Friday Gratitude: Red Rover, Red Rover, Send October Right Over

The busyness of last week (conference week) spilled over into this week: Saturday I presented at KETNET; Monday morning, my school hosted a “Day of Health” as part of our grant agreement (more on that project later); Monday afternoon, I went to an event at Kosovalive (I’m the one in blue, below); and Thursday was my second time teaching at the orphanage.


Also, as a nice surprise, the care package my best friend sent seven months ago finally arrived! (By far, this is the longest a package has taken to get to me.)

Thanks to her and a care package from my parents, my snack hoard is back up to snuff. πŸ™‚


However, don’t be discouraged if you would like to send me a package! I updated my wishlist (see blog sidebar) with a few items I could use this fall.

Media consumption this week …

  • I finished I’d Know You Anywhere. The premise was interesting (a woman is contacted by a man who had kidnapped her when she was a teenager; he is now on Death Row), but the characters were wooden. And after a lot of build-up, the ending fell flat.
  • Sunday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I spent the day in bed watching Broad City and finishing The Woman Upstairs. I liked the book at first, but slowly grew to dislike the main character. This book keeps with the theme of other books I’ve read this year, which is basically that if you’re a middle-aged woman, no matter what happens to you in life, you are bound to be dissatisfied. Ugh.
  • I read Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett’s non-fiction account of her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. This book was gorgeously written and one of my favorite things I’ve read all year.

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: So It Goes

Hello, Everyone. TGIF. This week has been full of ups and downs … power outages and an argument with Peace Corps staff had me down. But, the end of the week had some upturns, so let’s focus on that:

  • I am going to be working with KosovaLive (where I did this presentation) a few days per month, proofreading articles that have been translated from Shqip (Albanian) to English. I love their organization and am happy to be volunteering with them more regularly.
  • I started teaching at the orphanage yesterday (I’ll be teaching there every Thursday). The students are middle school age and we had fun. πŸ™‚
  • FINALLY, the grant money came through! As in, I literally have it in my hands! (Well, not this second, seeing as how I am typing.) This project has been a headache from start to finish. I’m so glad it is almost over.


Processed with MOLDIV
A recent photo of me, in Peja

Media consumption this week …

  • I read Best American Short Stories of 2011. Again, why the year 2011? As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, it was available through the Chicago Public Library as a free download. I skipped one or two stories I didn’t like, but overall, they were delightful. I should read more short stories.
  • I read My Horizontal Life, by Chelsea Handler. It was a funny, easy read.
  • After reading something I wrote, an acquaintance told me my writing style reminds him of Aimee Bender. I had never read Aimee Bender, so I downloaded The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I didn’t connect with the characters, and I thought the ending was not enough of a pay-off … it turns out, three members of one family have extra-sensory powers. But none of them accomplishes anything of note. Eh …


Today, I am going to Pristina to get my second-year temporary residence I.D. I have to get a new photo taken, and I’m a little sad because I like my current photo. I think I look like a Bond Girl:

IT'S OFFICIAL! UnΓ« jam Kosovar!

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

[Side story: My Illinois driver’s license had one of the best photos ever taken of me. People would comment on what a good photo it was. Then, when I moved to Massachusetts, the DMV made me turn it over to be destroyed. I’m STILL mad about it, and that was nine years ago … ]


When I went home this summer, I bought a couple U.S. wall maps at Dollar Tree. Now, they hang in my village schools in Kosovo. πŸ™‚



I got two pieces of mail this week!

And …


(Katie, to answer your question … I love New Orleans, but I have my heart set on returning to Vegas once I finish PC. πŸ™‚ )

Next week, I’ll be attending a week-long mid-service Peace Corps training. (I’ll be posting here regularly, though.) I am looking forward to seeing everyone in my cohort. Happy weekend!

Friday Gratitude: September So Far

This week, I’ve been settling a bit more into my schedule. I’ve been struggling with feelings of not wanting to be here. My summer funk has not gone away yet. Add to this we had a huge storm this week which knocked out our power for 12 hours. The powder has been cutting out since then. Ugh. We had a lot of outages this time last year, too. 

My host family’s dog is pregnant with her third litter since I’ve lived here. (Do I have an opinion about this? You bet I do.) She has been barking even more than normal. I try to have patience with this poor creature, but having been awakened in the middle of the night more often than not, my patience is wearing thin.

Ugh. In a week, we have our Peace Corps mid-service training, and I am really hoping it helps me re-energize and re-focus. Anyway …

Last Friday night, I attend Hardh Fest. (Hardh is the Shqip [Albanian] word for “vine.”) I got to visit Rahovec for the first time, which is Kosovo’s wine country (I’d previously mentioned it in this post). It was beautiful. I wish I had taken some pictures from the bus window in the daylight.

