Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's in a War Zone

Ok, not really, but it damn sure sounds like it. I have never seen anything like this before in my life. It's illegal to import fireworks here, but it's not illegal to sell the damn things. The result of which is that bottle rockets the size of Hulk Hogan's arms have been sold old the street for the past week, and it sounds like the city is going to turn to rubble any minute now.

Not really in the New Year's spirit this year. I've got a mild case of the flu, which I'm battling with Alka Seltzer cold plus and hot buttered rum. I was going to stay home tonight, but can't face the explosions and gunfire (yeah, ya heard me - I forgot to mention that part earlier) all by my lonesome. I've rallied, I've dolled up. I've hidden the circles under my eyes with heavy black eyeliner. Maybe no one will notice me dying slowly in the corner of the party. Yikes. Anyway... tomorrow I can sleep all day. SO there.

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's Eve, and all the best in 2006. I'm going to go try and hunt up a taxi now. Wish me luck. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Telling it like it isnt

I read this op/ed piece in the LA Times Online today that expands on the concept of being overly PC. Click on the title above to read the article. I have to admit, it got to me. Really.

The gist of the piece is thus: In the attempt to cover the war(s) in the Middle East, the lanugage used by the media is so couched in niceties that we lose sight of what the fight is about in the first place, and we tend to forget that there is real death, real blood, and real horror that goes on every single day. The media is no longer presenting a picture of reality, but a prettied up G-rated version that is suitable for family viewing.

If this isn't bordering on censorship, then I don't know what is. Every little bit of our right to free speech that we give up (oh we can't say "short people" anymore, we have to say "vertically challenged"), gives just a little more leeway to those who once upon a time called Mark Twain a racist and banished Huckleberry Finn from school libraries, and gives credibility to those who claim that Christmas is offensive to other religious groups. Most people I know from different religious backgrounds have the intelligence to know that one's own beliefs are not so easily swayed by seeing how other people worship/celebrate/whatever you want to call it, and respect other's rights to their own beliefs. Duh. (In my personal opinion, Christmas has become so damn commercial that there is hardly a trace of the religious aspect of it left anymore anyway.)

As far as the media is concerned, it is their job to report the truth, and truth cannot be accurately portrayed if you can't call a war a war. What it boils down to is politics - politicians afraid of losing support of the constituency if people got a good look at what is really going on. They are basically telling you, America, that you are too stupid to see it and make a proper judgement. To quote A Few Good Men, "You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth."

If people are willing to spend 20 minutes in the grocery store deciding which brand of low-fat cottage cheese to buy, analyzing the fat content versus the sodium, calories from sugar versus starch, why aren't they just as willing to do the same for the information they take in? Most people don't immediately buy the first car on the lot, they comparison shop - but do people comparison shop when it comes to their own informativeness? Information is a commodity in today's world, and must be treated as such.

I beg you to not take your information from one place. Look around - read international newspapers as well as the local ones (they're readily available and FREE on the internet). Don't take all of your news from 30 second snippets on TV. It's your responsibility as citizens to keep yourselves informed. Don't become a part of what Chomsky calls the "mindless herd," believing only what is spoon fed to you by media conglomerates looking to make a quick buck. Information is everywhere - get some, digest it, make your own choices and judgements. This is freedom. This is what America is built on - choices and the freedom to make them. Take advantage of it.

End of rant. Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I'm having one of those days. I'm half-sick (AGAIN) - well, more than half. Didn't go to class today. Stayed home instead. My head's been pounding and I can't stop coughing. Maybe if I'd give up smoking (AGAIN) it would be better. Grr.

Have you ever had so much work to do, and known exactly what you needed to get done, but found yourself completely paralyzed and unable to do any of it at all?? That's where I am. I am overwhelmed to the point of complete shut-down. Maybe it's pure panic, and if that's the case, it'll pass in a few days. Except for the fact that this has been going on for a week now. It's totally self-destructive to sit here and stare at the piles all around my living room floor and ignore them. But that's what I've been doing. The longer they sit there, the more urgent they become, the more stressed out I get, and the bigger the meltdown becomes. Why can't I do anything about this??? WHY WHY WHY? I dunno. I'm going to smoke on it now.

I did accomplish one thing today while lying around being sickly. I took out the trash. Only because it had started to smell. I'm pathetic. Boo.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Taking PC a step too far

"Sperber's not-thinness led to steady supporting and character work, and finally a lead in the 1990 Fox sitcom, Babes, about three not-thin sisters."

This is a quote in an actual news article about an actress who passed away this week. In spite of the solemn tone of the whole thing, this sentence made me laugh. "NOT-THINNESS"?? Who is he kidding? He might as well have written "the big fat piggie bit it this week", it would have been just as sensitive. People kill me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Celebrations in the street

Today a major trial ended in the Hague, acquitting 2 of 3 war crimes suspects. The streets here have erupted in spontaneous celebration, with thousands of people marching down the main corridors, waving flags, honking horns and exploding firecrackers. Had things gone the other direction at the trial, with their national hero convicted rather than being set free, I can't imagine what might have happened.

This is a shot of the tail end of the march as it passed my apartment building about an hour ago. I can only imagine it grew as it wound through the city. I could still hear the shouts and singing half an hour after they were out of sight, so the crowd must have been huge. It's nearly 2 and a half hours since the verdict and still the sound of honking horns and firecrackers is creeping in my 11th floor windows. Such passion in these people. Let's hope it stays celebratory.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

New cultures, new projects, new dishes

Well things are off and running (like crazy!). I've got more work than I know what to do with, and more projects keep popping up every day. It's a nice feeling to be busy again after so many weeks of virtual idleness.

This week has been filled with new experiences - new students, new classes, new cultures. Friday afternoon I had a meeting with the director of the library in Gracanica, a Serbian enclave near Prishtina. I am going to teach a class for adult beginners there starting next week. I still can't believe it's taken me over a year to get a project going in one of the minority communities, but I truly welcome the opportunity to be exposed to the other side of the culture here. I got a good introduction to it already. The night we had the meeting was the director's family's Slava, a religious holiday similar to Catholic Saint's days. After we finished our meeting in the library, he invited us back to his home to enjoy some of the fabulous food and drink prepared especially for the occasion - homemade ajvar, pickled peppers, a wheat berry and honey pudding, fried fish, breads, and of course the pride of his family - the rakia and wine. Incredible. His son played traditional music on the piano and sang while we drank toast after toast and feasted.

I have to admit I was impressed with the library. It's small, just two rooms, but it is definitely a library - open stacks where you can touch the books (wow!); it even had that library smell. I miss that so much!! I could have spent hours sifting through the titles, even though most of them were in the Cyrillic alphabet. I didn't care. It felt good to be in a room with that many books. Sigh. I think I must have been a librarian in a former life...

So that covers the new cultures and new projects bit... so about the new dishes. Last night Captain Canadian came over to watch movies. We were in the kitchen whipping up a batch of hummus, as is absolutely necessary for any sort of vegetative evening, and were just about finished. I opened the cabinet above my head to get out a bowl to put the dip in, and with quite a flourish, a loud pop and a series of crashes, a support for one of the shelves snapped, dropping every dish I owned from the overhead cabinet to the countertop and eventually to the floor, shattering everything into a million little pieces. We both just stood there, wide-eyed with jaws hanging open wondering how the hell that had just happened. When it was all over with I was left with one bowl and two plates, and a hell of a pile of ceramic shards. So we went shopping today. I got the coolest dishes ever (ok, maybe not ever, but I love them) - they're not round, they're triangular - the plates, the cups, the bowls, everything... super cute. In honor of the new place settings, we had another dinner party tonight and invited the "family" over, pigged out on really good food and wine, and now I'm about to head off to bed. It's been a good weekend.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Going to prom in the snow

The first snow of the year still makes me feel like a little kid - like I want to run around in the street with my head trhown back and tongue hanging out to catch snowflakes. I want to make snowballs and throw them at my neighbors and feebly attempt to make a snowman out of the still too slushy snow. It's been snowing non-stop for 24 hours now, but not much is sticking to the ground. There's still something quaint about looking out my 11th story window and seeing all the white rooftops. Something about the winter makes Prishtina almost pretty (at least until the snow starts to melt and everything turns to mud).

Last night I went to the Marine Ball, the first one in Prishtina. Got all gussied up in formal wear and listened to important people speak and danced with government officials and Generals and Colonels and such. And in spite of the serious tone of the whole thing, it was still somehow like going to a high school dance with bad music (really, the DJ was probably the absolute worst that I have ever heard in my life), thus we dubbed it the Prishtina Prom. The Norwegian Goddess and I double "dated" with some friends from Frisbee and made the best of an otherwise not so great evening. But company makes a huge difference - when you're amongst friends, you can have fun anywere. So about dinner...

About an 1 1/2 after we arrived (the whole ceremony was delayed due to technical issues, thus dinner was also delayed), the waiters finally begin to bring food to the tables. First a small plate of mantia (meat filled pastries - lovely stuff) little hard rolls, and one plate with 6 slices of white bread on it. All for 15 people. Hm. Next a plate arrived in front of each person with your typical Kosovar appetizers - hard cheese, feta cheese, half a hard boiled egg drowned in something resembling mayonnaise, smoked beef, 2 slices of salami, and 1 olive. Yep, just one. About the time we had finished this, another waiter arrives with a steaming plate of Junior High School cafeteria-type hamburger patties and slaps one on everybody's appetizer plates. Now, even though most of us had been here a while, we still weren't quite sure what was going on. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't have touched the things. However, we were starving, and weren't really all that certain that there was any more food on the agenda. Cringing, we ate them anyway and hoped for the best. It seemed like we were right. That was it. They came and cleared away our plates, everyone got up and milled around. I damn near broke down and had a cigarette (BUT I didn't). Anything to kill the fact that I was still starving - even after the Junior High School burger pattie. I at least needed some tater tots and ketchup to go with it. About an hour (and 2 glasses of wine) later, the waiters made another round... there really was dinner to be served. Hooray! Well, kind of - unfortunately for the vegetarian at our table, the next course was comprised entirely of meat, and LOTS of it - meat on a stick (could't get it off the stick, didn't eat it), chicken breast (over-cooked to near hockey puck status, didn't eat it), roasted pork (at least I think it was pork, and that was pretty tasty), a steak (rubberized, didn't eat it), and some sausage (never sure what they make those out of here, didn't eat that either). Literally a plate full of meat and about 3 green peas (I ate all three, had to have something). I gave up, as did most everyone else and moved on to the dance floor instead. We boogied until about 1am, and called it a night.

