Six Months Later…

I can’t believe it’s been since August since I’ve posted. I felt like I wrote another post, but obviously I didn’t, haha. I guess I’ve just been composing them in my mind and not putting them to paper, so to speak. So I’ll update with what I remember in the last 6 months. Bear with me….

September

As I anticipated, the school year wasn’t an easy start. We prepped for all opening scenarios, but the government kept throwing us curve balls. They set start dates and changed them, they said virtual for some but not for all, and it was a big mess. We’d moved into our new school building and were excited to get students in to start learning in person. It was overwhelming, but finally after two weeks of delay we started school mid-September with students in-person. It was a relief that there was some form of normalcy, although keeping distance and keeping masks on all day is not easy.

An upside was that we had an extra week off (to make up all the holidays that were taken from the school calendar). We headed back to our house in Montenegro and soaked up the sun. It was a blessing in the midst of all the chaos. They were still requiring testing to enter MNE, but we found that blood tests were ok, and we started taking them regularly so that we could travel to our house. With all the projects we’d worked on in the summer, it was such a fun experience to get to enjoy the spaces. We even had a couple of friends come visit. A couple that we’d known in China, who transferred to work with us in Kosovo. They were the first ones to get to enjoy the upgrades we’d made. We also enjoyed the warm weather in Kosovo once we got our pool back up to swimmable conditions. 🙂

October

Honestly, October is a blur. We were in the thick of getting school started and also traveling back and forth to Montenegro when we could. We spent our time taking walks as a family, catching Pokemon on Pokemon Go and hanging out in the hot tub as it got cooler. It was still relatively warm in MNE, so we had really nice weekends to enjoy at our house. Our one project to get done was fixing up the sauna, which is now a really relaxing place to hang out. We also had a fun fall break, and although we’d planned to spend it with our friends from Hungary, it wasn’t meant to be again. We were bummed, but we did make the best of it soaking up the unseasonably warm weather in Bar. We also took a short trip to Macedonia when the border opened up again and found a cool new spot for brisket nachos and craft beer! The end of the month brought spirit week at school and on Halloween, my mom made the journey to come see us again! We were thrilled, but November had some un-fun surprises in store.

November

We had all kinds of fun things planned to do with Mom while she was here. We wanted to take her to Macedonia for a wine tour (and to restock our wine resources), then to Montenegro the next weekend so that she could see the upgrades we’d made to the house, and finally celebrate her birthday with her. We did get to do the first trip, we drove down and visited Stobi winery, Stobi the ancient city ruins and Tikves winery. Then we stayed in downtown Skopje with an awesome view of the central square. It was super fun! But unbeknownst to us, when we got back home that Sunday, the restrictions would tighten again on Monday. Then two days into our school week, we there was a case of COVID at our school. School was shut down immediately, and we all got tested. Turns out it was more than just one case, and Mom tested positive as well (even though she had no symptoms). School switched to distance learning, and we all quarantined at home, which was hard. Donnie, Paul and I got sick too, never tested positive, but had all the symptoms and the doctor said we most likely were sick with COVID as well. It was a miserable two weeks and I just remember feeling hungover for days (even though we didn’t touch a drop of anything with alcohol), then not being able to smell or taste. I felt bad for Mom being stuck here with us (she wasn’t allowed to travel home as scheduled) and also that we couldn’t do anything fun for her birthday. She and Paul loved the extra time they had with distance learning though. That was a small blessing during those days. I’m so thankful she was here, I just feel so bad that it had to be under those circumstances. I hope that she can come see us this summer again.

Mom was finally able to go home after three weeks of being holed up with us, and we went back to school. The rest of the month was spent laying low and hanging out at home. We made some epic dinners, and enjoyed the hot tub. We also had a low key Thanksgiving, since we had to work again this year. We made a simple meal, but I did make pumpkin pie from real pumpkin, which is sooooo hard to do, haha. November slipped away quickly and then it was Christmas season!

