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!!