Driving home in the taxi, the streets of Prishtina were quiet, the snowflakes that fell were huge and fluffy like tufts of cotton falling from the sky, and as the Goddess and I zipped through the city back to "our side of town", I was really glad to be here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tired, but incredibly happy, tootsies

I'm really not sure that my feet have ever hurt this badly before in such an incredibly good way. I have spent 8 of the last 12 hours salsa dancing, 8 in workshop classes and 4 dancing up a storm to the musical stylings of Son Cuba Son, a live Cuban salsa band out of Belgrade. They were incredible!! This was easily one of my top five best days in Kosovo.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On reading...

I've got some sort of awful cold (insert avian flu jokes here) that has rendered me bedridden for the past few days. Normally this would drive me absolutely insane, but I have lost myself in the world of books, really lost myself this time, something that has become increasingly uncommon in my life of late. While I still read a lot, I have begun to wonder lately how much of it I really read - I mean take in for all of it's glory - the carefully woven stories; the characters that remind you of people you know, or would want to know, or for that matter seriously would never want to know; how many of the words that drip like honey off an author's pen, that pull you into a page and make you rethink your life - how many books like that have I read lately? Granted not everything I've read over the past few months has been of any redeemable value, or even worthy of retention past the closing of the book (I picked up a LOT of trash novels over the summer in hostels), but even the ones that were, how much of them did I really take in? When did I lose my critical eye for evaluating literature and sucking the living breath out of a book? I suppose it happened somewhere along the lines of having a "career". I read books because they were the one's everyone else was reading, I got sucked into popular literature and stopped looking at the literature itself. Somewhere along the lines, I lost sight of the true value and became this "pseudointellectual" that saw only words on a page, not the meaning behind them. I was reading just to have something to talk about at cocktail parties and client meetings, not to learn or to evolve or to examine the many aspects of humanity, often disturbing aspects, that truly is literature. It makes me feel like I need to go back and re-read everything that I've read in the past 7 or 8 years and realllllly read it this time, find what I missed, rediscover the underlying pretexts and themes... pick apart characters and link them to the history, chew them up, linger on the flavor and spit them out to look at them all over again, like a kid eating a jawbreaker for the first time, examining and re-examining the changing flavors and colors as he gets closer to the center.

So what has gotten me into this pontification about the value of literature and it's life changing values? This is no sudden relevation of mine. I've had the conversation before with the Wicked Brit about being to lazy to truly be an academic. But the latest book on my list... Reading Lolita in Tehran, brought all of this to light with a thundering crash and a jolting feeling that I've been missing out on an awful lot lately. I finished it today, while laying pathetic and whimpering on my sofa next to the heater. Written by an Iranian English Lit professor, it describes 18 years of her life, living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian war with Iraq, and all the changes in society and beliefs in that period, the crimes against humanity, especially women, all connected through the literature she was teaching at the time. It's an extremely powerful book, allowing the reader to not only fall in love with her writing, but also fall in love all over again with the authors she talks about - Fitzgerald, James, Nabokov and Austen. As soon as I closed the book, I wanted immediately to re-read some of these classics (The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Lolita, Pride and Prejudice) and see if I could find once again the passionate connections that she described.

I just happened to bring a copy of Gatsby back with me this summer. I think I'll go grab it from the shelf. It'll make for good company this evening - a tragic tale of love, lust and greed; power and wealth; and the loss of the American Dream... yes, there are some books you never forget, no matter how long it's been since you read them last. And so begins my journey back into Reading, with a capital R, and out of the void of racing through pages just to get to the end.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!


That is all.

:P m

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A shining star

There are some days when I feel like my existence counts for nothing, and if I just disappeared no one would notice. And then there are days like today, where I feel like I can change the world, even if it is just one person at a time.

In the year that I have been teaching in the University, I've learned something about students. You'll have those that will do just enough to get by, and you'll have those that work twice as hard as everyone else in order to get the absolute most out of a class. The student I write about today is one of those superstars. If I assigned a piece of writing and wanted to see one draft before they turned in the final paper, she would turn in three, just to make sure it was perfect. If she had questions about homework, she would call me at home or catch me online, and was never afraid to ask questions in class. These are the students that I live for, because they make me want to be a better teacher.

Last semester I decided to experiment with my students and see if I could get them interested in keeping a blog. I gave assignments, but they were also free to write about whatever they wanted on their own. Some did only what was required for the grade, but others, like this student, really took the project by the horns and gave it a life and a flavor all its own. Today she sent me an e-mail to tell me about her new blog - a project she started all on her own, long after our class had ended. Not only has she taken the initiative to put her thoughts and opinions in writing, but she's putting them down in English, not in her native tongue. I couldn't be more proud. If you want some interesting reading on Kosovo history and current politics, check out her blog. I've added it to the "Links" section in the sidebar also. If anyone is going to change the world, she will.

Today, I made a difference to someone. It's a good feeling.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Birthday Madness

Ok, so I'm a little late with getting this done, but here's a few pics from the group birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago. We had an absolute blast! You can see the rest in Yahoo! Photos... see "Links" section.

:) m Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Overturning the status quo

From the moment I came back here to Prishtina, there has been a different feeling about it. I don't know if it's that my own awareness of things has grown, or that I am just not used to being here, but there is definitely something different. On the surface many things have changed, as I said before, but I can sense, now more than ever, the quiet unrest bubbling just under the surface. In conversations with my landlord, in conversations with students, there is an increasing attitude that something must change NOW. Threats have been made against internationals if UNMIK doesn't make a decision soon. One "suspicious package" was detonated on Friday evening, and a second bomb found under a UN vehicle consisting of enough TNT to wipe out a large building was diffused in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The whole province is waiting for the UN envoy's report on Kosovo's readiness for status talks to begin. Has there been enough progress to start negotiating for freedom for Kosovo? Some internationals fear that if the report is negative and says that Kosovo isn't ready, things could get ugly here very quickly. Many feel that the report may contain some negative comments but that negotiations will begin anyway. Others say that Kosovo will be granted "conditional" independence, maintaining a large international presence here. October 15th is the deadline for the report, and much could change from there.

Please keep in mind, no one is angry at Americans in particular- we are still the blessed saviours. However, many locals feel the international community is stalling, and by doing so are keeping Kosovars in a perpetual state of poverty and unemployment. It's not that anyone expects a sudden windfall of money to pour into Kosovo the minute independence happens, but some feel that the economy is completely stalled by lack of status. Will it really make things better? No one really knows, all they do know is that things cannot stay the same. There was a pretty good opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune yesterday that discusses all of this further, and if you want more info click here.

In other aspects of unrest, public school employees, including the University, and health works employees have been on strike since Monday, demanding more pay and better benefits. Something they damn well deserve, as do most teachers and health care workers across the globe. But according to the government, there's just no money for it. So for the time being I sit, developing my syllabus for no one in particular.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Visiting with the Greek Gods

The long awaited climbing of Mt. Olympos has finally taken place. A visit with Zeus, Hera, Hermes, et al. was an experience I am not likely to forget, and hope to repeat. Captain Canadian, the Mutt, the Genius, Svengy and I took off early on a Friday morning to conquer the 2,918 meter mountain. Of course we took a little pit stop at the beach along the way. Even though the weather wasnt the greatest, we still took a dip and listened to the waves for a while before heading to our hotel at the base of the mountain. We gorged ourselves on Greek food, as it is fantastic stuff, and went to be early to prepare for the long walk ahead of us. We had a good 6 - 7 hour walk the next day to get to the refuge on the top of the mountain where we would spend the night before summiting on Sunday. As we approached the mountain, it wasn't looking to inviting. A heavy crown of dark clouds masked the summit from view. All we could do was hope for better on Saturday.

When we awoke, a little disappointment set in, as we realized the mountain was still shrouded in clouds, but it didn't feel like rain. Closer to the coast the sun streamed down, and we had high hopes that the clouds would burn off later in the afternoon. After all, we did have 7 hours for conditions to improve. They didn't. The whole march was a little surreal, and nearly the whole climb was shrouded in eerie mist. The forested areas seemed like something out of The Village totally silent, moss hanging like icicles from tree branches, and fog swirling through the thick trunks.

At one point near the end, were walking along a narrow ridge and I'm sure it was nothing but a sheer drop off on either side, but we really couldn't tell since it looked like we were floating above a bowl of murky soup. When we finally arrived at the refuge, we almost missed it in the mist. One minute we were walking along in complete whiteness, and the next there was a cabin in front of us. Complete exhaustion and cold had settled into all of our bones. We were so thankful for the warmth of the fire inside our cramped quarters. Thirty people would be sharing space in a 3 room cabin for the night - 17 beds upstairs, 5 in the dining/sitting room, and then there was "Alaska", our room. The one with 4 beds and no heat. LOTS of blankets kept of from dying of hypothermia overnight. After a hearty, rambunctious dinner (the majority of the people there were, after all, Greeks), we played a little Crazy 8's and went to bed, but not before everyone went racing outside to catch a glimpse of the first snow flurry of the season. Yep, it was COLD.

