Tractor Rides and Mountain Top Picnics

Sundays are my only days off here while in training, so I told myself I’d sleep in—and I’m so glad that my body naturally woke me up early or I would have missed a great adventure involving tractors, abandoned homes, beautiful views of Kosovo, and some delicious flija.

I woke up on Sunday just in time for breakfast and while we were eating I kept hearing talk of a “piknik” and my cousin/fellow trainee’s name. After eating, everyone changed and was getting ready to go but I was still so confused. I had no idea whether a picnic here meant something entirely different than a picnic back home (Spoiler Alert: it both is and isn’t)! So I changed my clothes and headed down the road to my host uncle’s house, where we were greeted with a tractor and trailer in the front yard. My immediate thought was ‘heck yeah!’ and I hopped into the back of the trailer with the kids.

A little while later, the rest of the family joined us and off we went on a very bumpy ride. The views along the way were so breathtaking. When I just go to and from class everyday, it becomes harder to recognize just how beautiful this place actually is. So it’s good to be reminded by the air breezing through my hair every now and again.

At some point, we drove off the main road and onto corroded old dirt roads. I’ve experienced some in Mexico, but these were so bumpy and the inclines were so steep that I was definitely feeling a little scared on the hour drive up the mountain. We eventually reached the top, and that’s when I found out it was the old home and property of my host gjyshja (shqip for grandmother)! The houses were nearly reduced to stones and tiles—I couldn’t help but wonder how it made her feel to see her home like this.

But even if it was abandoned, there was something so captivating about it.

One thing I love so far about the summer is how many fresh fruits and vegetables I get to eat here–and cherries definitely seem to be the most common (and tasty)! After filling my belly with what seemed like hundreds of cherries from the property and watching the boys play football (I refuse to call it soccer now), I went back up the hill to join my host mom and aunt who were preparing a fire to cook flija.

I won’t go into detail about what flija is or how to make it, but it is very time consuming. Each layer is cooked in about five to ten minute intervals until the pan is completely full. I asked my host mom if I could try and, to my surprise, she let me! I went slice by slice pouring the mixture into the pan and honestly I felt so proud of myself. After I was done, my host mom told me it was very good for my first time. And when we gathered in the grass to eat it later that afternoon, I felt so much pride in the traditional Albanian dish I took part in making.

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