Christmas in August

Christmas came early to us this year. First of all, Thursday evening we found a math teacher (our final big teacher need of this year, but if you have a real urge to teach Social Science, we can fit you in!)) and while Ted was talking to him – really, at the exact same time!- Santa pulled up  in the form of a truck driver.  He drove a 40 foot long container right into our parking lot last Thursday evening and boy oh boy!! what treasures did he deliver!

Well, actually I guess the driver was just the deliverer – the real heroes of this story are the many many people who worked together to get this container on the road (The elves?).

Elves, ready to get to work

A few of the elves, ready to get to work

Heather our 6th grade teacher and Lydia, a PHS (in Kosova) graduate, gave up some of their time in the states to help pack

Heather our 6th grade teacher and Lydia, a PHS (in Kosova) graduate, gave up some of their time in the states to help pack

Packing it all in

Packing it all in

Whew! We did it!

Whew! We did it!

People like Sonny and Sherry Radar who have worked tirelessly for years with school districts to arrange to buy supplies for us at auction. And Princeton City School District who chose to sell whole classrooms to us when they were closing the old Princeton High School (PHS – just like us :] ) rather than just throwing “old stuff” out.  Then there is the science teacher who was retiring and wanted to make sure that the things in her classroom went to someone who needed it – wow! did we ever!  Dan Lang (senior minister) and Ron Vance (associate minister) of Western Hills Christian Church who not only worked tirelessly, but recruited people to come work with them (Oh! and they also gave money to buy sports equipment for our community outreach program and had the kids at VBS pack up little goodies to be passed out to kids here! – What a church!!). Stan Espelage was the master packer and “disassembler” who made things so easy to put back together once it all got here. I could go on and on. For instance, Mike Radar allowed things to be stored in the basement of an apartment building he owns for months at no charge while things were being removed from the school. Rick Levring of Price Ave. Church of Christ came everyday to help.  And the elves at Master Provisions who provided all the voluntary logistics, panel truck, and secured a 53 foot road trailer for storage for several months, arranged use of the warehouse dock in a nearby business to provide a staging area for packing the container. I really hope I haven’t left anyone out!! Can you see what a lot of work and planning went into getting us much needed equipment and books? Does this make you tired, reading about it? I am not kidding, I have tears in my eyes just writing this.

Thanks to everyone who helped. We appreciate you more than you can imagine.

Thanks to everyone who helped (and believe me this is not everyone!). We appreciate you more than you can imagine.

I remember as a child I loved to go to my Aunt Mary Ann’s for Christmas.  She not only made us a lovely dinner and was the perfect hostess, but every year at some point in the day she would sit next to me and ask, “What did you get for Christmas?”  She would listen intently as I told her about all my new treasures.  I know Christmas is not all about getting gifts, but it was so nice to have someone truly share my joy.  So, do you want to see what Santa brought the good people of PHS this year (not one lump of coal in the whole lot! We’ll just have to buy the coal – by the truckload – later)?

First this little truck pulled up.

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We were thrilled with the desks and things it had inside.

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Do you see that? Those are whole lab set ups, just ready to use!

Do you see that? Those are whole lab set ups, just ready to use! Oh, and do you see Jeton standing in the truck?  He was in the states this summer and helped pack, now he is back here and supervising the unpacking.  Great guy!

But, we were soon to find out this was just the beginning.  It turns out when you get to customs the entire truck has to be unloaded (ugh!) and to get it back together is nigh unto impossible, so this was just the “left over” stuff after they repacked.

Soon though, Santa arrived

Look at that truck!

Look at that truck!

Some helpers were here at this end and began unloading

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and unloading

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and unloading some more.

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They carried things down the stairs

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and up the stairs (we have a lot of stairs!)

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Sometimes, you just gotta stop for a rest!

Sometimes, you just gotta stop for a rest. That is one big slab of marble counter top!

until we had classrooms full of desks

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and good looking science labs.

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I should mention that this lab is on the 4th floor! Thanks guys for hauling it up all those steps.

We even got new cafeteria tables.

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But wait!  There is even more!

We got books

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and books

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and more books!

You know those lab set ups in one of the first pictures and the science teacher who wanted to make sure that her science curriculum would go to someone who would use it? Well these books - the teacher edition and an entire class set go with the labs. And guess what else. we have been wondering what we were going to do for 8th grade science curriculum and even before we asked, Our Father put it in a science teacher's hear to send this to us. Yes, these books and the lab things are just perfect for 8th grade - imagine that!

You know those lab set ups in one of the first pictures and the science teacher who wanted to make sure that her science curriculum would go to someone who would use it? Well these books – the teacher edition and an entire class set go with the labs. And guess what else. We have been wondering what we were going to do for 8th grade science curriculum and even before we asked, Our Father put it in a science teacher’s heart to send this to us. Yes, these books and the lab things are just perfect for 8th grade – imagine that!

We got microscopes

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and voltage thingy-ma-bobs.

I am told our Physics teacher will love these

I am told our Physics teacher will love these

We even got flower presses!  How fun is that!

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Oh, one box made one only hope.

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It was full of wonderful books.  But, ahhh, we do miss pork sausage around these parts.

The two biggest topics of discussion among those who do not speak English were:

1) If it is a blanket does it belong to the school or in the clothing ministry?

1) If it is a blanket does it belong to the school or in the clothing ministry?

and 2) Why would anyone want to plaster Paris?

and 2) Why would anyone want to plaster Paris?

At one point the lab stools began coming out of the truck and Luli (our head of maintenance) took one, put it near me and said. “Sit!”  I don’t know if he thought I was tired or I was in the way taking all of these pictures :]

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As you can see, Santa was very good to us this year.  He brought us everything, including the kitchen lab sinks!

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Wow! What a blessing it all is.  Rest assured we will put very bit of it to good use!

Now, what would Christmas be without family?  I have had to keep this secret so long, it has been killing me, but we needed to know that all family and friends had been informed before I spilled the beans to the world.  We have a new science teacher this year and guess who she is?  Our daughter, Katie!!!!

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Yes, tomorrow, we will be getting another present, Katie will arrive. Her husband, Nathan has work that needs to be completed, so he will join all of us here in the near future.  We are beyond excited to have the two of them here working with us and just enjoying life together.

We can not thank enough the people who made these gifts possible.  The gifts in this truck load (and from what I understand, more to come) will so greatly enhance the program at this little school.  We now have, without a single doubt, the premier science program in the country because of this gift.  Our students will become better English scholars and mathematicians because of the presents sent to us.  The possibilities in social sciences, art, PE and many other subjects are endless because of these and so many other gifts that people send us.  Whether you have packed an entire container or took up a collection for school supplies,

The good people of Milroy Christian Church sent a collection to Becca, our social science teacher, so that she could buy school supplies more than enough to make learning fun.

The good people of Milroy Christian Church sent a collection to Becca, our social science teacher, so that she could buy school supplies more than enough to make learning fun.

And thanks to Newell Rubbermaid for sending Becca dry erase markers, sharpies and more - she is sharing with her friends :]

And thanks to Newell Rubbermaid in Maryvill Tenn. for sending Becca dry erase markers, sharpies and more – she is sharing with her friends :] Oh and Becca (and all of us) also wants to thank Knox County Schools for the history textbooks!  We are so blessed!

we want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.  God is good, He knows exactly what we need, He sends us supplies and teachers (and family!) exactly when we need them and He uses people like you to fulfill those needs.  So, thank you, thank you, thank you, but most of all we thank our Lord, who, after all, is the reason we have Christmas.

Life is Good, in a Kosova Way

DSC00587Ending of a summer day, Pristina Kosova

Summer is such a sweet time around here. Things slow down just a bit and we get to all those things that nagged us to get done during the school year. Yes, it is hot at times, but in the morning and in the evening there are cooling breezes that are delightful. In fact, even the heat in the afternoon gives us a good excuse for a nice afternoon nap.

Last night as we were on the back balcony eating dinner, I was struck by how lucky we are to be in this place at this time. There we sat, eating our all American dinner of a patty melt with chips and grapes, while all around us Kosova sang. First came the parade of ladies, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, babies in strollers walking down the street, group after group, talking, laughing, enjoying the summer dusk. Then came the cars, 6 or 7 of them. As they parked people spilled out carrying brightly colored presents, murmuring excitedly. The family had arrived at the house across from us to welcome the new baby.

Thanks, Maureen for the picture

Yes, I got to see the baby too!  Welcome, baby Froni and congratulations to proud parents Lindita and Driton.    Thanks, Maureen for the picture

In the background, while all this was going on, the sound of children playing on this warm summer night and in the distance, Albanian music celebrating yet another summer wedding. To top all of this off, fireworks hurling upward in celebration. Yet another lovely summer evening.