The next morning we got up to hit the summit, another 1 1/2 hours hike from the refuge, and we treated to splendid views for about half of that - then we watched as the fog rolled up the side of the mountain, spilling into the valleys and up the walls of the cliffs. Incredible. By the time we got to what we thought was the summit trail (we missed it by one ridge) things were getting a little sketchy. The last 150 meters is straight up a large crack in the rock face, with flaky holds, and unsure footing because of all the loose rock. I made it about halfway up (by myself, everyone else chickened out) before I decided it was too dangerous. The fog had turned to a thick mist and the rock was getting slippery, making holding on a difficult task, aside from the fact that my hands were going numb from cold. I just sat down in the gravel and slid back down to the trail. Kinda fun! I'm a little disappointed that I didn't make it all the way to the top, but I'll go back in the spring when the weather is better and I will summit that mountain!! Besides, I had left Pisser behind on accident, and that would just be a crying shame to leave him out after all he's see with me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Weird and weirder

This has been a strange week. First, I find out that my little brother has a tumor on his knee. I about had a heart attack, as cancer is something that runs in our family. I spent the better part of two days in tears waiting to hear some positive news, and finally got it. He visited a specialist yesterday and found out that everything is going to be fine, just a simple removal procedure and no worries. Whatever it is that he's got (osteochondroma) is benign 99.99% of the time. Thank goodness. I was totally prepared to pack up and head home.

Then today, my mom emails to tell me that she has been manditorily evacuated from her home, as Hurricane Rita prepares to crash into Texas right where she lives. As her house is about 4 blocks away from Galveston Bay, well... not much chance that she is going to avoid flooding if this hurricane stays a Category 4, as it is now. My brother, sister and mom loaded up the two cars they have between them with what they deemed as the important stuff (at least what seemed important at 2 am) and headed north to Fort Worth to stay with friends. After being at home and watching the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans, I can't imagine what must be going through my family's heads right now. We were even joking around that it was bound to happen sooner or later, I just never thought it would be this soon. Mom, let me know if I need to send a care package... I've got lots of soup packets in case all hell breaks loose here.

As for locally, things are heating up a little. The UN report on the readiness of Kosovo to begin final status talks is due out soon, and pretty much everyday there is some sort of protest going on. Nothing to be alarmed about. The one today seemed to be nothing more than a bunch of people standing around blocking traffic. No signs, no chanting, just a crowd - at least that's all it was when I decided it was time to get the hell out of there. No sense in standing around waiting for it to get ugly.

So I am officially 34. My birthday was yesterday. Big plans from the Party Girl? No. Took care of that last week with a big group dinner. Last night I stayed home and made a phenomenal frittata from a new cookbook Mom sent with me and watched "March of the Penguins." It was lovely! My favorite Red-Headed Mexican called me for a nice long chat just as the movie was ending and I went to bed early. Nice and peaceful way to enter my mid-thirties. YIKES, I am getting old.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Home again, home again, scrubbidy scrub

I am back in Prishtina to find some rather pleasant changes have taken place in the past couple of months.

Electricity is at an all time high, it's only gone off once in the three days I've been back. Unfortunately, the one time that it did, I was just arriving at my new apartment building laden with a heavy backpack and a box of stuff... did I mention my new apartment is on the 11th floor? I guess I didn't really get the bad end of that deal. By the time I huffed my way up to the 7th floor, I found three people with their little faces pressed to the glass in the elevator that was stuck between floors. Oops. Thank goodness the cuts are relatively predictable - they always happen on the hour or on the half hour. Note to self: Don't get in if it's anywhere close to one of those two time.

Water is now on 24 hours a day for most neighborhoods. BONUS! I was able to clean until midnight last night without having to worry that I would be stuck covered in bleach (more on that to come!).

Parking is now regulated. Instead of being able to just drive up on any old sidewalk and park your car, they have placed signage up everywhere, put stripes on the streets, and hired parking attendants so that you now have to pay to park on the sidewalk. It has cut down drastically on the immenent danger of being run down while innocently walking down the street. BONUS #2!

Other than that, Prishtina is Prishtina - dusty, dirty, and full of life. We had a little birthday dinner the other night for several of us who have birthdays this month. Much fun, good food, good conversation and lots of happy faces that I haven't seen for a while. Good stuff!

Now to complain for a minute. I arrived at the apartment I was taking over from the Super Swede to find that he has not moved out. All of his things are boxed and in the living room (taking up most of it, mind you). Anything he didn't want to take, he just left in the cabinets for me to throw away. I don't know what he was paying his cleaning woman to do twice a week, but I have never seen such filth. Ever. I have spent the past three days (with another 2 to go) bleaching the entire apartment. GROSS. It took me 7 hours just to get the bedroom and bathroom in a condition to where I was willing to unpack my things. The kitchen was covered in a layer of grease and dirt so thick that the walls have changed colors now that they are clean. EEEEWWWWW! I have had some help, and today we're having a cleaning party. Captain Canadian, the Norweigian Goddess and Thorganizer are all coming over to scrub scrub scrub. So now I am off to the grocery store to stock the fridge and get a heavy duty scrub brush and more rubber gloves. (Don't ask.) This sh*t is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. (<---- That was just for you Duchess of Sconce!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Return trip...

It's 2:11 am and I'm trying to get my s**t together for my trip back to Prishtina in the morning. 22 hours of hell (well, not absolute hell - just alot of hanging around in airports). I've been packed for a couple of hours, only to find out that I will have to repack in the morning. One of my bags is WAY overweight. I thought it would be cheaper to have an overweight bag than to have an extra bag - I was sooooooooo WRONG. It would cost me twice as much for the heavy one than for an extra bag. Hmmmm. I find it interesting that they charge such a premium for overweight baggage, yet overweight people still get to spill into their neighbors laps. Say, is there an Atkins Diet for Samsonite?

So I am officially giving up for the evening and going to bed to get a little bit of sleep. Will repack in the morning. Then it's off to Kosovo. I'm a little excited about going "home". :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The next time I decide to blog after 3 margaritas, I hope someone is around to stop me. That last post sounded like a bad Bud Light commercial "I love you, man!" Not that every word of it wasn't true, but geez. How embarassing.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Where's the love... OH there it is....

There should be a law against inebriated blogging... it's like drunk dialing but 10 times worse. Anyway... all I really wanted to say was how blessed I am to have a circle of friends like mine. I am always amazed by the people around me... you are all so wonderful. Stacy, Alio, Kev, Amy, Kailei, Jayden, Joey, Jose, Gus, Nick, Nathan, Michelle, Kelly, Jack, Jayson, Nikki, Travis, Tam, Jamie, Julie and Jamie, Jenifer, Matt and anybody I inadvertantly missed by being a little silly right now... I love you so much!!! You have made my time in the U.S. exactly what it was meant to be. I miss you all tons already (yep, I have had one tearful incident, with more to come, I am sure - so homesick I could die and I haven't even left yet.) My tail will be wagging for weeks (or months) to come just because I had the opportunity to spend some time with you. THANKS FOR BEING THERE ALWAYS. Mean it.

And as for my wonderful family... I just can't say enough. I LOVE YOU TOO!!!!!

Before I start getting really sappy, I'm going to sign off. But I don't think I say it enough. You guys are the best. I do love you to pieces, and I am a blessed, blessed woman to have you all in my life. THANK YOU!!

Monday, August 29, 2005

More photos

Posted the 4th and final album from Turkey trip today . Finally. I know. Lazy cow. Mooo. It's what I do best. (see PHOTOS link, Turkey 4, Summer 2005 - incredibly creative album title, I know. I am sooooo ON today. Tomorrow I may write something titled August 30, LA who knows - I don't wanna get out-of-control creative or anything.)

Oh yeah, right.. heading for LA tomorrow to see the gang. Cannot wait!!! (DC was kind of a bust trip - more on that when my broken heart has healed a little bit. Nothing a little beach therapy won't cure.) Heading straight for M&N's house to see my Little Angels. I'm sure they're going to be so tall I won't even recognize them. 11 am I have my first play date. Yippee!!!

Ok, going to pack now as my shuttle to the airport is picking me up at 5:50 am. YUCK. So excited about coming home. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! (i'm such a little kid - and they put ME in charge of a classroom. hahahahahahahahaha)


Dispatches from Tanganyika

Just found this blog online that I really like. It's by Poppie Z. Brite's, an author from New Orlean's. I originally came across the site when reading about hurricane Katrina evacuation stories. (Yes, I too am sucked in by other's miseries and cannot seem to tear myself away from the news or the internet.) What is it in human nature that makes us seek out the suffering, the disasters and the most horrific things we can find, say to ourselves and everyone around us "GOD THAT's AWFUL!!!!" and then immediately change the channel to find a re-run of M*A*S*H so we just don't have to think about reality? Part of me wants to cancel my trip to LA and jump in on the Red Cross Volunteer vans that are leaving Fort Worth in a few hours to head to affected areas to begin search and rescue and clean up. The rest of me, and admittedly, the biggest, most selfish part of me, says aw f*** it. There'll be a million volunteers down there anyway, and I won't get to see my friends for another year. And I know that's what I'm going to do. And I'll feel guilty about it for about 30 minutes - until I'm on my plane and heading for the coast, where it never rains, much less has a hurricane. My luck, God will smite me for being smug and send an earthquake, as I've never been through one for real.

Anyway, the real reason I started in on this whole blog thing today was to write about this other blog... here's an excerpt from Brite's blog that particularly caught my eye:

Opinions Are Like ...
Well, You KnowAll right, if I'm to be perfectly honest, I don't actually believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I agree with Harlan Ellison, who once said -- and I wish I could remember where he said it; probably in one of his Glass Teat columns -- that everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. I don't think people are entitled to opinions about food they haven't tried, or books they haven't read, or political issues about which they're not informed. I certainly don't think they are entitled to prejudices. Not for one moment am I suggesting that they should be prevented from expressing such opinions, but people who blather foolishly and publicly on the basis of being "entitled to an opinion" should expect to be mocked, derided, and/or treated like the bigots they are. I certainly don't claim to be free from prejudices myself, but I do recognize that my prejudices -- for instance, my long-held opinion that women don't make good fine-dining chefs -- probably make me sound like an ignorant asshole, and I try to refrain from broadcasting them (except, as here, for the purpose of "outing" myself in order to demonstrate that yeah, I know I'm a jerk too).

