The Middle School Life

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It all began with these guys

Sitting in middle school English, watching kids take a test, Prishtina Kosova

When Ted and were first married, my job was substitute teacher.  I woke every morning for a few years to the ring of the phone rather than the ring of an alarm clock.  Sometimes when you sub for a living jobs come sporadically, but I worked every day for nearly 3 school years.  Why? Because I was willing to sub in middle school. In fact, I let them know I preferred middle school. Yes, I know, crazy, but high-schoolers were too close to my age at the time (yes, this was long, long ago!) and not having kids of my own, elementary-schoolers were too little. So, I found the best fit in middle school.

Do you remember being in middle school? Or junior high school, as we called it back then.  Do you remember the raucous, giggly, emotion filled conversations? Do you remember “I’m not your friend” one minute and, “You will be my best friend forever” the next?  Do you remember always feeling awkward, stuck somewhere between childhood and young adulthood? I do.  You see, these days I am back to my roots in education, perpetually stuck in the wonderful world of middle school.  And I am loving it.

It all began back in 2013 when we first arrived in Kosova.  I came with my 50 pounds, two carry ons,  and my mind made up.  I was going to be the person in charge of our household and Ted would be in charge of the school.  I would cook, clean, do laundry, entertain the teachers, but I was not going to teach. After all I am a first grade teacher at heart and there are no first graders in this school. Well, of course like many times when I have had my mind made up, Our Father had a different idea.  After all, He had had me specifically trained to love middle-schoolers all those years ago.

I remember well the day we were in the car, enjoying the view as we headed from O-town into the school.  Gary Palmer was with us, we were having a lovely conversation when he said it.

“Luanne, I think we are going to need you to teach.”

“Uhmmm, teach what?”

“Probably middle school science or math.”

OK, I thought, “I can do this.  I can teach middle school. I have done it before, but Father, if you have someone else in mind to do this, please send them fast.   I accepted your Macedonian Call to this land right next to Macedonia, but I didn’t know middle-schoolers would be involved. ” And so my conversation went, but as it turned out, I was needed to teach 6th grade.

And from the first day I loved those crazy kids. Inquisitive, full of life, and eager  to begin at a new school, those 14 kids reminded  me that middle school can be fun.  Sure we had our days, don’t we all, but they quickly became “my kids” and I quickly became their “school mom”.  We laughed, and played and learned together.  What a great year we had. But, I must admit, I am getting a bit old to be running after those energetic kids all day long.

Last year dear Heather showed up on the scene to teach the 6th graders (thank you Heather!) and I came full circle to  become permanent middle school substitute.  I have taught history and science and math (lots of math) and currently I am teaching English filling in for lovely Jackie who has been in the states with her husband, Skender, for 6 weeks on school business. Yes, over the last couple of years I have gotten to enjoy the middle school life.

Why do I love these kids so much? Well, they tend to keep you on your toes with questions and they have an energy that can’t be rivaled, just like you would expect from middle-schoolers in the US.  But, these kids are different in some ways.

First of all, they are a bit more innocent than US middle-schoolers. For example Ted, Katie and I were just now sitting on couches near the base of the stairs talking during break time and whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, middle-schoolers kept running by at full speed, up stairs, down stairs, all around the school.  Turns out they were playing a game (most likely hide-and-seek as best we could figure), no sitting and relaxing during break for them. No sitting and gossiping about the latest pop culture drama. No, break time is game time, time to run and play.  It was really quite entertaining. These kids remind me of US 4th through 6th graders. They love their teachers, they work and play together with little of the boy/girl drama of US kids.  Oh yes, we still get plenty of drama, but it is more about dogs eating their food (which does happen, love those dogs) or who beat who in tetherball or yesterday it was about  “is it possible to have two best friends at the same time?”

And they love to help.  Every Friday Katie and I host “Cooking Club” at our home.

Our first cooking adventure together - Rice Krispie Treats! Thanks to a couple of kids who have access to the PX on the military base we had marshmallows and Rice Krispies. Most of the kids had heard to them, but only 1 or 2 had ever had them, what a treat.