People have asked me what it is like to live in this country so far from my California home. Well, frankly sometimes it is frustrating, like when we go to the large German-run hardware store (think Home Depot) to buy a piece of wood and they act like we are crazy to even ask. They sell wood working tools, but why would they sell wood? When we ask our friends who grew up here where would a person buy a piece of wood, they think and think, but can’t imagine where. Or, when we go into town to get a much needed document, their computer just broke down, or they are out to lunch, or you need to go the other place, you know, the one across town (at which place they promptly send you back to the first). It takes literally days to do a job that should take minutes.

At times it is unbelievable. Like when we find that our Sammy dog has dug a hole 6 feet straight into a hill, then delivers and hides 3 puppies for about a month. Then over night we have not only those 3 puppies at our door,

Cute, aren't they?

Cute, aren’t they?

but 6 others from another mom who realizes a good thing when she sees it.

Here are 4 of the other puppies. They like to lay under the car, making it hard to go anywhere. Oh, and notice the one that looks like our puppies? We call her the defector. We think she might have been one of Sammie's, but left early to find a better mother. Ahhhh, it's a dog's life!

Here are 4 of the other puppies. They like to lay under the car, making it hard to go anywhere. Oh, and notice the one that looks like our puppies? We call her the defector. We think she might have been one of Sammie’s, but left early to find a better mother. Ahhhh, it’s a dog’s life!

And since we didn't have enough of a menagerie, this guy wandered through one day, just for fun.

And since we didn’t have enough of a menagerie, this guy wandered through one day, just for fun.

But I must say that now that the puppies have dwindled down to one, I kind of miss the jumping, frolicking mass hurling around the yard. No, that does not mean that I want Sammy to have more puppies, I am just saying they were cute for a time and that time has passed.

Sometimes living here is amusing, like the time we went downtown to one of our favorite places for dinner. Halfway through our meal, a little old lady, scarf tied beneath her chin and bent over a cane, comes by with her hand out.

Thanks Google images for the drawing

Thanks Google images for the drawing

We politely decline and she shuffles on to the next table. A few minutes later we leave and who do we see in front of us? The little lady, walking down the sidewalk briskly, perfect posture, twirling her cane.

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Again – thanks Google images

She looked like the updated version of Charlie Chaplin. Then she stops to talk to her friend at the end of the road. Her friend who had been sitting, solemnly begging hand out, eyes downcast, jumped up with a big grin when Charlie approached. Then they sat there talking, excitedly, comparing their night’s proceeds. You just have to laugh.

That same night we turned the corner and were enchanted. People were packed promenading along Mother Theresa Blvd. Sauntering along, stopping to chat with friends, kissing cheeks and shaking hands. Moms and dads stop with wide-eyed children to watch the cotton candy man in action. The children walk away with a sugary prize as big as their head. Couples hand in hand pause at the ice cream counters along the way and pick just the right flavors to make the perfect cone. As we sat and sipped tea at an outdoor café, a group of Albanian drummers stopped to serenade the crowd. Then we noticed Italian KFOR beginning to gather down the way. The first thing we noticed were their spiffy military hats complete with red pom-pom and feather on the side.

Does this look

Does this look “Official Military” to you (It looked kind of “Peter Pan” to us)? Turns out it is the official military hat of the Alpini (as in Alpine) troops, who are known for their music. OK, that makes sense. And thanks, once again to Google image. I guess I need to take more pictures :]

A few minutes later we found why they were gathered. They were the military band. So, as the Albanian drummers moved on, we were treated to (slightly off-tempo, off-key) Italian orchestra music. Then as an added bonus, the opera singer began (quite nicely, if you enjoy opera) singing. That is about the time we decided we needed to saunter on down the boulevard towards home.

Life here does have its pluses and minuses, I must say. For example when a certain someone is speeding down the highway on the way home from Greece (I won’t mention names, but I don’t drive here :] ) and gets pulled over. The policeman takes one look and says, “American?” We reply, yes, and we are sent on a way with a warning to slow down (which we did). And when the taxi driver drives you a little further down the road for free, because he would do anything to say thank you. We do get the times when waiters ignore our plea for service because they aren’t sure we will be able to understand what we want. Or they do help us and instead of getting a half of a chicken, we get a chicken and a half.

But, really life here is like anywhere else, some ups, some downs with a whole lot of charm thrown in. Summer evenings with their parade of people. Winter evenings huddled around the fire with relaxing conversations. Life is good here. You should come join us sometime.

Exciting Times!

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No, this is not our front porch, but when Ted took this picture in Germia Park, I looked at it and said, “I look silly.” To which he said, “In other words the picture will never see the light of day.” So, to prove him wrong, I have included this picture. Love you Ted!

Sitting on the front porch enjoying the beautiful summer day, Prishtina Kosova

In my last blog post, I regaled you all with the tale of how boring I am.  Alone for 6 days and the most exciting things I did were to watch all 6 hours of Pride and Prejudice and to go to a garage sale. Both of which are pretty exciting in my book, by the way.

Anyway, I got to thinking about it and there has been lots of excitement around these parts in the last month or so. After all we did end the school year with some fun. I just haven’t written about it.  So, I thought it was time to catch you all up on the news. Here we go!

First up, a couple of weeks before school ended we had a talent show.  Our arts teacher, Arijeta, did a great job of getting kids ready and pulling together a wonderful show. We began with a visiting musician.

The students' talent is even shown on the wall.  All of that art work in the background is done by our students.  Pretty impressive.

The students’ talent is even shown on the wall. All of that art work in the background is done by our students. Pretty impressive.

Then students produced some short plays, told some jokes, played instruments, sang and danced their way into all of our hearts.

Even the boys got into the dancing by lending a back or two.

The boys got into this dance by lending a back or two.

We have quite a crew of very talented kids and Arijeta does a wonderful job of bringing out that talent in each of them. I must say that she encourages them, telling them that they CAN get up in front of their peers and show what they have learned.  That is a feat unto itself!

Shortly after that, Skender, Jackie, Ted and I took a day go on a little visit out to the mountains of Rogova.  Such beauty all around us.  We stopped at a little hotel for tea DSC00293 and to gaze at the beauty around us. DSC00296 Even the cattle on the hills were enchanting. DSC00289 We took a walk DSC00311 to a gorgeous waterfall.

I loved this trail because it starts at the TOP of the waterfall and then heads down if you would like.  Or you can be like us and enjoy the falls and head on back to the car :]

I loved this trail because it starts at the TOP of the waterfall and then heads down if you would like. Or you can be like us and enjoy the falls and head on back to the car :]

Now while all that seems quiet and peaceful, it actually was a bit wild because you see, the end of the school year is field trip time in Kosova.  The public schools each pick a weekend day and take their kids out for an all day, all night adventure traveling the country (it is a small country after all ). Skender reminisced about his days of seeing the tourist sites by day and then stopping for dinner and dancing the night away.  We happened upon many, many such excited groups running past us, bumping into us.  We thought we might have to rescue a few from the falls!  That was alright though because it got us ready for the next excitement in our lives.

On Monday of the last week of school, we rounded up all 40 middle schoolers and about 10 adults for a field trip to “The Caves” Now, if you don’t think that is exciting, you haven’t ever been on a field trip with middle schoolers!

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I don’t know the name in Albanian, people around here just call them The Caves.

We wandered through for almost an hour with our guide pointing out the different features as we went. DSC00377Then it was off to this place for lunch – a grocery store and restaurant all in one.

We ate at the tippy top of the building on the right.

We ate at the tippy top of the building on the right.

Although I would have liked to visit this place, the kids didn’t quite agree with me.

The local bazar (or pazar as they call it here).  There are always fun things to find in a bazar, but the kids all think it is the same old thing.

The local bazar (or pazar as they call it here) as seen from the window of the restaurant. There are always fun things to find in a bazar, but the kids all think it is the same old thing.

After lunch it was time to head on back to the school and send the kids home for the day.  You see, we are wiser than the public schools, we send the kids home after a field trip rather than keeping them out half the night :]

And since we are gluttons for punishment, the next day we took the kids on another field trip (well, actually we had to keep the middle schoolers busy while the high schoolers had half days of finals).  This time we went to one of my new favorite places, Germia Park. We were smart about it though.  Some of us teachers sat where we had a good view of the park DSC00384and ate things like this

Chicken sandwich - oh yum!

Chicken sandwich – oh yum!

while the kids enjoyed themselves.

