Thursday, December 30, 2004

What is going on??

Tsunamis in Asia, tornados in Los Angeles.... did anyone see The Day After Tomorrow? What's next? A major ice age?? I am so saddened by the utter devastation and loss from the past few days that I hardly feel like celebrating New Year's at all. This whole holiday season hasn't really felt like the holidays to me anyway. Maybe it's being away from home for the third year in a row. Maybe it's just feeling disconnected from everything. Maybe it's PMS. Who knows. Enough sad blathering.

On a more cheerful note - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JULIE!! And Happy New Year everyone. May only good things come all of our way in the year to come. I love you all so very much, and miss you ten times more.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Santa Ringing in the New Year

I learned yesterday that Santa is associated with the New Year here. So I can count on Mickey & Friends, as well as 1,000 skinny Santas until well into January. Sweeeet.

About the skinny Santas, it seems everyone in town has gone to the local drugstore and bought the 15 Euro Santa suit, and is standing on the street corner offering to pose for a picture with your kiddies. Anything to make a buck, I guess. After all the trouble I went through to find a Santa suit, now it seems like everybody has one. Whatever. (the bah humbuggedness is starting to set in... uh oh!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sidenote about the freakiness of Prishtina

Ok, so technically we're in a Muslim area, so there should be no Christmas stuff at all - right? ALLLL RIGHTY then, explain to me why there are Santa Clauses on every corner, street vendors with decorated trees, lights, tinsel, stockings, you name it - it's all here. As a matter of fact, across the street from my house is a giant styrofoam castle built by one of the banks with Santa and his helpers, Mickey and Goofy... three days after Christmas and its STILL there...

As with Halloween, Kosovars celebrate this American holiday as well. And as with Halloween, they just haven't quite got it all down yet. I'm grateful for it, don't get me wrong! If they didn't celebrate every possible holiday, I'd be really homesick right now. But it's just sort of funny to see a foreign twist on something so incredibly familiar. Anyway, I've taken some pics and I'll get them posted tomorrow.

Recovering from Christmas overdoses...

I have officially O.D.'d on food, wine and sweets... need sleep... This past week has been an absolute madhouse and terribly emotionally draining. Wednesday was the party, which took every ounce of energy I had to pull off, and then the "other" Christmas parties began. Thursday night had drinks with Oli (English guy that plays Ultimate with us) to send him away to England with a hangover... Sven joined us and things just got ugly. I'm not entirely sure, but I think we closed the Buddah Bar. Just on a side note, something terribly shocking happened - the Jager Girls showed up there. YEP! There are Jager Girls even in Kosovo. I was so wishing Annee was with me for that moment. She would have gotten as big of a kick out of it as I did (think my 30th birthday...I still have a Polaroid). Anyway, I made the mistake of eating some big heavy breakfast at 3 am, only to revisit it at 7 am. Eewww....

Friday night I had a small dinner party for my Political Science students at a really yummy restaurant, then a-dancing we went to Zanzibar. Once again, the band paid hommage to their friend from Texas, called me out to the crowd and sang Sweet Home Alabama for me. More rum... nearing liver failure at this point.

Saturday morning, Sven picked Travis and I up for a "brunch" at big Pat's house. I call him big Pat because the man is a giant - 6'6" and solid as a rock, however, sweet as pie. (He's another one I play Ultimate with, and you never want to see that frame come barrelling toward you at a full run. Drop the frisbee and duck for cover!) I made two pies that morning, on e pumpkin (thanks MOM!) and one apple for the occasion. Anyway, we got there at 11, thinking brunch by 1 at the latest... ok, well, we brought mimosas, which caused everyone to forget about food until at least 3, then we nibbled on some bread and cheese. Then Mark, the German, made some rum, sugar, wine, fruit concoction that made everyone forget about food for another 2 hours, then Pat stuck in a movie and we all proceeded to nap another 2 hours.... ANYWAY, "brunch" turned into a 9:30 DINNER! Much fun all the same, and by that point the food was GREAT.

Sunday was recovery day, which I took full advantage of by getting every muscle poked and prodded at the Thai massage place for an hour. *sigh* It was awesome.

SO the emotionally draining bit was missing family all the same, even though I kept myself busy busy busy... I got to spend two hours talking with them on-line on Christmas day though - thank goodness for modern technology!! Then night before last, the news of the earthquake in Indonesia hit me. Some of you already know I have a very close friend living there right now. It took two days to get any news, so I was a bit of a basket case for a while, but all is well - at least he's alive anyway. He says everyone there is walking around completely freaked out right now, and rightfully so. I've never seen anything so horrible in my life.

So that's what's going on with me these days. Sorry it's been so long. Thanks to all of you for your holiday warm wishes. I missed you all completely.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

We made the 6:00 news!!

The party was a SMASHING success. Not only did we have 52 rambunctious 8-year-old speaking 3 different languages, laughing and having an absolute blast, we also had about as many adults doing the same. The kids made tree ornaments and snow globes, visited with Santa, got a backpack stuffed full of goodies, sang Christmas songs, and generally got glitter and glue all over everything for two hours. FANTASTIC!!! The key thing here was that the kids were from different ethnic groups here in Kosovo. This was the first time most of these kids had ever seen someone from another ethnic group, much less played with them. It was so neat watching Serbian, Albanian and Roma children hanging out side by side working on the same activities. It just shows how much we learn to hate as we get older - at 8 years old there's still no prejudice against someone for their nationality, it's something they will learn as they get older. Hopefully with more community building activities like this one, the kids won't grow up with the same suspicions and fears their parents did. Anyway, so on top of it being really fun, we managed to garner all kinds of media attention. The event, including an interview with my smilling mug, made the 6:00 national news as well as 4 newspapers the next day. My little old landlord came knocking on my door the next morning "Mithchelle, Mitchelle - ju ju - televisore! Televisore!!", which I gathered to mean he saw me on TV the night before. He is so darn cute, I just want to pinch his cheeks. Anyway, I'm pretty proud of putting together an event that really pulled in the whole community like it did. Damn cool.

I'll have pictures posted soon, my camera was being used to take Santa photos (we printed them out for each of the kids to take home with them), so I have to gather from other sources first.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Snow snow snow

It's been threatening to do it for days now, and as I was walking home from dinner last night big fluffy white flakes came floating down. This morning I awoke to a light dusting of snow and very gray skies. *sigh* I can't begin to explain the joy and sadness this brings all at the same time. The snow is beautiful, but I feel so incredibly disconnected from everything familiar right now. Christmas is almost here, and none of it feels real. New Year's is next week, and I have no plans for the first time in years. I'm seriously going to miss my boys being at my house for New Year's this year... no party... boooooo! I've got a small case of Holiday-itis, I suppose.

I'm terribly worried about one group of my students. I only have them one day a week as it it, which most people know that is not enough for learning a language. They are my lowest level students, and really need the extra time. However, since the semester started late, we only had ten weeks to work with. In the last month, we've had 3 holidays on Mondays, cutting them down to seven weeks. Then I find out yesterday that the next two Mondays are also holidays, which means they get 8 hours of instruction and I'm supposed to give them a final exam and a grade. This just doesn't seem right. I've scheduled three make-up classes, but from past experience it seems that no one comes to these. I hope for their sake they decide it's worth it. It's really up to them at this point. I hope next semester will turn out a little better. I definitely won't schedule any classes on Mondays again. What a mess.

Well, I've got 16 essays to grade and last minute shopping for the party tomorrow to do. More later.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Busy little ELF

I have been working my little pointy ears off this past week. I had an idea for throwing a small Christmas party at the American Center for children. The idea was to bring kids from the three ethnicities in this city (Albanian, Serbian and Roma) together to learn about a 4th culture. It started as a small little party for 30 or so kids, and has blossomed into a mega-charity event, with corporate donations and media coverage. I can't believe it! So now we have 50 kids coming to make snow globes and Christmas tree ornaments, decorate the Christmas tree, sing Chrismas songs and visit with a multi-ethnic Santa Claus. I can't wait!! My students have volunteered to help wrangle all the kiddies, a local restaurant has donated all the food, another corporation has donated all the beverages and stuff, the U.S. Army donated all the gifts, the U.S. Office in Prishtina donated all the art supplies.. All of this, we've managed to pull off in two weeks! AMAZING. My hugest thanks to everyone who helped. I can't wait to post all the pictures.

And speaking of pictures, I've posted a new album from the Ultimate Frisbee Christmas party. Talk about insanity! It was one of the best parties I've been to since I've been here (Halloween withstanding).

Other than that, I realized this weekend, I've only got three weeks of class left before finals. WOW!!!! SO much work to do. Anyway, I have to run now... another meeting. I'll write Wednesday after the party. :D

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Student Blogs


I jut had to put a link to this in my blog. I am working with one group of students to write about their lives in a blog, and one student has decided to share her poetry, both in English and Albanian. I think it's beautiful. I hope you all do to. Click on the link above to go to her site.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

High today, 0 Celcius

Can that really be counted as a high?? Honestly. There is promise of snow and highs of -3 for the weekend. Oh boy! On the upside of that, I know some folks who have rented a house for the winter in nearby Bresnevica, a ski resort. I think I might actually attempt strapping a piece of fiberglass (or two) on my feet and learning how to do it right this year. With lift ticket prices at 15 euros, who could resist??

The weekend promises to be a good time, with two big Christmas parties, which I must go get ready for now. I'm in the process of planning a big Christmas party for disadvantatged kids with Santa, arts and crafts, and some Christmas carrol learning (have to throw the English lesson part in there somewhere...) and singing. Travis is going to play guitar, we're going to have a naked Christmas tree and the kids can make ornaments to hang on it, amongst some other activities - including a visit from Santa. IF I can find a Santa suit. Having some issues there. I have some connections with the National Theater, and I went to talk to the guy today about loaning me his Santa suit. As soon as he heard Amercian and American center, he wanted 100 Euros for 2 hours. Gee, thanks for the spirit of giving. I have a budget of about 200 Euros total to pull this off, so I guess Santa will have to be forgone. Dammit. I guess the promise of little gifts under the Christmas tree will be good enough. If things go as planned, one of the local NGO's that works with minority groups will be brining in a busload of Roma, Serbian and Albanian children under the age of 10 - about 50 of them... Lord help me! I am going to ask my students to volunteer to man the crafts tables.. Wish me luck!!

