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. 😦

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. 🙂

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  … )

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. 🙂 With no meat or beans on hand, we had to improvise with corn and rice. But it was still a decent meal.

***

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. 🙂

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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.

Friday Gratitude: Reading, Friends, Yoga

On this day last year, I was on a plane heading to Las Vegas to spend the weekend with five of my best girl friends. Now, that’s the proper way to say goodbye to someone who is leaving for the Peace Corps!

In Vegas, saying goodbye to some of my favorite women.

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

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Media consumption this week:

After re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird, I downloaded Go Set A Watchman (Harper Lee’s second book) from the Chicago Public Library. I was surprised I didn’t have to wait for it, given that it’s a relatively new release.

Well, it is flipping terrible. About 1/4 of the way through, I emailed a friend and was like, “OMG, THIS IS SO BAD.” For her, the terribleness of Watchman confirms Truman Capote wrote Mockingbird, and not Harper Lee. I, too, am beginning to see the merit in that old conspiracy.

The book is so bad, I started taking note of my favorite terrible sentences. Here are two:

“Jean Louise was snatched from her quiet realm and left alone to protect her sensitive epidermis as best she could.” (Has a clunkier sentence ever been written?!?)

“She … sat gazing at her long legs, startled to find them twenty-six years old.” (HUH?)

I usually don’t finish books I don’t like. But I forced my way through this one. Ugh, so bad.

***

I am going to a yoga festival here in Kosovo this weekend. I am looking forward to yoga, seeing friends, and visiting a Kosovar city I have not yet been to. (Although yesterday, I was doing yoga in socks with treads, and I kicked a gouge in my mat. I am mad at myself.)

In other bad news, I over-plucked my eyebrows, and I heard that Sweet Bean Bakery is now closed.

But, it was a good week. Really! I’ve been crocheting a ton. I haven’t posted pictures because I am making gifts for people and don’t want to spoil any surprises. And did I mention I am going to a yoga festival? Woo hoo! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Next week: I am going to post only 3x (Mon, Wed, Friday). I want to see how this will affect my blog stats/overall readership.

Friday Gratitude: Reflections on Travel

April Gardner Rome Italy
Contemplating Rome … (Thanks to Nicole for taking this photo.)

This week, I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to travel. I didn’t start traveling internationally until I reached my 30s. I’d always wanted to, but I didn’t have much money when I was younger. And, many of the jobs I had in my 20s were contract positions (meaning, time off = no pay).

Once, I had a boss who made the comment, “I’ve already done Europe.” At the time, I’d never been to Europe, and I thought, What a stupid (and privileged) thing to say. (How does one “do” Europe, exactly? Check it off the list with a plan to never return?)

I had a conversation with several friends last week, where we discussed travel and being able to appreciate it. (As we were climbing the Spanish Steps in Rome, Nicole heard a kid protest, “I’m tired of traveling!”) I didn’t grow up in a family that took fancy trips abroad. And if I had, how much of that would I really remember now?

I am grateful for travel even when it isn’t fun. Like that time when my brain was fuzzy from consuming half a bottle of wine and prosciutto with the texture of butter, and I stuck our key in the wrong door. (Insert whatever joke you want here.)

That time Nicole and I (well, I) got our Airbnb keys stuck in the neighbor's door. #rome #springbreak2017 #shumeproblem

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

Oh, and that time Nicole and I tried to stop someone from slipping into our building without a key, and got screamed at in a colorful mix of English and Italian. (How considerate of you to use the F-word, lady, so that we could understand you!)

But overall, Rome was a dream of a vacation. Our airbnb had a private, enclosed garden, where Nicole and I would have our morning coffee and our evening wine (and write postcards). I have always fantasized about living in a city apartment with a private garden. 🙂 This place was perfect.

Postcards from Rome
Postcards from Rome

While Berlin wasn’t my jam, I am privileged to be able to have an opinion about which cities I like and which cities I don’t.

The ease with which I am able to move about the world is astounding. Twice, I stopped people on the street to ask for directions in Berlin, and they were able to speak English. One man was on his bike at a stoplight, and the other was walking down the street in the rain. And both took the time to kindly point me in the right direction. I am lucky to have the money, time, unrestricted passport, and language to be able to explore other parts of the world.

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I read three books while I was on vacation:

  • Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter. This was a terrible, violent book. Don’t read it.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbury. While I’m all for an existential crisis, this was a bit too much pontification for me. I did like the two main characters, though.
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She’s one of my favorite authors, and this novel didn’t disappoint.

