One Week in Kosovo!

Hi, everyone! Did you miss me over the weekend? I’ve decided on a goal of posting once daily Monday-Friday. I need a break from processing/writing about my life on the weekends.

Yesterday marked my first full week in Kosovo! Yesterday was also the first day I’ve had off from Peace Corps activities. While I was looking forward to having time to myself, I was also nervous about how I would fill that time. I ended up taking a walk around my village alone, calling a friend in the States, reading, and spending time with my host family.

My three host brothers all returned to Pristina last night, going back to jobs and school. All three speak English pretty well, so I’m getting to know them better. The youngest is the friendliest and also speaks the best English. He likes spending time with the bees (my family has 4 cows, several chickens, a cat, and a number of bee hives). He told me, “Bees have complicated lives. They work like humans.”

The middle brother is the one getting married next month. He is a bit reserved, so I probably spent the least amount of time talking to him. The oldest brother took a while to warm up to me, but seems friendly enough. He likes Game of Thrones, so I suspect we’ll get along just fine. He told me he watched the first season in one day. I told him that in the United States, we call that, “binge watching.” He works as an elevator technician, and asked if I am afraid of elevators (no). He assured me that elevator cables, “never, ever, ever break. That only happens in the movies.” Good to know.

My host parents don’t speak any English. After dinner, my host mother asked me something while waving her hand. It took me a moment to figure out she was asking if I wanted to go for a hike in the mountains (yes). Our 12-year-old neighboring cousin came with us, and picked tiny strawberries for me to eat along the way. On our way back, I asked if I could come to his yard to see the puppies (his dog just had a litter of ten).

I had heard pets are not really a thing here in Kosovo, and it’s interesting to see the different attitude people have toward animals. My host mother made a face when she saw me holding the puppy, and afterward, my 12-year-old cousin insisted we wash our hands. (Really, farm kid? You’re worried about touching puppies?)

My family has an outdoor cat. On my first day here, I asked my middle brother the cat’s name, and gave me a strange look and said the cat has no name. My family just calls her “mace,” which is the Albanian word for “cat.” (It sounds like “matzi.”) Here is a picture of Mace:

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(She is no substitute for Sweeney Todd, obviously, but at least I get some pet therapy.)

My host father returned from his trip to Albania last night. I showed him the homework I’ve been working on for Peace Corps. He kept saying, “Bravos, Ah-preel!” when I got something right, and “jo mire” (no good) for things that were incorrect. I’d neglected to fill in part of one worksheet, an exercise on numbers, and he prompted me for answers while filling them in. It was cute. 🙂

Today, and every day for the next three months, I’ll have Peace Corps training all day Monday-Friday, and for half of the day on Saturday. I meet my language teacher and the two other trainees living in my village each morning, and we share a taxi ride into the next largest village. This morning, we set up our local bank accounts, had a break for lunch, and then completed two Peace Corps trainings. On training days, we walk up a steep road to a beautiful hilltop restaurant, and meet in the conference room there.

Here’s a picture of the restaurant’s view:

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Hello, Goodbye from Washington, D.C.

I made it to D.C. last night! I arrived 3 hours late, waited 30 minutes for the free airport shuttle (now that I’m in the Peace Corps, I have to be frugal), wolfed down an overpriced and under-satisfying meal at the hotel restaurant (so much for frugality), and managed to swim at the hotel pool for 20 minutes before it closed.

Did I mention I also wrangled 118.5 lbs of luggage by myself? I didn’t even use a cart! I just bungee-corded my carry-on suitcase on top of one of the larger ones, and dragged everything behind me. It was a Herculean feat.

My parents drove me to the airport yesterday. My dad drove around the airport in circles while my mom helped me haul my luggage to the United counter. When we hugged goodbye, I said, “Thanks for not crying.” She said, “Of course. I’m excited for you.”

I don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine how it feels to put one on a plane, knowing you won’t see her for a long time. But my parents have been nothing but supportive. After my mom and I parted ways, I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder at her. Mommy. 😦

Now I’m off to the airport again, to officially register for the Peace Corps and get back on a plane. The next time I post, it’ll be from Kosovo.

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