Surprise Saturday Post

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I wanted to share a few photos and stories I’ve seen on the web recently and liked. Happy weekend!

These photos, a collaboration between Polish photographer Marcin Nagraba and costume designer Angieszka Osipa, are stunning.

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By Marcin Nagraba, Agnieszka Osipa

I have long been an admirer of Jim Carey and a blogger I follow posted this inspiring video. “I needed color.”

I don’t think I would be brave enough to decorate my home this way, but this place is one-of-a-kind.

And last, this made me smile. 🙂

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From the Game of Slavs FB page

Friday Gratitude: Torpor

Summer induces a sense of hibernation in me; an urge other people probably feel in the winter. (I get a little “hibernation urge” in winter, but not like I do in the summer.) During the hottest months, I like to stay inside. Period. I recently bought a fan for my bedroom — GAME CHANGER. One of the best purchases I’ve made in Kosovo. It has been in the upper 90s this week …

I haven’t been terribly productive. I had a meeting to discuss my small grants proposal, a project that has been dragging on since March. Oh, and I got my teeth cleaned. That’s about it. I’ve mostly been hiding from the heat and re-watching episodes of Breaking Bad.

Here’s a funny story … my sister was trying to sneak into Costco with her friend’s membership ID. The security guard complimented the crocheted purse she was carrying (which I made) and was so distracted, she didn’t look at the ID. Hahahaha.

Media Consumption this week …

  • I re-read The Horse Whisperer, a book I first read as a teenager, when this book came out in the 1990s. It was an enjoyable re-read, though its ending ties up a bit too neatly.
  • Per my mother’s insistence (Hi, Mom!), I watched True Detective, season two. I tried twice and could never get into the first season. The second was much better … less gruesome, though the plot line was a bit confusing. This is one of the only times I’ve liked Vince Vaughn in something.
  • This article from Balkan Insight highlights a new cafe in Kosovo that employs people with Down’s syndrome.

My friend Val and I are co-leading a writing workshop at Kosovalive in August. They posted the information on Linkedin this week. 🙂

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Have a good weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: I Followed a “Hajde,” and I Don’t Know Why

Teaching has been fine, but lately, I’ve really been missing social work. I’ve settled for listening to The Social Work Podcast.

Tuesday was a beautiful day, so I decided to take a long walk and listen to a podcast episode. I headed south on the road leading out of my village. I was about halfway through listening to the show when I heard someone say my name.

I stopped walking and turned around, coming face-to-face with a young girl on a bicycle. I am not good at assessing people’s ages (as I mentioned in this post), but I’d say she was about 12. She said something to me in rapid-fire Shqip (Albanian). I didn’t understand any of it, except she mentioned my Shqip tutor’s name.

“Sorry, what?” I asked, pulling my headphones out of my ears.

More rapid-fire Albanian, along with my Shqip tutor’s name again.

Nuk kuptoj (I don’t understand),” I said.

The girl shook her head. “Hajde (come here),” she replied, and gestured for me to follow.

We went up, up, up a steep mountain road. Eventually, we stopped at a house that was nestled between several other houses. The girl went inside and came out with a woman who I correctly assumed was my tutor’s mother. (My tutor and I meet for lessons at a restaurant, so I had never before met her family or been to her house.)

Then, the girl abandoned me. I was left standing in the woman’s yard, trying to explain why I was there.

To make matters worse, I wasn’t exactly dressed in my finest. I was wearing sneakers, hiking pants, and a windbreaker. Beneath that I was wearing my ugly khaki Peace Corps t-shirt.

“Hello! I’m a poorly-dressed American who decided to invite herself to your home.”

I introduced myself and tried to explain, in my broken Shqip, what had happened. “I was walking … the girl told me hajde … we came here …”

The woman was my tutor’s mother, and she knew who I was, too. She called my tutor (who was in Pristina) and passed the phone to me. I explained what happened, this time in English. “I think the girl thought I was lost on my way to your house,” I said.

My tutor laughed. Then she told me her mother wanted me to stay for coffee.

Hospitality is a big part of Kosovar culture. I followed my tutor’s mother inside and was presented with a glass of Coke, a Turkish coffee, and a plate of cookies. A short time later, my tutor’s sister arrived. Though she claimed not to speak English well, we had a pleasant conversation (about 70% was in English, and 30% was in Shqip). Afterward, they insisted on driving me home.

I think this story perfectly illustrates what it’s like to serve in the Peace Corps. I leave my house thinking things will go a certain way, something totally different happens, the language barrier gets in the way, but in the end, everything turns out fine.

An American in Kosovo, Part 5

Remember when you were a kid, and it was sooo annoying when an adult would guess your age or grade, and low ball you? And you were like, “Ugh, I’m TEN! How can they think I’m nine?”

Well, a while back, I was at a neighbor’s house and they mentioned their daughter’s birthday was coming up. I looked at her and asked, “How old are you going to be? Twelve?” And she said, “Sixteen.”

***

There is a teacher at my school who greets me by saying, “Miredita, Amerikan.” (Good day, American.)

***

This is an old story, but I haven’t shared it yet.

I attended my host brother’s wedding last July. I had only lived in Kosovo for six weeks then, and was still feeling conspicuous and awkward. The female guests were beautifully dressed, and they would change their outfits throughout the reception. (Imagine being at a wedding where Cher is also in attendance. Now multiple that by 100.)