Ok, I really do have to go get ready now. I'm guest bartending at the Ultimate Frisbee Christmas party tonight. Now there's something right up my alley!

It's the little things...

You should have seen my face when I walked into the little market last night, and atop of the bin full of cauliflower, was broccoli!!!!!! Broccoli, o broccoli, may I sing your praises! Yes, I found fresh broccoli at the store yesterday evening, and I have been doing little private happy dances ever since. I made myself a big heaping pile of steamed broccoli with some chicken tikka masala (ok, I didn’t make that part) for dinner tonight… mmmmmmm!!!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Reality check

I can’t believe it’s already December. It seems like yesterday that I arrived here. No, really, it’s been three months. Tonight, it’s raining again. I have the metal shutters closed over my windows to keep the heat in, although it’s been damn warm for this time of year the past couple of days, and I have been lulled into staying home by the rhythmic plink plink plink of the raindrops. There was promise of a good party tonight, but somehow I can’t seem to pry myself out of my cozy little cave. I’m just not in the mood for socializing tonight. I watched The Deerhunter this afternoon, and it’s left me in a profound melancholy, pensive state of mind. It was like nothing affected these people. It was all so casual… “Oh we’re going to Vietnam tomorrow. Oh, we’re back except one of us lost his legs and most of his mind. Oh, Nick went nuts and shot himself in the head. God Bless America.” Nothing was the same but everything was at the same time. Something about that last scene really got to me. It seems like people that endure so much become absolutely numb and completely indifferent to the truly horrific. From my own experience, I can only compare it to the people here. When they talk about the war, it’s like it happened to someone else, like it was no big deal, like it happens everyday, because it did happen every day. A friend today was telling me a story about his life before the war. His family was very poor and they struggled for everything that they had. A group of men from his village needed to go into the woods to cut firewood for the upcoming winter, because firewood is not one of those things you go to the store and buy – you go cut it out of the forest. Except no one was allowed to be there - the woods were full of rebel soldiers and Serbian police. His job was to scout ahead and direct the cutters to unoccupied areas of the forest. One day he got caught by four armed policemen, and managed to talk his way out of it, saying he was looking for his lost cow in the woods. They let him go eventually, but held a gun on him until he was 100 meters down the road. He carefully circled back through the woods and got his people out of there. They could have just as easily shot him on the spot and no one would have been the wiser. 20,000 people are still missing from that war. I can’t even begin to imagine what these people have been through, it's like some kind of alternate reality. People’s adaptability to their environment is astounding to me. We moan and complain about taxes and inflation and unemployment, as if we have it bad, as if we truly suffer (And I know I’m guilty of it too.). We don’t know the meaning of the word. Living here is such an unbelievable reality check.

Through all the suffering and madness of the last five years these people are fiercely protective of their homeland, their way of life, their disappearing existence. For all the assistance the international community has given to Kosovo, it is also quickly eroding hundreds of years of traditions and values, as their society moves into the 21st century with the rest of the world. Some don’t even recognize that it’s happening to them, while others are deeply troubled by it, clinging to some last bastion of a memory of the way things used to be. Progress - it’s a strange thing. The Old World and the New World merging and becoming one… But at what price?

Ok, I’m getting myself all into a tizzy here. I’m going to stop for now, ponder the meaning of life some more, and get back to you when I come up with an answer better than 42. If anyone has any suggestions…

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Experimenting on my students

or with my students, really.... I've challeneged my Advanced Journalism students to start a Blog instead of keeping a dialog journal. We spent an hour in the computer lab today to get everyone up and running. I am really looking forward to seeing what they choose to write about, and how the themes will develop over time. Although I have left the topics open (they can wrtie about whatever they want), but made it mandatory that they post twice a week. I really hope this goes well. It could make for an very cool presentation at the next regional teacher's conference! I have some incredibly creative and funny students, so it there should be some interesting reading. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Gobble Gobble! Part II

I did it!!! See???? I told you I'd beat that oversized chicken!!

Thanksgiving Dinner was a huge hit with the students. Much feasting, much wine, much talking... all good stuff.

Not feeling like writing much tonight... half sick, and a lot homesick. Holidays in strange places will do that to you. I'm drowing my sorrows in a movie fest on my newly purchased DVD player. A complete waste of time, but it's almost as good as comfort food on a day like today. Hmmm, speaking of comfort food, I think I'm going to go warm up some leftover stuffing...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving!! I have invited 6 students to my house for Thanksgiving dinner tonight. I managed to find a turkey that wasn't still alive and gobbling, and amidst the electricity cuts, I'm attempting to roast the thing. It really looks more like a large chicken, as Butterball 20 lb. turkeys really don't exist here, but it ought to be enough to feed us all. This is my first turkey(Yes, Mom, I remembered to take the giblet package out of the middle.), and I have spent the morning wrestling with the naked bird in the sink trying to get the legs out from under that little falp of tail skin so I could stuff it. If I'd had a bigger sink, it would have gone flying onto the floor at some point, I'm sure. Getting the legs out wasn't nearly as difficult as the little dance I had to do to get the legs back UNDER that little flap of skin without losing all the stuffing inside the bird. The bird had a slight edge over me for a minute, but I prevailed and it's now in the oven.

On another note, I have a very large, grapefruit sized black bruise directly to the left of my tailbone right now. I'm pretty sure I may have cracked it, as sitting is not the most comfortable of things today. Back up to last night... I'm makng an apple pie and suddenly realize all the baking spices I thought I had with me (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc...) have mysteriously disappeared. I decided to go on a mission. I got two steps outside my building to the small flight of stairs that leads to the plaza. Most of the ice and snow is gone and it's been relatively safe to walk around... so I thought. Say hello to a little concept called "Black Ice." It's either so thin that you can't see it, or it's absorbed as much dirt as the ground around it so it looks like there's no ice there. I set one careless little foot on the stairs, did the "I'm an ungraceful skater" arm-waving, foot running Flintstone thing for about 3 seconds, then bounced down the stairs on my posterior.. BAM... BAM.... BAM!!! Two girls that were coming from the other way saw me start to go, shouted something in Albanian, then as I hit my finally resting point gave a loud, cringing "Dohhhhhh!" I couldn't get up. I sat there wallowing in self pity and fighting back the stinging tears of shame for a while until the throbbing died down a little. To make matters worse, on the way down I must have jabbed my elbow into my thight muscle because it's been cramped up with a big knot in it ever since. Anyway, once I peeled myself off the ground (it required an extra large spatula), I made it to the store. Not only did I score the needed spices, the lady gave me a chart with all the major spice names in Albanian, English and Serbian. It was completely worth the ass-bruising just for that!!

So battered and sore, I tackled the turkey battle this morning. And won.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ay ay ay...

Working on hour 16 with no power. I have to tell ya, if it continues like this, this winter is gonna BLOW! Yesterday was pretty bad - 4 hours on, 2 hours off. Then about 10pm it came back and I was expecting to be warm through the night. Then inexplicably just before midnight, kablooie, pitched into darkness yet again. So far, it's still not back on and it's 3:15 in the afternoon. I got an update from a friend that works for the power commission that said something major blew in the two power stations last night - the first one at 10, the second just before midnight, but that things should be up again by noon. Guess they were a little off in that estimate.

Let me remind you that all heat here is electricity based. There are no gas lines in Kosovo, so unless you want a volitile cannister of propane in your living room, you make do. My heater, while it is full of bricks that store up heat for power outtages, has not had any sort of stimulation for nearly a day now. It takes it a full two days to get up to speed to begin with, so now that it's been off for 16 hours, it's a little freakin' cold around here. Hey hey, Hazel just called and her power's back on... I guess I'm going to head to her place for some hot tea and bacon sandwiches and ... HEAT! Wish me warm thoughts.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Side note...

Just in case you were wondering... Ultimate Frisbee rocks! Enough said.

It snowed.. for real this time...

It snowed like crazy last night. I sat in my bed with the curtains open watching huge flakes swirl around and around in the streetlight outside my window. This morning I woke up to a white blanketed world. Although it is sunny today, and a bit warmer, I think the white stuff is here to stay from now until March. It's really beautiful...

View from my balcony last night

It hasn't sunk in yet that Jessica left. Did I mention that yet? Jessica, my sista, my friend, my little Kosovo soulmate, went home on Wednesday. I've been really busy, so I haven't had time to notice the little things, but I'm starting to feel it a bit. No one has come to my door in a panic, or just because, in days. I don't have a partner in crime, and even worse, I don't have that person that completely understands how lonely it can be here, even when you're surrounded by people you know. She e-mailed me from San Fran today. Lucky dog, I'm so jealous.

Greece Part II

Well, I got over being homesick and took full advantage of the opportunity of havng ocean around me. Saturday night we all went to the only disco in town, which was creatively named DISCO, and took over the place. Literally. We were taking pictures of random people's birthday parties, having drinks with the owner, doorman, bartender, locals... whatever... having a blast. Suddenly at 2:30 there was a mass exodus to the door, and we were left standing there, just the four of us and the staff. We asked the DJ to play a Donna Summer song for us, for who can go to a place called DISCO without hearing "Last Dance" as you're ushered out the door? They didn't play just one song... oh no... we got a full set and had a 4 man dance competition to see who had the cheesiest moves. Take a look at the pics, and you can be the judge. :D When we finally left the club, the rain had stopped, the wind was calm, and it seemed warm enough for a little moonlight skinny dip. HEAVEN. Phil was a bit chicken, and stayed behind to guard our clothes as Jess, Travis and I made straight for the water. It felt so good to swim in the ocean! I'm not quite sure what the hotel owners thought of us all trapsing in at 3:30 in the morning dripping wet. They did give us their private number to call when we were coming back, so we must not have made that bad of an impression. Anyway, there's no pics of that event, sorry kids.