Our first cooking adventure together – Rice Krispie Treats! Thanks to a couple of kids who have access to the PX on the military base we had marshmallows and Rice Krispies. Most of the kids had heard of them, but only 1 or 2 had ever had them, what a treat.

What fun.  They all have ideas of what to make and they want to be in the middle of the action (unlike the high school cooking club of a few years ago where the girls loved to sit and watch me cook for them :] ). “Can I stir?  Can I help roll out the dough?  Can I . . . ” are heard through out the kitchen whenever they gather in the kitchen.  It kind of reminds me of cooking with my own kids all those years ago. We have made muffins, painted cookies, and decorated gingerbread men.

Halloween treats the kids made for the school party.

Halloween treats the kids made for the school party.

Next week we are moving onto cookie “gingerbread houses”,  I had to show them a picture to let them in on what we will be making.

Every single day I find something new that I would assume they know, but they don’t. Sometimes it is a language issue like when I first began teaching 6th grade math and asked a question about the sum of two numbers.  It was an easy question, but no one would answer.  Then one brave soul raised their hand, “Miss, what is a sum?” Oh I had lots to learn back then.  These days I know not to assume that they know all of the vocabulary for any subject, simple or not, they probably know it well in Albanian, but these kids are not only learning English, they are learning the language of math, science, history, PE, and art too.  That is a lot of new languages.

Then there are the cultural issues. The other day in English class I was reading to them about why people in olden days, before electricity (as opposed to when I was a girl), were afraid of the dark.  The article said that, among other things, people were afraid of falling into cisterns.  Knowing that they would not know what a cistern was, I began explaining that it held water and was often placed in the ground to keep the water cool, so if someone left the lid off, there would be trouble. Still blank looks.  Hmmm, well, it is like the reservoir we all have to hold water, in case the water gets turned off (oh, yeah) and being in the ground, it is like when someone takes the manhole cover off and doesn’t replace it and then if you are walking down the middle of the street because the sidewalk is full of parked cars and you don’t see it, you can fall in or at least hurt yourself tripping.  Oh! now they got it.

There was the day I was reading the poem “How I learned English” by a man who immigrated to the US from Egypt as a boy. The poem is about a boy playing baseball on a vacant lot with his friends and he was “just off the plane”.  I read the whole poem and they really didn’t get it.  So, I began back at the beginning, drawing on the board as I went.  I explained about everything from the cirrus clouds in the sky and what a vacant lot is to the whole concept of baseball and how it works. At one point as I am explaining how the ball is hit and where the outfield is (because the boy was out in right field – trying to stay out of the way), one girl said, “So, it is like kickball!”  Yes, exactly, well except you hit the ball with a bat instead of kicking it.  I guess they have been playing kickball in PE these days.  The climax of the poem is when the boy gets hit in the forehead with the ball.  He grasps his head and yells, “My shin, my shin!” and all his friends fall down laughing.  So, I ask why they are laughing. “Because it was his forehead, not his shin, Miss.”  Yes, now we are getting somewhere. I then asked, “Where is your shin?”  Everyone sits there. One boy points tentatively to a spot just under his mouth. OK. “No, that is your chin. Your shin is the front part of your leg (and I point for good measure).” A collective murmur of “Ohhhhhhh.” is heard and smiles break out around throughout the room. I am not kidding, a couple of days later I heard the word “shin” come up in conversation.  Gotta love these kids, they are learning and using what they learn everyday.

But, what I love most about these kids is that no matter what confusion there might be, no matter what mistake is made, they never laugh at another classmate. They help each other to understand; they work together.  They know that the person reading right now, making all of those mispronunciations might be them in a few minutes.  The friend asking the question “What is a vacant lot?” now, might be them asking “What is a cistern?” another day.  Sure we laugh together at times, but it is all in good fun and not at the expense of another.  And the few American kids we have become the experts patiently helping their peers.

Yes, I love these energetic, crazy, full of life kids.

My 6th graders or not long ago are now 8th graders - they get more fun every year!

My 6th graders of not long ago are now 8th graders – they get more fun every year!