Here is a picture of Stone Castle, probably the biggest/most well-known wine producer in Kosovo.

stone castle winery rahovec kosovo
Looks like Medieval Times …
Two local bands played at the fest that evening. I thought this violin player was incredible:

Media Consumption this week:

  • I read The Power of Now, twice. I have so much to say about it that I might write a separate post. I haven’t decided yet. But I will say, this book provided answers to spiritual questions I’ve had all my life. It has started to change the way I live daily. (I know you’re thinking, “She complained at the beginning of this post.” But truthfully, the teachings in this book have been helping me cope.)
  • A friend here and a friend at home both recommended Broadchurch, which I binge-watched in two days. It is about the murder of an 11-year-old boy in a British beach town. It was awesome, except I thought the murderer was totally implausible! Has anyone else watched this/care to weigh in?
  • I watched The Big Sick, which was equal parts funny/cute/sad. It is set in Chicago, which means I felt homesickness stabbing at me throughout the time I was watching. Fun fact: I know several people who are friends with comedienne/actress Aidy Bryant. Go ahead, be impressed with the cool. 😎

Happy weekend. Thanks for listening, as always. Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: Gearing Up

Last year, the K2 cohort took us newbies on a hike in Peja. This year, Rachel and I did the same thing for some of our new people.

p hike.jpg

Since this has been my last week off school, I’ve spent some time crocheting. Remember my Betty Boop mermaid? I decided to give her some plastic surgery:

crocheted mermaid
crochet mermaid

Media Consumption … this is an accumulation of the past few weeks:

  • A friend told me his favorite book is Where the Red Fern Grows. I had never read it, so I downloaded it from the library. It was a good story, but as my friend said, very much geared toward boys. I later pointed out that none of the sisters in the book have names … they’re just referred to as “the younger one” and “the oldest one,” etc.
  • I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower on my Kindle (I have lots of mysterious books on there, thanks to other people). The story was well-written but again, as someone who did not have a typical high school experience, I have a hard time relating to teen stories. I mostly just read this because I didn’t have anything else to read at the time.
  • A blogger I follow gave a great review to We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. It is a collection of essays written by Samantha Irby, a Chicagoan. While I got a few laughs out of this book, I had a much stronger reaction to her descriptions of life in Chicago. (She used to live in my old neighborhood.) When she mentioned restaurants and streets and el stops, I could feel the knife twisting in my heart. Chicago was my home for 12.5 years, and there are times when I miss it terribly.
  • A friend recommended The Kill Artist, which was a fun read about international spies.
  • The Silver Linings PlaybookΒ was another mysterious Kindle find. I had seen and liked the movie. The book was good, too, though a bit different from the movie.
  • I finished my binge re-watch of Breaking Bad. I had different perceptions of it this time around.
  • I finished watching Game of Thrones! That zombie dragon, though!


I am so thankful to have the time to write. I took a break while I was helping with the film festival the week before last, and when I got home, I just had words pouring out of me. I couldn’t sleep because I had so much on my mind, and so much I wanted to share.

I got a very sweet email recently, from someone who told me he was inspired to apply to Peace Corps Kosovo after reading my blog. That’s all I could ever really ask for from this blog — I try to provide information that is thoughtful, and useful, and hopefully inspiring to others.

Through this blog, I’ve also “met” several Peace Corps volunteers from other parts of the world. I recently got this postcard πŸ™‚ :

Happy weekend!Β I am looking forward to getting back to school next week. I am someone who appreciates structure and a purpose for daily life. This summer has been feeling really long, and not in a good way …

Friday Gratitude: Woot for Secondary Projects

The temperature has been flirting with triple digits all week. There is no relief. 😦 I’ll be taking a short trip in November somewhere VERY far north. Though it is months away, I keep thinking about it and fantasizing about the cold …

A friend (who also hates hot weather) told me she’s been looking at pictures of herself wearing sweaters and feeling nostalgic. I was like, “I’VE BEEN DOING THE SAME THING!”

This week, I’ve been busy with secondary projects. I’ve written a bit about secondary projects previously. As a reminder, a “secondary project” is any project a Peace Corps volunteer takes on in addition to their primary job role.

My friend Val and I co-facilitated a writing workshop at KosovaLive yesterday. We had a blast! At the end, I turned to her and said, “That went exactly how I pictured it in my head.” πŸ™‚

Val Dema and April Gardner

I will be volunteering at the Anibar Film Festival in Peja all this coming week. I’ll be acting as the juror assistant, meaning I am the liason between the jurors and the rest of the Anibar staff. I’ll also be responsible for making sure the jurors get to where they need to go on time. I’m a little nervous, but on the bright side 1) I’ll get to see a lot of films and 2) I’ll get to spend time in Peja, my favorite city in Kosovo.