I've included a link to this blog in my LINKS section now, more for my own benefit than for yours, no offense. I'm off to delude myself into thinking that natural disaster is not wreaking havoc on one of our most colorful historical cities as we speak, and go smoke a cigarette in 98 degree heat. Mm. The fun in my world never ceases.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Turkey Pics

At last!!! I have posted 3 of the 4 photo albums from the Turkey trip. One more to go, but it's going to have to wait for another day - editing 300 pics has kinda taken the wind out of my sails this morning. I haven't felt much like writing lately, as i am sure some of you have noticed. (no complaining Julie!) It honestly took me a full week to get over the jetlag of coming home, and now that I'm adjusted I've managed to stay pretty busy. I'll get back at it soon. I promise.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Coming home

Tomorrow morning I get on a plane for the long journey home. Friends, family, food... can't wait. I have taken a break from figuring out what the hell I need to pack to sit at an internet cafe and waste an hour. It's such an odd feeling to think that tomorrow night I'll be at my dad's house with my sisters (Duchess of Sconce, get off your butt and drive over from Dallas!), Daddy and Deb, that I'll be able to pick up the phone and hear voices that are only memories at the moment, and that I'll be able to sit comfortably in an air conditioned house while the world sweats away without me. :) It is the little things.

It's actually chilly in Prishtina today - the rain has cooled things off considerably. When I first arrived last week it was unbearably hot. I took the best course of action I could think of - leave. We had a girls' trip to Plav, Montenegro for some incredibly scenic hiking (complete with caves, canyons, waterfalls, and skinny dipping inthe coldest river known to man). Couldn't ask for a much better weekend away from the city. We stayed with a family, who turned out (oddly enough) to be related to one of my students. The Balkans are truly tiny and everyone really is related to everyone else. I don't see how there are so many blood feuds here when everyone is your cousin. Really. The farmhouse sat right on the lake, and the balcony off our bedroom had a stunning view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. To visit a place like that, where they have hardly ever seen a foreign tourist, where the locals welcome you into their home, and where the world seems completely unconcerned with everything else around it, is a true blessing. I feel fortunate to have caught a glimpse of what life in the Balkans must have been like before the wars, before the predjudices, before the modern world came creeping in. There are signs of it now - all the cars present were Mercedes, evidence of the vast diaspora that feeds money into the region. Our hostess said that most people in Plav now live in the States or in Germany and only come back for the summers. We saw every country in Europe's license plates represented as the parade of big Benz's careened through town. Still, it is stunning, and I have the feeling it will continue to be that way for a long time, as difficult roads and lack of access keep this little paradise isolated from the throngs that rush to the coastline every summer. Pics to be posted soon!!

And on that note, I really must go pack. I'm a leaaaavin' on a jet plane....

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A journey's end

In utter style, I might add...

It is done. I have left Turkey for greener (?) pastures... actually I have left Turkey for a small dose of reality. A 1 hour flight, a night in a bunk bed, and 14 hours on a bus later I am in Thessaloniki, Greece with ThunderGod, the Norwegian Goddess, and Svingy - the gang from Kosovo. We all had a hell day traveling yesterday and have rightly checked ourselves into the Hyatt Regency (at the special UN rate) for some serious luxury and R&R. After sleeping with 25 other people in the same room for the past 5 weeks, I don't particularly care what it costs per night. After a late night sushi feast, I awoke this morning surrounded in a cloud of down comforters and pillows... couldn't have been happier. The bathroom itself is a glass shrouded palace - bigger than most people's apartments in Prishtina, and the pool area a lush garden replete with waterfalls and poolside massage tent. There are some advantages to having a bit of cash I suppose, and it's a real treat to splurge every once in a while even when you don't.

I do promise you all that I will complete the story of my trip once sagely home and at the comfort of my own keyboard. There are some things that really just cannot be explained with out the pictures. I only have about 400 to post (no, that's not an exaggeration)... so be patient with me.

So in 10 days I will set foot on American soil for the first time in a year. I am terribly excited to see everyone, and at the same time I'm having trepidations about being back in the land of convenience. It's a hard adjustment to make sometimes. Even in Turkey I was overwhelmed everytime I walked into a grocery store. I felt like I needed to buy things because who knew when I'd ever see it again... silly. I hope that impulse doesn't hit me when I go into Central Market or I'll be the proud but poor owner of a large selection of rare fruits and vegetables and jars of exotic condiments. I'll be flat broke in my first week home. My true fear is that I will try to satisfy all urges and cravings for fast food in a matter of minutes and will explode quite like the guy at the end of The Meaning of Life. It could happen. Taco Bell beware!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Turquoise Waters, Treehouses and Beyond

The past 12 days have been unbelievable. I'll do my best to do them justice, but I am afraid I won't even come close.

We'll start way back in Fethiye (it seems like ages ago!). It didn't take long after my arrival to realize that Fethiye is even more touristy than some of the other places I had been. It was an immediate assault on the nerves as vendor after vendor tried to sell me boat cruises, tours, carpets, belly dancing costumes, and various other useless objects in my life right now. What the hell would I do with a carpet? I don't even have a home right now. Sheesh. I checked into my dank little hotel, with one redeeming quality - AC. I have never been happier to have AC in my life. While I have been a bit warm in some of the places I have been, Fethiye took the cake by far. I thought I was gonna melt (being as sweet as I am, that's not such a stretch - stop laughing, all of youse!!). Anyway, ran into some friends from Atilla's and had a good couple of days lying around on the beach with them, all while having a good laugh at being stalked by the same puppy dog-eyed Turkish English teacher named Jimmy. (He was working at the Chinese restaurant in town, and I guess at some point in our stays we all had decided that it was necessary to eat something other than a kebab. From the moment I sat down and told him I was an English teacher, all he wanted to do was discuss theory. It wasn't until I ran in to him later that night that he decided to follow me around with very sad eyes because I wasn't interested. Did I mention he was 19?? lol)

After two days of Jimmy-dodging, I got on the boat for Olympos. It was an interesting mix, a Canadian family, a Turkish family, five Aussies and another American(from SF no less, older than me who had also dropped out of the advertising scene recently to travel the world. I guess that little life can fatigue just about anyone) We all had a BLAST. Who wouldn't aboard a big ass sailboat (even though we motored the whole way) in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, with nothing to do all day but snorkel, nap, drink beer, swim, drink more beer, sleep some more... Honestly. How could that be bad?? Leave it to the families to find a way. The last night of our trip was the designated "big party" night. We anchored in this tiny cove consisting of nothing but rocks and a bar. We were all water taxied to the club to dance the night away.. I'm sorry, I believe the proper term for what were doing was "Caaaaaaahhhving" up the dance floor (must be spoken with a heavy Aussie accent). SuperTool (our nickname for the annoying guy on the boat) managed to pass out on the deck of the bar within an hour of arrival. Way to go dude! We all took pics, and had we had a Sharpie the poor guy would still be trying to erase the tatoos from his forhead. So as the night wound down and we were shuttled back to the boat, we turned on the music on deck, cracked open a couple of beers and continued harrassing ST. Within seconds, Bonnie the Superlibrarian from Canada comes bounding around the corner and without saying a word to anyone, turns the music off. Now granted, I understand that they were trying to sleep, and it was late, BUT, if I were a family and wanted a peaceful boat cruise, would I book it through a company called BIG BACKPACKERS, who touts their "good times" attitude? Not really what I would look for in a family vacation, but to each his own. After a heated discussion with the captain a compromise was reached and all was happy. However the whole backpacker experience turned the Librarian and family off of staying in Olympos for a few days. But not the rest of us.

We all piled into a hostel together and spent the next two days hanging out on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The mountains dropped directly into the sea, save for a few meters of polished stone beach. The cliff walls around the beach were dotted with ruins from one of the many ancient civilizations in the area. This whole country is a bit surreal. I've been to cities that were founded in 7900 b.c. for crying out loud. American history? Can we even call it history at this point? Isn't more like the recent past? lol Just a different perspective I guess. We alos took a hike up to see the Chimera flames, which is basically random flames shooting out of the rocks on the side of the mountain. Our hostess gave us a bag of marshmallows and some roasting sticks and sent us on our merry way. Quite an experience.

As we were heading out of Olympos, we stopped by one of the older hostels just to check it out. The big draw to Olympos is supposed to be this whole "treehouse" thing, except that the majority of the pensions didn't really get the concept. A house made of trees two inches off the ground does NOT constitute a tree house. Kadir's, however, got it right. They had honest to god treehouses built in the trees. We couldn't resist and booked another night in the only treehouse in Olympos with its own bathroom. Sweet.

The next night we all ventured off on an overnight bus to Goreme, Cappadocia to see some of the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen in my entire life. When I said I felt like I was living in a movie set, I wasn't kidding. This place is amazing. More on that soon...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Is it really week 4 of this trip??

It has been 10 days since I have posted anything. So much has happened I don't even know where to start.... so I don't think I'm going to right now. Honestly, I'm just not in the mood to write today, but I didn't want anyone to think I had drowned on my boat cruise (which was FANTASTIC!!) I swear I'll write all about it later.

I am now in Goreme, Cappadocia which is one of the coolest places I have ever seen. I feel like I am in some weired movie set 24 hours a day. Houses carved into cave walls, chuches carved out of solid rock, weird rock formations everywhere... it's so trippy. Yesterday we took a long hike through some of the valleys to look at the 8th century churches that are built into the rock, complete with intact frescoes... pretty insane. Afterwards we all went to a Turkish night, some tourist set-up all you can eat and drink with folk dancing thing, that was totally fun. We stayed out way too late and between the heat, the hike and the hangover (Triple H killer combo), we have opted to spend today by the pool instead of doing any heavy duty sight seeing today. (I am still traveling with a good portion of people from the boat cruise, we just can't seem to get away from each other... but we're having a blast.)

