Gap Year(s)

Wow. It seems that I have taken a Gap Year and a half on writing this blog. So much has happened in our lives since I last wrote. To be fair, life got reeeaaaalllly busy. And I did sit down to write a few times, but felt overwhelmed by the amount of memories and events I needed to record.

Then suddenly we’ve been unexpectedly forced to spend our days at home during this strange COVID-19 time. There is so much to process and write about that. I can’t even right now, haha. But it has given me some time to reflect and the confidence to start writing again. πŸ™‚ Positives of this crazy time, right?

Since there is NO way I can go back and describe with the detail that I have been for these past years, I am going to go month by month with a few pics and some highlights. From here on, I hope to post more and keep this more updated.

Ok, so here it goes! I will start with September 2018

September 2018

  • We went to the Thessaloniki Beer Fest. We met lots of cool people, but it was way too hot!
  • Even though it was a crazy rainy day, we drove out to the Rahovec wine region for the Kosovo Wine Hardh Fest (Harvest festival). We tried some excellent wines and bought some bottles
  • We visited Macedonia for the first time. We visited the Stobi ruins which was a Greek city on the trading route from the East to the West. Then we stayed in the downtown and tried their local beer.
  • I completed my first month as a First Grade/Kindergarten teacher and really enjoyed having Paul so close by.
  • We settled into our home here in Marigona, a little suburb of Pristina.

October 2018

  • I got to meet up with Jessica S. in Ljubljana for a weekend adventure! It just happened to also overlap with a beer festival! We had a blast on our girls trip/ Keeping Safe training.
  • Donnie, Paul and I attended our first every Oktoberfest in Munich! (I started a post on this a long time ago, maybe I’ll finish it). It was a blast! And surprisingly hard to get beer at one of the biggest beer festivals in Europe.
  • I became a volleyball coach…haha.
  • Jess and the kids came to visit while our husbands were in Phuket for the Director’s conference. We had a blast cooking, eating, drinking and touristing the few places nearby like a winery, the bear sanctuary and Skopje’s Kale fortress.

(It’s hard to just pic a few pics…)

November 2018

  • Donnie and I went to our first Marine Ball. I waited until the very last second to get a dress so we spent way too much on it, but it was a very beautiful dress. It was a fun event too!
  • We traveled to Istanbul for some adventure. The traffic was so bad that all we had time for was a trip into the city to shop at the Grand Bazaar. We bought an amazing rug and Paul tried apple tea!
  • We got home to our first snow in Kosovo! It only stayed for a day, but was fun nonetheless. πŸ™‚
  • Our first Thanksgiving we spent at work (PD), but we made it a potluck and everybody brought yummy treats! I made pumpkin pie and stuffing!
  • We went to Zurich for the Christmas Markets (and the fondue)! I have to say it is a gorgeous city, but very, very expensive.

December 2018

  • We hosted a winter party for our staff at our home (I have no pics). It was cozy and close knit and we had it catered by a local restaurant.
  • Our volleyball team went undefeated!
  • We went to LONDON for Christmas! We did so many excellent London-y things with Andie and Ben. Too many to even count or recount!
  • Paul celebrated his 8th birthday! We went bowling and had chocolate yule log cake to celebrate. πŸ™‚

January 2019

  • It was the snowiest month ever! It snowed so much on Donnie’s birthday that we stayed home the next two days!
  • Donnie’s 51st birthday! Super low key, we just went to our local restaurant called Te Halimi and had a yummy spread of Kosovar classics like peppers and cream, Greek salad and garlic chicken.
  • We drove up to a mountain resort called Prevalle in a crazy snow storm. It dumped like 6 feet of snow in just a few hours. Paul had a blast sledding down the big hill. I had fun playing in it too. πŸ™‚

February 2019

  • More adventures in the snowy mountain town of Prevalle!
  • We had our first Week Without Walls at school. Paul was in my group, and we spent the whole week making culinary creations from all over the world. It was awesome to get to spend so much time with him in a school context.
  • We went on a wine touring (and buying) trip to Macedonia. I discovered my favorite Balkan wine to date-Tikves Savaugnon Blanc and it was a beautiful setting. We also had the chance to meet up with our new friends, the Garretts who run the school in Skopje.
  • For our first Kosovo Independence Day, the Sanders came to visit for the long weekend! We were pretty low key, but we did have one night out on the town!

March 2019

  • We took our first trip to the historic city of Prizren, Kosovo. We mostly just walked around and ate food, but it was gorgeous.
  • I went out with the ladies that I work with for Women’s Day. It’s a big deal here in Kosovo and we all ended up dancing!
  • I planted cilantro!
  • We traveled back to Thessaloniki for our anniversary. It included a night out at a local craft beer bar and then strolls on the coast because it was a little too cold to swim yet.
  • For the last weekend of the month, we spent 1 night in Budapest hanging out with our besties the Sanders. It was a glorious evening filled with laughter, great beer and fun times.