Yes, we were far away from the water gun fights!!

Yes, we were far away from the water gun fights!!

We did finish our lunch in time to enjoy some of the fun and games. DSC00396 DSC00395That is after the water gun fights were over – you know what I mean?

Then, if all that wasn’t enough on Wednesday of that week we had community service day.  While some of the kids helped beautify the neighborhood or paint murals in the school,

On the landing between the ground floor and the first floor of our building.

On the landing between the ground floor and the first floor of our building.

In the hallway leading to all the Arts rooms

In the hallway leading to all the Arts rooms

I had a couple of girls in to help me get ready for an American baby shower for Lindita. They helped me decorate DSC00401

Puffy balls of tulle hanging from the lights are fun.

Puffy balls of tulle hanging from the lights are fun.

And when you have a gun rack over the fireplace, what do you do about that for a baby shower?  Why, decorate it of course!

And when you have a gun rack over the fireplace, what do you do about that for a baby shower? Why, decorate it of course! The girls made the sign, isn’t it cute.

and fix some treats. DSC00405

Flower shaped egg salad sandwiches

Flower shaped egg salad sandwiches,

Heart shaped watermelon

heart shaped watermelon,

cherries dipped in chocolate.  The girls liked climbing the tree in the yard to get those cherries the most of anything they helped with.

cherries dipped in chocolate. The girls liked climbing the tree in the yard to get those cherries the most of anything they helped with.

While we were finishing that up, the cake arrived and we were ready for the fun. DSC00399 Just as we finished, the ladies came and we had a great time.  We played games, of course, like “How Much Toilet Paper is needed to go around Lindita?”

You are kidding, have you looked at her?

You are kidding, have you looked at her?

And her mother-in-law got it just exactly right! Uhmmmm, did you all notice anything?  This is the middle of June and her baby is due the first week of August.  I wasn't that small at 3 months along - with any of my 4 kids! What about you?

And her mother-in-law got it just exactly right!    Uhmmmm, did you all notice anything? This is the middle of June and her baby is due the first week of August. I wasn’t that small at 3 months along – with any of my 4 kids! What about you?

And to top the day off, Lindita opened cute little boy presents. DSC00417 Such fun!  I think a good time was had by all, even those ladies who had never been to a crazy American baby shower before.

On Friday of that week (Oh yeah, same week – exciting enough for you? It was for me!) we trekked on out to Orllan to have our last day of school celebration with the staff.

Adriatiku restaurant, right on the lake, beautiful!

Adriatiku restaurant, right on the lake, beautiful!

The gang was all there DSC00421 as we ate together

Steak!

Steak!

Ted said some good-byes from us all DSC00427and we celebrated a 30th birthday DSC00433Quite a lovely evening.

Field trips, baby shower, staff dinner all in one week, that was about the time that Ted and I decided that we needed to get out of town for a bit.  So we took our houseguest, Curran (did I mention that we picked up a house guest on Thursday, since nothing else was going on that day) and headed off to Macedoina for a couple of days.

We took Curran (nice kid, great guest, by the way) out to wander the ancient streets of Stobe. DSC00453 We looked over the ruins DSC00444and watched the archeologists at work.

This is our third trip to Stobe, but the first time we have seen anyone working there, fascinating.

This is our third trip to Stobe, but the first time we have seen anyone working there, fascinating.

When we got back to Skopje, for the first time in about a year the fountain was not a construction zone!

We were there on the first day it opened back up.  Before we went to Stobe, it was closed and the next day it opened. Yea!!

We were there on the first day it opened back up. Before we went to Stobe, it was closed and the next day it opened. Yea!!

Better shot!

Better shot!

That night we played Yahtzee in the hotel courtyard and ordered pizza to be delivered – first time for us here. DSC00465And in case, you didn’t notice that box it was DOMINOS!

Yes, good old, cheesy, greasy, American, pepperoni pizza!  Just like home. Ahhhh

Good old, cheesy, greasy, American, pepperoni pizza! Just like home. Ahhhh

Yes, all of that was exciting, but the fun was not done yet.  You see, right before the end of school, about the same time all of this was happening, we all began looking at Sammy-dog.  Is she? Isn’t she?  We went round and round.  It turns out she was.

Sammy has been around for nearly a year.  She comes for a few days, sleeps on our porch and then leaves for a few days.  She is truly a street dog.  She forages for food more than we feed her and she is excellent at catching birds.  We have found the feathers (ugh).  So when she turned up pregnant, we weren’t surprised.

Then one day, we noticed that she was a bit slimmer and her milk had come in.  So, where the puppies?  After some investigation, Ted found this.  DSC00542A hole in the small hill that is by the side of our house.  He looked in, but could only see that Sammy girl had dug waaaaay back into the hill.  He couldn’t see (or hear) any puppies.

Not a sign of puppies

Not a sign of puppies

So, we decided that they must have been still born. Sammy spent most of the day and almost all of each night on our front porch over the next few weeks, so that kind of confirmed our decision that they weren’t born alive.  Sad, but that is the life of a street dog.

But, you know the old Disney nature movies we watched as kids?  The ones where the baby wolves are playing around the den cute as can be while the mama wolf is out foraging for food? Well, those movies didn’t tell the Sammy-dog story.  Because this week when we returned from a few days in Greece to celebrate Ted’s birthday and our anniversary, who was there to greet us? DSC00541Yeah, three of them.  Turns out that Sammy wasn’t out foraging for food while her puppies were in the den.  She was asleep on our porch. DSC00553 Ted says she is just teaching them to be independent thinkers who can fend for themselves. But then, he is much nicer than I am.  I say she is a rotten mom.  While they are curled up by the house crying. DSC00544 She is on the porch, sleeping where they can’t reach her. DSC00536When one of them finally figured out how to get up the stairs, DSC00552she ran and hid under a car. DSC00545One of them tried pleading with Frodo,

“Please can you get our mom to feed us, play with us, to do anything for us?”

He finally gave up and just slept by Frodo instead.

And no - he is not the dad, he has been

And no – Frodo is not the dad.  According to Richard, our friend in China, when two dogs live together at the same house, they live like brother and sister, so Frodo could not possibly be the dad (uhmmm, OK). Probably a better reason is that Frodo has been “fixed” that is what the blue tag in his ear means.

We have decided that we are going to have to feed the puppies, because their mom certainly isn’t going to – sigh. For some reason all this reminds me of China.  Anyway, anyone want a cute puppy? DSC00539All this excitement is making me tired, I think I am going to go take a nap.

While the Cat’s Away . . .

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Ted went hiking in Slovenia. Rough life, but someone has to do it :]

Glad to have my hubby back, Prishtina, Kosova

This past Sunday in the US was Father’s Day.  I spent much of the day thinking about the fathers in my life.  My Father in heaven who loves me beyond reason, my daddy who taught me how to love people and how to roll with whatever happens in life, and Ted, the father of my children, who taught me how living a little outside of my box can be an adventure.  I was alone on Sunday, reading all the “daddy stories” on Facebook and pondering what I would have been like without all the fathers in my life.

You know the old saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play”? Well, I have just spent about 6 days deciding that this little mouse likes to be curled up all alone in her little nest.

It all started when Ted, Curran (our house guest for a couple of weeks) and Gordon (our physics/calculus teacher) decided to take a well deserved break and go hiking in the Julian Alps in Slovenia.  I thought what fun!  I am going to take lots of pictures and write a fantastic blog about all the parties and exciting times I had while they were gone.  Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I would have you all yawning in no time.  So, get ready!

I began by playing lots of games of Solitaire

DSC00467Many of which I won, by the way.

DSC00468Then there was Facebook where I learned how to take care of my desk

DSC00470and good news.

My daughter-in-law got her pick of teaching jobs.

My daughter-in-law got her pick of teaching jobs.

Don’t you just love good news from friends.

My friend is a survivor!

My friend is a survivor!

I ate really well while Ted was gone.

Honey Nut Cheerios and Nutella - power breakfast!

Honey Nut Cheerios and Nutella – power breakfast!

I had to peel the hot dogs before cooking and

I had to peel the hot dogs before cooking and

slice the buns, but they tasted pretty darn good.

slice the buns, but they tasted pretty darn good.

and I worked hard getting ready to teach math (yes, I know the school year just ended, but the new one is coming soon!)

I worked so hard it took me two computers at a time to do all of the work!

I worked so hard it took me two computers at a time to do it all!

Lest you think I am too boring, I will admit I had a few outings while the guys were away.  I went to the house where my friend Maureen was dog sitting while friends were gone to Greece (does this sound like a trend here?).

