Living in Alaska for two years was not the best preparation for a summer in Kosovo.
June was manageable, but it did not last. July is here.
My 40+ minute walk to school each day in this heat can be a bit much.
One time I returned home, having walked for an hour in the hot sunshine carrying my backpack, and there were several beautiful women sitting on the porch with perfect hair and make-up. I was sweaty, tired, and likely a little smelly. As we greeted each other they noticed the sweat soaking through the back of my t-shirt. They pointed to it, said something in Albanian, and began laughing at me. Thanks guys. As if I didn’t feel gross enough already.
In case you haven’t figured it out already, there is no air-conditioning. It’s even rare to find a fan.
I’ve heard that daydreaming about cold places can actually lower your body temperature, so my thoughts have been saturated with Alaskan winters for the past month. Not sure if it’s working… it might just be making me cranky.
Anyways, let me tell you about the past month of training.
On July 2nd all of the Kosovo PCVs were invited to the Ambassador’s Fourth of July party in Prishtina. There were a lot of important people there, including the President of Kosovo. We mainly enjoyed a couple free drinks and looking fancy.
On Saturday, after language classes, a bunch of us went to the village of Hodonoc and hiked out to enjoy a beautiful picnic.
On the first Sunday of the month my host family drove us into the mountains to visit my host dad’s childhood home. We spent the day hiking around and cherry-picking. We filled several buckets with the most delicious cherries I have ever eaten.
The rest of the month was packed with these major events. I’ll just summarize them here because I have other posts that go into more detail:
1. Site Announcements: The Peace Corps staff told us where we will spend the next two years of our lives. It was a much anticipated day. Check out my post on Site Envy to learn more about my permanent site. Spoiler alert: I’ll be in Gjakova!
2. Counterpart Conference: After our sites were announced we traveled to Gjilan to meet our teaching counterparts. They are the local teachers who we will be co-teaching with at the Kosovar schools. We did lesson planning and learned about the differences between our education systems. I mainly remember all of us being really sweaty.
3. Site Visits: After the two-day conference in Gjilan, we all traveled to our permanent sites for a three-day visit. We got to see the schools we will work at and we met the families we will live with for two years. Some volunteers had less-than-pleasant experiences, but I’m happy to report that my visit went wonderfully! I could not be happier with my site and future family.
4. Trip to Prizren: After returning to our normal PST schedule for a couple days, we all traveled to the picturesque city of Prizren in southern Kosovo. We went on a long hike to reach a medieval fortress above the city, which was once the capital of the Serbian Empire. Afterwards we visited a mosque and walked through the cobblestone streets exploring the city.
5. Bajram: The month of fasting for Ramadam concludes with three days of feasting and visiting family. This major Muslim holiday is known as Eid al-Fitr or Bajram. If you’ve read my post on food in Kosovo, you’ll remember that my family feeds me a lot. Those experiences pale in comparison to Bajram. It is a day of endless baklava, traditional dishes, and more baklava. One volunteer was given a plate of baklava along with a bowl full of honey and was expected to eat it all.
Along with eating all day long, families travel from house to house to wish everyone a Happy Bajram. At each house you drink tea or coffee and eat a plate of baklava. My dentist would weep if he knew how much sugar I consumed.
6. Practicum: The final two weeks of the month were spent teaching English classes to local children.It was extremely hot in the school and classes started at 9:00 AM, so I was not expecting many students to show up, but I was surprised by the eagerness of the kids to learn English. We had students ranging from 3 years-old to 16. Some spoke great English while others spoke none, so it was challenging planning lessons that would apply to such a wide range of ages and abilities. Despite this challenge, practicum went really well and it made me anxious to begin teaching in September!