Everyone began circle dancing. I was trying to work up the nerve to join in. Seated at my long, nearly empty table was a woman I came to call (in my mind) The Beautiful Blonde Mermaid. Excuse the title, but I never caught her name. She was 1) beautiful 2) blonde and 3) had wavy, cascading hair, like a mermaid. I got the sense that she, like me, is a bit reserved, and not sure if she wanted to dance. But then she rose from the table, took me by the hand, and led me out to the dance floor. It was like, “I don’t want to do this, and you don’t want to do this, so let’s do it together.” It was an act of kindness I will remember.

Other funny stories:

Amused

When I take the bus into Pristina, it passes by this shop. I am assuming they are a mannequin manufacturer. I think they should reconsider their window display. It’s a bit aggressive … just a smear of butts across a window.

Taylor Swift probably has no idea her image is being used to promote a random beauty salon in Kosovo.

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I’m not opposed to looking at pictures of George Clooney, but I don’t understand his picture in this context …

George Clooney Kosovo.JPG

🙂

Guest Blogger: Hannah Polipnick (Dumb Things I Have Done in Kosovo)

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Hannah

Hey friends, family, and readers of April’s blog! My name’s Hannah and this week I’ll be taking over for our dear and beloved April. April and I were roommates during our first few days in Kosovo, and let me tell you she’s an absolute saint. I’m so grateful that we were paired together and that we have been able to develop a wonderful friendship. Anyway, I thought I’d keep things light for my blog post and talk about two MAJOR dumdum moves I’ve made since coming to Kosovo.

The first incident that stuck with me all through summer and something my PST host-familly will never let me forget occurred one sweaty sweltering afternoon. I walked up the hill to my house after a long day of training, and I was profusely sweating. My family took one look at me and said “Oj Han shumë zheg sod, kokë kall!” However, I failed to hear kokë kall (pronounced koh-kah kall) and instead I heard koka-kol. I was so excited, having thought that my family was saying, “Oh Han, it’s so hot outside and you’re gross and sweaty, how about a nice glass of coke.” I said I would love some coke thank you very much, to which everyone burst out laughing. Turns out, kokë kall means your head is literally on fire. Thank you host family, I’m aware my face gets red when it’s hot out. The rest of the summer every aunt, uncle, cousin, and neighbor I had asked me if I wanted a coke when it was particularly hot outside…

Another incident occurred during Bajram or what is called Eid in other communities. I went to the mosque with my host sister and cousin and met up with a fellow volunteer and her host cousin. I had asked my host sister to tell me how to congratulate my Muslim family members, neighbors, and friends on finishing their fasting. She told me you could say “urime Bajram” or “perhajr Bajrami”. As prayers were winding down I began reciting my congratulatory remarks in my head. I turned to my cousin, flashed her my biggest smile and said “perime Bajram”, which translates to “vegetables Bajram” in English. My family now says perime instead of congratulations for every occasion.

One thing I learned quickly from living in Kosovo is that I could choose to be embarrassed by mistakes, or I could join in in laughing. I promise, laughing at yourself is always the better solution.
***
April’s note: You can read posts from other guest bloggers here:

Friday Gratitude: The Upside Down

I bought this little souvenir for myself on my first visit to Skopje, Macedonia, a few weeks ago. It makes me happy.

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Media Consumption:

  • I tore through Stranger Things on Netflix and loved it.
  • A volunteer friend told me about The Psychopath Test, which she let me borrow when she finished. It offered many points to consider when trying to define what “madness” really is.
  • For this week’s Shqip lesson, I watched Bridget Jones’s Baby. It was more delightful than I expected. I really love those characters (particularly Mark Darcy).

I attended a meeting at the Peace Corps office on Monday, on how to evaluate English language learning in the classroom. It was pretty interesting. Afterward, I went with some friends to eat Mexican food. Mmm, refried beans, tortilla chips, and nacho cheese! (Here’s me with my friend, Chelsea, who wrote this guest blog a while back.)

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Happy for nachos!

I cracked up at this photo my friend Ingrid (who wrote this guest blog post) uploaded to Facebook:

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Photo by Ingrid, posted with her permission

I can just imagine some doofus at the post office being like, “Duh, where’s Kosovo? Maybe in Russia?”

Speaking of the post, this awesomeness arrived:

IT FEELS LIKE CHRISTMAS OVER HERE!!! I got not one, not two, but THREE care packages this week! Thank you to the best parents (MY parents), my awesome friend Katie, and my sweet Aunt Tina and her husband, Larry. Here is a list of what I got (yes, I am going to subject you to a list): 3 Christmas ornaments, Santa Pez, a Merry Christmas window cling, Nutella, Chicago Frango Mints, jelly beans, Doritos, Cheez-its, 2 boxes of Annie's Mac and Cheese, Trader Joe's salsa (my favorite!), a bag of Tostitos, 2 packages of hard candies, 2 bags of cotton balls, face moisturizer, 2 hand lotions, hand sanitizer, 2 sticks of deodorant, conditioner, eyebrow gel, 4 yoga magazines, one crochet magazine, crochet hooks, a tiny toy crochet kit, a weekly planner, a journal, index cards, a necklace, paint samples for a project for my classes, aaaannnddd … my UGG boots (second attempt at sending them was successful!) THANK YOU!!! And thanks to my site mate, who offered to haul all this stuff from the Peace Corps office to me. #thankyou #gratitude #carepackage #peacecorps ❤️🇺🇸📦✈️🇽🇰

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

I had been feeling nostalgic for the holiday spirit. (If I were at home, I would have already started Christmas shopping by now, at least a little bit. I’d have created a list of friends and family to buy for, and started writing down gift ideas. And soon, I’d be headed to the dollar store to buy wrapping paper, bows, and bags. I miss baking cookies, too. I haven’t done that in forever.)

But my care packages really brightened my mood! 🙂 !!!

I’ll see you all back here on Monday.