Anibar Film Festival Peja.jpg

I’ll be posting more about these projects in the coming weeks, so stay tuned …

Side note: Last Friday evening, I was in Peja. Some friends were showing me where all the film festival sites will be. Then, we stumbled upon a dog show in the park. You just never know what is going to happen in Kosovo …

Peja Kosovo dog show.JPG

Yesterday, when I was in the Peace Corps office, a care package from my mom arrived. That NEVER happens! And it only took two weeks to reach me! πŸ™‚ She sent lots of good snacks for me, and puzzles, coloring books, and toys for my little host cousins. Thanks, Mom! πŸ™‚

care package
I may have broken into the Muddy Buddies already.

Media Consumption this week …

  • I read A Mercy by Toni Morrison. While it was beautifully written, I didn’t find the story very interesting.
  • TV shows … do I have to say it? Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Sesame Street. (How’s that for variety?)


Catch you next week! πŸ™‚

Friday Gratitude: Ain’t No Cure

“Sometimes I wonder that I’m a gonna do, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” — Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues

The summertime blues have set in a bit (I’m BORED) … but, let’s focus on some good things about this last week.

I crocheted a mermaid using this easy pattern. I was inspired by the funkiness of the doll in the example photo, and decided I wanted my doll to have a Betty Boop look. I think she turned out okay (note: I think she’s actually much cuter in real life). Also, I ran out of yarn, but have since gotten more and will finish the fins for her tail.

crocheted mermaid

My (very kind and thoughtful) site mate brought me a bottle of wine from her vacation to Greece. I love a good port!

Greek port wine

And finally, here is what my new rug looks like in my current bedroom. Yes, this is the third photo I have posted of the rug. Because I love it and it makes me happy! πŸ™‚

hand made rug kosovo

As far as media consumption this week, I saw the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and have been re-watching Breaking Bad. I also finished reading A Year in Provence, which I thought was pretty “meh.”


I continue to try to find ways to fill my time, now that I’m on a break from teaching. As I mentioned previously, I’ll be hosting a writing workshop next month in Pristina. I had wanted to host a different workshop at a nearby NGO, but they are closing for the month of August due to extreme heat/no air conditioning. So, that project will have to wait.

I had a meeting in Peja about helping out with a film festival next month. It’ll be nice to work on a project that has nothing to do with teaching English. I’m ready for a change.

Aaaand … it took almost 5 months, but my grant proposal has finally been approved. πŸ™‚ I’ll be posting more about that project this fall.


The weather has been slightly cooler (though humid) this week. I took an evening walk with my host mother and 12-year-old host cousin. Along the way, we picked up a neighbor and her granddaughter. There was a wedding going on down the road, and the sound of traditional dance music filled the air. The sun was just setting and the moon was a sliver tucked among the clouds. Occasionally, someone at the wedding would set off a burst of fireworks. I told myself to remember the walk, because someday I won’t live in Kosovo anymore, and I won’t have nights like that to enjoy.


If you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed I made some updates to the sidebar. <—- I added links to my photography portfolio (non-Kosovo, non-Peace Corps stuff) and to my Vimeo video page (all are videos I’ve previously published within blog posts). I keep playing around to see how I like the layout and if I need to add or remove anything. Feedback is welcome!

Happy weekend! Talk to you on Monday.

Friday Gratitude: Short and Sweet

yoga in kosovo
A friend sent me this photo from the Spark Yoga Festival. I hadn’t seen it prior to this week. (I’m the one in purple.) πŸ™‚

It has been a quiet week, mostly filled with errands. I had to go to the police station and court house to get documentation confirming I am not a criminal, in order to extend my residency in Kosovo.

Media Consumption this week:

I (strangely) read two books about parenting, though I am not a parent.

  • My friend Dana (hi, Dana!) sent me an audiobook version of Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan. This was after I mentioned on an earlier blog post that I’d like to read it. (Good looking out, Dana.) It was a cute, light-hearted book that nicely balanced the other parenting book I read, which was …
  • A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold

I also:

  • Saw the new Spiderman movie.Β The lead actor was a squeaky-voiced, adolescent ball-of-energy. I spent the entire movie wanting to smack him.
  • Caught up on Game of Thrones. (!!!) Happy it’s back on … finally.
  • Binge-re-watched episodes of Breaking Bad. The Chicken Man Cometh …

In other news …


I promise to love it forever.

Happy weekend! πŸ™‚