The next morning we got up and headed out to a new destination. While we were shopping for souvenirs in Paralia we saw this postcard of a place called Meteora, with clifftop monasteries. It turned out it was less than 2 hours away, so we packed up and headed out. We made the decision to stop in Dion along the way to see some ancient Greek ruins. But alas our plans were thwarted. We made it to Dion, but as I stepped out of the car, I managed to plop my flip-flop clad feet into a huge patch of stinging nettle, and my feet were instantly covered in blisters and felt like I had stuck them into a pile of burning coals. We made for the nearest cafe to beg for help for my poor little toesies. After much gesturing and groaning someone finally figured out what was going on and scurried off to find help. I took two steps in the same direction, and learned that rain, marble steps and flip-flops don't mix. My feet went out from under me and I fell on my ass down the stairs and into a puddle. The day was not going well. However, within a couple of minutes, the man who had scurried off came back with a cotton ball with some magic poition on it, swabbed my feet, and they instantly stopped burning. Thank god! I wanted to die up until that moment. After that, we asked how far it was to the ruins - 500 meters, and we couldn't drive there. We gave up on Dion, and carried on, ruins be damned.

It was soooooo worth it. It rained the whole way to Meteora, but just as we were getting close, the clouds broke for a moment, and the most amazing rainbow I've ever seen appeared. It was full spectrum, and we could see it from end to end, it looked like it was touching the ground right next to us. Incredible. My picture doesn't do it justice, I couldn't even get a 1/4 of it in the shot. As we were driving up to Meteora, the landscape just got prettier and prettier. Out of the plains sprang giant cliffs, and unbelievable rock formations (made me wish I had my climbing shoes wit me). The postcards just didn't deliver half of what we saw. I was stunned by this place. On the tops of these giant rocks 14-15th century monasteries were perched. We drove up to the top and hike up to one, but it was closed for the day. We spent some time driving around to the different monasteries, determining whihch one's we would come back to the next morning, then headed down the mountain about halfway to a little bed and breakfast. The view from this place was stunning - see sunrise pics from my balcony... This place was family owned and run, and dinner was prepared by the owners mother. If you ever had a picture inyour head of what an old Greek woman would look like, she would be it! The owner himself, who we nicknamed "Zorba", was a nutcase. Very kind to us, but also very opinionated. He made us promise about 50 times to write to Let's Go and Lonely Planet to tell them about his hotel. Of course we will!! We got up early the next morning, picked three monasteries (I would attempt to describe it, but there's just no way.. see the photos), did our little tour, and then made the drive from hell back to Prishtina. Definitely one of the best weekends I've ever had in my entire life. I am so lucky to be doing all of this.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Beach Woes

I should be the happiest girl on the planet right now, but instead I feel melancholy and sad. I am in Paralia, Greece, a sleepy little beach town on the Agean, staying in a hotel right on the beach with a balcony that overlooks the ocean. I am so homesick for LA and my friends right now, I could just cry. The smell of the salt air, the sand under my feet, the sound of the waves crashing on the beach.... all heavenly, and tugging at my heartstrings all at once. I didn't realize I was so attached to the ocean until today. I love it. I need it. I misssssss it.

Some other observations about this town... it reminds me a lot of Hermosa before they tore up Pier Avenue and turned it into the hotspot promenade that it is now. Small, quaint, not a lot to do but eat and hang out at the beach. However, the main difference between Hermosa and here is the never ending row after row of shops selling nothing but fur coats. There's at least 100 of them. It's insane. The street looks like this.... fur shop, fur shop fur shop, restaurant, fur shop fur shop fur shop fur shop, fruit stand, fur shop fur shop fur shop fur shop, hotel, fur shop fur shop.... Seriously. Who need all this fur? You can walk from one end of town to another in 10 minutes. It's only about 12 square blocks.... Nuts.

Well, Travis, Phil, Jessica and I are about to go eat dinner and maybe if we put the boys to bed early, do a little moonlight skinny dipping in the Agean. It's gotta be done. You can't come to a place like this and leave without a skinny dip. I think there's a law somewhere, there's gotta be!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ahhhhh.. to see the ocean

We are going to Greece. Tomorrow. YEAH!!!!! I get to see the ocean, and weather permitting take a little dip. I can't wait - salt air, sand between my toes... *sigh* what beauty! I'm getting a pedicure tomorrow morning in celebration. :D

In other news, I met with my department chair at the university tonight and he said that the students really like my classes. Whew! That's good news since I basically am winging it right now. It's actually going pretty good, I'm learning new ways of weaving things together and making it all make sense in the end. It's a learning experience for everyone. I feel a little sorry for my students, being my first guinnea pigs and all, but I'm sure they'll come out without too much damage in the end.

Other than that, it's business as usual. I'll post pics of Greece next week, promise! I just found a new wireless internet cafe... 20 feet from my front door. THANK YOU!!! It also boasts the best hot chocolate in town. mmmm Spanish style, thick and rich and yummy! No churros to go with it, but they do give you a little tin of chocolate shortbread cookies that are to die for. Concessions and adaptations, I say. So anyway, love you all, miss you more!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Changes with the seasons... new hair, new husband...

I got really brave and got my hair cut and colored today. I gotta tell ya... these people have an entirely different idea of what "appointment" means. I had a 1 pm appointment. I didn't eat lunch beforehand, thinking I would be out of there by 2:30 tops. By 2:45, I still was waiting, and getting a little antsy. (BIGThanks to my dearest Jessica for keeping me company while waiting.) Everytime I asked if he was almost done, "oh yes... just 5 more minutes". Since when does 5 minutes mean 2 hours??? Anyway, I finally got in the chair at 2:45 and didn't get out of there until after 5 pm. Needless to say I was ready to eat a horse, but at least I'd look good doing it! I went for a new color scheme this time, lightened things up a bit, and am now a light brown with copper and blonde highlights. Love it! It was time for a change - gotta go with the seasons, dontcha know.

On another note, got asked out by a very odd German fellow tonight. He's in my salsa group, and has been struggling to even keep the beat, much less actually dance. I guess I'd done or said something last week that lightened his mood when he was really having a bad day, so today he brings me a book of Victorian poetry and asked me to dinner. Hmmm.... I managed to tell him I was married (aparently to a handsome fella in Indonesia, to borrow someone else's little white lie) and wiggled out of there early before he had a chance to push the issue. Evidently that wasn't a very smart move either since most people here are working away from their families, telling someone you're married doesn't mean squat - it's almost more of an invitiation (shows what I know). The worst part... I don't even know his name.... does that make me a horrible person? I so don't want to hurt his feelings, but I don't want to go out of pity either. Arg! Help!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

First Snow

It snowed today, or so I hear. I missed it completely. It's now a very nasty cold and rainy night, but at some point today there were flakes. Real flakes! I know I sound silly, but for a girl from Texas who maybe saw snow once a year for a few hours, that then spent 8 years on the beach in LA, I'm a little excited about seeing some white stuff on the ground. I will probably be changing my tune in a few weeks, when I'm sick of the shit, but for now... I wanna make a snowman!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Amendment to earlier posting...

Just found out that the hairball wasn't actually hair. It was this stuff that plumbers use to seal the pipes. He evidently left a year's supply behind on my sink. I am actually a little comforted by this knowledge. I really didn't like thinking that some amazon woman had shed virtually all the hair on her head into my drain. The thought just gives me the heebie jeebies.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just had to share

I've been having problems with water seeping out from under my bathtub lately, so I called my landlord who promptly sent a plumber over while I was at work. When I returned, this is what was sitting on my sink... evidently there was an incredibly hairy blond living here before me. Is that disgusting, or what? And WHY did the plumber leave it on the sink for me to deal with?? Ugh!


So Bush is President again. Wow. I really didn't think he would win, and I definitely didn't think he'd win by such a large margin. Jessica and I stayed up all night watching coverage on CNN - we got the live feed from the US on satellite. It was incredible how careful they were this time about their projections. I only wish it hadn't been in the middle of the night, I would have loved to have used it in class for discussion.

The truly interesting thing to watch was world reaction. The pre-coverage on BBC World and CNN International was basically nothing but a Bush-bashing session, with reporters trying to goad world leaders and their spokespeople into saying negative things about Bush. The most notable was Chirac's statement that "there could be no reconciliation with the U.S. under the Bush administration." Immediately after it became apparent that Bush would be re-elected, his song changed completely and he said that it was necessary to rebuild allegiances with America. Wha??? And they accused Kerry of being wishy washy. Pssha.

I can't say that I'm ok with Bush being re-elected. I think the economy is in the toilet, and will continue to decline. The dollar is at an all-time low against the Euro, which once again is screwing me up financially. (Not anything to worry about, but in the two months I've been here my rent has increased 10%.) The majority of the world still hates Americans, which puts me in a precarious position travelling outside of Kosovo, where we are adored. I'm scared about women's rights, gay and lesbian rights, personal freedoms and who he might appoint to the Supreme Court. There's so much at stake this time around. I only hope that after the next four years, we are still living in an America that we recognize and that protects our freedoms and rights. I guess only time will tell.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Singin' the blues with Janis

I'm sitting here listening to Janis Joplin (I do love her!) after salsa class and two glasses of wine, and wondering what hell tomorrow may bring. The election. I am a little nervous - it's such a close race this time, at least in the polls. We won't really know until tomorrow. I have planned all of my lessons tomorrow around coverage of the event, because it will be an event I am sure. The media won't let this circus go unnoticed. Too bad I'm not in LA for this one... I mean seriously, it sprinkles there and they launch Storm Watch 2004 - and if you think I'm kidding, ask an Angelino. I can't imagine what titile they'll come up with for the elections... Burning Bush 2004, Scary Kerry Vigil, Battle of the Brainless, Showdown at the White House.... who knows. All I know is that Jessica and I are heading to the *new* Mexican food restaurant in town and having a couple of stiff margies, and then gluing ourselves to the TV to await our fate. Another 4 years and we may all give up our passports. It's amazing to me, I don't honestly know one person (outside of a small faction of my family) that is voting for Bush, so who is this mysterious 49% he has in the polls? After much discussion, we've decided that only Democrats pack up and move overseas. Whether that's out of disgust with the administration, or the true goodie-goodie-gotta-help someone-ness of Democrats, is unknown at this time. I'll get back to you after further investigation. I'm not going to tell anyone how to vote, just get out there and do it. Speak your peace, give your opinion, make a difference, feel better about yourself for taking part... VOTE, dammit!