Today is my last day teaching them English for now, Jackie is coming back home this weekend. But, you can be sure I will be around laughing, loving, enjoying these kids.  Yes, the middle school life is for me.

 

Thankful

DSC00924Lounging in a cozy hotel room, watching the sleety rain come down and trees toss in the wind — Bogë, Kosova

Last weekend, some kids at school planned a weekend away from the city.  A time to get away, enjoy each other’s company and wonder at the beauty of nature.  Of course they needed chaperones, so of course we went along, forced to relax and do nothing.  Hikes were out because of the rain, internet was intermittent (because the electricity kept going off :\), and entertainment was scarce, so we played cards, read and just did nothing. Tough job, but someone had to do it. :]

This pause in our usual busy routine made me pause and think; “Thanksgiving is coming this week and have I taken a minute to be thankful?”  To be very honest, life here is hard sometimes and I get a bit grumpy and forget all about being thankful. So, I took some time this week to count all of my blessings.  There are so many reasons to give thanks.

(and no, we are not still in Bogë, because of electricity/internet issues, I am finishing this blog in my slightly cold, but cozy living room while watching the snow come down outside)

I am thankful for pretty things
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like hydrangeas in the kitchen,

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and  clay tavs (baking dishes) to cook with

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I am thankful for fires in the fireplace

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and puppies, well most of the time.

That is dirt all over our porch from my precious herb plants. Wonder how it got there?

That is dirt all over our porch from my precious herb plants. Wonder how it got there?

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I am thankful for my washing machine – little as it is. Really, I am.
Remember how I washed clothes in China?

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I know, this isn’t me washing clothes, it is our friend Marcus, but you get the picture.

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I am thankful for my sewing machine,
and other things I have to help me relax and be creative.

like this thread we imported from China and America

like this thread we imported from China and America.
To help me make things like this

This is finished now and brightening up my kitchen wall.

This is finished now and brightening up my kitchen wall.

I am thankful for things that some would think are silly,
like this store (think Big Lots!!),

You do not know how much pleasure this gives me. I walked in a couple of days ago and Christmas had arrived - I almost cried!

You do not know how much pleasure this gives me. I walked in a couple of days ago and Christmas had arrived – I almost cried!

furniture from Jysk,

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Yea! Katie has a dresser!

Yea! Katie has a dresser!

and access to the internet (well, most of the time) where I can Skype with family for hours at a time and watch American TV shows,

Yes, that is the current season of Survivor. I get it a day late (thanks CBS.com), so please remember that when they announce the winner.

Yes, that is the current season of Survivor. I get it a day late (thanks CBS.com), so please remember that when they announce the winner.

I am thankful for the availability of fresh food,
that we can use to make treats that taste like home

like apple pie with cashew cream,

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pumpkin bread (yes, we start with a pumpkin) with homemade apple sauce.

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and donuts

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Yes, warm dipped in chocolate homemade donuts.

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Oh, they were so good!  Katie, will you make us some more, please!

And speaking about treats from home,
I am thankful for all the gifts we have been so graciously given

DSC00752like truckload after truckload of supplies for the school

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craft supplies, tortillas, salsa, and so much more from visiting friends,

and chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate
from this guy

Nathan came to visit for a quick "Nate and Kate turn 28" birthday bash weekend mid-way between their two birthdays - which is another thing to be thankful for.

Nathan came to visit for a quick “Nate and Kate turn 28” birthday bash weekend mid-way between their two birthdays – which is another thing to be thankful for.

Yes, that is a Costco size box of peanut butter cups and more chocolate chips than you can imagine. And yes, much to the delight of faculty members, Katie did share.

Yes, that is a Costco size box of peanut butter cups and more chocolate chips than you can imagine. And yes, much to the delight of faculty members, Katie did share.

I am thankful for quick trips away from the hustle and bustle of city.

DSC00339Whether it is a quick trip to Germia Park or

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a quick trip out of the country with friends.

I am thankful for the school and all the fun things we do besides just teach and learn

DSC00817like Tuesday night dinners,

Friday, club day,

Friday is club day at school. We work an hour of clubs into the school day. Katie and I get the privilege of cooking with middle schoolers - it really is fun!

