My Month in Under 5 Minutes: July 2018

I’m sorry for the delay in posting this month’s video, but the original file got corrupted and then I was hit with an end of PST rush; but here it is!

I figured this time I’ll write a sentence about each day/moment featured to give you all a bit more context about my days in Kosovo!

June 1: Eating delicious pitë me spinach outside; our dog, Boki, enjoying being let off his chains

June 2: Michaela and I enjoying a bus ride!

June 3: The celebration of the day a goddess was born, AKA my best friend Christina! We attended the PC office in the capitol for a 4th of July BBQ and were free to explore with a current Kos4 volunteer!

June 4: A fun gathering at a fellow PCT’s home!

June 5: Never tried this food before and forgot what it was called!

June 6: Finally, the rest of my village got to see the goats and sheep!

June 7: An organized simulation of buying/ordering food in Shqip, my host brother and cousin feeding the chickens!

June 8: More corn!

June 9: Beautiful views!

June 10: Kosovo’s stinkiest dog, Snowball, the cab driver bought us all ice cream!

June 11: My host mom making flija!

June 12: Christina being beautiful and our visit to Prizren!

June 13: Ushqimi! Little Messi!

June 14: PCT Sam’s yard!

June 15: I tried to teach myself Shqip by reading Harry Potter… it’s harder than it looks!

June 16: Medical visit to Skopje!

June 17: Walking home!

June 18: Village kids being active!

June 19: Practicum

June 20: A canoe is not a boat.

June 21: We visited a Serbian Orthodox monastery!

June 22: Town carnival!

June 23: A lesson I taught!

June 24: Final day of practicum!

June 25: My talented friend and the day we learned our permanent sites!

June 26: Bros playing piano together!

June 27: Meeting our host families and off to site visits!

June 28: First full day visiting site!

June 29: It’s beautiful isn’t it?! That sunset!

June 30: Me being an idiot! And also I waited 2 months to try the KFC in Kosovo!

June 31: I got to see my favorite Kosovar artist, Capital T, live!

Faleminderit dhe shihemi me vonë!

Muzikë Monday #3

This week’s Muzikë Monday is dedicated to my ten year old host sister who listens to this song at least five times a day at full volume!

When I first got here I kept hearing about this “Çika Çika” song and everyone had strong feelings about it. So, being the pop music aficionado I am, I went to Ardian Bujupi’s YouTube account and gave it a listen. My instant verdict: BOP! (Also tell me why so many of my fellow PCTs don’t know what the word bop means!? I’m honestly disappointed)

Çika Çika is by Prishtina-born artist Ardian Bujupi. It always blows my mind to see these wildly successful artists making such great music coming from Kosovo. Not because Kosovo doesn’t have talent, but because it has so much—especially being a tiny little state hidden in the heart of Europe. I think the most interesting thing about Ardian Bujupi is that he was born in Kosovo, but moved to Germany as a baby. He embraces both his Shqiptar (Albanian) identity and his German identity and makes songs in both languages. I was fascinated to read the comments on his Albanian songs which were all in Albanian of course, and then the comments on his German songs which were all in German; showing that he has two completely different fan bases but still consistently makes hits that are true to his ethnic and national identities.

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.

Përhajr Bajrami!

For those of you who don’t know, Kosovo has a predominantly Muslim population (approximately 95%) and is one of ten Muslim countries that the Peace Corps has a presence in, which means I am lucky enough to experience a uniquely different culture than my own every single day!

As you can probably guess from the title, today is Bajram, which marks the end of Ramadan. But what is Ramadan exactly? Well, in the simplest terms possible, Ramadan is a month long event where Muslims fast (yes, even water is included in that) from sun up to sun down as a means to remain humble and feel closer to god.

Yesterday, I told my host father and uncle that I would like to attend the mosque for Bajram—to which I was told “Okay, we are waking up at 5” and then given a demonstration on how to pray. It was nearly midnight at that point but I knew I probably wouldn’t have another chance to experience Bajram in this kind of setting, so I went to bed and woke up bright and early!

My host dad overslept a bit, so he told me to go on my own and he would catch up later. So, I made my way down the street to the xhami (mosque in Albanian), removed my shoes, and walked through the front doors. I couldn’t find my host uncle that I had talked to the night before, but I did see a different uncle and cousin and decided to sit with them. It didn’t take too long to realize that there were only men in the xhami—and it seemed like the whole village turned up because the inside was so packed that we had to sit in the entry way to the mosque! Still, I was excited to take part in an important religious and cultural tradition with my family. I think I was expecting (from my own upbringing) more of an hour long church service, but found that prayer only lasted about fifteen minutes and then we were all on our way out the doors and back to our homes.

I was told a little bit about what to expect during Bajram from staff, but it was still strange to find my family constantly moving from one house to another to give our congratulations before I could even finish my snack or drink. We started at our own house and then stopped by my uncle’s house—where again, only the men joined us—and we were off again to the next house! It was nice to meet new people and practice my shqip. (Plus, I’m always down for snacks!)

My little host brother and I at our first stop of the day!

My family is more relaxed, so we didn’t travel outside of our road to visit people, but I was perfectly okay with that considering how little sleep I got the night before. And I’m happy that my fellow Peace Corps trainees Matt and Kelly (who are my cousins via host families) were able to come over and enjoy dinner and conversation with us! The two things that I think I love most about Kosovar culture are: 1) the food and how it brings us together and 2) how important family is and our bonds with one another after only one week.

Overall, I had a very nice experience during Bajram. I have only been in my village for one week, and yet I’ve learned so much about Kosovo, its culture, people, food, language, and religion. There is nothing in the world I would trade for this experience. Përhajr Bajram/Eid Mubarak!

Muzikë Monday

Seeing as it’s Monday evening here in Kosovo and I loooove me some Albanian music, I decided to start a weekly post dedicated to Albanian music that I’m currently loving and a little bit about it!

If you know me then you know I’m obsessed with the Albanian/Kosovar rapper Capital T! In particular, his song with singer/rapper Majk called Pasha Jeten.

Capital T was born in Prishtina when it was still part of Yugoslavia, which is now the capital of current day Kosovo!

Without further ado, here is the bop known as Pasha Jeten here in Kosovo!

A Day Trip to Novobërdë

On Friday I met with my cohort in Kamenica where we all got on a bus to Novobërdë! I’m not a historian, but the quick rundown about Novobërdë is that it is a small town in the north of Kosovo which houses a medieval fortress and is now an archaeological site.

After a reaaaally scary ride up a windy mountain road (where the bus rolled back a few feet, causing me to have a mini heart attack and my friend Christina to laugh at said mini heart attack) we made it to a restaurant that I’m blanking on the name of right now. The waiters must not see many Americans because I noticed one of them recording us all for the ‘Gram. I didn’t mind though because it makes me feel famous. And also their food and bread was delicious! After eating, my friends and I snapped a couple of cute pictures and went back on our way to the fortress!

I didn’t snap any photos, but I also got to see the inside of a mosque for the first time. I’m excited to actually attend with my family during Bajram!

Our final stop of the trip was to the mausoleum of a Serbian saint named Saint Lazar. There is a legend that says if you flip over a tile on the roof of the mausoleum you will be married within six months! Now, I’m not a superstitious person, but I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. Here’s to getting married!