Halloween in Kosovo

Halloween has been imported to Kosovo, except the kids don't really get it. Instead of trick or treating and expecting candy, they come asking for raw eggs. Then they go back out to the streets, which are totally mobbed with kids from 5 - 15, and chuck them at each other. The plaza in front of my apartment building was slimy with egg last night. This group of girls went to Hazel's house, and asked her for eggs. Hazel was a little puzzled by this, since she hadn't been outside yet. She went back inside and got 3 egss, one for each kid. After the first two, the third girl said, "No thanks, I've already got one." and patted her jeans pocket, and promptly squashed the egg. "OH NOOOOO!!" Really funny.

We had our own Halloween festivities at Jessica's house on Saturday night. Evidently the gay population here doesn't really have any place to go and be open about it, so Jess gave them an outlet. The theme was crossdressing, and man, there were some beautiful women(?) at this party. And some not so beautiful - a little scary at best. The whole thing was an absolute blast though. We tossed everyone out at about midnight and went to a couple of clubs from there... in costume, which raised some eyebrows as most of the older kids don't really "do" Halloween. I obviously picked the wrong costume.. I went as a black-eyed pea (that's my standard no-money, no-effort costume). You put a big p on your shirt and black out one eye.... Apparently the domestic violence problem here is a big one, and people didn't get the pun, as they don't know what black eyed peas are, so I just looked like a battered woman with the scarlet letter on her shirt. Oh well. One of the guys with us kept teasing me, telling me I should have listened and that I was lucky the other eye wasn't black. Ha Ha. I'll post pictures soon, hopefully this afternoon.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Antenna thief aprehended

Not really, but the antenna has been replaced at Strip Depo and I have my free internet connction back. YEAH! So now the pics from Peja are up and I promise pics from the rest of October will be posted soon. I meant to post them today, but I have had meeting after meeting and am on my way to another one right now. Perhaps tomorrow, if I'm not too busy trying to come up with a Halloween costume for Jessica's party on Saturday night. Any good ideas??

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ironies of Kosovo

So there's enough water to hose down the streets of the entire city every night, but they shut the water off in buildings at 11 p.m. Hmmmm....

There's electricity 24-7 the week before the elections here, but the day after, the power is out for two or three hours at a time. Hmmmmm......

The people here are so kind and generous to foreigners, Americans in particular, but they will spit on their neighbor for the sheer fact that they were born different ethnicity. Hmmmm.....

Internet access is readily available, every home has a sattelite dish, everyone dresses like they are in a fashion show, and everyone has the latest, fanciest cel phones, but 70% of the population is unemployed. Hmmmm....

We went to Bondsteel, the big American KFOR base, today for a meeting. Army food these days is surprizingly good. I got a big fat salad with RANCH dressing - sheer heaven. I snuck 2 extra packets into my purse for emergencies. Don't underestimate the power of ranch dressing on a person's happiness. (If anyone reading this has enough kindness in their heart to mail me a few packets of ranch dressing mix, e-mail me and I'll give you a U.S. address you can send it to that will get to me). I also went back for seconds of fresh broccoli and green beens. MMMMM. Vegetables. About the only thing you can get here with any regularity is cabbage, some kind of zucchini-like squash, cauliflower and red peppers. Potatoes and onions are already a staple of my diet, but a little variety doesn't hurt, don'tcha know.

Ok, it's late and I have more meetings tomorrow. I am a meeting goddess these days. Must go to bed. G'nite all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Catching up

It feels like it's been a million years since I posted anything, even though it's really only been a week. The connection is still down at my coffee shop, so still no pics... sorry. But I did get the story on why it isn't working - someone actually climbed onto the roof of a 10 story building and stole the antenna. ??? seriously.... Hopefully it will be back up and running soon.

So what's happened to me this week... I went out with Jessica last Thursday, and we were on a mission to raise hell. Mission accomplished. What started out as dinner, turned into "well, let's stop by this party, and that party and this one too...." and then it was 2 am. Yikes. I knew the day I met her that we'd get in trouble hanging out together, and I was happily right about that one! She's my sista' from another mista', I swear. However, in the sad way that things go around here with all these circumstantial friends thrown together by chance, she finishes her teaching assignment in two weeks and is going back to the States. Another one down. God, it really gets depressing sometimes.

On a lighter note, I went back to Skopje this weekend for the Jazz Festival, which was absolutely phenomenal. Not only were the scheduled performances fantastic, the unexpected ones were too. A latin jazz band played first, and invited people to dance in an open area in front of the stage. A little girl about 8 or 9 decided to take them up on it, but instead of dancing in the open area, she jumps up ON the stage with the band and proceeds to give the performance of a lifetime. I have never seen such pure unadulterated joy - spinning, kicking, and general booty shakin'. She was all over the stage, running around behind the band, in front of the whole thing, striking poses, just giving it her all. The band could hardly hold it together, they were trying so hard not to laugh. They just let her go... it was beautiful. To have that sense of fearlessness again would be bliss. How is it that people grow up to be so cynical and cruel, when they start out so free? When do we actually lose that sense of joy? Hm. Something to ponder and get back to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Pejafest 2004

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Wow, so what’s new in my world…. Lots I guess. I finally started teaching this week, and despite my fears of sucking at it, I’m truly enjoying it. My students are really bright and want to work hard – at least that’s what I’m finding in the first week. Let’s see if anyone actually does their homework assignments. I guess that will give me a better idea of whether or not they’re actually going to work hard, or if they’re just saying that to appease me.

Last weekend was Pejafest 2004 – Travis had Phil and I down to his place in Peja. I’ve posted a few pictures of this town before, but they just didn’t do it justice. Peja is situated at the foot of some big mountains(2,500 meters) that seem to spring out of nowhere. A five minute walk out of town and you’re in the mountains. We took good advantage of that Sunday morning and took a 2 hour hike up to into the foothills that overlook the entire city. Heavenly! On top of that, there’s also Rugova Gorge that runs through the middle - a newly repaved, winding highway drives along the edge of breathtaking cliffs and tree covered hillsides. We got up Saturday morning with the intention of hiking through it, but since it was raining for the 6th straight day, we drove instead. I am kind of glad we did, as we got to go all the way to the end. Since it is October, and the dead of autumn, the trees are all changing colors. With the fog and mist from the rains, everything around us looked like an impressionist painting – fire tipped tree branches and all the colors melding into a swirling mass of natural wonder. Everywhere I looked I wanted to reach out and feel the texture of the paint, but I came away with only fingertips wet with mist and a feeling of awe for my first true autumn in many years. I can only hope that winter will be as inspiring, and not miserable. When we reached the end of the paved road, we were in a tiny village. Some of it had to have been Serbian, as there were burned out buildings there too. Din, Travis’ Albanian counterpart at the school where he teaches, took us walking through some of the local trails. I’m not sure if they were actually hiking trails or not, as we had to climb a couple of fences, and there were horses grazing in one of the pastures, and a shepherd and his flock in another. Whatever, the trail took us up and over some hills and back down along the river. I took some amazing photographs, and intended to post them today. However, the internet connection is down at my favorite little café, so it will have to wait until another day. Damn it. Look for them soon though. Here's a sneak peak...

Burned out house in a tiny village in Rugova Gorge

We learned another lesson during Pejefest – women are not welcome on the pool tables in Kosovo, at least in Peja. Friday night we went out to one bar to have a beer, and as soon as we walked in it was as if you could hear the needle screaming across the vinyl on the record player to a dead silence, and all eyes turned to us. Hello, Kosovo! We had a quick beer and decided to find other entertainment, which is how we wound up in the pool hall. When we first walked in, everyone was very welcoming, inviting “us” to play. It didn’t take long to find out that “us” meant Travis and Phil. I played one game, partnered with one of the Albanian guys, who wasn’t doing so well. I kept telling him “nice try”, or something encouraging. But every time I missed a shot, it was “Jo mire, jo mire!” (no good, no good) If he had been joking around, fine, but the guy was just plain being rude – to the point where his friends were even telling him to chill out. I played one more game and decided it just wasn’t worth being treated like crap just for a pool game. The rules here are screwy anyway. How’s this for asinine: whatever pocket your last ball goes in, that’s where you have to shoot the 8-ball; slop counts; and on a scratch you can’t move the cue ball from the spot and you have to shoot at the bottom half of the table. Of course we didn’t know any of this when we started, we just got lectured after we broke a rule. Oh well. I guess my game is going to get progressively worse this year. Dammit.

This weekend is full of promising entertainment as I'm heading back to Skopje for JazzFest. Saturday night is a latin jazz combo followed by a rave-type drum and bass DJ set. Wahoo! I'm a little disappointed to be going away this weekend, as it is the Parliamentary Elections. On the same note, I am glad to be going away, as who knows what might happen. What's the happs on elections States side? I hope you all are going to vote!

Ok, gotta run, have rehearsals for Salsa tonight. Look, Mom, finally a dance recital you don't have to go to! :D

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Departing friends

I found George's shriveled carcass on the bathroom floor this morning. Bummer. I was just sort of getting used to him sitting on my head.