I have 10 days left in this little journey of mine. I can't believe it's almost over already. Craziness. In 19 days, I'll be in Texas with a hell of a story to tell, and I promise to get all the little details thrown up here as soon as I can. Photos included. It's time to go back to the pool now. My tan is fading as we speak. I can feel myself getting pale. (hahahha)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Days 14 - 16 Dalyan & Fethiye


I can truly see why people would come here and never want to leave. It is absolutely gorgeous. For the past two days I have been in a small town called Dalyan, famous for being a nesting site for loggerhead turtles (not that they're running around all over the place or anything, but they nest at night on the protected beaches). Dalyan itself is nestled upriver about 13 km from the beach, facing sheer rock cliffs that are dotted with ancient Lycean tombs carved straight into the faces - huge temples to the dead hanging hundreds of feet above the banks of the river. It's quite stunning at night to see them all lit up. On my first night in Dalyan I took a cruise up to the lake guided by a Scottish astronomer. I got to see Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, as well as many other cool things like star clusters and red giants and binaries and other geeky stuff like that, through high powered binoculars (boat isn't steady enough for telescopes, plus most of their equipment is hung up in customs). The guide, Duncan, evidently made quite a bit of money back in the 70's off a book he wrote claiming that he had been able to interpret a message from outer space. He also must have spent a lot of that money doing some serious drugs, because he was a little "out there" himself. Definitely one of those "off the beaten track" activities, but worth the money spent. I had an absolute miserable nights sleep, as the window of the hotel room I was in was blocked by a large bureau, and there was no air whatsoever. I seriously thought I was going to suffocate. At 7:30 the next morning I got up and moved to another place and was a much happier girl.

So after settling into my new hotel (same price I was paying for a twin bed in a stuffy closet for a double bed, ensuite bathroon and swimming pool! You don't realize how much those little extras start to count until you have suffered a little), I headed off to the river banks to jump on an all-day boat tour of the the ruins at Kaunus, the Turtle Beach, the lake and the mud baths - also worth the money spent, even though the mud baths were overflowing with people. It made it a little difficult to relax in the grey muck when there was 100 other people in the small pool with you. It's also like walking into a room full of aliens - as everyone is walking around covered head to toe in muck at varıous stages of the drying process (girls, this is the ultimate full body mud pack treatment) and speaking a million different languages, none of which are English. Surreal. So after your whole body is dried and crackling, you herd off to the group alien hose-down, a bit like the Coca-Cola Cool Zones at Six Flags, but with the water pressure of a coin operated car wash. You need it though to get all of that gunk off of you, and suddenly the aliens emerge as fully human tourists once again. I think I still have some mud in places I don't want to talk about... That night I went for a nice dinner all by my lonesome at a lovely spot by the river. I tell ya what, as much as I am enjoying traveling alone and not being tied to anyone else's schedule, Dalyan is a bit of a romantic spot, and I would have given anything to have someone there to watch the sunset with. Some days, your own company just ain't enough. I got over it though. Had a glass of wine with dinner and got a great night's sleep.

This morning I headed out to Fethiye. After nearly sweating to death waiting for the dolmus (mimi-bus) to take off, I had to endure a 10 minute diatribe by an aging Englishman on the problems of the world all being caused by the "overpopulation" (yes, he actually used that word) of blacks and the Pakis in the cities. I thought I was going to puke. Let's not take a good look at reality or anything, Mr... Let's just blame it on the blacks and Pakis. Welcome to the 21st century, where racism is alive and well. People like that don't deserve my energy. Once he shut up, the rest of the ride was absolutely breathtaking. Turkey is far from the desert I had exiected. The climate is arid, but the countryside is unbelievable. Mountains spring up from the flat valleys seemingly from nowhere and are covered in crisp smelling pine forests. We snaked around and around the hills, passing tractors pulling cartloads of watermelons on blind curves with no guardrails in sight, until though a break in the trees we were able to catch a glimpse of the turquoise waters below. I damn near cried from the sheer beauty of it all. A Turkish couple sitting behind me said, "It's like a dream, isn't it? The most beautiful place in the world." I chatted with them the rest of the trip, and was offered a place to stay in Bursa anytime I wanted to visit. The people in Turkey are even more beautiful than the countryside.

I booked my 4 day boat cruise to Olympos for Tuesday, and will spend the next couple of days seeing the sights around Fethiye. The mountains here plunge directly into the sea, and the city itself hugs the shoreline of an insanely beautiful bay. About 7 km away is a Greek villag ethat was mysteriously abandoned in 1923 called Kaya Köy that should be interesting to see. Then I'll head off to the beach for the afternoon at Ölüdenız. Who knows what from there. I'll keep ya posted!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Days 7 - 13 Bergama and Selçuk

I am a lazy cow. Really. I spent another day in Bergama, compliments of the hostel owner (he erased everything on my iPod on accident and felt terribly guilty about it), then headed off to Selçuk and Ephesus. I decided to stay at a hostel a little outside of the town, called Atilla's Getaway for a night or two to avoid the gazillions of people on the tour buses and relax for a bit. I was meant to stay one, maybe two nights... I've now been here 5. I am officially leaving tomorrow, but I am so glad I found this place. It's run by a Turkish-Australian family, meals are included, there's a pool and volleyball courts, and I can't say enough about the people. Alex, Lisa, Donna Lee and Carlos have been like family this week. We're having a ball - I was going to leave today, but Alex and Carlos "swore" there were no buses running today. I didn't really need an excuse to spend another lazy day.

So here's how my week went: The first day I lounged by the pool and read a book. The next day got up and went to Ephesus for the day. A word or two about Ephesus - STUNNING. You could almost feel what it must have been like to live in the city. In it's height, it had a population of 250,000 people. The marble streets are virtually intact. The houses had hot and cold running water, there's a complete underground sewage system, and many of the major buildings, like the library, have been carefully restored. If any of you ever come to Turkey (which I highly recommend), this is an absolute MUST SEE. That night danced and drank at the bar all night. Spent the next day lounging in the cushioned area, swimming, sleeping by the pool. Day 4, whıch just happened to be the 4th of July, I got up and went to Pamukkale for the day. I've been here nearly 2 full weeks now, and have hardly run into a single American (lot's of Aussies and Kiwis tho). Somehow, all 10 of us on the shuttle to Pammukale were American. I ended up spending the day walking around with two girls around my age, maybe a little younger, and their mom, on a "last chance" girls' trip as the daughters live on opposite coasts, and mom lives in Chicago. They were truly delightful company, and it felt really nice to be a part of someone's family even if was just for the day. One of the girls lives ın San Diego (and speaks 6 languages!), so we swapped emails with promises of exchanging the photos we took all day. Pamukkale itself was pretty spectacular, even though many of the mineral pools no longer have water in them. You're driving along in the middle of no where on a dirt road, then suddenly you turn a corner and the whole hillslde looks like it has been frosted for a wedding cake. Thousands of years of calcium deposits from the natural spring have turned the hills into a blinding white terraced sculpture dotted with small blue pools whose waters are touted to have healing powers. Pretty damn cool. Next day, lazed by the pool all day. I'm getting quite a tan at this point and I've got nothing but beach ahead of me. Yeah! Today, I'm just hanging out in town trying to catch up on email (the internet has been out all week at the hostel). I'm about to head back and take a nap by the pool. Life is realllllly rough.

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Dalyan, where loggerhead turtles come in to nest, and from there... not really sure yet. I'll keep ya posted. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Day 6 - Troy and Bergama

I got up early this morning and took a tour of Troy that was exceptionally nice, considering I have sworn off tours for the rest of the trip. Our guide had been giving h=this tour for 30 years, and has even written a book about Troy. It wasn't that much to look at, but it's still cool to say I've been there now.

From there, I went back to Canukkale and took another bus to Bergama (aka Pergamum). I'm staying in the quaintest litte pension. It's an old (160 years OLD) Ottoman house with a charming courtyard and a rooftop deck that is only accessable by a very rickety ladder. From the top you can see the ruins of the ancient city's Acropolis on top of the hill that overlooks the "modern" Bergama. Most of the town is still in the old Ottoman fashion, albeit somewhat crumbling, and it is absolutely adorable. I damn near gave this place a miss, and I am so glad I didn't. Anyway, in the entry way to the house is a birds' nest that houses six baby birds that just learned to fly. They entertain themselves by zooming around the courtyard in a tight spiral around each other. The place is owned by a mother and son, he speaks perfect English, while she speaks almost none. She is the epitome of an old Turkish woman, down to the headscarf, round face, and toothless but genuinly warm smile. He is a bigger techie geek than I am. He's got this place set-up for wireless internet access, and even has a laptop for guests to use while sitting on their favorite balcony.

I took a little stroll around town this evening, and came across the ruins of an old basilica that I don't know much about yet. I'm going to go check it out tomorrow. Aydin (the son) says that it is one of seven churches mentioned in the bible. Just the size of the thing is impressive, I can't wait to figure out the history of it. Anyway, must go to bed now, as I have a 5k hike up the side of a steep hill to get to the ruins tomorrow. Ciao for now!

Days 4 and 5 - Istanbul and Canukkale

(Again, copied from journal)

Sunday night went out to diner with Enver and to the top of a cool hotel to check out the view over a glass of wine. We met a really interesting Kiwi guy who was an earthquake engineer - works all over the world helping governments install warning systems. He said if an earthquake ever hit Istanbul (and it's only a matter of time) that the casualties would be astronomical. Not a very good sign, considering there are between 12-18 million people in the city. Yikes!

Got up Monday morning and took a stroll through the Grand Bazaar/ My GOD I have never seen anything like that in my entire life. It literally encompases what seems like miles and miles of space - stall after stall after stall of jewelry, carpets, inlaid woodn chotchkies, ceramics, clothes, you name it - it's there/ It's is truly mind boggling. I was looking at a particular bracelet at one stall and when it didn't fit, I was quickly ushered deeper into the mayhem to another stall, and when nothing in that stall suited my fancy either, the chase was on again. I was finally able to make my escape, but at that point I was hopelessly lost in the rat maze. I felt like I was walking around in circles, but there was really no way to tell as all the stalls start to look the same. I suddenly understood the logic of bread crumbs. An hour and a half of wandering did finally get me back to the entrance where I had come in and back to alovely pair of chandelier earrings tht I just couldn't walk away from. After a bit of bargaining, they were dangling prettily from my lobes.