DSC00484Maureen, Jackie and I got our snacks all ready

Yes, those are chocolate chip cookies with real chocolate chips (a precious commodity here) made by Jackie.

Yes, those are chocolate chip cookies with real chocolate chips (a precious commodity here) made by Jackie. Oh and that is apple juice, by the way ;]

And we watched Pride and Prejudice from the beginning

DSC00486to the end

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Don’t you just love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?

with a stop in the middle for Skyline Chili made by Maureen

Yum!

Yum!

and peach cobbler for dessert (made by me).

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and there were left overs enough to replace my Honey Nut Cheerios for a couple of days for breakfast!!

It was a perfect day – I must say.  Ted and Jackie’s husband, Skender, couldn’t believe 6 hours of Jane Austin in one day, but we loved it!

Then the next morning I awoke to an invitation to a garage sale (another anomaly here)! My friend Pat picked Maureen and I up and off we drove to see what we could find.  With no addresses here, and in a town about an hour’s drive away it was pretty tricky, but we managed to not get lost.  We poured through books and craft items

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and then off we went.  Maureen suggest that we stop at a store that she heard is an Aldi (which I had never heard of, but I guess is big in the mid-west).

DSC00492Turned out it was close, but not quite the same.  I did manage to find a few things that I usually can’t find.

Instant tea, corn nuts, and lemon juice in a bottle - good finds!

Instant tea, corn nuts, and lemon juice in a bottle – good finds!

Then we stopped for lunch.

I decided not to get the "different kind of meat"

I decided not to get the “different type of meat”

I chose a burger which looked great in the picture, but you never know.

DSC00494It came looking like this.

Pretty darn close to that picture which is another thing that doesn't always happen here.

Pretty darn close to that picture which is another thing that doesn’t always happen here.

It was as delicious as it looks! Then it was back home in time to feed the dogs.

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This is Frodo, Sammy was a bit camera shy.

Yep, I did lots of laundry

DSC00507and watched my cilantro grow.

DSC00510I made sure my hydrangeas were watered

DSC00475and I hemmed some pants while I watched Survivor ( I managed to watch a whole season while the guys were away!)

DSC00504Most of the days were gray and dreary,

DSC00478but Tuesday, the day they were due home, dawned bright and beautiful.  So, what did i do on this beautiful day in the neighborhood?

DSC00512I took one last outing, a walk. Yes, my trusty guard dog and I walked

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Yes, he walked beside me the whole way. He needed to make sure no other dogs came after me. Such a good dog!

to the market to get things for dinner – my guy was on the way home!

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I bought some fruit and some things to make nachos for dinner.  I know, pretty exciting stuff!

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That melon that looks like a cantaloupe is green inside and tastes like a honey dew. Sometimes they are orange inside and taste like a cantaloupe, you never know, it is always a surprise.

On the way home, I had a great treat.  I stopped by a little home stand to buy strawberries, but they were out.  I saw two men in the yard, sitting in chairs, under a tree talking, so I asked in my best Albanian, “Strawberries?”. No, that is not Albanian, but they understood what I meant. They raised 5 fingers in the air and said, “5 minute”. So, when I went to set my things down to wait, one man dashed across the street to get a little plastic basket and the other said, “Come, sit.”  He opened his gate and had me sit in the rickety chair he had just been sitting in.  Then, both men proceeded to pick a basket of strawberries, just for me.  I wish I had a picture, but I thought it might be rude to take one.  They walked through the rows picking out the perfect fruit and then handed them to me as if they were on a silver platter with a bright smile and a “falemnderit”.  That is one of the many things I love about this place, people love to do things to make you happy.  They gave me a short rest, the best strawberries, and all done with smile and a “thank you”.

perfect!

perfect!

So what was Ted doing while I was having all of this fun?  Well he was struggling along eating some of these

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and hiking here.

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Yes, he was trudging along paths

DSCF4356and past a church where the choir was practicing the Hallelujah Chorus (I am not kidding!)

DSCF4398He did stop along the way when it started raining.

Life is rough!

Life is rough!

And you will be glad to know that he got some fresh picked strawberries too.

DSCF4382Yes, lots of rest, some bits of excitement, and fresh picked strawberries.  I would say that we both had a great 6 days.  But, I will also say that I am really glad to have my hubby back home where he belongs.

So, I say thank you to all the fathers in my life, my Father in heaven who gave us a calling, my daddy who taught me to love the Lord with all my heart, and my husband, father of my children, Ted, who encouraged me that following the Lord’s calling would be a great life adventure.  Without them I probably would still be living inside my little box like a quiet mouse, cooking hot dogs that I don’t have to peel first and buying strawberries from the store.  Thank you Ted for knowing that 6 days on my own would be as pleasant to this quiet mouse as hiking in the Alps would be to you (although, I would like to go sometime :] ) Thank you Daddy for being an example of His love until the end of your life when you said, “I just want to go home,” and you did.  Thank you Father for giving us time to rest in China and such a purposeful life in Kosova.  To all the fathers in my life, a belated Happy Father’s Day!  I love you all.

 

Oh!  And I do have to tell you that on the way back home, Ted drove the guys out of their way to Ljubljana to go to one of my favorite little stores to buy me cute things for my kitchen.  What a guy!  Love you sweetheart!

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Sunday in the Park

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I am enjoying the flowers and the breeze. Yes, those are my dresses blowing in the wind. I guess it is really a bit more than a breeze, more like a “hold everything down before it blows away” kind of windy day.

Sitting on the porch, enjoying the summer breeze, Prishtina, Kosova

Summer is here, well, almost.  Last week we had our last days of instruction with the middle school kids and the high school students began finals.  Next week the high schoolers will finish up finals, the middle schoolers will go on a couple of field trips and then we will call the year done.

It has been quite a year.  A bit stressful at times, joyful at others.  I guess in truth, like any other school year.   As we wrap up our second year, we have already begun planning for the next. That is how teaching goes, doesn’t it?  Always a continuous cycle of beginnings and endings.

Ted and I really felt the need today to reflect back on this past year; to remember God’s blessings to us and to the school. So, we decided to spend Sunday in the park. Germia Park to be exact.

Germia is a regional park on the edge of town that we have been meaning to get to for two years now.  Yes, those of you who live here, believe it or not,  today was our first day in the park and what a lovely day it was. Everyone has been telling us how beautiful it is in the park; everyone has been saying we should go; we have been saying we should go, but we never have before this.  We have been missing out.

So, today was the day.  As we went down the winding road into the beauty, we found a gazebo to settle in for a bit.  Listening to beautiful worship music, we read scriptures together and reflected on His goodness.  What a beautiful way to begin a Sunday.

Then we decided to walk a bit.  We walked past families setting up a picnics,DSC00350past men selling balls

DSC00347and bubbles

DSC00348and cotton candy goodness.

DSC00346We saw kids playing

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and impromptu soccer football games.

can you see the two sticks in the ground, those are the goals.

can you see the two sticks (by her foot and over to the right) in the ground, those mark the goal.

We even saw some friendly American faces tossing our kind of football.

DSC00352Alongside all this activity, there is a beautiful path through  the woods.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

When our kids were small, we loved to camp in Sequoia National Park.  Just like today, we would take walks  through the woods (actually the hike was longer and the  the trees were a bit bigger than in Germia Park).

Our family tree :]

Our family tree :]

Well, as we walked, my dad would tell the kids that there would be a Coke machine at the end of the hike.  And, of course there wasn’t.  They all knew Grandpa loved to kid them.  Anyway, at the end of our walk through the woods today, we found this (Dad would have loved it!)

DSC00340Not just a Coke machine, but a full restaurant! A restaurant where we could sit under the trees,

DSC00341enjoy some tea and the best omelet we have had since coming to Kosova,

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Yes, that is mayonnaise on the plate. No, I did not dip my omelet in mayonnaise.

and watch the locals chat.

DSC00344Much better than a Coke machine, I would say.

After that lovely morning, we went on over to Gorenje (a Slovenian department store full of wonderfulness.  Have I mentioned that I love Slovenia?) to pick up a barbecue that we had noticed awhile back. So we can get on with our summer grilling.

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Believe it or not, this is the biggest, best grill we have found in Kosova. See that little blue thing on the ground in the background?  That is our former grill.  Oh, and the green planter on the wall above the grill, is getting ready to give me cilantro for my salsa :]

and while we were there, Ted bought me a cute Slovenian water pot to heat water for our morning tea. Well, my morning tea and his morning coffee.

Isn't it cute?  It goes perfectly with my Slovenian cookie jar and sheep.