And on that note, another friend left today. Illya is heading back to Phoenix. It's strange how in a place like this you meet up with people and are instantly friends, despite differences in age, background or whatever. Circumstances make connections and there you have it - bam! New friends. It seems like everyone here is either just coming in or on their way out. Nobody really plans to stay here for ever - they come in with a project, work work work, and then whoosh - out they go. William and Ruby are leaving at the end of this month too, which will be my last
grasp on the American community here. Even though I am looking forward to moving away from the international community and into the local one, I will miss them dearly. They ahve been great support through this first month.

So last night we had a going away party for Illya/birthday party for another girl (pics to be posted soon) and wound up teaching the bartenders how to make Rusty Nails. I had a trainwreck of a headache today. Boo! The music was pretty entertaining though - picture a string quartet, with a bongo player and an electric bass, playing instrumental Lionel Ritchie tunes. Maybe that explains why I started drinking scotch....

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

New friend

I have a fly buzzing around my head. He's been here all freakin' day annoying the crap out of me. But it's raining outside, and cold as hell (and I still haven't figured out how to work my heater, so I'm sitting here in a scarf, a wool turtleneck and Ugg boots to stay warm) so I just can't bring myself to open up a window and shoo him out. I don't want to squish him, cuz that would just make a mess, and the lifespan of a fly is only about three days anyway, so what's the point, really? So I named him George. George is now sitting on my head. Great. New profession, fly perch. *sigh*

So here's my question... if a fly accidentally comes in your car window, and you drive about an hour away, do you think the fly gets out of the car thinking "Where in the hell am I???" Does he stick out his little fly thumb and try to hitch a ride back to familiar territory? You see why I feel like an idiot sometimes.... THESE are the things that prey on my mind. It's frightening, really.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Skopje, Macedonia

Just a quick note on my last post before moving on... I would like to thank both my parents for reassuring me that they never dropped me on my head, but reminding me that my father did drop a large tree branch on my head while trimming the trees in the front yard when I was two or three, resulting in a missing tooth for the next 3 years. Well that explains a lot!!

So, last weekend Travis and I went to Macedonia to visit the ELFs there. Now mind you, Macedonia is still one of the poorest countries in Europe, but it seemed like paradise to us. They have electricity 24-7, water all the time, hot water in the bathroom AND the kitchen. The streets are all paved, and the sidewalks even. There are streetlights, and it's not necessary to carry a flashlight at night. AMAZING!!! I find it funny how easily you can adapt to whatever living conditions you are in. I have just begun to take it for granted that I have to get home before 11 pm after Salsa classes in order to take a shower, and that I won't have electricity to dry my hair most mornings (I can plug my hairdryer into the inverter, but it only lasts long enough to get my bangs dry and then I'm without light - pick your battles). I actually used my little one burner camp stove this week to boil water for tea. Whatever works.

Anyway, the trip was grand, even after all my stupid little mistakes (see last post). We spent Saturday hiking around looking for an old monastery in the mountains behind the city. We must have been looking lost, because a group of 4th graders and their teacher took pity on us and let us walk with them for a while. They were a little shy at first, but with a little coaxing they decided it was a good time to practice their English and started chattering away. Then they pointed us off in another direction, flagged down a taxi and sent us on our way. The taxi dropped us off at the site of an old monastery that has a new church built on it, only to find out it was not the place we were looking for. The owner of a near by restaurant pointed us down a dirt road and off we went. We ran into a group of high school students who pointed us down another path, and suddenly we found ourselves back in the city. We never did find the monastery, but I swear it's up there somewhere, and we'll go back and find it. It was a good hike anyway - nice to get out of the city.

That night we went to a great little bar that reminded me of all the little loungy places in LA (Joey, you'd be proud), with the dark wood and red velvet booths, hiding in a dingy basement of an apartment building. The "band" consisted of a guitar player and a synthesizer, and two female singers - one that was pretty, the other that could sing. All of the songs were popular American tunes - everything from Eric Clapton to 4 Non-Blondes. We started taking bets on what they were going to play next, kicking ourselves for not coming up with Extreme "More than Words". We stayed out till four in the morning, gettin' our drink on, to quote Travis, and just having fun in spite of some jackass ex-Peace Corp guy trying to make a fashion statement by wearing the Communist hammer and sickle while spewing bullshit for four straight hours. We were all pretty much wiped out on Sunday and didn't do much but eat and lie around until time to go to the bus station. Oh! Did go to the grocery store there and bought a can opener, some tortillas and bacon - all things you can't find here. I was excited, anyway.

I'll post the pics soon. I've got them all ready, it's just a bit of a hassle to upload them on dial-up. The next time I go to my favorite coffee shop, I'll get them up there for you all.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Stupid stupid stupid, part 2

Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up feeling like a reasonably intelligent person and ended the day wondering who had dropped you on your head as an infant? (just a figure of speach, parental units who may be reading this.) I have done more illogical, stupid things in the past few days, and have been unable to intelligently participate in conversations (thus I revert to sarcastic remarks...), that I am beginning to feel like a dunce. For example, last weekend we were going to Skopje, Macedonia. We got all the way to the bus station before I realized that I left my passport at home safely tucked away. Returned home, picked it up, got back to the bus station only to then realize that I had left the travel book for Macedonia at home too. THEN, I managed to spill my soda all over Travis' backpack, soaking half his goods. Idiot. I won't even get into the conversations that I couldn't participate in for lack of anything to say on the topic, becuase I just didn't have a clue. After all the years I've spent in school.... (12 + 6 + 3... 21 years!!!) you'd think I'd have learned something - at least how to open a briefcase without knocking half the stuff off the table and across the restaurant. Do they offer scholarships for finishing school based on need? Cuz I neeeeeed it. I think there's some reverse proportionality to the amount of schooling one has to the amount of common sense. What's that saying... ignorance is bliss? Maybe not, but at least the ignorant won't forget to unplug the iron.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

WAHOO!! It stopped raining. It is a gorgeous autumn day today, and I am reveling in it. I have opened up every window in my apartment to let in some fresh air. It inspired me to do a little cleaning, which once again turned into a learning experience. I learned that my vacuum cleaner has all the suction of a flea with asthma. I also learned that the millions of black birds that cloud the skies here had deposited eight tons of bird %*#! onto my patio. I learned that a 1/2 inch pipe does not do much for drainage when cleaning the eight tons of bird &*#! off my patio when you have to fight gravity (the patio tilts away from the drain pipe - goooooood engineering). I learned that the deafening hum of the generators while the power is out provides a decent background for yoga because it blocks out all other sound. It also provides an excuse to stop trying to vacuum as I don't have a generator and the vacuum doesn't run on batteries. Whew, I learned a lot today. Time to go take a walk now and ponder all this new-found knowledge underneath blue skies. You never know how long this will last, it could be raining again in an hour. *sigh*

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Midnight Stalker

Ok, so it wasn’t midnight, it was 5:30, but it was still spooky!

Let’s set the scene. I picked up the keys to my office today (yeah!) and did a little work proofreading a paper one of my colleagues is writing. I feel so official having ‘colleagues’. I tooled around for a couple of hours, just getting my bearings, finding out tidbits aobut University politics and the like, and tried to get a little something done. I decided it was about time to go home around dusk. Mind you everyone else in the building had left at 3 p.m. – entirely different work ethic around these parts. My office is literally a one, maybe two, minute walk from my apartment. From my office window I can just about see my building. I have to go past the library, to the end of the parking lot, past the garbage dumpsters through the quagmire and BAM! I’m home.

The lovely National Library of Kosovo, from my office window*

So at 5:30 I leave the building, stop and have a chat with my friend Illya at the library and head on towards my abode. About halfway past the dumpsters I notice this guy lurking about. As soon as I looked his direction, he started to walk towards me doing the “ssht ssht” thing that anyone who has ever been to Europe or Latin America will know quite well. I picked up my pace, pulling my handbag a little closer, wishing there were a few other people around. Well, with this being the backside of my building, and a major quagmire of mud at the moment while they are repaving, that was not the case. By this time he’d started trying to talk to me, with the only word in English coming out of his mouth being a mangled version of ‘beautiful’. Did this guy really think that I was going to stop and talk to him based on the utter charm of his dumpster diving?? I don’t know about that, but what I did know was that I wasn’t about to let him figure out where I lived. I stepped it up a notch again and kept walking past my apartment. I could hear his steps right behind me, keeping pace with mine and still “ssht ssht”ing me. I rounded the corner into a café and told the bartender I was being followed. He promptly started talking to me as if we were old friends and he’d been waiting for me all day. THANK YOU! The guy hung around for a little bit, then meandered into the store next door. I called Hazel and she came and sat with me for a while until he was gone for good and I could go home. It’s nice to know that I have friends that will come to my rescue at a moments notice. I have now dubbed her St. Hazel.

I have officially had my first “I am a woman living alone in a foreign country” experience. It’s a little disconcerting, but a good reminder that in spite of the level of comfort I have felt here, I still need to keep my guard up. “Safety first!” to quote my sister Cheyenne. I think it’s time to learn a few choice words in Albanian. I’ll be sure to ask my teacher tomorrow.

