Muzikë Monday #6

I’ve got love for days! (for this song!)

I recently read about this up and coming artist named Mimoza while browsing through Reddit and was intrigued because I knew that Mimoza is an Albanian name. So I decided to look her up, and sure enough she is from Kosovo! I think it’s incredibly odd but also inspiring that so many amazing popstars are coming out of Kosovo these days. Odd because Kosovo is a tiny little post-communist country that you could drive across in about two hours and is incredibly traditional. But inspiring to see the successes of these young women when compared to the reality of life here in a post-war setting.

Anyway, let your ears and eyes enjoy this cute song and music video!

Mimoza – Love For Days

Happy Halloween from Kosovo

If you know me, you know I LOVE Halloween. I’m not into horror movies or those scary mazes where men in masks chase you with fake chainsaws, but I do love dressing up and partying with my friends! For the past three years, I’ve hosted Halloween parties back home and there was no way that I would let being in a foreign country that doesn’t even celebrate Halloween stop me from carrying out my tradition.

So with the help of my good friend, Audrianna, we started planning a Halloween party via WhatsApp. (Quick Detour: Audrianna has a little stuffed gnome named Radar that she takes everywhere with her here in Kosovo and he is highly regarded amongst all PCVs here). We joked about making the theme of the party Radar and set a strict dress code: you MUST dress as Radar or a gnome to be granted entry to the party.

So the Friday before Halloween, we all met up in Prishtina and decided to begin our holiday festivities with some fun pumpkin carving!

Me trying not to get stabbed
Christina and a pumpkin head

After pumpkin carving at the pub, we returned to our apartment to decorate and get all dressed up for the party!

Audrianna and I
Katie, Radar, and Me

I’ve only known these people for five months, but I’m so happy they spent one of my favorite holidays with me—just being silly and enjoying each other’s spooky company.

Now it’s time to get to work on next year’s Halloween party theme!

I Went To Prizren Again

As lucky as I am for living in a bigger city in Kosovo, I really don’t like to spend my weekends here. I could never be what PCVs call a “site rat;” someone who never leaves their site.

Typically I like to meet up in Prishtina with my friends because there are a lot of good restaurants, cafes, and people there! But this past weekend we figured we’d try something new and head to Prizren!

If you’ve been here before, you know the last time I went to Prizren I got stranded there… but not this time, friends!

My best friend Christina wanted to get there early so I needed to catch the 8:00 bus. My issue? I didn’t even get out of bed until 7:40. I am… in the nicest way to myself… incredibly lazy and a procrastinator! I didn’t even have time to pack my bag so I shoved whatever I thought I needed for the night in my backpack and set off to the bus stop. And by set off I mean I half ran half power walked.

However! I did make it on time! Although it was probably less of a “on time” and more of a “the bus was late” kind of situation. Either way, I made it and off we went to pick up my best friend and then to Prizren!

When we arrived, we both immediately ran into the “Rita Ora Pizzeria” and started dying laughing. Rita Ora nor her family own this restaurant. She doesn’t endorse it. Nor do I believe she’s ever been there. But it was so funny to see so we of course took pictures.

Then we went to the bank because as PCVs we do not make much money so when we get paid it’s like Christmas every month (and I literally only had enough cash to take the bus into Prizren). There, we ran into three other PCVs who were in Prizren for the day and we accidentally became triplets!

Me, Christina, and Joan!

Apparently many other PCVs had the same idea as us because we ran into even more friends at a cafe!

My beautiful friends Va and Christina

It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go to KFC for lunch (also a major driving force in the decision to visit Prizren). I’ve said it so many times before and I’ll continue to say it. KFC Kosova is delicious and a beautiful reminder of home! And it’s also a nice change from eating bread all day every day.

I am Colonel Sanders now

After lunch, we went to another cafe because that’s what you do in Kosovo. And I hung out with my very favorite PCV and gnome, Radar!

So, there’s a fountain in the middle of Prizren that holds some magical powers. They say if you drink from it, you will be married within six months. I drank from it back during PST when I visited Prizren for a minority community visit—eager to get married to a beautiful Albanian. What I didn’t think about though was that I had also done another ritual that promises a marriage at Novo Brdo! Which, to me, means they cancelled each other out! I can’t take any risks so, being the romantic I am, I took another drink from the fountain to cancel out the original cancelation!

I won’t give the boring details of our dinner plans, but I will tell you about how my good friend Matt and I were poisoned at a restaurant!!! Okay okay that’s a bit dramatic. We were; however, served habanero paste in large quantities and nearly had our faces melted off! Matt and I immediately went down to the bathroom and started rinsing our mouths and nasal passages out with the tap water. I remember being so confident when the chili was served to me. Even going so far as to say “I’m Mexican. I can handle it!” Boy, was I wrong wrong wrong!

We survived! And we eventually made it back to our Airbnb for the night. Faces in tact and good times still to be had.

I always have such a great time when I’m with my beautiful friends! They make Prizren just a little more beautiful, don’t they?

The Time I Became a Peace Corps Volunteer

As most of you know by now, all Peace Corps services start with a 2-3 month long training we call PST (pre-service training). Mine was ten weeks and it was full of education, exposure to Kosovar culture, and lots and lots of stress!

But stress aside, it all culminated into this life-changing moment… becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer!

Look mom! I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer!

The day technically started with me finishing packing (stuffing all of my clothes, books, and other random stuff into three bags) at 2 AM and waking back up at 5:30 AM! I showered, got all dressed up, and with the help of my amazing host dad lugged all three bags down to the center of my village for pick up to Swearing In!

Me looking as cute as I can for running off of minimal sleep

We arrived in Prishtina a little late so it was go! Go! Go! once we finally got to the venue. Soon after arriving, we were given our Peace Corps pins!

And then we met the U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie!

(Most of) my cohort with our Country Director and the Ambassador!

The ceremony started and I felt nothing but pride for my own, as well as my friends’, accomplishments so far. We heard speeches from our Director of Programming and Training, our Country Director, the U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo, and the Kosovar Minister of Education.

Then, we took our oaths and officially became Peace Corps Volunteers!

I had the honor and privilege to deliver a speech at our Swearing In ceremony with my good friend, Michaela. I knew I wanted to deliver the speech since my first day in this country. And it was important for me to highlight our differences as Americans from my very first sentence. We talked about our differences, but also how united we are both because of and despite our backgrounds. And how welcomed and loved we have all felt every day in Kosovo since the very first step off the airplane in Prishtina. Oh! And probably the most interesting part of it all…we delivered it solely in Albanian!

After the ceremony, Michaela and I did small interviews with local news and then I proceeded to stuff my face with hors d’oeuvres! We had a little over an hour to hang out with our PST host families and say our goodbyes. (And in my case, take a ridiculous amount of photos)

Myself, Dr. Darlene Grant, and Michaela
Me and my best friend, Christina!

I nearly cried twice that day. The first time was when I had to say goodbye to my host family; who I never expected to become so close with over the course of ten weeks. And again when I said goodbye to my Language and Cultural Facilitator, Valmira. She has been such a reliable teacher, resource, and friend to me here and I didn’t realize I would miss her so much already.

My wonderful PST host family minus my little sister
My misfit-filled PST language class and teacher, Valmira

In all, Swearing In was a major highlight of my service so far. It proved to myself and everyone else that all our hard work over these past couple of months has been well worth it. And as I sit in my new home at my permanent site typing this, I can’t help but to be hopeful for the future of this community and country.

Thank you to Peace Corps for seeing the potential in me to be a successful volunteer and change agent over these next two years. I hope I can make you all proud.