Just a few updates regarding my visits to Pristina, Prizren, Dragonac, and Graçanica from the past few weeks… conveniently presented in chronological order.
It’s been over 4 weeks since my last blog post and it feels like 4 years. But also like 4 days. Time is weird here.
Aside from languages classes, TEFL sessions, PC sessions, and Practicum, in these 4 weeks, I’ve gotten to visit Kosovo’s capital, Pristina (and celebrate my birthday), visit Prizren, visit monasteries in both Draganac and Graçinica, and enjoy miscellaneous Kosovar things.
To go in in chronological order, let’s start with my birthday / PC Kosovo 4th of July celebration / visit to Pristina:
July 3rd. One consistent perk of my birthday, being on July 3rd, is that it has often been lumped together with various 4th of July celebrations. Whether that be when I was a kid and going to see the fireworks in town, or in recent years, going to my Uncle’s home in Missouri for their big party on the 3rd, complete with fireworks, liquor, slip n slides and burgers galore. This year was a new Independence Day lump: Peace Corps Kosovo staff throwing both the Trainees and currently serving Volunteers a barbecue, followed by a quick tour of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.
I felt more “at home” in Pristina than I had so far in Kosovo, if I’m being honest. I attribute that feeling to the fact that it was a city (and to the fact that I was stared at far less than I had been in various other villages/towns I’d been to). Our walk around Pristina was super short but touched on some of the main parts of the city, including the Newborn sign (signifying Kosovo as a new country) and the national library (lovingly considered one of the ugliest buildings in the world).
When I got back from Pristina (after taking public transportation for the first time – my village group and I just take taxis from our village to town), my host mom was so excited to tell me that she was making me picë (pizza) for my birthday, since I told her early on that it was my favorite. It was predictably delicious and I deeply appreciated the thought.
After dinner, I had coffee on the porch and played some weird card game with my host brother that he was making up as he went (if you’ve ever read Calvin & Hobbes comics: it reminded me of Calvinball). My mom went inside for a while, extended family that lives next door came over, and I walked inside to this setup:
I served the delicious cake, chatted with everyone, and was still able to shower and be in bed by 10 (always considered a success).
Long story short: my birthday was great. It was as good as a birthday spent with people you’ve known for a month in a foreign country could be (which is apparently pretty freakin’ good).
July 12th. This day was dedicated for the PCTs to be split up into 5 different groups and visit some of the minority communities here in Kosovo (a little over 90% of the population is Albanian – the other percentage is made up of Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma, Turks, Ashkali, Egyptian, Montenegrin, Gorani, and Croat). PCTs visited 5/9 of the minority communities: Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma, Turks, and Ashkali). My group was assigned to the Turks, and we went to Prizren to learn more about the Turkish community that is spread out through the city. Side note: my host sister adores the Turkish culture. She loves Turkish serials, Turkish music, the Turkish language… everything Turkish. My host sister, mom, and I always joke that I’ll stay in Kosovo, my mom will go to America, and my host sister will go to Turkey.
Okay, so, Prizren… was great. Super great. Gorgeous. Multicultural. Interesting. Clean. My favorite place in Kosovo so far.
It’s known as the “hidden gem” of Kosovo, nestled into the side of a mountain range. It’s also the most ethnically diverse city in Kosovo, home to a variety of different communities, including Bosniaks, Serbs, Turks, Roma, and others.
For context of how gorgeous it was:
Prizren is super cool in that it has mosques right next to churches right next to cafes, etc. We were able to go into this gorgeous mosque:
After getting coffee at a cafe, walking around a bit, visiting the mosque pictured above, getting some street Turkish food, and walking around some more, we hiked up the side of Mount Everest (I’m being dramatic. It was just an extremely steep incline) to the Prizren Fortress and were treated to this view:
After we successfully walked back down without slipping (more specifically, without me slipping), we sat at another cafe, and then made the trip back to our village. We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Prizren, but I absolutely adored what I was able to explore and I cannot wait to go back.
July 21. This was an optional cultural field trip to visit monasteries in both Draganac and Graçanica. Though having an entirely free weekend would have been nice, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. So I uncharacteristically opted to wake up early on a Saturday morning to be a good PCT and learn about different cultures.
At the first monastery in Draganac, we were greeted by a sweet angel of an American monk (who was from Seattle) before getting a tour of some of the buildings. We were able to go inside the church, visit some graves and were then offered an amazing feast of food / array of alcoholic beverages (at 11:30 in the morning).
Following our visit to the monastery in Draganac, we went to visit a monastery in Graçanica which had nuns instead of monks (like the one in Draganac did). I didn’t get many pictures from that part of the trip, but we were told that all of the buildings were at least 700 years old. Which is laughably older than the age of the United States. And I love that.
After a quick history lesson, we all went inside the church. It was unbelievable. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, and maybe that was a good thing because pictures wouldn’t have done it justice anyway. It was an absolute privilege to be able to go inside the building.
All in all, the day was full of learning history and culture, as well as a deeper appreciation of the history and culture featured in Kosovo.
I’m palpably super behind on blogging, but I plan on making a post about my site visit that happened the past weekend, soon!