* Just a quick note about the library design. It's evidently a concept art piece. It is supposed to represent the brains of Kosovo (all the bubbles) being held back by the repression of Communism (the scaffolding looking stuff). If you say so.... I think it's got to be one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. The inside, however, is quite nice, with a lot of beautiful stone and mosaic work. Too bad they didn't have the same person design both.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Newness wearing off

Well, as the days creep by with not much to do, the shiny happy feeling of learning a new town is starting to wear thin. It's hard to believe I've only been here a little over two weeks. It feels like an eternity. I've had a million meetings with not much coming out of them. The classes with the Journalists are in limbo at the moment, and my classes at the University won't start until November. The only one of my projects that is moving forward is the Army magazine. I've enlisted the help of some other Fellows from around the globe to submit pieces for the Teen magazine. I thought it would be good to show how teenagers face the same issues whether in the States, in Kosova, or even in Indonesia... where ever. Since the point of the magazine is to bridge cultures here, why not expand the views to a broader range?
Anyway, I've taken a few trips to some of the other 'cities' in Kosova in the past couple of weeks to deliver the latest issue to schools. I've posted some pics of this beautiful little area, it really is pretty here once you get out of Prishtina. So far I've been to Prizren, Peje and Gjakova. Friday we're heading out to a school in North Mitrovica, which is a primarily Serbian community, the first I'll have visited. The town of Mitrovica is divided by a river - the North side is Serbian and the South side is Albanian. KFOR troops guard the bridge and it is rare for either ethnicity to cross to the other side. This is the town where the rioting started last March, and quickly spread throughout Kosova. You can see some of the damage caused by the Albanians burning Serb houses in the pictures of Prizren. Evidently over 60% of Peje was also destroyed, but we didn't go through that part. There's so much construction everywhere, it's amazing. Engineers and architects could make a fortune in Kosova.
This weekend we're (me and the other ELFs) are heading down to Skopje, Macedonia about an hour or so away to visit the ELFs there, swap materials, do some hiking, maybe some rock climbing (yea!!) and just get the heck out of Prishtina. The weekend after that I'm going to Ohred (the h is pronounced at the back of the throat, all German hock-a-loogie like) with on of the Albanian girls that works at the American Center. Ohred sits on a lake and is about a million years old... not really, but there are several 9th-14th century monasteries and churches there, all nestled in the mountains overlooking the lake. The guide book I have is gorgeous! Hopefully the weather will be better there than it's been here the past few days. I've only just begun to experience the muck and mud that Fall brings with it. It's been cold and rainy for 4 days now, and the road behind my house is a giant quagmire. I really didn't think it was possible to accumulate that much mud on one's shoes in a short period of time, but I'm still learning about the ways of the world. The positive - what a great work out to lift 9 pound mud-covered hiking boots with every step. I'll be a swimsuit model in no time!!! (uh- huh, riiiiight)
My Albanian lessons are progressing slowly, I still struggle with pronunciation, and unlike Spain, I'm not forced to speak it every day. It's very easy to get by here without one word of the language. As a matter of fact, more than half the people in my class have been here 2+ years and can't say more than "Hi, can I get a cup of coffee please?" This, by the way, is also the limit of my vocabulary. It's sad. However, as all business here is done over coffee, and the coffee is remarkably good (still doesn't hold a candle to my favorite place in Rome), the phrase "Nje makiato i modhe, ju lutem" does tend to come in handy.
So all in all, things aren't so bad, I'm just bored. I haven't been posting because nothing's going on, at least nothing that's worth writing about. I bought a combination hand-mixer/blender today, and that's about the most exciting thing that happened to me all weekend. I hope you're as excited about it as I am. Here's to some good misadventures this week, and more lively posts! Cheers!

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Friday, September 24, 2004

Hazel's bit of wisdom for the day

"If you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, it's generally a train coming straight at you. RUN."

Well, it made me laugh. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Two sides to every story

I found this blog today called Baghdad Burning ( while reading the latest on the beheadings in Iraq. I've spent the last half an hour in tears, wondering how it is that we manage to erase the human side of a war in order to justify our actions. I don't really know what else to say, except this is what our media keeps from us, this is what we try to ignore, this is the other side of reality - and it sucks. Here in Kosova there are remnants of war everywhere - burned out churches, crumbling buildings, destroyed schools, and hollow shells of people with no jobs milling about the cities, trying to eke out an existence in a place where there is none, as if the bombings never happened. As if it could never happen again. Yet the tensions and hatred and anger are still there, festering like a boil, waiting for the next excuse to point a finger and say, "See, see what they are doing to us?" All the while doing nothing to help themselves. It's a sad world today, and I today am sad for it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


We take so many things for granted living in the U.S. It’s a given that in an apartment you will have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer (or at least a Laundromat close by), heat, air conditioning, running/hot water at all times, 50 brands of soap on the supermarket shelves. (Supermarkets in general, for that matter. For crying out loud, we have dairy aisles that moo at you when you open the case. Is that really necessary??) These are all luxury items - serious luxury.

As I have mentioned before, the power goes out here frequently and unannounced. Most businesses have gas powered generators that kick in when this happens. (It's a running joke that the national anthem of Kosova is the humming of the generators.) Running water ceases to exist after 10 or 11 p.m. Air conditioning? Clothes dryer? What’s that? I have not seen a microwave oven since I have been here, not even in the shops – much less in a home. I would never rent an apartment in the States that didn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer. Here, I am thankful to have a tiny little washer and a rack to dry my clothes on. I have a hot water heater in the kitchen, but the water pressure is so low when you use it, it might as well not exist. So I've taken to washing dishes in the bathtub. I have a heater in one room in my house, but it has an accumulator that stores up energy so that I don't freeze to death when the power goes. When winter comes, I'll be cooking in a coat and mittens. I also have a battery that powers one light and the TV (there's priority for ya). The battery and the accumulator are considered luxury items here, not everyone has these. They just make do without.

For all of this, Kosova is considered a “greater hardship” post. I don’t really find these things to be hardships so much as much as inconveniences. I do have everything I need, or I can at least make do with what’s available. The greatest hardship I’ve experienced so far is not being able to dry my hair in the morning because the electricity is out. Big deal. Ok, so talk to me in 3 months when it’s 5 below and the electricity has been out for days and my story might change. I guess one of the things that living overseas has given me is a broader definition of “necessity.” Adaptability is the name of the game. Being able to go with the flow or not is the difference between happiness and misery. It can be a fine line sometimes. So if I ever start to sound whiny, someone remind me that I chose this position.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Recovery time just ain't what it used to be

Tomorrow I turn 33. Thirty-three. Wow. That sounds so old, why don’t I feel that old? (Ok, I admit I felt that old this morning after last night.) I decided to throw myself a birthday party. What the hell, eh? I invited all 10 people I know in Kosova, dolled up and played hostess. T’was faboo. Preparing was definitely an adventure. I brought a cake mix, but finding cake pans was a completely different catastrophe all together. It took me two days to find anything resembling a cake pan (Yes, I made myself a birthday cake. If you’re going to throw yourself a party, do it right!), and when I finally found something that would do, they were square and fluted. Ok, sometimes ya gotta make do with whatcha got. On top of that, since the power goes out unannounced and rather frequently, and all appliances run on electricity, baking in general is a dangerous operation. If the power goes out half-way through, too bad, so sad – gooey mess is what you’re left with. I was fortunate enough to get through the cake-baking with lights, but about 6:30 whoosh! Into darkness we went. The rest of my prep was by candlelight – sort of. Just so you know, 8 little tea lights do not make for a well lit home, but they at least keep you from running into furniture. Things turned out ok in spite of things, and we were only in the dark the first half an hour or so.

The kindness of this group of people amazes me. Over my protests, people still brought gifts. Phil brought me cups and saucers, which I was in desperate need of. William and Ruby brought me trashy novels, Trivial Pursuit and school supplies (yeah!). They’re heading home soon, so we’re all pilfering what we can from the things that they won’t be taking back to the States with them. The Army boys brought a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper (a very valuable commodity in this neck of the woods) and computer speakers that run on batteries. That was HUGE! Thanks fellas! And Illya, Harry and Travis brought the booze. Diellza, one of the Albanian girls in my salsa class, came too. I think she might have been bored to tears sitting in a room full of English teachers because the conversation inevitable turned to work, but she was avoiding being at home with a house full of visiting relatives. I did my best to entertain her, I hope she doesn’t think we’re all a bunch of boring old fogies. Oh well. Anyway, beer and wine were a-flowing, the food was pretty good (for being prepared in the dark) and we managed to make a decent mess out of my place. Good times!!

About 11 we packed up and went to Zanzibar where we met up with some other Albanian friends and shook our money-makers until 2:30 (oh and consumed mass amounts of Pejë, the local brew – a fine pilsner made from the clean mountain water in the beautiful town of Pejë). End result – I didn’t get out of bed until noon, and then only to get a piece of cake and a Coke (breakfast of champions). After which I promptly crawled back in bed and played computer rummy for the next 2 hours. Why is it that last night I felt like I was 23 and could party like a rock star, and today I feel like I’m 93 and I’d rather die than get out of bed? I finally got up the courage to shower and clean the house around 5, made dinner, took a walk, and am back in my bed writing in this journal of sorts. I should be sorted by tomorrow. This getting old and taking two days to recover crap is for the birds. BLAH

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Good Motto to Live By

I do not usually make a point to forward e-mails, but this one sent to me by my dear Jessica deserves a public viewing...

Life should NOT be
a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely
in an attractive
and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in sideways,
champagne in one hand
- strawberries in the other,
body thoroughly used up,
totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO - What a Ride!"
I couldn't have said it better myself!!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Small Victories and Lack of Light

I just got home from dinner with Travis, hashing and rehashing all that has happened in the past couple of days. I was overjoyed at having power when I got home, but this elation came about 5 minutes too early. I had just taken a seat on the royal throne when I was swiftly ushered into complete darkness. Mind you, I do have a special system that allows me to turn on some lights in my house in case of power outages, but the bathroom is not one of those places. The light switch that delivers me from the abyss is at the other end of the house. Note to self: buy some candles and matches tomorrow. On a brighter note (small victory #1), my phone is now working, which gives me virtually free dial up service. However, you do get kicked off frequently... as I just was 4 times.

