There is a lot of down time as a PCV–especially since I get up around 4 AM and don’t have to be to work until 10 AM. There are also plenty of times when I’m so busy I don’t have time to turn around. So reading is the perfect activity to fill the gaps when I’m not busy and which can be set aside at a moment’s notice when work calls. Peace Corps has lots of books (actually a mini library set up according to the Dewey Decimal System), we have a wonderful bookstore at the mall with lots of English language books and I’ve discovered free on line learning. Oh the courses I have found. I found one on Religion and violence (fascinating) and a six part Religious literacy course (studying Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism through their scriptures). I’ve also discovered a genealogy course, intercultural communication, TEFL courses, International women’s health. And the nice part? They are put on by excellent universities from all over the world. One of the courses I’m currently doing is offered by Harvard, another one by the University of the Andes and my Italian course is offered by Universitá per Stranieri di Siena. And oh, the wonderful ways they challenge my brain. I don’t do any of the written assignments but I love reading all of the assignments and watching the videos and then processing it through my cerebral cortex. My course from the University of the Andes is conducted in both English and Spanish and has a ton of reading–all of it Gabriel García Márquez. It would be nice if they followed it up with a course on Isabel Allende but she isn’t a Nobel laureate. I would be in heaven then.
But in other news…..we are still a country in political crisis. Elections have been cancelled and they are attempting to force the president to withdraw all of the pardons he issued. And now the protesters are using a tactic which blocks all the major intersections into the center of the city from noon until 1 PM. It creates major chaos! Parliament has been called back into session but the Prime Minister is still sitting on the sidelines while his appointed replacement attempts to govern.
I finally got to go to Kosovo. Our safety and security manager approved the travel but based on this article, I was still just a bit nervous. The faculty was going for a day and so for 600 Denari (about $11 USD) I got to go see this country that isn’t really a country according to Serbia. It was a very quick drive but crossing the border seems to take forever. And since I was the only non-Macedonian passport holder on the bus, the border crossing people always wanted me identified. Fortunately I was in the front seat. They didn’t have far to go to see me. The country itself was absolutely gorgeous. Rugged mountains, spectacular scenery and roads that made me more than just a bit nervous. The organizers of the trip had an agenda but I think they had failed to tell the bus company so that the driver would know where we were going. There is apparently a spectacular series of waterfalls called Mirusha. Well, we would drive, stop and ask directions and, of course, about half the men had to get off the bus to get the directions and then they would all be pointing in different directions. The driver and I were laughing at it as it was truly comical. We must have asked for directions six times and never found the waterfalls. We just went into this little town and had a nondescript lunch and shivered while waiting for the bus to pick us back up. The weather in Kosovo was drastically different from what it was like in Macedonia. We were all freezing and it was raining intermittently–the wind was blowing. We finally ended up in Prizren.
The country is almost entirely ethnic Albanians so I was able to communicate. It is truly a beautiful and historic city. From there we were considering going to Prishtina, however, time wasted on looking for waterfalls consumed a large part of the day and we all had to work the next day so we headed home.
And work! The school year is basically over. A few administrative tasks and then the external exams–a whole other story for another time and place. So now it is summer time.
On the home front, the house is being cleaned from top to bottom. Curtains washed, carpets washed, walls painted, windows cleaned. Monday morning at about 2 AM, Ramazan starts. It will run until about the 5th of July. This year I will be here to celebrate the ending of Ramazan. The basic intent of fasting is to remind the faithful of the people in this world who are homeless and don’t have clean water to drink or food to eat. I am physically unable to sustain this practice but will do a day or two to show my respect for their willpower. I simply cannot go that long without water. The date of Ramazan moves up by about 10 days each year and this year it will coincide with the summer solstice–the longest day of the year and they fast from sun up to sun down. I so admire there ability to do it and they truly relish doing it. You hear no complaints from anyone about it.
I’m taking a bit of a vacation again this year–this time to the UK so that I can practice my newly acquired skill of British English. “Have you got any Fish and Chips? Have you got some malt vinegar to go with that?” It drives me crazy as I was brought up to not say “have got” and now here I am teaching people to say it! Yikes! After the UK, I’m headed to the embassy 4th of July celebration and then camp. August will find us back in Berovo for our COS conference and it is downhill very rapidly from there. I’m sure there will be lots and lots of tears.
But for now? Ciao!