From there, I sprinted down the crowded side streets (I don't know how, or for that matter WHY, they get cars down those streets) to Eminonu to catch a ferry up the Bosphorous for the second time - this time in daylight though. I was Shanghai'd by a private tour operator who tried to get me on the boat for 20 lira (about $15). I lauged at him and told him I could get on the normal ferry for 7 lira and it was a longer trip. He caved and let me on the boat (which was much nicer than the normal ferry) for 10. Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this bargaining business. It was a lovely two hours spent reading and wishing I owned one of the big fat fancy houses (or summer palaces) along the channel. Afterwards, I treated myself to an incredible (albeit expensive) seafood lunch by the water. I didn't even get freaked out about having to debone and dehead the fish myself. Proud of me for that.

Tuesday I got up and got on a shuttle bus to the bus station so I could head off to Canukkale (nearest place to Troy). The shuttle bus driver was insane, but in a good sort of way. He had a heavy mustache and about 5 teeth, and was sweating so badly the whole way to the station that I honestly thought he might drown. Even so, he insisted on playing house music and guessing what language they were singing in, all while waving his arms and bopping in his seat like a teenager, reaching over occasionally to slap my thigh and laugh out loud. Completely nutso/ However, if it hadn't been from him, I would have never caught my bus. As we were nearing the station, he pointed out the window to the left at an anthill crawling with giant ants that turned out to be busses... the biggest bus station I have ever seen. 5 levels of spiraling ramps, entrances, exits, buildings and thousands of buses. It was a city all in itself. Incredible.

The bus to Canakkale was one of the nicest I've ever been on - comfy seats, tea and cake service, and air conditioned. I sat next to a young Turkish girl who just finished University and is off to Canada at the end of the summer for an intensive English course. She offered up her home if I wasn't satisfied with the hostel. The kindness and genrousity of the Turkish people continues to amaze me. I didn't take her up on her offer, but was impressed by it anyway.

So last night I experienced my first Turkish bath. I say my first, because it definitely won't be my last. Awesome!! I figured it would be a nice relaxing way to spend an evening, and I was so right. First they showed me into a room where you undress and wrap yourself in something like a sarong, but much much smaller. Then I was led into a cavernous steam room. The marble floors and benches were even warm. As the sweat started to pour off of me, so did all the tension in every part of my body. They left me in there until exactly the point where I didn't think I could take much more, then led me into a smaller room with little cubicles, each with their own marble benches and basins with running hot water. Then the real fun began. First the bathr strips down to her bra and underwear (not a pretty sight, as she was about 60 and rather doughy), then stripped me down to nada as she whipped my covering from me and whipped it around an overhead bar in one deft motion. Then she motioned for me to sit on the little step while she poured soothing warm water over me from the little basin and began to lather up my hair with soap. After an intense scalp massage, I was rinsed again. Then came the best, and grossest, part - exfoliation. She put this special mit over one hand, held onto the wall with the other and went to town. SCRUB SCRUB SCRUB. Layer after layer of dead skin came rolling off and dropped to the floor - I felt like she might actually scrub a limb completely off, but it felt soooo good. And these women are not shy, they scrub everything. I don't think I've actually scrubbed myself in some of those places before. After another good rinsing it was time to lay on the floor for a soapy deep-tissue massage. That woman had incredibly strong hands. By the time she was finished I felt smooth as glass and limp as a noodle. You know, I think the last time someone actually bathed me, I was about 6 years old. I would highly recommend it to anyone. There is really nothing like it. Afterward, she wrapped me back in my sarong thingy, wrapped my head in a funky turban and led me to a seating area for some tea. Now that was a perfect evening. I topped it off with a bowl of homemade lentil soup and an ice cold Efes and was a completely happy girl.

Day 3 - Istanbul

(This is copied straight out of my journal for June 26th)

I think my feet are going to fall off. Seriously. I can take no more walking.. need a few days on the beach. Immediately. Right now I'm sitting in a small cafe in the atrium between twobuildings enjoying a glass of red wine and letting my barking dogs have a rest. TOday I've been to the Archaelogical Museum, Dolmabace Palace (unbelievably opulent - saw world's biggest Baccarat crystal chandelier... oooooh), Taksim Square and walked down Istiklal Caddesi. Imagine 3rd Street Promanade in Santa Monica mixed with the architecture of Gran Via in Madrid and multiply the number of people in both places by about 100 and you've got Istiklal Caddesi - a mecca of cool shops, cafes and bars. Oh, add into that mix a 1960's San Fran style cable car that travels up and down the boulevard. The place just throbs with life. It's moments like that that I wish I had a traveling companion because it would have just been too cool to sit in one of the cafes above street level smoking flavored tobacco from a shisha, playing backgammon, and people watching. This is such an amazing city.

Tomorrow is going to be a shopping day - sort of. I want to see the Grand Bazaar, but not buy anything yet so I don't have to carry it around with me. I'll probably head out tomorrow. It's time to relax for a bit. Sevi keeps offering to "help me" plan the rest of my trip, but as he is Mr. Travel Agent, I really think he's just trying to sell me stuff. I don't want to be tied to anyone's schedule right now. Oh I cannot wait to get out of tourist central and chillllll.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Day 2 - Istanbul

Ok, so I was actıng lıke a 12 year old, but I sure dıdn't feel lıke ıt when I got up the next day... at noon. So feedıng off my need for a more ınformatıon about the mosques, I decıded to take a half day tour of the Suleymane Mosque (the largest one ın Istanbul) and the Topkapı Palace. What a waste of money. The tourguıde saved me 1/2 an hour of standıng ın lıne for tıckets and dıdn't add anythıng to the tour that wasn't already posted on the plaques on the walls. Oh well, lesson learned, no more guıded tours. RIP OFF. However, ıt was stıll really cool to see the Sultan's palace and the 86 carat dıamond housed there. WOW. I made a mad dash after the tour about 5pm to get my fıll of a guılty pleasure (and hangover helper) - Mc Donald's. Yeah, I know. A cıty full of fantastıc turkısh food, and I go to Mc Donald's. It won't happen agaın.

As I left McDonald's I heard a "psst-pssssssst." I just managed to turn my head enough to shoot the culprıt a dırty look only to fınd one of the coaster-throwıng crew from the nıght before sıttıng out ın front of hıs shop havıng tea. I sat down and joıned hım and some frıends for a chat and they sent me off to fınd a lıttle mosque (Rümen Paşa) that they swore was the most beautıful one ın all of Istanbul. It was tucked down among the stalls ın the spıce market, and I had no choıce but to take a wander through ın order to fınd ıt. The smells comıng from that place were out of thıs world - cınamon and peppers and vanılla and I don't know what... but ıt was wonderful! Aısle after aısle of bıg burlap bags full of thıngs that I'd never heard of - green powders, red powders, yellow powders, seeds and herbs and teas and *sıgh* awesome. And somewhere at the end of an aısle a small set of worn and crooked marble staırs led ınto the darkness. That was my stop. I took off my shoes and stepped ınsıde and was ımmedıately blown away. The ınsıde of thıs mosque was completely covered ın hand paınted tıles from floor to ceılıng. Absolutely stunnıng. As I was the only one there, I sat down on the floor (after takıng a few photos) and just lıstened. Even though ıt was ınfınıtely smaller, the same sense of vastness and peace fılled the buıldıng. A few other tourısts eventually found theır way through the market and wandered ın. I took that as my cue to move on.

I went back to Halıl's shop to thank hım for the hınt and we wound up sıttıng ın a lıttle tea house for the next two hours where I was gıven a serıous lesson ın how poorly I actually play backgammon. Out of 14 games I won one. ONE. All those hours playıng agaınst my computer dıd me no good. Nor dıd the hours the magnıfıcent Mr. M and I spent playıng. I got schooled. Oh well. Guess that means I need to practıce.

That nıght Şhevı, Enver, Krısten, Dasıa (the folks from the other hostel) took a nıght cruıse on the Bosphorus to watch the fıreworks over the brıdge and to see all the Sultan's summer palaces along the water all lıt up. The fırst half of the cruıse went up the European sıde and we returned vıa the Asıan sıde. I've offıcıally been on two dıfferent contınents ın the space of an hour. Not bad.

Day 1 - Istanbul

I should begin by saying that my fears about being lonely on the road have been quickly abated. Whether or not that is a good thing, I still haven't decided. I had at least 20 offers for "private" tours of Istanbul in the first 20 minutes of walking around. Most just don't understand why I am traveling alone. "Why you by yourself? You so pretty. I can heeeeelp you." Yeah. Right. I don't need that kind of help, thanks anyway. I keep trying to think of a better answer than "No, thanks," but somehow I think telling them I'm a lesbian or something might get me in more trouble than just ignoring them.

(I should also say that I am having hell with this keyboard, because Turkish has several letters that we don't, and that has shifted some things into some odd places on the keyboard - punctuation isn't where it's supposed to be, and there are strange symbols coming out where letters ought to be. So if this starts to look a little wonky, well.... sorry. Wonky ıs a new word that I have picked up from Captain Canadian. I like it!!)

SO, my flıght got in Thursday afternoon around 5:30 pm. The hostel/hotel manager picked me up at the aırport, and whisked me away through the cıty. We took a road that ran rıght along the shorelıne. Brıghtly colored wooden fıshıng boats bobbed lıke corks ın theır tıght moorıngs whıle rıver cruısers and barges and gıant tankers lıned up ın the dıstance awaıtıng theır turn to pass up the Bosphorous ınto the Black Sea. We passed the ancıent cıty walls (or what's left of them, they are a few hundred years old, after all.) and ınto Sultanahmet, the old part of the cıty, where the streets suddednly truned from broad modern avenues ınto wındy cobbled streets that seemed to make no sense. I got to the hotel around 6:30 pm, checked into the smallest room you have ever seen, and headed up to the roof to watch the sunset over the Marmaras Sea. Ok, I had a couple of hours to kıll before sunset, so I grabbed some beers and a book fırst. Dırectly ın front of the hotel are the ruıns of a very old mosque and another very old mosque that ıs stıll standıng (and quıte beautıful). Growıng out of the top of the mınaret of the ruıned mosque ıs a very tıny lıttle tree, rıght out of the brıcks - a lone survıvor wavıng to the world. And dırectly ın front of that ıs the sea. Nıce. I spent the rest of the evenıng havıng a bbq wıth half the famıly that runs the hotel. Homemade kofte (meatballs), salad, goat cheese, olıves, and of course plenty of rakı.