Friday is club day at school. We work an hour of clubs into the school day. Katie and I get the privilege of cooking with middle schoolers – it really is fun!

and the Saturday Book Club,

If I had to say which kids would give up a Saturday to come talk about a book, this would not have been the crew - Mr Beck, you are working magic at the school - thank you!

If I had to say which kids would give up a Saturday to come talk about a book, wonderful and fun loving as they are, this would not have been the crew – Mr Beck, you are working magic at the school – thank you!

snow days

not yet this year, but coming soon!

not yet this year, but coming soon (actually today, if school were in session)!

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after school sports (which is a novelty in this country)

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with cheering fans (an even bigger novelty!)

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and drums (not such a novelty – Albanians love the sound of a good drum!)

and Saturday sports leagues for the little kids in the neighborhood
(an unheard of thing here).

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Thank you to Caleb, Bob and many High School kids who give up their Saturday morning to make the neighborhood kids so happy.

But, most of all, I am thankful for the people here

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like this girl who gave up a lot to come teach science to lively
middle-schoolers and Chemistry to reluctant high-schoolers,

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these folks who work so hard to teach and run the school because they love the kids and they love Our Father.

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this guy (on the left) who works tirelessly to run the school and make it what it is – the best in the nation, along with these two who are such a loving support to us, even when we grumble a bit, :],

these crazy kids,

My 6th graders or not long ago are now 8th graders - they get more fun every year!

My 6th graders of not long ago are now 8th graders – they get more fun every year!

and babies.

my baby holding Lindita's baby.

My baby holding Lindita’s baby. Soon our school counselor, Sarah, and our business manager’s wife, Eva, are giving us a couple of more babies to cuddle – blessings abound!

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Yes, I am thankful for Kosova. I am thankful that Our Father sent us here to find love, happiness and blessing upon blessing.  We love you Kosova, we love you Lord.

Blessings Upon Blessings!

DSC00737Resting in O-town, near Prishtina, Kosova

Wow!  It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks lately.  So much excitement, so much love poured out.  In my last post I talked about Christmas coming early this year, well the blessings have just kept on pouring in. Our daughter is here, visitors have worked to ready the school, another delivery arrived, and so much more.  It is hard to express how very grateful we are.

It all began a couple of weeks back, just after Santa dropped off his presents for us. Ted and I made a trip out to the airport to pick up our own precious present.

See her coming?

See her coming?

Yep, there she is!

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We could not have been more excited!  Well, maybe if Nathan had been able to come with her, but he will be here soon.  Katie was the first of our new teachers to arrive and with her arrival, the countdown to school began.

A couple of days after Katie arrived, some more family type company came calling.

The Shorts and the Newcombs - great workers and even better friends!

The Shorts and the Newcombs on Mother Theresa Blvd. – great workers and even better friends!

For the first time since June 2012, the Newcombs and the Erskins were together again. For those of you who don’t know them, Steve and Charlotte’s daughter Andrea is married to our son Matt. So, we decided that makes us out-laws.  The Newcombs arrived with their friends Steve and Linda and two 50 pound suitcases brimming with goodies for us to share with our friends!

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I spent an entire evening just going through all the goodness!  There were CORN TORTILLAS, salsa, vitamins, aspirin, pens, pencils, dry erase markers, construction paper, CHOCOLATE CHIPS and so many craft supplies that it will keep all us teachers busy for a long time.

I mentioned to Charlotte that the teachers would like something to do besides grade papers in our spare time and she got busy bringing us so many fun things!  There was fabric and patterns and yarn and buttons and all sorts of fun things to keep us busy.  What a treat! You should have seen the look of joy on the ladies faces as they got to go through the treasures and pick out things.

But the best treat was all of the work that the two couples did for us around the school.  They painted

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and painted

and painted some more

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DSC00767They sanded benches nice and smooth.

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Charlotte even found a bit of black tape to save the world!

Do you see the tape? Up there in the middle of the ocean - that world was pretty flat until Charlotte found the leak :]

Do you see the tape? Up there in the middle of the ocean – that world was pretty flat until Charlotte found the leak :]

Katie kept busy getting ready to teach.

