Friday Gratitude: Close-of-Service and Winding Down

Hi, Everyone! I’ve been in Pristina since Tuesday, attending my Peace Corps close-of-service conference.

Thanks to my parents for sending me this awesome care package:

care package

My parents have been ON their care package GAME since I came to Kosovo. I so appreciate it, and not just for the snacks. It is nice to feel remembered but it is also comforting. Thanks also to others who have sent me packages: my sister, my aunt, and my friends Katie, Dana, Lisa, Heather, Whitney, and SJ.

Remember when I was crocheting kids’ trick-or-treat bags? I wanted to get them lined so my mom sent me some cute material from the U.S. I hired a local friend’s mother to sew linings into the bags and I got them back this week. They turned out beautifully, SO adorable! She sewed pockets inside and I didn’t even ask for pockets! Here are just a few pics:

Media consumption this week:

  • I enjoyed recently reading Sarah’s Key, so I decided to read another book by the same author: A Secret Kept: A Novel. It was the story of a man who makes a discovery about the life of his long-deceased mother. I enjoyed it.

This post will be the last time I blog on any kind of schedule. For my first nine months of service, I blogged every week day. Since March of 2017, I’ve consistently posted 3x per week. I have enjoyed involving all of you in my life and service. However, by this point, my mind is consumed with topics other than this blog. I am bursting at the seams with ideas for jobs, new creative projects, travel, and people I want to see and talk to when I return home to the States. The last thing I want to do is post blog content just for the sake of posting. I want to provide interesting and useful information to my readers.

Please be sure to follow my blog via email so that you will receive a notification the next time I post. Also, I will continue to update my book list every time I finish a book. If you’re looking for something to read, be sure to check it out!

Finally,ย I am considering starting a monthly (?)ย newsletterย once I complete my service to keep everyone updated on my first few months post-Peace Corps service. Due to anti-spam laws, I actually need you to opt in if you are interested.ย Please click here to sign up.

Friday Gratitude: Starting to Say Goodbye

On this day two years ago, I quit my job to join the Peace Corps. I remember because today also happens to be my sister’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Kris! Hope you and mom had fun at the Cat Cafe.) ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I am headed to my training site to visit my first host family and to say goodbye to them before I leave Kosovo. They live on the opposite side of the country from where I am now. I haven’t seen them since March of last year.

My mom, sister and I have been talking about hosting a garage sale when I get home this summer. I’ve been working on various crochet projects so that I can set up a craft table and sell my wares. I like this purse so much, though, that I might keep it for myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

Crocheted purse
For me?

You may have noticed that my Instagram account is now set to private. I was feeling a bit “Big Brothered” this week. Hopefully some time in the future I’ll feel comfortable making my account public again.

Media consumption this week … nothing, except Frasier. I started reading a new book, too.

All next week I’ll be in Pristina, attending my COS (close-of-service) conference. In PC Kosovo, we have four conferences total, two our first year and two our second. I am looking forward to seeing my friends. This is likely the last time our entire cohort will ever be together. (Wow … ) Also, the conference is being held at my favorite PC-chosen hotel and I am looking forward to a week of good food and access to a pool. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve thought long and hard about how/when to end this blog. I thought I’d make it to the end of the school year but guys, I just don’t have much else to say. Over the last two years, I’ve shared as much about Kosovo and my experiences serving in the Peace Corps as I could. I *think* next week will be the last week I post with any regularity. I may post a few more times between now and the end of my service, but sporadically. Be sure to follow my blog via email in order to receive updates on when I post.

I am considering starting a monthly (?) newsletter once I complete my service to keep everyone updated on my first few months post-Peace Corps service. If you are interested,ย please click here to sign up.

Friday Gratitude: Simple Life

“I’m a year ahead of myself these days
And I’m locomotive strong.”
— Elton John / Bernie Taupin (Simple Life)

A friend who is extending asked me what I will miss about Kosovo. I will miss the simplicity of life here. Case in point: I called AT&T this week to look into getting wifi at my parent’s house when I return there this summer. It took fifteen minutes to get two questions answered: 1) Do you provide service at this address? and 2) How much will it cost? Twice I asked for a number to call back when I am ready to order service and the customer service rep wouldn’t give it to me because I really needed to order it NOW in order to take advantage of THIS SPECIAL OFFER. I eventually hung up on the ho.