A lıttle note about Turkısh rakı vs. Kosovo rakı. You can actually drınk the Turkish versıon. Not the slıghtest hınt of jet fuel anywhere. It's a lovely anıse flavored lıquor sımılar to ouzo but wıthout the bıte. And there's an entıre rıtual that goes along wıth drınkıng ıt - none of thıs pour yourself a shot and bottoms up busıness. Fırst you have to set the table properly: the rakı ıs cut wıth equal parts water, a second glass of water, goat cheese, cucumbers, black olıves, salamı, and of course, sweet melon (looks lıke honeydew, tastes lıke canteloupe - YUM). Then ıt's one drınk of rakı, one drınk of water, one bıte of cheese, one bıte of melon, one black olıve. Repeat untıl the bottle ıs gone or you fall out of your chaır - whıchever comes fırst. I sat on the roof wıth Şevı, the owner's nephew (who ıs marrıed to a former Fullbrıghter and lıves ın Oregon most of the year) and hıs frıend Arzu ( a total gem of a gırl who ınvıted me to go watch belly dancıng wıth her and her frıends the next nıght) untıl nearly mıdnıght. I had to call ıt a nıght so I could play super-tourıst all day Frıday. As much as I trıed however, I could get no sleep. My lıttle cubby of a room was on the fırst floor near receptıon, so between the groups of people come ın at all hours from partyıng and the hotel staff chattıng ıt up at the desk, I gave up at 6 am wıth only an hours sleep under my belt. I begged for a room on amother floor, and boy am I glad I dıd. I was moved from my lıttel cubby hole wıth no bathroom to a double room wıth a bath and an ocean vıew (all for a mere $5 a nıght more). So happy!! My week's stay ın Istanbul was stıll under $100.

So after a quıck nap untıl 10 am, I got up and super-tourıst I was!! I hıt the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofıa, the Basılıca Cısterns (9800 square meters of a 6th century water storage room fed by old roman aqueducts), back alley markets, and a long walk along the sea wall around the outsıde of the Tokapı Palace and then through the gardens and along the Dıvan Yolu untıl my feet hurt so bad I couldn't walk anymore. I would love to descrıbe the feel of the two mosques, but vast, beautıfu, and peaceful just don't quıte convey the rıght feelıngs. If you've ever been alone ın the woods just at dusk before the ınsects have come out to play and the bırds have quıted down before the feast - you know that other creatures (people) are there, but ıt's really easy to forge... you can feel your heart beatıng and hear every breath... that would get you pretty close to the feelıng of steppıng ınto one of these gıants. Not even St. Peter's Basılıca ın Rome had the same feelıng of space and solıtude. Then there's the artwork - the mosaıcs and ıntrıcate desıgns, the handpaınted tıles... I'll post some pıcs as soon as I am able. I never thought I would hear myself say taht I wıshed I had an art hıstory genıus wıth me, but I dıd. I would have loved to hear what all of the dıfferent thıngs sıgnıfıed. I would have even taken Ricardo, our alcoholıc art hıstory professor ın Spaın that treated us all lıke we were kındergarteners, just to get some of the hıstory. (Jess, I can feel you rollıng your eyes at that one - c'mon, you know you mıss hım!)

Sultanahmet ıs crawlıng wıth tourısts, as thıs ıs where many of the maın attractıons are, and you can hear any language at any gıven moment (lots of Spanıards). The amazıng thıng ıs the shop keepers... they speak enough of any gıven language to sell theır goods to anyone. It's truly amazıng. However, thıs ıs not true of all Turkısh folks. At the lıttle famıly bbq, the uncle, alıttle round man ın hıs late 60's wıth a full head of whıte haır, turned and squarely faced me, looked me straıght ın the eye and saıd, "I am lıar." It took all of my energy to not laugh rıght ın hıs face, becuase I KNEW that wasn't what he meant, but I thought I'd gıve hım a lıttle tıme to fıx ıt. Şhevı dıdn't have that grace... he started to gıggle and the old man looked at hım embarrassed, muttered somethıng ın Turkısh, and repeated "I am LIAR." Thıs ıs where Şhevı broke ın and saıd, "He's a lawyer." OH!!! (not much dıfference ıf you ask me... wınk wınk)

Frıday nıght I went out wıth Şevı, Arzu, her frıend Nalan, Gıorgıo (another one of the uncles tht runs the hostel whose name I can't pronounce, thus the ıtalıan versıon), and some other people from another hostel. It started wıth (yup, you guessed ıt) some rakı. Then we moved on to the bar where the belly dancıng was to take place. The DJ was spınnıng some great tunes, and we all boogıed our lıtle butts off untıl the show started (took gratuıtous hot belly dancer photos for Super Swede and Thorganızer's benefıt). We wound up ın another pub after that dancıng salsa, tradıtıonal Turkısh hankerchıef stuff (very sımılar to the Kosovar versıon), and got ınto a mad coaster hurlıng fıght wıth 3 other bar patrons and the bartender. Duckıng behınd doorways, ambushıng people when they came out of the bathroom - basıcally actıng lıke 12 year olds and havıng a blast. Fınally crawled home as the fırst prayer call was goıng out from our neıghborıng mosque. Slept lıke a baby.

Stay tuned for day 2.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I'm offffff.....

Wouldn't you know it - I am leaving this afternoon (in about an hour) to begin my magnificent journey around Turkey, and I woke up this morning with a temperature of 101. I've felt it coming on all week, and i've been downing vitamins like candy, going to bed early and everything, but I still couldn't manage to keep it away. Poop. I'm on my way to the pharmacy right now for antibiotics and decongestants and antihistamines and anything else I can think of so that maybe I'll be feeling like a human tomorrow. If I have to spend two days hanging around the hostel trying to recover, so be it - I am going to Turkey today!!!! Yeah!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

This past weekend was full of good times and good eats... I'm staying with Captain Canadian right now, and she's as much of a cook as I am (ok, she's even a better cook than I am) so we've been eating like queens these past few days. Breakfast burritos to die for Friday night, Pasta primavera Saturday night, English breakfast Sunday morning; huge pork BBQ, blue cheese potato salad, homemade cheesecake with fresh black cherry topping Sunday night; homemade bacon burgers last night - mmmmm... Lucky for the Super Swede that he's been invited to share in our delicacies - well, he actually provided the honey marinated pork tenderloin Sunday. If I ate like this all the time, I'd weigh a ton.

Anyway, the real reason for posting today is to let you all know that three new photo albums have been added to the collection: My Students, 2005-06 Greece Trips, and June Events. Mostly just a bunch of going away party photos (there have been a lot of those lately), but the pictures of Afytos, Greece are definitely worth a look. It was so incredibly beautiful there.

So I'm off for Turkey on Thursday.... going to pick up my plane tickets right now. Yeeeeehaw!!

Good food, good friends

This past weekend was full of good times and good eats... I'm staying with Captain Canadian right now, and she's as much of a cook as I am (ok, she's even a better cook than I am) so we've been eating like queens these past few days. Breakfast burritos to die for Friday night, Pasta primavera Saturday night, English breakfast Sunday morning; huge pork BBQ, blue cheese potato salad, homemade cheesecake with fresh black cherry topping Sunday night; homemade bacon burgers last night - mmmmm... Lucky for the Super Swede that he's been invited to share in our delicacies - well, he actually provided the honey marinated pork tenderloin Sunday. If I ate like this all the time, I'd weigh a ton.

Anyway, the real reason for posting today is to let you all know that three new photo albums have been added to the collection: My Students, 2005-06 Greece Trips, and June Events. Mostly just a bunch of going away party photos (there have been a lot of those lately), but the pictures of Afytos, Greece are definitely worth a look. It was so incredibly beautiful there.

So I'm off for Turkey on Thursday.... going to pick up my plane tickets right now. Yeeeeehaw!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Things I will miss about Prishtina....

This should be a short list... (just kidding)

1. My students!!

2. My friends!!

3. The Prishtina doorbell - standing outside someone's building and screaming their name over and over until they finally hear you from the 8th floor and start shouting back from the balcony. This usually takes place between 1 and 3 am or 7 and 9 am. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

4. The nightly street mudification - a new word I have coined that involves the practice of trying to tame the dust in this city by shooting thousands of gallons of water onto the streets, inducing nothing more than a river of mud running down the sidewalk. All of this while my apartment has no water after 10 pm. hmmmm.

5. Meeting the Saint at her "office" to complain about the state of the University, the state of the Union or the state of just about anything that needs complaining about. You're a rock, St. H!!

6. Camping in the living room - cooking over a one burner gas camp stove by candle light when the electricity goes out in the middle of dinner making. Very romantic party for one.

7. I would have said the Buda Bar, but since it got firebombed a few weeks ago and doesn't exist anymore, no point in that...

8. Weekend trips to Greece! (oh wait, I'm going to Turkey for a month - I'll survive. I will however be very sad to miss the big sailing trip to Corfu for Super Swede's going away party in September. BOO for going without me.)

9. Chinese at 1? twice a week. You go, Thorganizer. (That and deep fried Brie with raspberry coulis at Pjata - mmmmmmmmmmmmm.)

10. Complete mastery of American-centric Trivial Pursuit, I Spy and Alphabetical Countries/Animal noises games by the Wicked Brit, accompanied by a bottle of Bailey's.

I mean, seriously, what's not to miss?? There's so much more, but since it's nearing lunchtime (Chinese at 1??) and my tummy is a rumbling, I can't manage to focus on much more. See what happens when I get bored? I start writing nonsense. Nonsense nonsense nonsense. Love it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Side note...

