Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kosovo: Growing Up, Chapter 1 Scene 5

I met a woman on the steps of my apartment building yesterday. She was holding a tiny baby.

“How old is she?” I asked.
“Three weeks.”

The baby was born three weeks ago? She arrived in Kosovo the same time I did. She fidgeted in her mother’s arms. I know how she feels.

I feel like a newborn here. I look in the smiling faces of people. They seem eager to help me, but their language is strange. I’ve been quite dependent on others. I’m just learning to get around on my own and when I go to the grocery store I look at the pictures on the labels of packages because I can’t read what’s inside.

Night Sky: A View From My Balcony
Yet, it is amazing what you can learn in three weeks. I’ve learned enough Albanian to greet people, say please and thank you, and order a macchiato at the school cafeteria.

I’ve been to the market, the park, church, and on a very long bus ride (if you missed that one, you can catch it HERE). I manage to get to school on time and make it home every afternoon.

I’ve made friends and been to their homes for coffee and pastry. This past weekend I had dinner with some other teachers and folks from the Embassy and then spent two days in teacher training at an Embassy sponsored event.

But here’s the big step I took this week. I called for a taxi.

That doesn’t sound like much to most people I guess, but it was the very first time I called for a taxi. Tom always took care of things like that. Here’s what happened.

I was asked to represent our school at the dinner hosted by the Embassy on Sunday evening. The dinner was being held at a local restaurant but I had no idea how to get there on the bus. Plus, it was Sunday and the buses run on a different schedule.

A friend at the school gave me the number of a taxi service. “A lot of them speak English,” he told me.

Another friend who lives in my building gave me the number of another taxi service. “They’ve been here before,” she said.

The only problem I could see was that I actually don’t know my address. Valdet wrote words down for me to tell the company. Jill told me how to pronounce them.

I practiced. A lot. As the time approached, I whispered a prayer and dialed the number of the service closest to me. The man answered in Albanian.
“Taxi?” I said. “In der tessa a per-per e mee, mot e chan.” My words weren’t terribly fluent, but I had written the pronunciation down phonetically and felt confident. Okay, only slightly confident. My stomach churned. I could see me missing this important dinner all because I didn’t know how to call for a taxi. I should have tried this out yesterday.

“Six minutes,” the dispatcher on the other end said.

“You speak English?”

“Of course.”

“Did I say it right?” I could feel my stomach begin to unknot.

“Yes, of course. Six minutes.”

In exactly six minutes the taxi arrived. I told the driver the name of the restaurant. He was a nice man and enjoyed practicing his English with me while I tried to practice my Albanian. I paid the fare and all but danced into the restaurant.

I had called for a taxi. It arrived. I rode in it and paid for it all by myself.

I guess I’m growing up. Not bad for a three week old, eh?

Join me as I travel to 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.


  1. That is a BIG deal. Super proud of you, and Tom would be too. (Glad there are pictures in things at the grocery store.) :) Hugs!

    1. Thank you, Bethany! I feel so inexperienced at times and living in a different country only heightens my awareness of what I don't know!

  2. You did it! Congratulations! I feel your fear. While in Mexico, my husband needed to see a Dr. you should have seen me trying to explain his symptoms. I found an app. that's free, Google translate. I checked and it has Albanian as one of the languages. You type in English and it translates to Albanian. You can put it on speaker and it will speak you words out loud in Albanian or just hand your phone to them and they can read it. You can also check your pronunciation of words that way. Good luck.

    1. Way cool, Terry! Thanks for the tip. Now if I were tech savvy that would be a bonus...happily though, I know a lot of young, smart, tech savvy people!

  3. I bet you can figure out Google translate - and it sounds like it would be very helpful to you! Proud of you and the steps of faith you are taking every day! Savor the adventure!

  4. This blog is absolutely delightful! I taught at Prishtina High School in the 2008-2009 school year and reading your voice and articulation of your experiences brings a smile to my face!

    1. Thank you, Amy! I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. I am sure a lot has changed since you were here. The student body has grown, we now offer elementary school, and we have great technology and a huge library!


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