Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kosovo: A Kosovo Thanksgiving Chapter 3, Scene 4

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have always enjoyed the simplicity of the day and the traditions.  I know many countries celebrate a day of thanksgiving, but Americans hold a special place in their heart for this day of family gathering.

I grew up on a farm. My early memories of Thanksgiving all include time spent with my extended family at my grandparents' house. The menu was predictable. Grandma roasted the turkey and made mashed potatoes. Each household contributed to the feast.

As it turns out, we had a dusting of snow
on Monday before Thanksgiving.
The mountains in the background got more!
While the women fussed over the food preparations in the kitchen, the men gathered in the “front room” to watch American college football on the small television. We children played with toys on the floor or poured over Sears catalogues to choose what we wanted for Christmas.

Generally speaking, we expected our first light snow around Thanksgiving. The major chores of the fall season were complete and Thanksgiving was about the right time to open some of the treats canned from the garden. Sweet pickles, beets, green beans and the like. And of course there were pies. Apple pies, pumpkin pies. Cold pies, hot pies.

This year I am in Kosovo.  There is a chill in the air and American families living here are busy assembling the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Invitations have been extended for friends, families, and coworkers to attend gatherings around the city.

I’m trying to find everything I need to make my roasted vegetable recipe. My search has been hampered by the language barrier to a degree. Imagine three middle-aged American women standing in the spice aisle saying, “It kind of looks like thyme…can someone Google  ‘majcina dusica usitnjena’ for me?” And of course I needed a butternut squash…which I couldn’t find. I mentioned it to my friend who just happened to have one! 

My family is meeting in my house in Ohio for Thanksgiving. My mother will help with the turkey. My daughters and their families will gather together, bringing their specialty foods. The men will likely watch football and the children will play on the floor. With luck, I’ll be in the mix via Skype. But even if that doesn’t work out, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful my family is together. I treasure their love and support.

I’m thankful I’ve been “adopted” by so many precious people here in Kosovo and will spend Thanksgiving with some of them.

I’m thankful for the opportunity God has given me to teach fourth grade at Prishtina High School.

I’m thankful that unlike the Pilgrims of 1620, I have a warm, comfortable apartment to see me through the winter instead of struggling with makeshift quarters.

I’m thankful that just as the Pilgrims had Squanto to guide them through the raising of corn and other foods in the area, I have friends willing to help me figure out seasonings in a foreign language in the middle of the market.

Finding that squash? I'm truly grateful!

And there is this...I am thankful for readers like I share with you my mantra: Live Knowing You Are Loved. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kosovo: The Cafeteria- Chapter 3, Scene 3

One of the most often asked questions I receive is, “What do you eat over there?”

Over there is in reference to my new, though temporary home in Kosovo.

Of course the snarky answer is “food.” But I’m not snarky. At least not today.

The food in Kosovo is wonderful. People here thrive on fresh vegetables and fruits. They cook delicious soups and stews.

An omelet made to order and a macchiato.
What could be a better start for the day?
And chicken.

Lots and lots of chicken. Oh, sure, I’ve eaten steak at a restaurant in Prishtina. And a delicious grilled trout at a restaurant close to my school. We have a wonderful Thai restaurant downtown. And I can always get Mexican, Italian, or authentic Spanish food if I prefer.

I cook a bit. Chili on a cold day. Grilled cheese on soft, freshly baked bread. And of course…chicken. Hey I like it, too.

But what I’ve enjoyed the most since I’ve lived here is the school cafeteria. Seriously. Our cafeteria is unlike any school cafeteria I’ve ever experienced. Choices on any given day might include Cordon Bleu, Beef with Vegetables, or Fish Filet. There is always pizza and an assortment of sandwiches available as well. Most entrees are served with potatoes and rice with sauces.

The salads are incredibly fresh. There is a wide assortment of fruits available or fruited yogurt if you prefer. And for breakfast I can get an omelet or an egg cooked to order. That is of course assuming I can resist the “pancake,” which is more like a light crepe filled with Nutella.

No, ours is not your run-of-the-mill school cafeteria.

And here is the best part. (My Blog…My Opinion.) The coffee.

Where else can you get a macchiato or a caramel latte delivered to your classroom? Espresso? No problem. Even the American coffee is freshly brewed.

So what do I eat over here? Food. Delicious food…and most of it from the school cafeteria! 

Join me as I spend these next months in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kosovo: The Retreat- Chapter 3, Scene 2

I know you’re going to think all I do is travel, but it isn’t so. After the trip to Greece (if you missed it you can check it out HERE), I put in a pretty full week of teaching!

Monday was of course fairly routine, but Tuesday was conference day. The only “no show” I had was a parent who called to say she was tied up in a meeting with the Prime Minister. That was a first for me.

The B&B near Macedonia
Wednesday, the entire elementary school went to the fire station for a field trip. It was actually ten times better than any fire station field trip I had ever attended. Especially since the squad received a call as we were viewing the fire engines and my students got to witness the firefighters donning their suits and jumping on the truck to be whisked away before our eyes. Exciting stuff…even for me.

Thursday was a good day- a day to catch up on all of our “readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic.” That was the day my houseguest from Wales left but another couple from California arrived to take her place.

On Friday, my students and I went to the Marble Caves as part of our study on landforms. No, I did not intentionally plan two field trips in one week. It turned out that way when the fire station trip was changed. Anyway, the cave was incredibly wonderful for my fourth graders but by the time the day ended, I was indeed ready for a break.