Ah, another amazing thing happened to me that has renewed my faith in humanity. I mentioned before that my wallet was stolen. Cancelled all credit cards, spent a fortune getting a new one here, etc. etc. etc.

About 5 days after it had happened, I got a phone call from my landlord's daughter asking if I had lost my "pocket" (my guess a bad translation from Albanian). I had indeed!! A man had found it walking down the street, handed it over to his daughter who spoke English, thanks to a water bill receipt that was still in my wallet she was able to call the phone company and get the number of my landlord, who in turn called me. I got the whole thing back, minus the Macedonian money - creditcards, driver's license, EVERYTHING. It was brilliant.

My point is that someone went through an awful lot of trouble to track me down, and I am so thankful. I'm in a relatively difficult situation to try and replace certain documents (like a driver's license) and for them to be returned to me was such a great thing.

Ok, I seriously must finish packing now.

It's all over now....

It's done. I have 2 more "indeks" to sign, and the school year is officially over. I feel like this should be an entry where I reflect on the happenings of the past year and revel in all that I have learned.... BUT, I have to move out of my apartment today and so it goes. Nothing more than a brief recap of my boring life right now. There will be some of that later, I'm sure.

So I am giving up my adorable little apartment... so sad! I love my house. However, I am moving to a much bigger, much cheaper place up the hill a little bit. It's on the 11th floor (which is a pain in the watoosie when the electricity is out), but it has a nice view, stays warm, and like I said - it's half the rent. Yeah!!

I am in packing hell. I have to box up some things for storage (I don't actually move into that flat until September), pack some things for the States, and an entirely different set of packing for my travels.

OOH! I haven't talked about my travels yet. I am leaving sometime next week to travel for 5 weeks. Where am I going??? I will be spending 5 weeks traveling around Turkey - maybe a spot of Greece in there too. I will start in Istanbul, work my way down the west coast through Troy and Ephesus, take a 4 day boat cruise from Fethiye to Olympos where I will live in a tree house and hang out on the beach for a while, then move on to Anatolya, up through Cappadocia and Ankara, possibly hit the coast of the Black Sea if I have time, then back to Istanbul and Prishtina. Then I'm coming homeeeeee!!! (for what seems like a crazy whirlwind tour - no downtime whatsoever) I'll be in Texas 9-24, DC 24-28, LA 30-6, and back to Texas until the 12th or so. I can't wait to see y'all!!

In the midst of all this wandering around, I'll do my best to blog like a mad woman. I don't know about posting any pictures, so that may have to wait until I get home, but I promise to share all the gritty details of a woman traveling solo through a Muslim country. (Yes, paretnals, I'll check in often!)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Puppies, Meltdowns, and End of Year Restlessness

SO it's been an exciting few days. Since we last spoke, so to speak, I've had my wallet stolen, I've placed the puppy in a home, I've discovered the depths of my claustrophobia and had a minor public meltdown, stood in a rainstorm with tall handsome Norwegian treats, and survived my last class of the school year. *sigh* Should I start from the beginning?

Wednesday night was Captain Canadian's 30th birthday, so the Frisbee Kids all went to a swank dinner and even swankier after dinner hang out. We were the only ones there, with the exception of a drunk dude sleeping in the corner. At least we thought he was sleeping. As we were all milling about, purses and jackets and stuff got piled on one table. I bought a round of adult beverages, and put my wallet back in my purse. At the end of the evening, I went back to my wallet to tip the bartender, and it was GONE. POOF. From what I can tell, whoever it was, was quick about it, because if he had spent anytime at all looking in my purse, he could have also had my passport, my cel phone and my digital camera. Instead, he got a wallet with about $5 worth of Macedonian money, my bank card (grr), my credit cards (grrrr) and my driver's license (grrrrrrrrr). I called my dad immediately and cancelled everything, so he basically got $5 for his trouble. SO THERE. Everything can be easily replaced except the driver's license, and thatit totally puts a damper on my plans for this summer, because now I can't rent a freakin' car. GRRRRRRRR. Oh well, I got a backpack and no problem with the bus. Can't stop me that easily. HA.

Then on Friday, the vets from the Animal Shelter of Kosovo came to visit me and Gizmo (that's what I named that sweet little baby). She got all her vaccinations and a clean bill of health. Earlier in the week I sent out an email to everyone I knew here to see if I could find her a home. As Albanians in general are terrified of dogs, I figured it would be a difficult task. I had 4 responses in an hour, so after her vet visit I sent her off to her new home in a big house outside of town with a big fenced in yard. :D Happy ending for the puppy. I, however, was heartbroken. She was an absolute angel. *sniffle sniffle*

So Saturday, the Frisbee kids and I headed to Skopje for an open air concert that promised to be much fun. Had it been remotely organized, it would have been fantastic. Let me frame the scene for you, 16 of us, some that knew each other and some that didn't, all piled into a small hotel room where the Swedish Mix Master (he makes the meanest drinks you've ever had) was force feeding cocktails to everyone. Norway's Finest brought along some of her Norwegian police officer friends - holy cow EYE CANDY (and yes, JUST eye candy - married. I still thank her for that though.), a couple of Americans and a Brit that was channeling all the energy from the entire Liverpool Footbal fanbase. The only thing that came out of his mouth for 2 days was along the lines of "yeah, Liverpool", except it had a bit more charm and humor as most comments British do. Anyway, so we all go to the venue at 9pm, an hour after the concert was supposed to have started, but they hadn't let anyone in yet. About 10:15 they open one little gate, about the size of the door to my bathroom, and all 5,000 people standing in the courtyard decided they needed to get in at once. ARG! Being short, it was all I could do to breathe amidst all the pushing and shoving and trampling and elbows and by the time I finally got through the gates I was in tears. Guess who doesn't like being in big, mean crowds anymore? I guess my mosh pit days are truly over. Damn. So IN we went. SMM, NF, the Eye Candy and I all went bustling toward the second gate to go hear the first band. Evidently everyone else stayed behind at the food and beer kiosk. Smart them. Within 30 minutes, the biggest thunderstorm I have ever experienced while standing in an open field broke out over the stage. I could see the wall of water coming toward me, but there was nothing I could do about it. I learned quickly what it feels like to shower with all of your clothes on in freezing cold water. I don't want to do that anymore. Fortunately a piece of Eye Candy grabbed me by the arm and we stood under the very edge of a large tent in the middle of the field. There were already 100 people under it, but because he was so tall, he could reach the edge of the tarp and hold it out a little ways so we could fit under it. Then more people crammed in and I was totally smooshed against this Norwegian god for half an hour. It sucked. (hahaha) While the ripples in his stomach were infinitely entertaining, the conversation skills were a little lacking. Boo. Eventually the rain stopped and we SMSd the others and found out they were warm and dry, still in the restaurant drinking beers. I wandered in looking remarkably like a drowned rat, and was immediately wrapped in other people's extra layers then handed hot food and cold beer. The night was looking up!! About midnight, the rain stopped enough for the concert to start. I managed to make it through about 45 minutes before wet, cold exhaustion got the best of me and I cabbed home with Capt. Canadian.

Today was my last official class of the year. I have 3 finals to give still, but basically, it's over. I'm moving out of my apartment in two weeks, and will hit the road as soon as my bank card arrives from the States. YEAH!!!!

So that's it for now. I've got to go grade some papers and write an exam. What's new with all of you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Sucker for a Pretty Face

Ok, I admit it - I just couldn't help myself. This morning as I was walking out of class, I saw about 20 students huddled around poking at something in the flower bed. When I approached, I saw this tiny little puppy shivering from fear huddled against a rock looking more pathetic than I could stand. I shooed everyone away, took off my jacket, wrapped the poor little thing in it and took her home. I gave her a bath, and what do you know, she's GORGEOUS. See???

Just after her first bath

After she had a bath, I wrapped her in a fuzzy blanket where she promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half. Poor thing was exhausted. After a little food and water though, she perked up a little bit and has been happily exploring her new surroundings. I took her with me to get my haircut this afternoon. My hairdresser loves animals, and thought she was the cutest thing he'd ever seen. She slept most of the time I was there, but when she did wake up, she hopped right off the couch and immediately peed on the floor of the salon. MORTIFIED!! Valdet just laughed, scratched her head, and mopped up. Good egg! He actually said that if I couldn't find anyone else, he would take her, as he already has 6 dogs - what's one more??

I have a vet appointment this afternoon to get her checked out, and I hope to find her a good home. If all else fails, I guess I just adopted a dog. :D As cute as she is, I'm not sure I'll be able to give her up anyway. Daddy, want a new puppy? I'll bring her to you in August.... she's a Sharr mountain dog - just beautiful!

Anyway, school is almost done (one more week!!!) and then I have to figure out what to do for the summer, especially now that I have a puppy to worry about. YIKES. This certainly changes everything... I couldn't be happier about it though.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Ok, so I finally got the pics posted from Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia AND the April Fools party. No witty commentary YET, but at least the pics are there.

I'm off to Macedonia this weekend to give a Teacher Training workshop to a bunch of in-service teachers who have more experience than I do. (YIKES!) I'm sure it will go ok, but it's still a little nerve wracking. It's on authentic materials and realia in the classroom - so basically I have to teach teachers how to use props. Maybe I should have been a drama student.

Anyway, only 4 weeks left and I'm on vacation until the middle of September. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with all of my time off, but am struggling with too many options right now. My plan is to drive to Albania, up the coast of Montenegro and Croatia (hang out on the beach for a while), hit Slovenia and come back down through Belgrade and Serbia. OR I could go to Greece and Turkey for 5 weeks. OR I could go to Romania and Bulgaria.... OR... and the list goes on. I have 5-6 weeks to play with, (anybody got any vacation time they want to blow in Eastern Europe on a little road trip??? I'd love some company. My students are freaking out that I'm going to travel alone.) Then I go home for a month - time with Mom, time with Dad and the rest of the fam, time in DC for work and then.... Hey LA kiddies - planning on coming for a week in either mid-August or first part of September. Not sure which yet, but I'm definitely coming!! Then it's back to Kosovo around September 10th. Whew. CAN'T wait!!!