Peja Technology Camp

So, there is this thing in Peace Corps called “secondary projects.” A secondary project is anything you do for your host country outside of your primary job role. (Writing this blog counts as one of my secondary projects, because I am sharing information about my host country with my friends and family back home.) LOOK AT ME, SECONDARY PROJECTING AT YOU!

The Peace Corps (at least here in Kosovo) takes a pretty non-directive approach to secondary projects. Volunteers are expected to do secondary projects, but we have a lot of autonomy in the projects we choose. The basic attitude seems to be, “Go forth and … do stuff.”

One of my friends and another volunteer took on an ambitious project — hosting a 7-day technology camp for middle-school kids in Peja. I attended on the first day to show moral support. 1) My host brother did a presentation on graphic design and 2) One of my students attended, and I wanted to shepherd her and make sure she knew where she was going.

The day started with a series of ice-breakers, followed by my host brother’s presentation. After a lunch break, we took the kids over to Anibar, an NGO that primarily focuses on teaching kids about animation. Using old, broken, donated computers, Anibar hosted a “junkyard robots” workshop. Students got to tear apart computers to make their own “robots.”

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If I learned anything that day, it’s that kids get very excited when they’re encouraged to break stuff.

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As far as my own secondary projects go this summer, I am putting together some ideas for a few writing workshops I’d like to host. I’ll also likely help out with Anibar’s big film festival in August.

It’s been about a billion degrees here lately. I have to say — at this point, my desire to help Kosovo is about equal to my desire to lie around with no clothes on and read books. 😛 Let’s see if I can rally …

Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo

As part of my language training the last week, we took an afternoon field trip to the Ecological Museum in Peja.

Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo
Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo

First, we saw two exhibits showcasing how things looked in a traditional Albanian home. Here is a living room. Men would be served beverages here. The long-handled pot you see in the left corner of the picture was used for washing hands.

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Next, we saw a kitchen. Families used to sit on the floor or low stools around a table on the ground, which is called a soffit. (Note: I am not sure if I spelled that correctly.)

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The clothing exhibit was probably my favorite part of the museum. This wool dress is 100 years old, and was based on an Illyrian design. The Illyrians are considered to be the first group of people to inhabit Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans.

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The following is an example of what women used to wear in Kosovo. (I must have asked our tour guide three times, “They dressed like this EVERY DAY?” It seems an outfit this elaborate would get dirty … )

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Here is what men in Kosovo used to wear. I was interested to learn the white cloth around their heads are actually burial shrouds. Men would wear their burial shrouds every day, in case they were killed.

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As someone who likes to crochet, I appreciated this display of old sewing/looming tools.

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The other part of the museum featured old coins and artifacts that had been discovered locally. I didn’t take pictures of those exhibits because it was dark in the room. (And honestly, I am just less interested in that stuff.)

Overall, my visit to the museum was enjoyable, and I learned a few tidbits about Kosovo that I did not know previously. Admission was only 1 Euro. If you ever find yourself in Peja, Kosovo, the Ecological Museum is worth checking out.

A Visit to Patriarchate Serbian Monastery in Peja, Kosovo

The other weekend, some fellow volunteer friends and I visited Patriarchate of Peja, a Serbian monastery that was built in the 13th century.

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Walking down the snowy road to the monastery …

If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed I post a lot about Albanian culture. This is because Kosovo’s population is largely ethnically Albanian. I have lived with two Albanian host families, and during pre-service training, I learned to speak Shqip (Albanian). Some members of my cohort opted to learn both Shqip and Serbian, but I decided against that since I figured learning one new language would be challenging enough.

Anyway, I haven’t written about Serbian culture because I simply don’t know as much about it. I was happy to have a chance to visit the monastery and learn a bit more about Serbian tradition.

Patriarchate is a medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery. Serbian Orthodox is an autocephalous Christian church. Autocephalous means that the church operates as a hierarchy, where the head bishop does not report to any higher ranking bishop.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the monastery, but I was able to take this pretty (if I say so myself) shot of the exterior.

Serbian monastery in the snow. #peja #kosovo

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Sweet Bean Bakery, Peja, Kosovo

Hi, everyone! I am just settling in here at home. I’ll be posting about my Christmas trip to Paris soon, once I get my photos sorted. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some photos I took at Sweet Bean Bakery in Peja, Kosovo.

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Sweet Bean is an American bakery. Word on the street is that it was started by Christian missionaries, though there isn’t anything particularly religious about the space.