Isn’t it cute? It goes perfectly with my Slovenian cookie jar and sheep.

After our Sunday afternoon naps (aren’t those mandatory on Sundays?), Ted planted some flowers,

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and I hung out some laundry.

DSC00355Now we are getting ready to enjoy some chicken and some fresh picked strawberries we bought in the park. A perfect day.  Thank you, Father for a day of rest, a day full of your beauty, a day to reflect on all you have done.

Graduation Day at the School on the Hill

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My luscious dinner. Lots of banana makes any cereal better.

Home alone eating breakfast for dinner, Pristina Kosova

Yes, it is a quite evening here at home.  Every Wednesday night Ted has dinner out with a young man he is mentoring and I usually have dinner out with my friend Ruth.  But, Ruth has abandoned me for the summer.  She went home for a graduation and a wedding. Although, I can’t say that I blame her. And I have abandoned her a time or two (like this time and this time). If Ruth is reading this right now – and I am sure she is :] – Have great fun and “See You in September” (doesn’t that make you want to break out in song?) So, I am home alone, enjoying the quiet, eating breakfast for dinner.

Before I continue, may I take a minute to address the Kellog’s company:

Dear Kellog’s

The first time I ate Special K was as a young girl at my grandparent’s home (and that was mannnnny years ago).  Those light delicate flakes became one of my favorite cereals. I ate them often as I was growing up. Imagine my joy these many years later when I found them in Kosova.  Only you have changed them to be whole grain flakes of cardboard. Did you not learn anything when “New Coke” came out a few years back. I don’t think you did, so I am going to tell you the lesson – Leave a Good Thing Alone!! Thank you, I hope you will now change them back.

Sincerely, Luanne

Thank you all for letting me rant, but discussing my breakfast cereal is not actually why I am writing.  I want to let you in on the great celebration that happened here last Friday night.  Graduation!  Yes, the 2nd graduation since we have been here.  Pretty exciting!

The day began with everyone who was available pitching in to get ready.  They set out chairs and decorated,

Yes, it is outside.  We needed more room for families, so we moved on out.

Yes, it is outside. We needed more room for families, so we moved on out.

put up a platform and podium,

put up a platform and podium,

and hung up our “Hollywood Style” photo background.

DSC00128Yep, everyone helped, even this guy.

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By the time all that was done, everyone was a bit tuckered out.

Lindita, beautiful even when she is exhausted.

Lindita, beautiful even when she is exhausted.

So we went home for a little break (actually Ted and I had a nice nap) and to get all cleaned up for the celebration ahead.  All too soon it was time to set out the flowers for the parents,

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get the diplomas and scarves all set,

DSC00137and practice a bit before the big night. Oh, and pray that those big old dark clouds didn’t mean rain ahead.

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We had some time before the festivities began to get some pictures.

Friends and colleagues - such a fun group!

Friends and colleagues – such a fun group!

Our cleaning ladies - they clean up very nicely :]

Our cleaning ladies – they clean up very nicely :]

Future graduates

Future graduates

True Paul, kilt and all (notice I didn't call it a skirt - he says that it is called a kilt because many people have been "kilt" for calling it a skirt - I am staying out of that mess)

True Paul, we love him, kilt and all (notice I didn’t call it a skirt – he says that it is called a kilt because many people have been “kilt” for calling it a skirt – I am staying out of that mess).

and of course, Ted and I had to get in on the action.

DSC00143We did have a bit of down time while we waited for one graduate and her parents to make it through the downtown/accident on a Friday night traffic.

Yes, that is our Physics and Calculus teacher making those bunny ears behind those unsuspecting men. That is how we do things here.

Yes, that is our Physics and Calculus teacher making bunny ears behind those unsuspecting men. That is how we do things here.

Finally, after all that prep, we were ready to begin.   Anita and a student translator were our hosts for the evening.

Anita and her student translator were our hosts for the evening.

Ted had a few encouraging words to say to the graduates,

DSC00156and a lovely woman from the local community sang for us all.

DSC00159Soon the graduates were called up on the stage one by one.

DSC00160They were draped with a graduation scarf,

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and Ted had something uplifting to say about each of them.

DSC00164He gave some awards,

DSC00171cracked some jokes,

DSC00187and introduced our valedictorian.

DSC00195It was a delightful ceremony.  I love that since we have such small graduating classes, Ted can talk about and encourage each student individually. And may I brag about them a bit.  All 12 of them have been accepted to college, most have been given nice scholarships and their average SAT scores were just about the same as the average SAT scores in the US.  Think about that.  They do not know the culture of the US and for all but one of them, English is not their first language.  Pretty impressive!

After the ceremony, the cafeteria brothers (really, they are brothers and they run our cafeteria) served up some yummy appetizers

DSC00201with sweet treats made by some of the staff.

DSC00202Students were there to serve with a smile.

DSC00206We had a wonderful evening catching up with parents

DSC00205and finding out the latest about lunch boxes for 5 year olds.

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Notice the grass in the background. Thanks to all who contributed to our well last year, that is our newly planted soccer field. We are hoping to have graduation on the grass next year. We, as always, are so thankful for your support.

While all of that was going on, the graduates were called in one by one to sign “the book”  It is a legal register for school documents, when they sign it, their diploma is then legal in Kosova.

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To finish the delightful day, the seniors showed a sweet video they made to thank the staff and celebrate their accomplishments.

DSC00210All that was left was the clean up, which was done in a snap!

Yes, that is Ted with a plastic table on his head :]

Yes, that is Ted with a plastic table on his head :]

As we walked back home, the first few rain drops began to fall, tears of sadness, we will miss these kids, tears of joy at all they have accomplished. A delightful day celebrating delightful kids. What could be better or more rewarding than to know that we are able to touch these students lives and help them begin a beautiful future. May the Lord be with them wherever they go and may they remember all the life lessons they learned from the dedicated staff at this little school on a hill.

 

Slovenia – Love at First Sight!

Sunset over Pristina. This mosque is very near our home and school. (Thanks, Angela for the picture)

Sunset over Pristina. This mosque is very near our home and school. (Thanks, Angela for the picture)

Relaxing and resting up for the end of the school year – Skopje, Macedonia

Do you ever feel like life is a merry-go-round?  You know, up and down, around and around.  We feel like that at times here.  Take one day just last week, My friend messaged me and expressing her frustration with her plumber.  He was back after having “fixed” the water in her bathroom the week before. He had already made 3 trips to the hardware store for parts that day (yes, this is a professional plumber making multiple trips to the hardware store!) and on the last trip he brought a bright red hose to fix something – perhaps hooking the line to her other bathroom.  In the midst of all that, her electricity went out (luckily she has a generator to fall back on), she had company coming in from the states that night, and she was fighting a doozy of a cold.  Sometimes we just want to go and hide somewhere, which is what I think she did :]

On that same day I had a bit of a victory. Clear back in January, Ted and I had (with the help of a kind fabric merchant) found a man who could machine embroider the school emblem and students’ names on the scarfs we use for graduation (last year a sweet little lady did it by hand). We gave him the material and a sample scarf and all that had to be done was for someone to send him the file that had the logo to put in the machine. Of course, in the hustle and bustle of life, we never got that done. So, one day last week, our technology genius Labinot, and I went on a scavenger hunt looking to find the place again – I mean I had to find the place in a warren of streets!! Anyway, I found it, fairly easily actually. And when we walked in the guy remembered me and knew exactly what we wanted. He didn’t even blink.  No, in true genuine Kosovar fashion, he acted like we had just been there yesterday. He took our material and the sample off the shelf (that was piled with bags and fabric and such) like he had just placed it there and said they will be ready by the end of the week – No problem! Can you imagine that happening in the states? Another catastrophe avoided. Sometimes I love it here, and sometimes the pipes break and the electricity goes out when you are sick and about to have company come. Ahhhh – Kosova!!

All that is to say, sometimes we have to find somewhere to rest to reflect on the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  Our go to place in Southern California was Santa Barbara.

Thanks Google images for the photo

Thanks Google images for the photo

Our go to place in the Balkans is Skopje.

That statue has water flowing everywhere and lights up at night, it is quite a sight.

While the aesthetic is certainly different, Skopje and Santa Barbara both have good shopping (OK, being honest I must admit that Santa Barbara has cute boutiques and Skopje has, well, Carrefour – a French version of Target – which is very important to my happiness here :] ) , delightful food

Yes, those are fresh, donuts, hot out of the fryer!

Yes, those are fresh, donuts, hot out of the fryer!

walks along the water, and nice places to just sit and do nothing.  Which, in a nutshell, is my list of what makes a perfect place to get away.