Several women I teach with had decided to go away for a little weekend retreat. We left for a bed and breakfast after school on Friday and returned on Saturday evening.

The "barn" quarters at the B&B
There is something special that happens when women get together. We laughed, we cried, we ate homemade cookies and delicious meals. We played games. (I’m pretty sure I hadn’t played “Truth or Dare” since I was in junior high.) We snuggled under warm covers and drifted into a deep peaceful sleep. We did some crafts, read some, and we sang a few songs. Together we found new energy and strength and care.

Where am I going with this? A few months ago I think I would have looked at the calendar and said no to the retreat. I would have thought my life too busy to add something like that to my schedule.

Living abroad has taught me to see things differently. Now I say yes to new experiences.

Now I know I was so busy I needed to go on that retreat.

And yes, my life is richer for it.

By the way, if you are interested in seeing pictures from our field trips to the fire station and the cave, visit Prishtina High School's Facebook Page.

Join me as I spend these next months in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Kosovo: The Secret of Thessaloniki Chapter 3, Scene 1

Ruins of the Agora Market in Thessaloniki
Modern apartment complexes and stores
overlook this part of the Roman Forum.
If you caught last week’s post, you know I spent a weekend in Greece with some dear friends. If you missed it, you can check it out HERE. We visited the ruins of Philippi…an incredible experience for me. We stayed at a seaside hotel in Thessaloniki (Think Thessalonica from the Bible). I sat out by the water, my feet dangling in the cold waters of the Aegean Sea, reading Philippians and the two letters to the Thessalonians. It was an exhilarating experience.

We visited the city, shopping for items unavailable to us in Kosovo and dropping in at the local Starbucks. I truly enjoyed the rib platter at T.G.I. Friday’s. Thessaloniki offers a taste of “home.”

But the true treasure I found…the secret the city holds was revealed to me this past week. As many of my readers know, three years ago on October 29, my husband died from injuries he sustained in a bicycle accident. Losing him has been the most difficult experience of my life.

Modern day Thessaloniki is a vibrant city.
I am blessed to be supported by a strong family in the States and surrounded by a caring community of friends and coworkers here in Kosovo. It could have been a devastating week for me, but as I looked through the pictures I had taken at the city of Thessaloniki, I found her secret. Thessaloniki is a place where old and new coexist. A place where the past is valued even as the new is heralded in. It is a city both deeply rooted in a rich history yet vibrant in purposeful growth and change.

I feel that way about my life. I will never forget Tom. I will ever be shaped by our forty-three years together. Yet I am growing and changing. I have purpose. I have the opportunity to embrace new experiences without giving up the treasure of my past. The treasure of being his wife.

Everyone in Thessaloniki seems to be moving. Like most of life. It strikes me that I no longer feel as if I’m being swept along in the flow or trying to paddle the other direction. I feel as if I am in pace with everyone else. The best part? I know I’m heading in the right direction.

This old church remains in a parklike setting
beneath the ever growing modern city on the sea.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Kosovo: A Trip to Greece, Chapter 2, Scene 5

Bring your own cushion!

One of the perks of living in southeastern Europe is the opportunity to easily visit a number of interesting places. This past weekend I traveled with some friends to Greece for a couple of days. While we stayed at a seaside hotel in Thessaloniki, we spent our first day tromping around the ancient city of Philippi. I decided to recount my experience for my readers.

Today is part one of a two-part post. Today I’m sharing the pictures of Philippi. You’ll remember the apostle Paul preached the gospel in Philippi. He visited the city several times. 

The city is an active archeological site. Our first glimpse of the dig was a large stone wall. Past the wall is the theater. There was a school group on a field trip there the day we visited. I doubt they appreciated the ruins as much as I did.

Before we walked the alleyways and explored the city, four of us took on the challenge to climb the mountain to the fortress looming above. The views were beautiful. I couldn’t help but think of how Tom would have enjoyed the construction of the stone fortress and the hike to get there. 

As we descended we could see the ruins spread out before us.

The Roman road, Via Egnatia, constructed in the 2nd century BC crossed several provinces of the Roman Empire. Paul traveled this road. Amazing.

The Doorframe gives you an idea of the size of the buildings. Obviously, for the Romans "Bigger is Better."

Archeologists have dug up some earthen pots that are virtually intact. The city had been attacked several times. It was greatly damaged and abandoned. Eventually it was completely destroyed by an earthquake.

The ancient Roman community had toilets and a septic system. The men would congregate at the toilet in the morning and conduct business. Maybe that's where the term "taking care of business" comes from. I’m told wealthy men sent slaves ahead of them to sit on the toilet to warm the stone seat for them before they got there.

The city boasted a library. All that seems to be left of it though is the stone sign. I loved strolling past the marketplace. The stone stalls still stand (say that five times fast) and it is easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of every day life along this side of the town.

There were many places along the way where I stood in awe of the place only knew before through biblical accounts. It proved to be the sort of experience that makes you catch your breath and threatens to bring tears to your eyes. A place a wonder.

I stood on the stone floor of what was likely a home. I couldn’t help but imagine Paul or Silas standing in that very spot thinking of all that was, all that is, and all that could be in the sunny Greek city of Philippi.

The site of the Library
Look across the city and up the hill.
Far away you will see the fortress!

Write it on the doorframe...
Via Egnatia

Join me as I spend these next months in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I’ll share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can.