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I last went to Sweet Bean the week before Christmas, before doing a little shopping in Peja and meeting some friends for lunch. I arrived at 9:30 a.m. and their coffee machine hadn’t been turned on yet. I had to wait 1/2 hour for the American drip coffee I was so looking forward to. (Patience is one of the few virtues I possess, but Kosovo can test it sometimes.) As a treat to myself, I bought my favorite Sweet Bean cookie (chocolate chip dipped in chocolate), and a peanut buttercup to go with my long-awaited beverage.

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Sweet Bean’s treats are awesome, and I always make it a point to stop by whenever I am in Peja!

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(This is like, the third time I have broken my own “no food porn” rule on this blog. I have no excuse … )

Edit (07/11/17): Sweet Bean Bakery has closed. Noooo!

My Favorite Photos from the First Quarter

“And time
goes by
And you’ve got a lot to learn, in your life.” — Future Islands, Tin Man

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I have officially completed my first quarter in the Peace Corps! (Counting method is my own.) I thought I’d take some time and reflect on my favorite moments/photos from the last six months. Some of these photos I have previously posted, while others are new.

I spent over a year thinking about Kosovo before I actually moved here. These are: 1) my very first photo of Kosovo and 2) the first photo of me in Kosovo, taken on the balcony of my hotel room.

I took the following photo at the end of the most terrifying day of my life. Here is a picture of my pre-service training (PST) bedroom:

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I love this photo I took of my sitemates Charlie and Sierra. It is funny to think I didn’t know them well back then.

About to watch the soccer match with some fellow Peace Corps trainees. Go, Albania!

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I didn’t know what to expect from my first birthday spent in Kosovo, but I am happy to say, my 35th was a happy one. (I suspect my language teacher was responsible for the cake — such a sweet gesture.)

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PST is not without its abject misery and heat. It does have its bright moments, too. Here is a picture of me commuting with my sitemates and my language teacher. I really miss these three, and don’t get to see them as often as I’d like anymore.

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The summer did not pass without its hedonistic moments. Here are two of my favorite photos, illustrating that:

Here is a picture of my language group, on the day we (finally) got to explore Pristina for the first time.

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I got to attend my first Kosovoar wedding. Here I am with one of my PST host brothers:

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One of my host brothers (not the one who got married) and me

Teaching for the first time was an intimidating experience, but it turned out to be more fun than I expected. I really like this photo of my  co-teachers, Chelsea and Chester.

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Our last week of PST was emotionally draining and difficult. But I had fun at the cultural day party/thank you to PST families that Peace Corps hosted.

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On my last night with my PST host family, I asked to take a photo with my host parents. My host dad was lying on the couch with a headache, but he got up and put on a dress shirt and nicer pants for the occasion. 🙂

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The next day, I swore in as a member of the Peace Corps. I have never been so proud of anything I’ve ever done.

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This is the first photo taken of me at my permanent host site, later that same day. It will always remind me that what I had anticipated would be a hard day (I was missing my sister’s wedding back at home) ultimately turned out just fine.

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Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful and holding a puppy

Speca (peppers) have consumed my life.

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Here is me on my first day of school!

#Kosovo #howiseepc #firstdayofschool

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I began crocheting a lot.

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I really love my fellow volunteers.

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I got to visit Skopje, Macedonia:

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I’ve spent several fun afternoons exploring Peja, a beautiful, mountainous city in Kosovo. This shot was taken on a particularly fun day.

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And, of course, I just visited Tirana!

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April and Val, outside the National Art Gallery of Albania

Thanks for letting me share!

Nature Walk in Peja, Kosovo

A few weeks ago, I went on a nature walk with four other volunteer friends in Peja, Kosovo. I have visited Peja a few times now. It’s one of Kosovo’s biggest cities and it’s in the northwest part of the country.

Previously, I went on a hike in Peja. This time, we took a less strenuous path, one that is paved and flat. We walked about 8 miles total.

Autumn is my favorite season by far. I had a wonderful day, getting out and exploring.

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We came across this art display made of trash.

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We stopped at an adorable log cabin restaurant for pizza.

Then we continued walking a bit further.

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It was a autumn lovely day spent with lovely people! 🙂

Photo Op with Majlinda Kelmendi

I went back to Peja the other weekend to spend a little time with some other volunteer friends. Peja is absolutely beautiful. It is located at the base of the “cursed mountains” in northwest Kosovo. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend going for a hike there.

#Peja #Kosovo

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I also previously blogged about Majlinda Kelmendi, Kosovo’s first Olympic gold medal winner. Peja is her hometown. There are photos of her everywhere. I took advantage of this opportunity:

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Sparring with an Olympian

And THEN, just last week, the Peace Corps posted this photo to their Facebook page. One of our staff members and another volunteer got to meet the REAL Malindja Kelmendi! How cool is that?!?

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