace Corps
Str. Mujo Ulqinaku No. 3
10000 Pristina
Kosovo

Hope you all have a great weekend and a great upcoming holiday week. Talk to you on Monday.

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.

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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
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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 PlaybookΒ 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!

***

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 πŸ™‚ :

Happy weekend!Β 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 …Β agreeΒ … 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. πŸ™‚