I’d like to point out that I have wifi at my house in my tiny village in Kosovo (but my parents in a semi-rural part of Michigan don’t have it). And wanna know how much I pay to have data on my cell phone? 3 Euro per month. I am not looking forward to a $60+ monthly phone bill when I return to the States, plus $100 per month for Internet.

(That’s another thing I’ll miss about Kosovo: how inexpensive life here is.)

I was invited to an impromptu dinner with friends on Wednesday night. It was nice to do something different from my usual weekday routine and I got to spend some time in my favorite city.

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Here’s my media consumption for the week …

  • I found a copy of Precious by Sapphire (2009-10-20)ย at the Peace Corps library. I’d seen the movie Precious, which is based on the book, when it came out to theaters. The book was just as powerfully sad. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
  • I read The Husband’s Secretย by Liane Moriarity (she also wrote “Little Big Lies”). This is a story of, well, a husband with a terrible secret. I found myself disliking the book’s surviving victim, but I liked the other characters and their interwoven stories.
  • I watched a zillion episodes of Frasier.

Also, I forgot to mention this on a previous post but when I got back from vacation, I had a care package from my parents AND one from my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚ ! (I’ve already eaten ALL of the snacks from both packages … help.)

I pass this church every time I take the bus into the city and I always wish I could visit it and take photos … I think I’d need a car to get there, though. I keep thinking maybe someday I’ll hire a cab to take me.

church on a hill kosovo
A view from my bus window.

Happy weekend. XO

Friday Gratitude: Straight Chillin

Happy Friday, everyone! I will be spending time in Pristina this weekend to celebrate my friend Chelsea’s birthday. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you all have fun stuff planned, too!

I’ve updated the sidebar of this website to include a list of every book I have read since serving in the Peace Corps, along with a 1-10 rating of how much I enjoyed each book. If you are looking for something new to read, check out my list!

Media consumption this week:

  • I actually finished this a few weeks ago but think I forgot to include it on my Friday post: The Light Between Oceansย by M.L. Stedman. This took me a while to get into but it offered some good twists and turns by the end.
  • I read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. It’s a fictional WWII story about a young girl contrasted with the story of a modern-day journalist researching the girl’s life. I really enjoyed it.

So, let me run this idea by you guys. As my time serving in the Peace Corps winds down, I am thinking of how/when to end this blog. I have toyed with the idea of starting a new blog to write about my life as an RPCV (that means “returned Peace Corps volunteer,” and yeah, I think it’s a super awkward term). But, I don’t think I will write another blog. I am thinking of writing a monthly email newsletter, though. I’ve really enjoyed keeping in touch with my friends and family back home as well as “meeting” new people through this blog. I am thinking the newsletter would be a quick round-up of things going on in my life … stuff I’ve crocheted, places I’ve traveled, etc. I’m curious to know if any of you would be interested/would sign up for it?

Monday’s posts will be my final post about Ireland. (Stay tuned to learn more about the Cliffs of Moher!) And then Wednesday’s guest blog post will be about serving in the Peace Corps as an LGBTQ+ volunteer. Good stuff! Enjoy your weekend and I will talk to you soon.

Friday Gratitude: Double Digits

Hi, Everyone! I have a countdown on my phone until the day I COS (that means “close-of-service”) and I am now down to the double digits! WOW!

My media consumption list is from the last several weeks, since I took a break from blogging:

  • I read Looking for Alaskaย by John Greene. This is a book I found on my Kindle after a friend had downloaded a bunch of books for me. I hated Greene’s “The Fault in Our Stars” despite all the hype it got. “Alaska” was a bit better but … meh.
  • I read Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. My mom and grandpa love Lee Child’s books but this is the first time I’d ever read anything by him. It was an easy read though pretty violent. I probably won’t continue with the series. I’m not a big series reader in general … too much commitment. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I read Firefly Lane: A Novel by Kristin Hannah. This was a quick read but not very well written, especially compared the other novel of hers I read, “The Nightingale.” It is also the type of book I hate, which I’ve come to think of as “miserable middle-aged women” novels. If you’re a middle-aged woman who is married with children, you’re probably unappreciated and miserable. If you’re a single middle-aged woman with a career, you’re probably lonely and miserable.
  • I read Holes by Louis Sachar before giving it to a student. I’d been curious about this book for years given how much acclaim its received. It was very … strange.
  • I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It is a story that skips back and forth between the collapse of civilization and the time before and focuses on a handful of characters that are loosely connected to one another. It was one of the best books I’ve read since I’ve been in Kosovo (and I’ve probably read 100 or more books).