So, all that is to say that when spring break came along this year we were ready for a place to get away for the week. Hmmmm, good shopping, delicious food, walks along the water, a place to sit and rest.  We did some investigating and found Slovenia.  There is a reason that the word “love” is right there in the middle of that country’s name. Slovenia is tucked away in the Alps between Austria, and Italy.  Think about that – Alps, Austria, Italy.  Yep, it was love at first sight!

I think that streak coming down from the heavens is a message telling us that we need to start a school right there!  Or, it could just be a reflection in the glass of the train window. I am going to think about that one.

I think that streak coming down from the heavens is a message telling us that we need to start a school right there! Or, it could just be a reflection in the glass of the train window. I am going to have to think about that one.

What is there not to love about a country that serves you this as you sit and wait for the bus to take you from the airport into the city?

Yes, that is thick, creamy hot chocolate!

Yes, that is thick, creamy hot chocolate! You eat it with a spoon!!!!

I am telling you, if you haven’t been there, you have to put it on your bucket list!!

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As we traveled from the airport to the capital city, we drove through darling village after village.

Yes, the villages all look like this and they all have a church as a center point.

Yes, the villages all look like this and they all have a church as a center point.

When we made it to the city of Ljubljana (loo-bli-ana – you’re welcome), it was dinner time.  As we got off the bus, we turned and saw it.

Can you see it down there?

Can you see it down there?

Yep, those golden arches!!! Now, don’t judge.  We hadn’t had an American hamburger in sometime and for the hungry and weary, those arches look a lot like home. Besides in Slovenia, McDonalds serves:

They had hamburgers with grilled onion - like In-n-Out!

hamburgers with grilled onion and a yummy sauce more like In-n-Out than McDonalds!

And they have fried - yes I said FRIED!! - pies in your choice of apple (like that of your youth) or blueberry vanilla cream!!

And they have fried – yes I said FRIED!! – pies in your choice of apple (like that of your youth) or blueberry vanilla cream!!  They will even serve it with ice cream and hot fudge if you ask nicely (and pay a bit more :] )

and 3 kinds of donuts for breakfast!!!!

Oh, and 3 kinds of donuts for breakfast!!!!

OK – now do you understand why we were happy to see that place.

But that was not the highlight of Slovenia.  No the highlights were:

Good Shopping,

Streets like this were just filled with shops full of cuteness.

Streets like this were just filled with shops full of cuteness.

Easter Chocolates

Easter Chocolates

I am not kidding even the grocery stores were charming!

I am not kidding even the grocery stores were charming!

Delightful food

Breakfast at the B&B

Breakfast at the B&B

Easter Sunday morning our B&B had this to great us - just like home :]

Easter Sunday morning our B&B had this to greet us – just like home :]

Pork in red wine sauce with cheese filled noodles - oh yeah!

Pork in red wine sauce with cheese filled noodles at a sweet little cafe – oh yeah!

Chocolate Mousse with berry sauce for afternoon tea.

Chocolate Mousse with berry sauce for afternoon tea.

The best barley soup ever!  Big chunks of ham, beans, carrots and of course a bit of barley.  So good, we had it twice :]

The best barley soup ever! Big chunks of ham, beans, carrots and of course a bit of barley. So good, we had it twice :]

Oh and I have to mention we found this place!!!!!

Do you see what it says on that big red wall?

Do you see what it says on that big red wall? Uhmmmm – Cantina Mexicana!

Yep - chips and guacamole

Yep, as in chips and guacamole

and tacos with CORN tortilla that had been fried (instead of formed, like taco bell). Oh my!!

and tacos with CORN tortilla that had been fried (instead of formed, like taco bell). Oh my – my love for Slovenia went up 100% with this place.

Complete with fresh produce,

And if all that wasn’t enough, you should have seen the farmer’s market we discovered! Complete with fresh produce,

herbs,

herbs

and even a food hall

and even a food hall full of meat, cheese, and

other goodness!

other goodness!

Walks, not only along the water,

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but also,

We walked around the fortress.

up to the fortress..

OK,  actually we didn't walk up to the fortress, we took the funicular,

OK, actually we didn’t walk up to the fortress, we took the funicular,

but we did walk up these steps all the way to the tippy top.

but we did walk up these steps all the way to the tippy top.

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we walked through a beautiful park,

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past some lovely churches

and even into a few

and even into a few

We walked up the hill

We walked up the hill

to explore a small town

to explore a small town while waiting for a train to arrive and whisk us away

We wandered through the countryside

We wandered through the countryside

to have a picnic.

to have a picnic.

We even did our own version of a 5k walk around Lake Bled to view the church on the island.

We even did our own version of a 5k walk around Lake Bled to view the church on the island.

Which is where we learned that if you feed the beautiful swan

Which is where we learned that if you feed the beautiful swan

these

these

then this happens.  Swans are pretty tall when they get up out of the water (but not as mean as geese!)

then this happens. Swans are pretty tall when they get up out of the water (but not as mean as geese!)

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After all that walking we finally found the finish line.

this and

Where they served steak salad, pesto tagliatelle and

this to the weary wanderers.  Hey, we deserved it - it only took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish that 5k!!!

cream cake  to the weary wanderers. Hey, we deserved it – it only took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish that 5k!!!

And we found just the right places to just sit and rest

Along the lake (why do you think it took us 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish our 5k?)

Along the lake (why do you think it took us 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish our 5k?)

and along the street to watch the locals.

and along the street to watch the locals.

This guy made the most amazing things out of balloons.

Balloon art at its finest.

This man played beautiful music non-stop on that trumpet, you would think his lips would get tired!

This man played beautiful music non-stop on that trumpet, all day, every day. You would think his lips would get tired!

We rested in some charming B&Bs

We rested in some charming B&Bs

that had views like this from our back balcony!

but one of the most restful places was to sit on the balcony and just enjoy at the view.

Did I mention that I am in love? Yes, we chose the perfect place to get off the merry-go-round and rest during spring break.  I can’t wait until we go back! Want to come along?

 

 

Puzzling It Out

Thinking about life and things in Prishtina, Kosova

It has been awhile since I’ve written, so what have we been up to?  Well, for one thing, we have been trying to get this mess

DSC09795to look like this.

DSC09796It has kept us busy many an evening so far.  You know how it goes, you think you have all the pieces and then you put them together and you end up with. . .

DSC09799No matter how hard you try and how many times (at least 5 or 6) you look through the box of extra pieces one by one you can not find that missing piece.  Oh, you think you have found it! In fact you are positive that you have found it.

DSC09800Then you try to put it in andDSC09801It just doesn’t fit. Ughhhh. You stew about it for a couple of days, you look through the box 3 or 4 more times, you complain to you husband – a lot.  And then one day you are sitting there taking pictures (not that I have done all of this or anything :] ) and you realize that the piece below that space doesn’t fit right. So you take it out and realize that

DSC09802those two pieces look a lot alike. Hmmm.  Switch them around and . . .

DSC09804perfect fit. Sigh.  All that worrying and the pieces were just a bit switched around. Now that is something to think about, isn’t it.

But, I must say, then there are days that seem like this.

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Light on a Hill

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Thank you Google images for the picture.

Enjoying my four day Independence Day weekend in Prishtina, Kosova

Yep, 4 whole days off for the 17th of February also known as Kosova Independence Day.  I am enjoying the time off to rest and relax.  There has been a lot going on around these parts lately and a good long weekend is just what we needed.  Yesterday I helped a friend buy a mattress which I am sure sounds like a short, easy thing to do.  Nothing around these parts is short or easy, especially when you are still struggling with language and toddling around in a taxi – think about that.  It turns out that it takes about 5 hours to buy a mattress and get it delivered from start to finish.  I love this place.  Today we went to church and had a good Sunday afternoon nap.  Good accomplishment for the day. Tomorrow I will work on catching up at school and then Tuesday we will try to catch some of the Independence Day celebration. Somewhere in there I am trying to get caught up on the laundry that has been piling up.   And so our days go.  Busily getting on with life, resting up when we can.

One thing that kept me busy last weekend was that I had another birthday.  Yep, according to my calculations last year, I turned 35 on February 7. What a fun weekend, on Friday night, my friends from school got together to throw a surprise party.

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It involved lots of good food – including a 7 layer bean dip which meant making every layer from scratch, like I said, nothing here is short or easy. And of course there was cake – again made from scratch (an evening long production).  It was all so yummy and fun!  Thanks friends!!

Just ignore those candles, I guess they forgot I was turning 35 :]

Just ignore those candles, I guess they forgot I was turning 35 :]

Then it was off to Macedonia to celebrate with my sweet hubby.  Again there was cake; compliments of the hotel.

