Q & A About Serving in the Peace Corps in Kosovo

Hello! A potential new volunteer recently emailed me some questions about serving in Peace Corps Kosovo, so I thought I would use them to create a blog post. At the end, I also included a question that a friend recently asked me.

1) How safe do you feel in Kosovo? Fairly safe. Have you ever felt threatened or in danger? The two worst things that have happened to me are: 1) A student threw a rock at me as I was crossing the school yard, and it hit me on the back of my shoulder. Three students were suspended for a week as a result, and I no longer teach their classes. 2) I was taking a walk one morning, rounded a bend in the road, and came upon a large, angry stray dog. It approached me several times and barked at me, but it eventually moved on. I would say I find environmental concerns (stray dogs, lack of seat belts in cars, lack of adequate nutrition and exercise, and exposure to second-hand smoke and air pollution) more worrisome than my experiences with people here. I mostly feel safe around Kosovar people. Do you think a self defense class would be a good idea? I think taking a self defense class is always a good idea, and is something every woman should do.

2) How hot and cold does it really get there? I am from the Midwest, and weather in Kosovo is like the weather in the Midwest. It gets very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. A major factor here is that central heat and central air conditioning are rare to nonexistent. Do I need to bring a long down jacket for winter? Yes, absolutely! Are the summers too hot for jeans and a T-shirt? I don’t wear jeans in the summer because it is too hot. I recommend wearing long skirts, linen pants, capri pants, etc. Some people wear shorts, but I would recommend dressing more conservatively here than you might in the United States.

3) Have you gotten placed next to any other Peace Corps volunteers? My first year here, I had two site mates. They didn’t live in my village but they were only a ten-minute drive away. They are both gone now. This year, I am alone at my site. The next-closest volunteer is probably an hour away from me by bus. However, I see other volunteers all the time in Pristina. Kosovo is small so I wanted to know if it is pretty standard to work at a school with other Peace Corps volunteers. Volunteers are never placed at the same school, even if they live in the same village.

4) Do you have daily access to fruits or vegetables? Mostly (kinda?) yes. My host family eats peppers almost daily. Sometimes, we also have cabbage or pickled vegetables. There is not much variety, however, in vegetables or in meals in general. If you are curious to know what I eat, you can read my 5-Day Food DiaryHow much of a say do you have in your diet? Almost none. If I say that I would prefer to eat less of something (like sugar or bread), will the family take extreme offense to that? No, not at all, at least in my experience. I think it is important to be honest with your host family about what you will or will not eat. For example, I hate onion and my host family knows this. If my host mother makes something with onion in it, she will make me a smaller, separate portion with no onion.  Can I just buy my own food and cook my own meals? You will negotiate the meal situation with your host family and yes, some volunteers do cook their own meals.

5) How often is it considered appropriate to shower in Kosovo before it becomes rude (as in your host family gets irritated with you for using up amenities)? I shower and wash my hair every day. As far as toiletries go, I buy my own soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Having good hygiene has always been important to me — it’s just a part of who I am. I compromise on plenty of stuff as a volunteer, but I am not willing to compromise on maintaining good hygiene.

I think volunteers (especially in the beginning of service) are really nervous about being seen as “weird” or doing something offensive, but remember, you will be a foreigner in Kosovo. You are bound to do things that are “weird” because you come from a different country with a different culture. You are not going to perfectly blend in. As long as you aren’t being deliberately disrespectful or offensive, do what makes you happy. Is [showering] every other day excessive? I don’t think so.

6) What has been the hardest cultural aspect for you to adjust to in Kosovo? All of it has been a huge adjustment. As far as the hardest thing, I would say that because Kosovo is a patriarchal society, experiencing the way women are thought of and treated has really been hard. I also hate all the smoking!

7) My friend Dana (hi, Dana!) recently asked me how many Americans are on staff here in Kosovo. All Peace Corps posts (meaning, host countries) have to have three Americans on staff: the Country Director, the Director of Programming and Training, and the Director of Management and Operations. All other staff members (administrative assistants, medical staff, IT director, accounts payable/receivable, program managers, small grants manager, supply chain manager, and drivers) are from Kosovo.

As always, I hope my answers are helpful! Thank you for reading.

Q&A: Becoming a Teacher and Secondary Projects in the Peace Corps

 

Hi, everyone! I’m posting another video today. This week’s questions come from James, who will be coming to Kosovo as a volunteer this June. Thanks for your questions, James!

  1. Could you post about your transition from social work to teacher? (0:25)
  2. Are you a licensed social worker? If so, how are you maintaining your license while serving?* (2:21)
  3. What types of secondary projects are you working on or thinking about engaging? (4:05)
  4. Are there opportunities to work with children outside of a classroom setting? (4:58)

*I misspoke. My license will be up for renewal in January 2018. I don’t know my years …

If anyone else has questions for me, please let me know!

 

Q&A: Life in the Peace Corps

My sister asked the following questions for this week’s video:

  • What hobbies do you have besides reading and crocheting? Are those your favorite things to do? (0:18)
  • Is there something you want to learn (craft-wise) while you’re there? (0:46)
  • How do you spend your days when you’re not teaching? (1:04)
  • Is there a crochet project you have in mind to do next? (1:15)
  • How have your feelings about being in Kosovo/Peace Corps changed over the last 9 months? (1:37)
  • What have you gotten used to that was a big adjustment for you? (2:10)
  • What adjustments are you still struggling with? (2:56)
  • If you could change something about your time there, what would it be? (If you could change anything, no questions asked, your wish is granted.) (3:36)
  • Is there something you would have changed when you arrived but don’t feel that way anymore? (4:10)
  • What has been your favorite thing about living in Kosovo? (4:47)

After watching this video, I realized I said “um” a bunch of times. I thought about re-recording, but laziness prevailed. Maybe I’ll practice my public speaking skills and try to do better next time. 😛

Thanks for the questions, Kris!

 

Q&A Video: Questions About the Peace Corps

I haven’t made a video in a while, so I asked my friends and family if they had any questions I could answer. My friend Dana (thanks, Dana!) asked the following:

  1. What do most Peace Corps folks do once their service is up? (0:15)
  2. Do people tend to go back to their old jobs or fields? (0:50)
  3. Is there a way to carry on another term? (1:15)*
  4. Would there be opportunities to work stateside? (2:15)

*I misspoke. You can extend any length of time up to a year.

As always, if you have questions you would like me to answer about life in Kosovo or the Peace Corps, please contact me. (Keep in mind, I can’t talk about politics — Kosovo, U.S., or otherwise.)

Q&A from Pauline, Version 2.0

I hadn’t made a video in forever, so when my friend Pauline emailed me some questions, I decided to record the answers. 🙂

  1. What are the demographics of the other teachers at your school? (0:15)
  2. Are they friendly toward you? (0:28)
  3. Are there places like cafes in your town? (1:04)
  4. What are your weekend plans? (1:43)
  5. What is the first substantial school vacation you have? Do you have any plans? (2:35)

Also, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, please email me or leave a comment in the comment section of the blog!

Q&A from my sister

Happy Monday! Today’s questions come from my sister.

  1. You blogged about YOU needing a hobby. Well, what do THEY do for hobbies over there? How do you see people spending their time? (00:13)
  2. What kinds of jobs do the people in your host family have? Do they have hobbies? (01:32)
  3. What is the family culture like? Is it a big family affair at mealtime? Do family members appear to have close relationships with one another? (02:27)
  4. What types of jobs are available in Kosovo? What types of jobs to people tend to emigrate to? (03:11)