The Best Hamburgers I’ve Ever Had

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Presenting, EDI Hamburger shack. It’s a makeshift restaurant on the sidewalk in front of my school. I’m not even sure it’s legally allowed to be there. It’s where all the students go for a snack and the inside fits about 7 people maximum.

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This is Edison, the owner of EDI Hamburger Shack. He’s been making students hamburgers for years. He tells me that some of the students he knew as small children come back as University students just to say “hello” and take a bite of his delicious burgers again. Everyone claims there’s no hamburger like it. I have to agree because I come here at least 3 times a week for Edison’s amazing hamburgers that cost just 70 cents. Yes, that’s right, 70 cents. One day while I was eating a burger at the shack, I told Edison “Your hamburgers are better than any burger I’ve had in the United States. Even New York.” He had the biggest smile across his face.

Market Day

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Wednesday is my favorite day to walk home from school because it’s market day. All of the villagers come into town and set their products on the street: fresh fruits and vegetables, 2 heads of organic lettuce for 50 cents, a kilo of fresh oranges for 60 cents, home made honey, fresh squeezed milk by the bottle, and cheese! But my favorite are the sock ladies.

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Seriously, how can you say “no” to cute old Albanian women. They hand knit these socks at home, some are even made of real wool! And the price…….just 2 euros a pair. Can you believe it? My feet have never been warmer. These socks are so thick, comfy, and cozy that every Wednesday I can’t resist buying another pair. And another, and another, and another….

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Hahaha I see that little smirk on her face. Normally, she’s the stern one that tries to convince me her socks are of better quality. She sees me every Wednesday and this time I came with a camera. I think she thought it was funny that I was taking pictures of her.

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My most recent socks purchase. 3 euros well spent. I was surprised to find some with traditional patterns!

The Teacher’s Lair

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This is where all the teacher’s hang out in between classes and on breaks. In Kosovo, none of the teachers have a homeroom. The students stay in one room while the teachers travel from class to class. Well, this is what it looks like. Note: the picture of Skanderbeg up top near the clock (Kosovo’s oldest hero). Also, the bag of pretzel rounds in front of me. That’s what the teacher’s eat whenever they have a 10 minute break. I’m truly amazed at how much bread people eat here. And they never eat anything with it…just plain bread. Then they like to top it off with a turkish coffee. Lastly, there’s this unspoken rule that female teachers sit at one end of the table (which is the end you see in this picture) while the male teachers sit at the other end (not pictured). The women sit closer to the door and close to the heaters. I think the women got the best spot. I’m not sure if that separation is on purpose but it’s always consistent.

Behold, the Amazingness of Teacher Appreciation Day!

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Yes!!!! This is why I love Kosovo. March 7th is my new favorite holiday. It’s like Christmas but for teachers. Shqipe and I walked into the last class of the day and we were greeted by this beautiful message on the board. (Keep in mind this day was March 6th. They celebrated this a day early because I knew I would be absent on actual teacher’s day). I absolutely love how they wrote “We love you teacher and Laura!” haha In Kosovo, March 7th is teacher’s day and March 8th is women’s day. They don’t celebrate men’s day…..sorry to all the Albanian men out there. Women are getting all the love.

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So we walked in and there was clapping and cheering, followed by shouts of “Happy Teachers Day!” All of my 8th grade students arranged the desks around the perimeter of the room. They brought juice, chips, crackers, cookies, and a special dessert from the bakery down the street.

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Yum! Snacks. The girl to the right is Arda. She wants to be an artist when she grows up and her favorite subject is English. She’s incredibly gifted and intelligent. I can easily carry on a conversation with her in English. Arda is also very thoughtful and caring. I think she was the mastermind behind this whole party and the presents. She’s a natural leader and she truly cares about people close to her.

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Then, the students gave us presents. Shqipe got a (fake) Marc Jacobs purse…how thoughtful. She now wears it everyday to class.

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And I received a bracelet that I actually really like. I wear it every once and a while to class on days when I’m with my 8th grade students. But I like the tiny card even more than the present. It’s so thoughtful.