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I tried my hand at cross-stitch recently. I had fun doing it and am looking forward to completing more projects in the future.

Next week’s posts will be more about my trip to Ireland, as will the following Monday’s post. I hope you’re not tired of hearing about my trip. I’ve got posts about the Guinness factory tour, the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher coming up … all exciting stuff!

Friday Gratitude: Erin go Bragh

Hey, Everyone! I got exciting news this week: I finally learned the date for my Peace Corps Close of Service (COS). Not only did I get my first choice of dates (there were three), but so did everyone else in my cohort. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve already shared the exact date with my family and friends via email. Here, I’ll just say that I’m going home in mid-July!

On Monday, I was really excited to get my date. I got the email while I was on the bus and when I got to my house, I immediately began looking for flights home. Then Monday night, I cried as I got ready for bed, thinking of leaving my friends here. Then Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling restless and bored and wanting to just leeeeeave already. Such is the roller coaster of PC emotions. :-/

Media consumption this week:

  • I read Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer after two different friends recently brought it up in conversation. It tells the story of Pat Tillman, who famously left the NFL to become an Army Ranger. Though I don’t have an interest in football or war, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  • I found a copy of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen in our Peace Corps library. It is the writer’s memoir of growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the 1980s. She is only a few years older than I am and though I’m from eastern Michigan (I don’t think I’ve ever been to Grand Rapids), I could relate to much of what she had to say about growing up in the state.

I wrote another article for LinkedIn about my experiences with mindfulness as a Peace Corps volunteer. If you’d like to read it, click here.

And finally, I am heading to Ireland on Saturday! My friend and I are spending 3 days in Dublin and 3 days in Galway and then returning to Dublin to fly out. We have tours booked for Trinity College, Kilmainham Gaol Prison, and the Guinness brewery. We’re playing the rest by ear. Can’t wait!

My plan is to take two weeks off from blogging and be back online Monday, April 16 with posts about my Ireland trip. I’ll be traveling next week and then the week after, I’d like to spend time making changes to the back-end of the blog.

As always, you can follow along with me on Instagram. I’ll be sure to post some photos from Ireland along the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

rainbow-with-pot-of-gold-clipart-black-and-white-jixzM9xiE
Image via weclipart

Friday Gratitude: I Won a Poetry Contest

Happy Friday, everyone! I am so happy to announce that a poem I wrote, titled “Addiction,” won third place in a “reverse poetry contest” for The New Social Worker Magazine. You can read it here.

Media consumption this week …

The book’s author, Michael Booth, is an Englishman married to a Danish woman. After living in Denmark for several years, he decided to write a book about Scandinavia. As he noted: “A journalist writing in the British Sunday Times recently described this part of the world as ‘a collection of countries we can’t tell apart.'”

This book is laugh-out-loud funny in parts. “In Sweden, the concept of being ‘fashionably late’ is akin to being ‘fashionably flatulent.'” (I think Booth is a funnier writer than Bill Bryson.)

Haha. Here are some fun facts I learned while reading this book:

  • People in Denmark like hygge (pronounced “hooga”) which, according to this book, basically means you sit around with your friends and family and make endless hours of small talk while avoiding more interesting and potentially controversial topics of conversation.
  • Iceland underwent a major financial crisis in 2008 when all three major privately owned banks defaulted.
  • Norway used to be a land of fishermen and farmers until they struck oil in 1969, which means it now has: “the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. And I don’t mean per capita — we are talking in absolutes.”
  • According to PISA, Finland has the best education system in the world. Why? It isn’t due to classroom sizes (average) or the length of the school day (only four hours). It is because all of their teachers have master’s degrees. “In Finland, teaching attracts the brightest students … teacher-training courses can be harder to get into than those of law or medicine.”ย I also learned that Finns are extremely taciturn but blunt when they do speak. I think these might be my people.
  • Swedish women have subsequently seen their position in society advance even more comprehensively thanks to a raft of policies concerning gender equality, childcare, and positive discrimination.” Can I move there?

This book contained many more interesting facts about Scandinavia. I wish I could include them all here. Maybe you should just read the book. ๐Ÿ™‚

Edit 3.19.18: I saw a book about Hygge written in Albanian at a bookstore in Pristina!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow! I’m not sure if I have any plans to celebrate but I’ll be in Ireland in two weeks anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

shamrock
Image: Amazon.com