DSC09504The festivities were topped off by a flat tire.DSC09508and lots of nice people spending their entire Sunday afternoon helping us.

DSC09511Yes, nothing is short or easy here, but people are always right there ready to lend a hand.  Whether it is to pantomime their way through buying a mattress, making a girl a birthday cake (or two) or spending the afternoon fixing a tire, we can always can count on nice people to help us.

But, some of you might have seen in the news that other things have been happening around here.  More sobering or serious things.  Yes, a couple of weeks back, this happened.

thank you again, Google images for the picture.

thank you again, Google images for the picture. Rest assured, I was nowhere near when this picture was taken.

The Kosovar’s scheduled a protest about some things going on in the government that they weren’t happy about (for more about that go here) and the protests turned sour. The protesters started throwing rocks at the glass Government building, the police started lobbing tear gas and in the end some people were hurt.  It wasn’t a pretty sight and not the finest hour for the country.  These days many, many people are getting on busses and leaving the country.  The best estimate is that in the last two months, over 120,000 (yes, one hundred twenty thousand – two thousand a day!) have headed off to live with relatives in other countries and to find work.

But, up on a hill, a little way out of town is a light.  A light in the darkness that is becoming more and more a stable place for the children of Kosova. That place is Prishtina High School.  What were we doing during all of this craziness?  We were having school and loving our kids.  Yes, there was discussion, should we close up until the protests are over?  We decided what these kids need is love and consistency. While the community raged, we went on as usual. We expected that the kids would come to school upset, ready to protest, ready to disrupt class, but you know what?  They didn’t.  Our little light on the hill was a sanctuary, a place of peace when it was needed.  We went about our days as usual. Teaching science,

DSC09462math,

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history,

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and art

DSC09564While some kids worked on projects,

DSC09484DSC09521other kids just felt free to have some fun.

DSC09477Yes, the days just went on as normal. Teachers planned,

DSC09518consulted with students,

DSC09517tutored during their planning time,

DSC09534and drank lots of cappuccino.

DSC09516We ate lunch together, as usual,

DSC09535in the midst of noise and laughter.

DSC09536But, you know what we talked about as we sat there? Well, we said things like – “Look!  the middle school girls are friends again”, “See those boys, they have such potential,” and “Did you see ______ skipping through the door smiling and calling to friends? Remember how he came to school at the beginning of the year, timid and lonely.  Afraid, because his father had recently passed away.”  Yes, we talk like proud parents looking over our chicks. And I know the kids feel our love for them.

Yes, during those days, school just went on as usual. Lindita still reigned over the reception desk taking care of everything from new parents to sick kids.

DSC09529Skender and the rest of the management team went about the task of running the school,

Skender and the other managers about the business of running the school.

the cleaning ladies kept the place sparkling clean,

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Angela is also a registered nurse and helps out as school nurse when needed.

and Ted?

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Just joking, he is the hardest worker of all!!

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We unstuck stuck zippers

DSC09515and we had club meetings.

DSC09530We even had a snowball fight or two.

DSC09456Yes, we are a place where kids from around the country can come to feel safe, learn and have some fun.

But, that is not the only light shining from atop our hill.  A couple of weeks ago, flyers went out around the community

DSC09586and just like that a new Saturday sports program was started on our campus.  The first Saturday was a try-out day, so that teams could be set up fair and square.

OK - I know you can do this!

OK – Go to the first line and then just head on through each activity, got it?

DSC09497 DSC09498 DSC09501About 20 kids were expected and about 80 showed up!  So, everyone available – even a couple of our middle schoolers – were pressed into service. Quite a day.  Then yesterday, the locker room was set,

DSC09584the balls were ready,

DSC09580the kids arrived with their shoes in their “gym bag” (over 100 showed up on day 2!),

DSC09587and the teams were ready to play

DSC09578indoor soccer at its finest!

DSC09582Yes, here the school sits.  Atop the hill, a place of peace and quiet and fun.  A sanctuary from the hard times in this small new country.  A place where all who look can see a light shining in the darkness. Happy 7th birthday Kosova, may you rest and see the light.

 

So, some of you have been asking how you can help us shine our light.  Recently we have established a new scholarship fund. This fund will enable kids from the villages to come to our school.  Right now about half of the students at our school are on a full or partial scholarship.  We have quite a list of students who would like to attend, but are unable to because of finances.  If you would like to contribute towards this fund, please make your contribution to “American Schools International” and mail it to:

Mary Weiss
American Schools International
8840 Carrousel Park Circle, Unit 32
Cincinnati, Ohio 45251

Please mark your check “Village Scholarship Fund”.  All contributions are tax deductible.

We truly thank you for any help you can give.  We also truly covet your prayers.  Thank you for all of the ways that you all support us.  Just reading this blog and leaving an encouraging word in the comments is such a blessing.

A Whoville Christmas and a Frozen New Year

Thawing out in Prishtina, Kosova

I’ve spent some time lately thinking about Chirstmases past.  I have spent lots of time looking at pictures on Facebook and loving it. Seeing all those happy faces surrounded by family, food and glitz. All the fun, all the joy of the season.  Our Christmas was a bit different this year.  After bringing in the season spending a lovely afternoon with friends, things calmed down, a lot.

I had decorated a bit and baked some, but I then I realized I was done.  That was it.  You see it is VERY expensive to mail presents to or from this country, so we decided to trim our list to the bare essentials (our kids and granddaughter) and use Amazon.  We also decided that we had bought ourselves lots of goodies while we were in the states, so we would forgo presents to each other.

Then I noticed that the lights that went up on Mother Teresa Blvd. last year in November, weren’t lit this year.  And there were fewer decorations around town.  It was just kind of bare.  It seems the mayor didn’t want the New Year’s lights up until after the 25th for some reason.

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Even the local churches decided that it was a better idea to have smaller services at each church rather than one big gathering on Christmas Eve as they did last year.

How does one celebrate when the glitz and presents and all the trappings are gone.  Then one day, it hit me.  It was like Whoville (don’t you love Dr. Seuss).  We didn’t need all the falderal to have Christmas.

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Yes, maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. So we celebrated Christmas Eve with a couple of friends by having dinner (they brought us thoughtful presents, by the way) and going to church together.

Then, by choice, Ted and I spent Christmas day, just the two of us.  We went to the lovely Swiss Diamond for breakfast.  Afterwards we took a walk down Mother Teresa Blvd.  We walked and talked to each other. Every once in awhile we would stop and talk to Our Father.  It was, perhaps the loveliest Christmas ever. Quiet, restful, full of the meaning of the season.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all the fanfare of Christmas.  I can’t wait to have a Christmas full of family and loud noisy fun back in the states someday, but our little Whoville Christmas was just perfect this year.

When New Year’s came around it reminded me of another children’s tale, Frozen.  I haven’t seen the movie, but in this case, the title says it all.  It began the day after Christmas.  We woke to a gorgeous blanket of snow.  We decided that the best thing for these California kids to do was to light a big fire in the fireplace and hibernate.  It was beautiful looking at the large snowflakes drifting down outside our window as we watched Netflix and drank tea, like living in a snow globe.  We couldn’t even work because the heat was off at the school and the building was just too cold – delightful.

On the 30th we headed of on an adventure with two of our favorite travelers, Skender and Jackie.  Skender had borrowed his brother’s car and over the rivers and through the mountains to Montenegro we went.

First stop, bathroom break at a gas station in Albania. Where it was more than a bit windy!!

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We were going to have a cup of tea to warm up at the restaurant (yes, almost all gas stations have a restaurant attached), but it was all set up for a wedding.

Yes, a wedding at the local gas station.

Yes, a wedding at the local gas station.

Then we passed these guys.

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Why were they huddled out there in the blowing wind?

To sell New Year's turkeys of course.  Yes, fresh turkey for dinner, feathers and all.  We just passed on by.

a To sell New Year’s turkeys of course. Yes, fresh turkey for dinner, feathers and all. We just passed on by.

Then on we went down the curvy, one lane road past the border into Montenegro and what should we meet running full speed down the middle of the road, coming right at us?

a herd of sheep!

a herd of sheep!

Yes, running, full speed!

Yes, running, full speed! Guess they wanted out of the wind too.

Such a lovely drive, but even better, was the lovely town of Kotor that met us when we arrived.  Kotor is a town straight out of the middle ages, complete with a full wall and doors into the old city.

DSC09294

 

Inside the wall, entering the old town

Inside the wall, entering the old town

We stayed in a darling, modestly priced hotel

That is our room, second floor on the left.

