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 cafĂ©, 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.

Do you Yahoo!? - Register online to vote today!

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.