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Then we danced!!!!! The students brought speakers and an iPod. But not just any dance, this is traditional Albanian style. I joined in too. The footsteps aren’t too complicated. Roni led the way (the boy at front, left side of the picture). He is a student that has so much energy that he can’t focus in class and often causes trouble. I was amazed at how the dancing got his attention. He is an excellent dancer and is a natural at leading the group.

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And then came a sea of picture taking. All of the students wanted to take pictures with us two teachers. I just stayed in one place while a constant rotation of 8th graders posed beside me, each with their own iPhone…..yes, even high schoolers in Kosovo have iPhones and they are ridiculously attached to them. At the end, all of the girls joined in for a group picture. I love my students!!!!

Filigran Jokes

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Filigran Jokes

This goes to show you how much they joke around. Bashkim is holding an antique gun made in Prizren during the 17th-18th century that is adorned with filigree to Neshat’s head. To the viewers, no worries, this is just a joke. The gun doesn’t work. It’s extremely old. Bashkim was saying, “Dukat! Dukat!” which means gold. Give me your gold!

Constant Jokes at Filigran

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Constant Jokes at Filigran

The craftspeople at Filigran have come to mean a lot to me. They are my friends, mentors, and colleagues. Everyday after teaching, I enjoy coming to the studio because it’s a time for me to relax and joke around with them, while also practicing my Albanian! Days and hours in the one-room studio can get long for the crew. So naturally, the 9 craftspeople fill the time with conversation, jokes, singing along to old Albanian songs, and occasional dancing followed by boisterous laughter at times.

One of our favorite things to do is sing along to “She’s a Lady,” an American classic. All of the jewelers know of the old American hits, sometimes better than me! They can’t speak a full sentence in English but they can recite the refrain by heart: “She’s got style, she’s got grace. She always knows her place….She’s a lady, Ow ow ow she’s a lady. Talkin’ about that little lady. And that lady is mine.” Neshat (the man in the background in this picture, located in the middle of the three) used to be a good looking, curly-haired afro, guitar-playing man back in the days of Yugoslavia. He is absolutely hilarious when he sings “She’s a Lady.” The jewelers like to joke with him, “Neshati eshte i plak” (forgive my bad Albanian spelling), which means Neshat is old. He is quick to respond by saying, “JO! Neshati eshte djalle i ri!” which means no, Neshat is a young boy!

The other day I walked into the studio and sat down at my seat at the workbench. Instead of offering me the usual Turkish coffee, they said “would you like some schweppes?” “Sure” I said looking at the clear plastic bottle filled with a semi-transparent liquid that seemed to be what they claimed. “This is Kosovo schweppes,” Faik said as he poured it into a glass for me. Okay, now I’m concerned. They all watch with great intent as I take my first sip of the mysterious liquid and a disgusted, sour look came across my face. They laughed, clear joy and satisfaction from my facial expression. It was sauerkraut juice. Yuk! They were all drinking it from their coffee mugs and just waiting for my arrival so I could test it out.

Is that Rhianna?

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Is that Rhianna?

There are two things that I enjoy about this hair salon. The first is that the name of the establishment is “ERDO.” This word seems to have evolved from “Hair-Do” because it sounds relatively the same in Albanian pronunciation. Hairdo became Erdo. Secondly, Rhianna is the poster child for this salon. But I’m positive she probably didn’t get her hair done here, nor sign a waiver for the use of her photograph.

More Student Art

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More Student Art

The old Ottoman bridge that I love so much. I think the student did a great job at drawing it! The country of Kosovo in red, and behind that is the League of Prizren. The League is a historic place where the leaders and intellectuals of Prizren (mostly Albanians) met and decided to rise against the Ottoman powers in Kosovo and appeal to the Berlin Congress for an autonomous Albanian state.

Kosovo’s Flag and the 6 Stars

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Kosovo's Flag and the 6 Stars

Kosovo’s flag is comprised of the the state in yellow on a blue background and 6 white stars forming an arc. The 6 stars represent the Kosovo’s 6 ethnic groups: Albanians, Serbians, Turks, Gorani, Roma, and Bosnians. There are many ethnic groups living in Kosovo together in peace and harmony (hopefully). Hence, the doves in this artwork.