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He's coming together!

He’s coming together!

Then in the middle of all of that painting and work, guess who arrived again!

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Can you see why I am saying that blessings abound?

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Yes, Santa was back again with more desks, more cupboards, tables galore

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and so many bulletin boards and white boards that we feel totally rich!

Can you see the message on this bulletin board? Thank you to those who wrote it, God does bless us every day!

Can you see the message on this bulletin board? Thank you to those who wrote it, God does bless us every day!

So, what was our company doing after the truck arrived?

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Why, putting up bulletin boards and dry erase boards of course.  Come visit us and we will put you to work too :]

We did have some fun time together too.  We got to worship together

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and we had many fun times around the dinner table, eating and playing cards.

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But the highlight of the time we had together was the second Sunday our company was with us.  You see, the Newcombs and the Shorts aren’t actually painters and handymen by trade. They just wanted to bless us by helping out.  They are in Europe with their  drama program.  They travel the US and internationally performing original musical plays for organizations (and yes, they travel with costumes, props and back drop!).  So, the last Sunday they were with us, they performed for a local group. What a treat!

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Such a clear and entertaining presentation.  If you have an opportunity, you should go and see their play.  Or better yet, you should get them booked for your congregation!

As the Newcombs and the Shorts were whirling around the school working, the teachers were arriving for meetings and planning. We had meetings on how to move on now that we are accredited, meetings about technology, and meetings about school safety (thank you Kelly for coming clear from the states to teach us – we learned much and  appreciate all you had to say).   Good discussions, good time learning together.

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I made treats everyday to keep spirits up, of course, but the hit of the week was

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chocolate chip cookies with real Ghirardelli chocolate chips! Really, chopping up a chocolate bar to make cookies is just not the same.

All too soon the big day had arrived.  All the working and planning and decorating of rooms had come to an end.  The day all teachers anticipate was here, the first day of school! And once again it went so smoothly.

Seniors!

Senior class picture

Well, mostly it went smoothly, except for those clowns :]  Every year we are scratching our heads on the first day, why does it just fall into place?  I don’t know why we are surprised.

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middle school assembly, first day of school

We have so many people who work so hard to make it happen and we have  a great leader who is lead by an even greater Father.

On that day, as we said good-by to our friends, the Newcombs and the Shorts, we said hello to new teachers and to many, many new students.

Then to celebrate the beginning, our staff met once again – for the first Tuesday night dinner of the year.  18 of us dined together on nachos and watermelon.

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See that in the blue bowl right there in front? Those are homemade tortilla chips!

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Oh yeah!! Like the kind we never see here. Thanks to Katie and the Newcombs/Shorts for bringing me sooooooo many corn tortillas. I felt I just had to share out of my abundance!

18 of us ate and talked and laughed our way through the evening.  A great start to what looks to be another great year!

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Yes, we have been blessed beyond all measure as we begin this school year. Just merely saying thank you does not seem like enough, but I have no other words to express how extremely grateful we are.

Thank you to the Newcombs and the Shorts for pouring out their heart and soul just to bring a smile to the faces of teachers, students and to bless the hearts of a small congregation in Kosova.

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Thank you again (and again) to Sonny Radar, the people at Western Hills Christian Church, and so many others who help them for sending us much needed equipment for the school.

Thank you to these guys for off loading so many treats.

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We have to say many, many, many thanks to the wonderful people at IDES and Connection Pointe Christian Church for giving the money to ship these supplies to us. Without you (and so many others) all this would not be possible. We truly appreciate all you do, not only for us, but for many like us all over the world! You are a true blessing.

Thank you to the teachers and the rest of the staff for working their hearts out to make this little school run so well.

Thank you to Katie & Nathan, Doug, and Dustin, for seeing the vision just a few months ago and literally rearranging your lives so that kids here can soak up all you have to offer.

Thank you to all of you for keeping us in your prayers.

But most of all thank you to our Father for bringing us here, for keeping us and this school right in the palm of His hand, and for heaping blessing upon blessing on us through so many, many people around the globe.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

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,

DSC09864

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,

DSC09843

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?

 

 

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