I also watched the series finale of Girls. Was anyone else disappointed by that slap-dash ending?

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I am grateful to be back in Kosovo. And I am grateful for a host family that will come and pick me up on the side of a two-lane highway, where the bus dropped me off (because the bus directly to my village wasn’t running on Sunday.)

Finally, one last note (and a plug!). My friend Crystal wrote a novel and got it published (by a real New York publishing house)! I am so impressed that someone I know published a book (which has long been a dream of mine). Crystal’s novel will be released this Tuesday. You can pre-order it on Amazon here. (It’s an historical fiction story set in ancient Rome — how appropriate!)

Feast of Sorrow

Spring Break: There was a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany …

After planning to spend the first half of spring break in Rome, I debated what to do for the second half of the week. Before joining the Peace Corps, I hadn’t traveled around Europe much. Looking at the prices of flights from Rome left me feeling dizzy and giddy. I could go anywhere, for less than 100 Euro!

I thought about doing some city-hopping, but that just seemed overwhelming, given the little time I had. I finally settled on Berlin, because:

  • I had always wanted to go there.
  • I knew some other volunteer friends would be there, so I wouldn’t be totally alone.
  • There was a cheap flight directly back to Pristina (rather than having to fly to Skopje or Tirana).

Again, I like to travel with only a loose itinerary. Here’s what I ended up doing in Berlin:

  • Wednesday: Arrive in Berlin at night
  • Thursday: Free walking tour through SANDEMAN’S. Best thing I did in Berlin! We hit some big tourist spots: Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and Checkpoint Charlie. Dinner with friends at a German restaurant (cannot recall name)
  • Friday: (only day with okay weather) Walk through Tiergarten Park (behind the Brandenburg Gate), and visit the Berlin Wall. Dinner with friends at an Indian restaurant.
  • Saturday: Visit Deutsches Historisches Museum. Dinner with friends at Leander.
  • Sunday: 6 a.m. flight back to Pristina!
Memorial to Murdered Jews
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
april and rachel
April and Rachel: At the end of our walking tour!
Rachel Tim April 2
Rachel, Tim, and April: Smiling despite the cold!

Trying beer in Germany, just to say I did it:

Brandenburg Gate at night
Brandenburg Gate at night
Brandenburg gate 3
Tim, Rachel, and April
berlin park
Visiting Tiergarten Park
rachel april tim park
Rachel, April, and Tim, at Tiergarten Park

At the Berlin Wall:

german history museum
Entrance to the Deutsches Historisches Museum
german history museum 2 inside
Inside the Deutsches Historisches Museum
german history museum american influence
Learning about the American influence on German culture

One interesting new thing I learned:

Hilter medals for women
Hitler’s medals for women
Hitler medal for women 2
Hitler’s medals for women

Sierra and Chelsea arrived on Saturday. It was nice to catch up with them and hear about their travel adventures.

April Chelsea Sierra
Last night in Germany! April, Sierra, and Chelsea

Tips and Observations about Berlin:

  • I’m going to be honest — Berlin is one of my least favorite places I have visited. To be fair, I had just come from a beautiful, Roman spring to cold, rainy Germany. Every day, I would put on as many layers as possible and go out into the wind. I tried to like the city, but I just couldn’t. I had pictured Berlin as this young, hip, vibrant, grungy city. But it is quiet and empty. I learned from our tour guide that Berlin is the only city in Western Europe that has declined in population, from 4 million residents to 3.5 million. Walking its wide streets and long blocks, I got an eerie feeling. Where were all the people?
  • I know Berlin has a reputation as a big party city. It’s the city of Cabaret! It’s the city of Hedwig and the Angry Inch! I cannot remember the last time I went to a club, so maybe if I had participated in the nightlife scene, I’d have a different opinion of Berlin.
  • Berlin is a very clean city. (As a friend pointed out, there are no people to mess it up.)
  • The subway system was extremely easy to navigate. I was able to get around with no problems.
  • My favorite part of my trip was the free walking tour. I’d definitely recommend it if you plan to visit.

Oh, well. I’m glad I was able to see Berlin, and check it off my list. I am also glad I visited while I am living in Europe. Had I paid a lot of money to fly over from the U.S., I probably would have been more disappointed.

(Thanks to Rachel for allowing me to post some of her photos here.)