April 2019

  • We traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria. It was about a 5 hour drive through some pretty crazy mountain roads, but the city was beautiful. We touristed, visited a homebrew store and of course had to try the local brew.
  • For spring break, we flew back to San Antonio for Easter week! While we were there we soaked up the culture with friends and family. Everybody came to see us! We stayed with Ron and Angie, but my mom, dad, sister and brother came also. We even went to Paul’s first Spurs game! They lost. 😦

Sorry these pics are all mixed, I think you can figure out what’s Sofia and what’s San Antonio.

May 2019

  • Our school hosted the International Fair and it was spectacular! There was so much food, so many happy families and dancers! I hope we get to host one this year…
  • My cilantro grew! And I harvested and ate it! πŸ™‚
  • I went to prom! Haha, our parent support group (PSG) put it all together and I went with my friend Besa. She helped me with my hair, and we went out afterwards! I think it was a good event, albeit not very much like an actual prom. Hardly any dancing.
  • At the end of May, we flew to Vienna to spend the weekend with our friends, but also to see a property we’d been researching. Paul went to spend the day with the Sanders while we drove to the Czech Republic to check it out. It was an amazing place, but just beyond our price range. We had a nice evening in the Prater with our friends and then a lovely afternoon in the city with them at another beer fest! It was a bust on the property, but time well spent with our people.

June 2019

  • We took a weekend trip to Durres, Albania. We were craving some beach time, but unfortunately the beach there is a little bit meh. We did have a fantastic time hanging out by the pool and Paul loved the water slide.
  • We finished our first year at QSI Kosovo! I planned and executed a near perfect graduation ceremony for our one senior. We celebrated the end of the year with a lunch with our staff.
  • Paul got 2nd place in the Cub Scouts Pine Wood Derby. Donnie and he worked so hard on the car, and it paid off!
  • We had a couple of awesome pool days at hotel nearby.
  • We took a super quick trip to London to eat at our favorite restaurant Tayyab’s, visit Kensington Palace and go on a cool Harry Potter city tour. We also did a lot of shopping!
  • At the very end of the month, we settled into our summer digs in Skodra, Albania.

    July 2019

  • We settled into a rhythm of summer in our awesome lake house. It was one of the best houses we’d ever stayed in, but we weren’t huge fans of the town and area around the lake.
  • The Sanders came! We watched World Cup and enjoyed life together.
  • Did some touristing around Skodra, but completely fell in love with the coast of Montenegro.

August 2019

  • We left Albania, drove back to Kosovo and flew to Munich the next day. We spent a glorious week hanging out with Jess and Scarlett doing all of our favorite Munich things. It was the best.
  • WE BOUGHT A HOUSE IN BAR, MONTENEGRO. This is the biggest life event in the last year. A super fixer upper, but it was owner financed, and we really did fall in love with life in MNE. We spent basically every weekend in August driving there, hanging out and working on the house. It’s about a 4-6 hour drive depending on the borer traffic.
  • We started our second year at our school in Kosovo. We accelerated Paul a year to challenge him, and he’s in a super small class of just 5 other students. I started my second year as a 5-6 YO teacher!

 

September 2019

  • We found an easy flight to see the Sanders! It goes from Skopje to Bratislava from on Friday night and back again on Sundays. So we took advantage of it and spent a glorious weekend with them at their home, which feels like a retreat. I also got to see some old China friends!
  • We made many other trips to our house in Bar to work on it, and also enjoy the weather while it was still super warm. It included a long weekend that we had PD in Podgorica, a short drive away from Bar.

October 2019

  • We traveled back to Munich for our second Oktoberfest! It was just as fun as the first time, and we were wiser to what we needed to do in order to meet all our needs. πŸ™‚
  • My mom came to visit! She arrived just at the start of October break and we whisked her off to MNE for the break.
  • Just like last year, Jess and the kids joined us for the break again while our husbands were away.
  • As a whole crew, we traveled to all the beaches we could fit in, beautiful old towns including a submarine cruise around Kotor Bay, and celebrated Halloween and Scarlett’s birthday together. It was a busy, but fantastic week.

November 2019

  • Mom was still in town for the week after the break and it was her birthday! We made her a bread pudding cake. She mostly chilled at home while we worked, but Paul and I did take her to explore Prizren and we had lots of great coffee/wine talks.
  • Donnie and went to our second Marine Ball. I didn’t buy a dress this year, just reused an old one. It was still a blast, especially because this year we knew more people!
  • We had our first Thanksgiving at home in 7 years! We did the whole spread and Donnie even roasted a turkey on the grill.
  • We also made another fun quick weekend trip to visit our pals in Hungary.

December 2019

  • It snowed again! Only a little bit though.
  • We hosted another Christmas party for our staff. This time we hosted it at a restaurant high above the city. It was fun and the food was delicious!

AND…We went to Australia for Christmas!! Amy, our ayi in China, was getting married in Perth, so we decided to make the trip. It was an awesome beach vacation, and I think it warrants it’s own post…not to mention I’m exhausted and can’t write anymore right now….

Until then, love to all,

J

 

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