December

Suddenly it was time to set up for Christmas, and get ready for winter break! Paul and I decorated the inside of our house, and Donnie even decorated a tree in our front yard that looks like a Christmas tree. It felt good to be festive, even with just the three of us! We were holding on hopes of traveling home for the holiday, even though it would be risky. As the date approached for travel, we realized we’d actually be able to go. It was exciting, but scary at the same time. We started our journey on the evening of the last day of school. It was long and wearing a mask for over 24 hours of travel is definitely not comfortable, but we were happy to make it to San Antonio in one piece! For the first few days, we kept our masks on and tried to keep our distance from Ron and Angie, and after we were tested a few days later, we felt in the clear to be without masks at home. The first few days are a blur of eating delicious food, hanging out with Ron and Angie, walking/running in the park and finishing up Christmas shopping (we’d done a lot of online shopping). We had a great Christmas day, lots of food, including Christmas curry and Paul was spoiled with all kinds of awesome presents including very nice Lego sets and an Apple watch. It was so refreshing to be with family we had missed all year.

The next day, very early, we got up and made the long 1000 mile drive to Phoenix to see my mom. We got there that evening, and Andie and Ben were there as well! It was a fantastic reunion since we hadn’t seen them since Australia last year. We opened presents and relaxed before crashing early after long drive. The next day was Paul’s 10th birthday! We celebrated by going for a walk to Starbucks so Paul could get a Pokemon Go Frappuccino, then we made a red velvet Pokeball cake, and margaritas for the adults. Then we had a Pokemon Go battle tournament, which Ben ended up winning. Then we had a delicious meal of grilled meats and veg, then opened presents and then ate the yummy cake! It was a fun day for all, and I can’t believe Paul is 10!! It was so good to be able to celebrate with family. Andie hasn’t missed a birthday yet, and it’s a tradition I’d love to keep up.

We spent the rest of the week in Phoenix, mostly soaking up the sunshine, although it wasn’t as warm as I wanted it to be. We also did some awesome hikes, drank some yummy craft beer and spent a lot of time with the family. On New Year’s eve, our last day together, we made some art work, then binged a show on Netflix. We barely made it to midnight again, and then all of us had to be up early to travel. Andie and Ben headed back to Seattle, and we made the long drive back to SA.

January

Our days in SA were coming to a close, so we made the most of them. We had some appointments and errands to run, which we took care of early in the week. We also celebrated Paul and Donnie’s birthdays with Ron and Angie. Mostly the days were filled with park runs and eating delicious food. We started packing early and I was already stressed about traveling back with a few days left. It didn’t help that we needed to get PCR testing done before we traveled and that restrictions were shifting. Not to mention all the political nonsense that was happening that week.

With all our bags packed, and lots of quality time with Ron and Angie spent, we headed to the airport to make the long journey back to Pristina. It’s always sad to leave them, especially not knowing when the next time is that we’ll see them. Luckily, they are getting vaccinated this month and that will be a relief and a little less stress if they decide to travel. It was an uneventful trip back, besides the last hour that we circled Pristina not sure if we would land due to the snow storm. Luckily we did, and had no problems with immigration.

Unfortunately, we slept until 2pm the next day, which was Donnie’s birthday! I felt so bad! We promised to celebrate the next weekend, and just tried to catch up on sleep for the next few days before work started again. We never did get to have that celebration (I still owe him a surprise one that Paul and I are planning). We went to our house in Bar the next two weekends, it’d been a few months since we’d been able to travel and all restrictions were lifted!

February

That brings us to the current month! So far this month has been busy as well. Traveling to Bar to get some projects started on our house (new doors, floors and eventually furniture and painting!). I also took my students on their first field trip this year to Ulpiana! I need to schedule another one soon, we had so much fun. I’ve been trying to run everyday and we’ve all been eating a little bit more healthy, which has been harder but good for us. We also had a nice quiet Valentine’s day, I took a group of ladies from work out to Stone Castle for a wine tasting, and the boys spoiled me with some gifts to bring to our home in Bar and a puzzle of London! I’m excited to get to work on that. It’s been snowing a lot here this month too, but hopefully yesterday will be our last big snow of the year.

These past 6 months have been some of the most difficult months both personally and professionally. I’m hoping to have a better balance in the coming months and am really looking forward to the warmer months. It’s nearing a year since we’ve seen our friends from Hungary and I’m aching to get together with them soon. If I’ve learned anything in these past months it’s that nothing will go to plan, but it feels good to have one. I miss the excitement of getting together with loved ones, and I’m so grateful we were able to do that this past December. It felt like my empty cup was filled again, but I know it won’t be long until I’ll need a refill again. I can only dream of a spring and summer with friends and family in Montenegro, so I’ll keep dreaming and hoping.

Much love to all,

J

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