I spent today in Gjakova, a beautiful city in western Kosova. The Army boys let me tag along on a school visit to drop off some magazines so that I could meet with the school director and English teachers. The English teacher was anxious to get more copies to use in her classroom. Hooray! Another interesting partnership popped up today as well. The meeting we went to was set up by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who funds and maintains the School Connectivity Program. What they do is take 16 students from one school in each of 4 countries and partners them through the internet to work on a common project. The idea is that they are areas that these students normally would have no contact with each other due to ethnic background and/or geographic location (e.g. at typical cluster would include a school from Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and the U.S.). Also in this meeting was the director of Junior Achievement (JA), Kosova, who is partnering schools here with schools in the U.S. to create products/companies. In an interesting turn of events, Meti (JA) would like to take the production of the magazine off our hands and turn it into the product that the JA group produces. Very interesting… Anyway, just an initial meeting and the idea came up. Another good thing came out of that meeting, Meti agreed to come give a guest lecture at the American Center to business students at the University. The idea was given the green light by the director of the Center today, so now all I have to do is set it up. Wahoo! (small victory #2)

Monday evening Travis, Craig (my RELO) and I had dinner with a woman named Karmit, an old friend of Craig’s. Talk about a dynamo! She was raised in Israel by and Iranian father and Russian mother (I think that’s right…) She’s fluent in at least 6 languages, with English being either the 3rd or 4th. She has been living in Kosova for the past 7 years working on youth and community outreach programs, setting up youth centers in the smaller villages outside of the larger cities. The latest project is creating a Youth Development Center that will function like an interactive children’s museum where all the exhibits will be very hands on and experimental. I contacted the folks I used to work with on Legoland to see if there could be a connection there. Part of LEGO’s overall philosophy is hands-on interactive learning for kids so I think it’s a pretty good fit. I got good feedback today from my contact, so hopefully by next week we’ll be in touch with Lego directly to do some begging for product and/or money. It sounded like product was probably a done deal, but funding could be a different issue. I’ll be more excited when I have tangible results, but at least it’s a good start and I feel like I’ve accomplished something this week. (small victory #3)

I met with the head of the Journalism School yesterday to hash out a schedule of sorts. I’ll be teaching two classes of journalists and journalism students, one Beginner and one Intermediate. These classes don’t start until the middle of October and it’s looking like classes at the University won’t start until the beginning of November. On one hand it gives me plenty of time to prepare and work on this magazine project (which is going to require a lot of attention in the beginning, but should be less work as things get set up). On the other, classes end at the end of December, so it doesn’t really give me a lot of time to work through much material. I don’t have complete details, as I haven’t had a meeting with the head of the department yet. We are getting together on Monday. If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of meetings here. I feel like I have a jigsaw in front of me and I need to figure out how to put it all together. I guess one piece at a time and the rest will fall into place.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Salsa Dancing, Pristina style

Just a quick entry tonight... the cafe is about to close. I've joined a Salsa dance class at the UN. I danced with a Spaniard, a Lithuanian, a German, a Swede, a Canadian, a Switzerlander (??) and an Italian. There are so many internationals here, it's amazing. (There were also several Albanian girls, but I didn't dance with them.) The instructor was from Madrid ( a little moment of silence here for my beloved city) so I got to speak a little Spanish too. The whole class went for ice cream and chatter afterwards. Incredibly fun!! They're having a party Friday night, so I guess I'll be dancing the night away. Can't wait. Ok, I'm getting the evil eye here - Are you ever going to lleeeeeaaaaavvveee? so I guess I'd better go.

I'm off to Gjakova tomorrow with the Army to deliver some magazines to an elementary school. I'll try to post again when I get home. Hopefully my phone will be hooked up by then and I'll have internet access in the house. We'll see, things don't happen on a normal timeline here, but they seem to function ok regardless.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Moving day

Day 3 complete. I have moved into my apartment. I didn’t take me long to unpack, after all 2 suitcases don’t really hold that much. Afterward I took a much needed nap on my new bed. So I am home. Yeah!!! At the moment, the apartment is lacking in a few things – like bedding, towels, pots and pans and silverware. The landlord’s daughter is going to bring me these things Tuesday (I hope!). Once again I found myself without a clue desperately trying to figure out how appliances and things work in a foreign country, and once again I found myself in a sticky situation. It didn’t take long to learn that the water valves have been turned off since the last tenant left the apartment. I found two valves next to the toilet (because being able to flush is definitely a bonus) and decided to fiddle with them to see if I could figure it out. I did, but not before making a total mess. One valve fills the reserve tank. The other opens the flood gates of hell on another spout coming from the bowl. I actually think that the nozzle is somehow supposed to be turned into the bowl, but in my case it is pointing straight out at the opposite wall. When I cranked both knobs to full power, it resulted in a lower body shower and a disaster on the floor. Lesson learned and question noted on and ever growing list for the landlord. What the hell is that other spicket for???

Anyway, Travis, Phil and I found a fantastic Thai restaurant for dinner tonight and had our first experience with a power outage. Halfway through dinner, whoosh, utter darkness except for the small candles on the table. No one around us even blinked an eye. In a few minutes, the chugging of a generator starting up drowning out conversation, and the lights started to flicker back on. Within half an hour, we had full power again, the generator turned off and we were talk below a shout. Interesting.

I met the head of Education for the British Council earlier today and she joined us for coffee after dinner, and provided me with a spare comforter to use until my landlord brings me proper bedding. She also invited me to come join her for salsa classes two nights a week at the UN. It seems there is a rather large (so to speak) Spanish speaking community here – internationals from Spain, Peru, Venezuela and other parts of South America. There’s even a Mexican restaurant. I can’t wait!

This week is meeting after meeting after meeting. Tomorrow Travis and I are tagging along to take Phil to Prizren where he will be posted for the remainder of the year. Tuesday we’re going to Pejë to meet with some secondary school teachers and the woman I’ll be teaching with in the Poly Sci department. Wednesday I meet with the head of the Journalism School and the American center to discuss the classes I will be teaching for them. Something tells me this part of the job may fall through. The classes are supposed to be held in the American Center here, but the director of the center wants to charge €100 for the course. The average monthly rent here is not much more than that and most people are fighting to find work. I don’t think enrollment will be too high if that is what they are expected to pay. Hopefully we’ll be able to work something out otherwise I don’t think the classes will be accessible for most journalists or journalism students. The other project I have volunteered for/been volunteered for is very exciting to me. The US Military has begun to publish two children’s magazines – one geared for teens and the other for younger children. The goal is to make them useful as an English teaching tool and making them available to primary schools throughout Kosova. I will be involved in writing, designing and publishing, as well as finding ways to use them in a classroom. EXCELLENT! Things are moving right along. Any worries I had about having too much free time on my hands has disappeared.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

So much to absorb

I can’t sleep. It’s either the caffé expresso I had at 11, the jetlag, or the excitement over having found the cutest apartment in Prishtina today. (or very possibly a combination of all three.) It doesn’t really matter why I am sitting here writing at this hour, just that I am wide awake and have nothing else to do.

So, about the hunt for an abode... Engjellusche, the Public Affairs Assistant and our American Office contact, accompanied Travis and I on our adventure. We had seen 3 so-so places this afternoon and arrived at the fourth feeling a little let down by our options and both pretty much wanting the same apartment – the only one we’d seen that was halfway decent. We were calling it the White Palace because it had just been painted white, and there were tons and tons of windows – nice and airy. And then the door opened on a bright turquoise hallway with dark blue trim. Sounds atrocious, but it’s perfect. The whole place is very trendy for lack of a better word at this time of night, full of bright colors and cheerful decoration. It seems to smile all on its own. I immediately fell in love. The landlord wanted €500 per month ($600) for it. I could have cried. I didn’t want to spend that much on rent, that’s almost what I was paying in LA for crying out loud!! (Granted, I didn’t have my own place then, but still!) The real estate agent made 3 phone calls and finally talked him down to €450 ($540). Even so I had resolved myself to pass on the cutest little apartment ever and to continue looking for something a little less expensive. My high end was €400 ($480). When I told this to the real estate agent, he picked up the phone, called the guy, told him he would waive 50% of his finder’s fee if the guy would rent me the apartment for €400. Twenty minutes later, I had keys in hand. I move in at 2 pm tomorrow and I couldn’t be happier. I LOVE this place. I posted pictures, so go check it out.

So now I’ll tell ya all about it! When you walk in the door, there’s a door immediately in front of you, which is the bathroom, and a hallway that extends to the right. The bathroom is huge, with a funky shaped mirror and lots of shelves. The next room is a combination sitting room/dining room with a cool modern couch and a cute little breakfast table that seats 4. The kitchen is terra cotta colored and quite tiny, but has everything that I need. Farther down the hall is another sitting area/bedroom that is light and airy. A door opens off this room to a balcony that stretches the length of the apartment. It is on the 2nd floor in American terms, which is the 1st floor here. Since security is a big issue here, I was pleased to find out that in addition to the armored door, I have a video camera at the entrance so I can see whoever is ringing my doorbell. Satellite TV, a fixed phone line, which means virtually free internet service (.03 for 10 minutes for dial up, or only 30 Euros a month for high speed). All of the furniture and appliances are brand spankin’ new so everything works! Another big worry – heat - will not be an issue here because the apartment has a device called an accumulator, which stores up heat so that when the power goes out, and it will go out - it does so frequently here, it continues to heat the apartment. There’s another device ( I can’t remember what they call it) that stores up electricity to power the lights and TV during outages as well. This truly is luxurious living for this city. And on top of alllllllll of that, I am less than 2 blocks from work, so no 8 mile hike when it is 20º below (Celcius) this winter.

Well, if you can’t tell, I’m completely stoked on my housing arrangements and can hardly wait until tomorrow.

