Holiday Gift Guide: Kosovo

Let’s say you’re a person living in Kosovo, and you don’t know what to get your friends and family this year. Or, let’s say you’re a person in another part of the world, and you have a friend/family member in Kosovo and you want to ask them for a gift but you don’t know something good to ask for. Look no further. Here is a holiday gift guide for you!

During the holiday season, Nene Teresa Boulevard in Pristina turns into a Christmas mart. In addition to mulled wine, you can also find cute gifts. I bought several of these magnets last year and mailed them home to my family. Normally, I don’t mail stuff other than postcards to the U.S., because that can get expensive and I am a poor Peace Corps volunteer. However, magnets only cost a few Euro to send.

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Traditional male clothing
kosovo magnet 2
Traditional female clothing
kosovo magnet 1
Rugova canyon

These beaded necklaces are popular in Kosovo. Many local women make them. They cost around 5 Euro each. Someone in my cohort has a host sister who makes them, and I’ve ordered a number for my friends and family.

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Single color
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Multi-color

Postcards are a cheap, fun way to send a holiday greeting. There is a big selection at the Pristina Christmas mart.

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Pristina postcard

If you really, really like someone, you could buy them a handmade rug. I bought one for myself. 🙂

Albanian handmade wool rug
GORGEOUS!

If you know someone musical, consider introducing them to the çifteli, a traditional stringed instrument.

çifteli (2-stringed instrument)

Last, a plis (men’s traditional woolen cap) could be a fun gift for the more adventurous gentleman in your life. 🙂

man-wearing-plis
plis

My 5-Day Food Diary

Last week, I decided to keep a 5-day food diary to give you an idea of what it is like to live and eat in Kosovo.

(Note: At times, I am posting old photos or photos from other sites. I didn’t want to weird out my host mother by taking pictures of the meals she cooked.)

Also, I didn’t include snacks. I eat chocolate. A lot of it.

Monday

Breakfast: banana + a cup of coffee

Lunch: 2 speca (peppers), two small tomatoes with salt, a big hunk of homemade cheese, several glasses of milk

Dinner: A bowl of pasule (traditional bean stew here in Kosovo) with white bread and one glass of milk

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Pasule (Photo Credit: Albania Adventure)

Tuesday

Breakfast: banana +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: Two pieces of reheated dough filled with egg (leftover from Sunday breakfast) and two glasses of milk

Dinner: Two fried eggs, a hunk of homemade cheese, and several glasses of milk

Kosovo food 2
Lunch: Reheated dough and egg

Wednesday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios + a cup of coffee

Lunch: one speca (pepper), one bowl of leftover pasule, 2 glasses of milk

Dinner: one bowl of leftover pasule, 1 glass of milk

Thursday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: I was in Pristina to work, which means I got to have a treat! I had a falafel sandwich from one of my favorite restaurants, Babaganoush. HEAVEN.

Dinner: Flia (traditional Kosovo food that’s just layers of dough cooked over an open flame)

Babaganoush Pristina Kosovo
Lunch at Babaganough. YUM!

#food #Kosovo #flia

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

Friday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: 1-1/2 (cold) fried eggs (ugh, couldn’t finish them), ½ of a tomato with salt, a piece of cheese, a piece of leftover flia, and a glass of milk

Dinner: penne pasta mixed with cheese and a glass of milk

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Lunch

Eating a healthy diet is something with which I struggle in Kosovo. I live on a mini-farm. All the produce and meat I eat is organic, so you think it would be healthy, right? Some problems are:

  • Kosovars consume a HUGE amount of white bread.
  • Food is prepared with a lot of oil. If I were going to scramble an egg at home, for example, I would use a tablespoon of olive oil. When my host mother makes eggs, she dumps about 1/3 of the bottle into the pan. (I am not exaggerating.)
  • Americans eat a lot of sugar, yours truly included. But the amount of sugar I’ve seen Kosovars consume is staggering. If you can out-sugar an American, you are eating way too much sugar.
  • I am not vegetarian, but I try to avoid meat as much as I can in Kosovo. I don’t like the way it is prepared. It manages to be stringy, overcooked, and greasy all at the same time.
  • I think of a “meal” as being protein + starch + vegetable, but I don’t consistently get all three.

I hate having so little control over what I eat and when I eat. But cooking for myself would be difficult because:

  • There is no grocery store in my village.
  • Meals are the only time I really spend with my host family.
  • I think my host mother would be offended if I stopped eating her food.
  • I am not allowed to use the electric stove (too expensive), the gas stove is broken, and I don’t know how to cook on a wood stove.

Grocery shopping and cooking have always been two chores I’ve hated. Now, however, I am looking forward to that day in the future when I finally live alone again (!!!) and can prepare a meal for myself. I’m gonna put Jose Gonzalez on the stereo, pour myself a glass of white wine, and weep for joy as I cook.

Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa in Pristina, Kosovo

During my first visit to Pristina, my language training group got to go to the top of Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa to enjoy a great view of the city. The cathedral was under construction at the time. Now, it is finished. I visited again with some friends to see the new interior.

wall cathedral of saint mother teresa
Rainbows and stained glass
door cathedral of saint mother teresa
I love this door.
stained glass cathedral of saint mother teresa
The church has several panels depicting Mother Teresa’s life.
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Eagle pew
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Mother Teresa
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Stained glass + beams
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Ceiling
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Pretty stained glass

According to the CIA World Factbook, 2.2% of Kosovars are Roman Catholic. The country is primarily Islamic (95.6%).

I live in a Catholic village. You can see photos I took of my local church here.

KETNET Presentation on Po-e-Zë

On Saturday, my friend Val and I presented at Kosovo’s 7th annual KETNET conference. KETNET stands for Kosova English Teachers’ Network (their website is here).

kosovo ketnet teacher conference.jpg

I am helping Val organize Po-e-Zë, a national English language poetry recitation competition. The competition started in Albania. Val and another Peace Corps volunteer brought it to Kosovo last year. My students participated, which I wrote about in this post.

Our goal in presenting at KETNET was to spread the word and get more local teachers involved in the competition, even if they don’t have a Peace Corps volunteer at their school.

After our presentation, a student who competed last year gave a speech on what competing meant to her. Then, she recited her poem.

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Getting ready to present …

This is one of the bigger secondary projects in which I’ve been involved. I am looking forward to working with my students on memorizing their poems, hosting a local competition, and then organizing the national competition in Pristina in December.

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Coffee afterward

Related post:

Hello! by Alba Arifi (a poem by a Kosovar high school student)

 

A Dog With Many Names

Before moving to Kosovo, I had never heard of the following type of dog (it has many names): Sarplaninac, Shar Mountain Dog, Illyrian Sheepdog, Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog. All of those names describe one basic breed of dog, which is common in Kosovo and looks like this:

 

Clearly, this is a dog that displays maximum fluffitude, but do not be fooled — they are bred to protect sheep from wolves.

Though I have never seen an actual working dog (as in, up in the mountains, herding sheep), many of the street dogs in Kosovo look like they’re part Illyrian Sheepdog (my preferred name for them). Here is a picture of a stray dog I took in Peja (he was just sleeping, not dead):

sleeping shar mountain dog
zzzzzzzz …

I don’t know why there are so many names for this breed. They are beautiful animals, though. I am not the first Peace Corps volunteer to become fascinated by them (and we all know I’m a cat person). I may have to find a puppy and bring it home to my dad once I am done with my service. 🙂 (Dad, you have been warned … )

If you would like to learn more about Illyrian Sheepdogs, you can click this link.