That is our room, second floor on the left.

with engaging views of the old city.

DSC09299

On New Year’s Eve Ted and I spent the day wandering the streets, just enjoying the view. One of the best things about going to Kotor at this time of the year is that most tourists want to come when it is warm and sunny, not when it is cold and the wind is blowing you off of your feet.  Why is that good?  Well, we had the whole hotel and practically the whole town to ourselves to explore.  Fun!

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DSC09383DSC09354

We did lots of window shopping because most shops were closed for the New Year.  Ted thinks that is a great way to save money :]

We did lots of window shopping because most shops were closed for the New Year. Ted thinks that is a great way to save money :]

There were lots of churches to explore

DSC09309

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The orange light at the base of the altar is a beautiful nativity.

There was even a town well,

DSC09448

a draw bridge,

The draw bridge no longer works, but see those metal balls hanging there?  Those are the weights from when it did work.

The draw bridge no longer works, but see those metal balls hanging there? Those are the weights from when it did work.

and a moat

DSC09373

The gate on the right is the outside of the draw bridge.

As we explored outside the gates, we found a market

Not many vendors on this windy, colder than normal day.

Not many vendors on this windy, colder than normal day.

and some ruins that we could walk all over, no one seemed to care about them.

DSC09377Why weren’t archeologists all over this digging, we wondered.  Then as we explored, we figured it out. It is a grave yard.

Yes, those roman numerals say 1600

Yes, those roman numerals say 1561!

Our wanderings then took us around the bay a bit to enjoy the view.

DSC09341

Beautiful day, but did I mention that it was so cold and windy that we had to hold onto each other for support!

We even had a little pork for lunch!

DSC09342

Well, really it looked more like this :]

Well, really it looked more like this :] Yum!

And what were Jackie and Skender doing while we wandered the town?  Climbing straight up the mountain side to the fort at the tippy top.

They told us the view was well worth it.  We will have to try it sometime when it is A) not so cold and windy and B) we feel a lot younger.

They told us the view was well worth it. We will have to try it sometime when it is A) not so cold and gusty and B) we feel a lot younger.

That night to prove once again that Skender and Jackie are young, they stayed up until midnight, while the old fogies went to bed.  Turns out that since most of the people in town decided that it was a good idea to stay inside for the blustery New Year, so there wasn’t much of a celebration at midnight.  But, Skender and Jackie did see a couple fireworks over the bay while we snoozed away.

New Year’s Day we decided we should all go exploring the countryside. We had heard that out in the bay a short distance from town are two islands.  One is a natural island and has had a monastery on it since the 1100’s.  The other island is a man made island.  The story goes, back in the  1300’s, some fishermen found a painting of a Madonna and Child on a rock out in the bay.  They saw that as a sign to build.  After 200 years, a lot of rocks and some sunken pirate ships, the town had an island and a church to house the painting.

Thank you google images for this picture.  I don't know why, with all of the pictures I took, I did not get a good picture of the little island church.

Thank you Google images for this picture. I don’t know why, with all of the pictures I took, I did not get a good picture of the little island church. And yes, it was this beautiful!

This seemed like something we just had to see, so off we went to the town of Perast.

DSC09428

We hoped on a ferryDSC09398and within a few minutes we were there

DSC09402Once again we enjoyed the luxury of winter travel.  We were the only people on the ferry and when we got into the church we got our own private tour from a sweet little lady with lots of great stories to tell.

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See the painting above the altar? That is the painting that started this whole thing.

When there is a wedding in the church, the bride leaves her bouquet to ensure a long and happy marriage.

When there is a wedding in the church, the bride leaves her bouquet to ensure a long and happy marriage.

After the tour, we took a walk around the town

DSC09432

Palm trees always remind me of home.

Palm trees always remind me of home.

I told Ted we should buy this and fix it up into a bed and breakfast, just like people do on House Hunters International.

I told Ted we should buy this and fix it up into a bed and breakfast, just like people do on House Hunters International.

Then he looked inside and said, "Yeah, just like on House Hunters International."  I think that means he doesn't think it is a good idea.

Then he looked inside and said, “Yeah, just like on House Hunters International.” I think that means he doesn’t think it is a good idea.

After our walk about the town, we took a drive into the mountains to enjoy the cute little villages in the snow. Then it was back along the bay for dinner and to the hotel in time for me to cuddle up with the i-pad and watch the Rose Parade with Bob and Stephanie! Those of you who know me well, know that Bob and Stephanie are critical to beginning my New Year well.

The next day dawned bright, relatively warm, and without a breeze, so of course it was time to head home.

But, all of that wonderfulness, as cold and windy as Montenegro was, that was not the most frozen part of our New Year, no that happened upon our return.

Editor’s Note: While I was writing this blog, my daughter-in-law, sweet Andrea, reported on her Facebook page that she was out pumping her own gas in the -30° weather. Yes, that is MINUS 30° FAHRENHEIT. So, I do apologize to Matthew and Andrea Erskin and all the good people of Fairbanks, Alaska, but that is not going to keep me from whining for the next little bit.

When we left for our time away, we, like all good energy conscience people who have never lived in a snowy place before, turned off all of our heaters.  Well, except for the one in the kitchen, which we turned down low because we were plant sitting for a friend and didn’t want to kill her orchids.

Anyway, as we made our way home, a man at a gas station was all too happy to tell us that the coldest place in the Balkans over the new year was Prishtina!  Hooray!  It got down to about 0°F. So, when we walked into our little brick, uninsulated home, it was freezing!! Well, except for the kitchen which was barely bearable. We started up the heaters and got some fires going, but all of that didn’t do much for our frozen chunk of a bed.  Ted slept in his clothes, I slept in my warmest jammies and socks and my cuddly robe and we piled on extra blankets and still we shivered through the night.

The next morning we woke up to find that the water was just a trickle, until it stopped all together.  That meant frozen pipes.  So, we consulted the weather channel to find out how long this would last – about a week or more – and then we consulted some people who have actually lived through this weather before in these ice box houses.  We were told to leave a tap open, get the house warmed up and then the water should flow again.

That night at dinner time Ted decided we should go out to eat because he could tell, while I am a trooper, making dinner in a walk-in freezer with no water was not an option. So, we bundled up and went on down to warmth and good food at our local hangout, Picnic.

When we got home, Ted said, “Listen, water.”  Oh no, not the kind of water coming from a tap, no the kind of water spraying everywhere from the WALL!!!!  Luckily it had just started and it was hot water (as opposed to icy cold water spraying all over us). We found the location – under the stairs where it is almost impossible to get to, of course – and got a bucket.

Yes, that is water pouring directly from a pipe in the wall. And yes, the only light nearby was a flashlight.

Yes, that is water pouring directly from a pipe in the wall. And yes, the only light nearby was a flashlight.

We thought, since it was hot water, once the hot water heater on the other side of that wall was empty, the water would stop. No, once the hot water stopped, the cold water started.  So, Ted searched around and found the main shut off valve and turned all the water to the whole house off.  Did I mention that this was a Saturday night and we would have to wait until Monday to get our maintenance man to help us?  That is about the time we decided that we should crawl into our newly warmed bed and get some sleep.

Then on Sunday we found out why there are chimney sweeps in this world.  We were finally getting it a bit warmer in the house with the help of a fire in the fireplace when the wind kicked up outside.  It turns out that if your chimney in full of creosote, it doesn’t draw well and so when a gust of wind comes by, it shoots the smoke and ash back down the chimney and into your living room.  We had to douse the fire and get out of the smoky room.  So, Ted added chimney sweep to our list of Monday maintenance and that is when I decided that a Sunday afternoon nap was in order – at least I was getting some rest.

On Monday, Luli took care of us, got the water up and running and got a chimney sweep to come to the house. We finally got the house to a reasonable temperature and we found out that in this house all of the water pipes end in a panel behind the wall in the bathroom, so if the bathroom is warm, the water will run.  We got a new heater and now the warmest room in the house is the bathroom!  I have been thinking of filling the bathtub with cushions, turning it  into a giant  couch and spending my evenings in there.

So, things are looking up this frozen new year. We are back to work and the school is slowly thawing out.  The house is warming up, the fire is roaring without a smoke filled room, and the water is running. We are doing well.

Spring and warmer weather are just around the frozen corner. We try to keep in mind what that perky little girl Annie sang,

The sun’ll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there’ll be sun
Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow ’til there’s none

When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh

The sun’ll come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on
’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away!

Yes, tomorrow it is predicted to be sunny and warmer.  Next week? More snow, but this time I think we are ready.

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