We had a welcome dinner tonight for all the ELFs and our respective employers and other people that are attached to the Mission here. It’s not a Mission in the religious sense. The American government must be very careful with their terminology here due to the political situation. Because Kosova (Ko SO va is how it is pronounced here) is not recognized internationally as a country, nor is it recognized as a part of Serbia, we have an American Office rather than an Embassy or a Consulate. If they called it a Consulate, then it would recognize Serbia as the sovereign state over Kosova, and thus give some credence to the argument that Kosova is a part of Serbia. If they called it an Embassy then it would give recognition to Kosova as a sovereign country. Thus, we have an Office, and instead of an Ambassador, we have a Head of Mission. So what is our mission as English Language Fellows, and why are we here? Well, it’s interesting. The conflict here is hundreds of years old, and is not a religious one as many believe. Yes, the Serbs are Christian and the Albanians primarily Muslim but the true debate is one of nationalism and ethnic pride. To add to this, the two groups, although they were once a part of Yugoslavia, do not speak the same language. The Kosovar Serbs speak Serbo-Croatian and the Kosovar Albanians speak Albanian. So much misunderstanding can be attributed to lack of communication between the two, at least that’s my interpretation. This is where we come in… to create a common language between these groups so that no one is dominant over the other and then try to get a dialogue going. If Serbs were forced to learn Albanian in order to communicate, then they would be at a disadvantage and vice versa. If both are communicating in a foreign language then it evens the playing field a little. According to the PAO, they seem to be having some success in many of the programs here. They have young Serbs and Albanians playing sports together. Albanian teachers presented at an English teaching conference in Serbia last month. That would be completely unheard of even 2 years ago. We’re not just here teaching, we’re building foundations for the future of a country that doesn’t exist yet.

The political scene here couldn’t be much more exciting. They are holding elections in October to elect a ruling coalition that will eventually take over for the UN interim government (UNMIK). New laws are being ratified weekly. Change in status is eminent and I literally could witness the birth of a nation while I am here. This is truly a unique and fascinating place. I can guarantee there will be some serious struggles this year, but I can also guarantee that it will be an experience that I will never ever forget.

I really must try to get some sleep now. It is after 2 am and I have meetings all day tomorrow. More musings tomorrow I'm sure.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

First Impressions

Well, I’m here all right. The city isn’tmuch to look at but the people are phenomenal. I don’t even know how to write about what happened this evening, but I got introduced to Pristina in the most improper way. I had my first State Department semi-formal affair tonight. BO-RING. But the food was good, the wine plentiful and my immediate company brilliant. Directly after dinner, we (meaning the Angels and I – see Pointy shoes entry) adjourned to explore the city a little (translation – we went to find a bar). Travis is my superhero with the language. He butchers Albanian like nobody’s business, but he manages to get his point across, and wow! People respond like crazy. The first place we went to was this little outdoor bar blaring nothing but 80’s hair bands from the States. We had a beer there, and then the chill started to set in (YEAH, cold already. I’m gonna die this winter!) so we went to find an indoor bar. Turns out, the bartenders speak a little English, so that sat down with us, taught us some Albanian, learned a little English, and then invited us to go with them to another bar after they closed at midnight… well who are we to turn down a cultural experience like that? And so we went. It was a little basement bar called Zanzibar that had a live band playing Turkish, American and Albanian rock covers. Somehow, I got singled out of the crowd, brought up on stage and introduced as the newest member of the Pristina community. I honestly don’t know how it happened, but I do know my face was bright red for at least 15 minutes afterward. My luck, half the audience will have been my future students. *sigh* Anyway, so this is my introduction into Kosova. Beautiful Kosova, as Buqa said. As for our host for the evening, we all exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet again tomorrow night (or tonight as time would have it). He’s going to take Travis guitar shopping on Monday. I really think it’s going to be a good year. A little optimism after a few hours on the ground can’t be a bad thing. Honestly.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Transit musings

10 am, London Gatwick
“Passengers are invited to remember that if they do not arrive at their departure gate in good time, it could resulting their baggage being unloaded and the aircraft departing without them.” Ah the ever so polite British.

12 pm on the plane
I’m reading the book Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley right now on the plane. I can’t put it down. Once you get past her sentimental prose, the story itself is fantastic. Especially for me. It’s about a woman who came with her husband to Kosovo and became and English teacher and through that experience learned to listen, learn and experience, rather than just teach. It has instilled in me new expectations and hopes for the year ahead. SO many thing that she talks about I hope have changed in the four years since she was here… such as living conditions, materials available… I don’t know .. those are all things you work through, as she did. However, I seriously believe it is easier now. At least now, there’s an ATM that takes foreign cards. I have access to my bank account! If not, well then I guess I’ll make do. I can only hope that I handle it with the grace and sense of humor that she seemed to in her book. We’re crossing the Adriatic Sea now, a symbolic leaving behind the familiarity of the Europe I know for obscurity, newness and complete change. The water changes colors as it pulls slowly away from the Italian shore – from sky blue to turquoise and finally into midnight blue as the depth of the waters becomes unimaginable. There’s no gradation, but clearly defines strata, as if layers of precariously balanced cliffs were stacked one on top of the other, hidden by a heavy layer of salt water that guards some ancient secret. And still, the sun dances on the ripples 33,000 feet below. I can see the heel of the boot of Italy now for the first time. Wow.

I made a friend on the plane today, Buqa (pronounced Boosha). She gave me her phone number and has promised to introduce me to her friends and help me find a place to live. She swears her friends speak better English than she does, but I understood her just fine.

The anxiety has subsided now, and a feeling of tranquility has settled over me, Partly due to the book, partly due to the relief of finally being here. It has been a long journey since I accepted this post – the one no one wanted. Huntley said in her book that she was glad she didn’t make this journey in her 30’s, that she would have been trying too hard to “accomplish” something rather than to just accept, feel and listen. I will do my best to not make that mistake. I want to know these people, to make an impact, to give whatever it is that I have.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I'm a-leavin' on a jet plane...

Ok, panic sets in. As of 8:30 am, I am officially starting to freak out!! Not in a bad way at all. It's not like "Oh, GOD, what have I done, there's no way I'm getting on that plane" freaking out. It's more like "I KNOW I have forgotten to do something incredibly important and this time tomorrow I will be in another freakin' country" kind of panic. It's not like I can turn around and come home to fix whatever it is I messed up. Anyway, that's not so bad. I can live with it. It will pass as soon as I am in the airport. Wow. Today is the day.

One thing I am going to miss, and don't go thinking I'm getting all old and cheesy and sappy on y'all (you should already be well aware of that), is having family around. It has been so good this summer to spend time at home. Yep, 32 and living at home for the summer and loving it. It was fantastic. I hung out with aunts, uncles, cousins, my multitude of siblings, grandparents, parents - surrounded by it all the time. I guess I was kind of wallowing in it, soaking it up. It's been 8 years since I've spent this much time at home. *sigh* I am going to miss it. I've also reconnected with some old friends and it truly does make you realize that there are some people you've shared so much with that, related or not, will always be family. And as crazy as my friends and family may be, well - at least we're all crazy together. I love you all, and will miss you terribly. Write me often dammit! I hate opening an empty email box. :(

So by Friday afternoon I will be in my new home city, settling into my hotel for a couple of days, and preparing to apartment hunt to my little heart's content. Nest away, little mama! I'll take lots of pics and post a new album asap. Well, that's me. I'm going to go wake Diedra up so we can go do girl stuff today (manicures & pedicures are in order!) since she's skipping school to see me off (oops, did I say that out loud??). Ok byyyeee!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A quick note about yardwork

I mowed my dad's yard today. I thought it might be kinda fun pushing a self-propelled mower around and around, you know get a feel for what it would be like to have a house with a yard. Hmph. Sucks. First of all, there's just no way to look like a normal human being while spewing grass clippings all over the place, but add to that my allergies and whew... geek-o-rama. Let me paint a picture for you - ratty tanktop, sweat stained old baseball cap and full-on medical face mask to protect myself from projectiles that I could possibly inhale (who needs an asthma attack on top of heat stroke, seriously). Anyway, I was feeling pretty foxy. After about 5-minutes of "self-propelled" mowing, I thought my hands were going to die because to drive the thing you have to squeeze these two bars together. Now if you let go of one of them, it doesn't just stop the propulsion of the mower, the whole thing dies and you have to start over with the yanking on the cord thing. (Actually, my father has to come back outside and do the yanking on the cord thing.) That took a few tries to figure out. Now, I put "self-propelled" in quotes for a reason. Yes, the front wheels spin forward always. Ok, now, try to back out of a corner while a motor is running pulling you the other direction. I expended considerable energy trying to get around strange courners while not killing the mower therby prompting my father to exit the house (again). Not to mention the occasional dog turd hidden in tall grass that is either so sun-baked that it is now petrified and a deadly missile that is to be thrown from under the mower at your shins, or worse just sort of spreads causing an "icky" spot that you now have to avoid for the rest of your life. I really couldn't help but laugh at myself today, because I volunteered for this job. Sucks. A lot. Boy, the things I will do to put off packing.

So the conclusion I came to after this afternoon: If I ever have one of these house things that has one of these yard things, I will also have one of those yard-boy things. Preferably one that looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch model. (Hey, a girl can dream!) :D

Only in Texas

I went to see a good ol' honkytonk band play last night. The beer was cold, the music was hot, and the smoke was plentiful. All in all not a bad night. I managed to finagle a free t-shirt from the band for a promise of a photo wearing the shirt in Kosovo to put up on their website. Consider it done, fellas. I also promised a shameless plug for their website somewhere on mine, so here it is... Check them out, they're a damn good folky country rock band that's a hell of a lot of fun to see.

Now with that said, I'll move on to the high point of the evening and the entire reason I had to write this post. The opening band, Jackson something or other (couldn't remember the name of the band for reasons soon to be disclosed), closed their set with a rousing tune titled "I like titties and beer" followed by the second verse, "I like great big titties and beer". And then there's one for the ladies "She likes big peckers and beer." Only in Texas. And only from a country rock band. I just can't hear that coming from any other genre. And just so we all get the true spirit of honky tonk, the last song of the night was "Up against the wall redneck mother." Use your imaginations here... put 100 drunk cowfolk in a bar, tell them they're going to have a sing along... and now imagine them all going along with it. As I said before, only in Texas. I do love this state.