Ooops, I wrote this about 4 months ago and never posted. But late is better than never, right?
Gezuar Krishtlindje dhe Gezuar Vitin i Ri!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hope everybody (who celebrates) had a wonderful Christmas. I spent this years Christmas in Albania again, though in another site with a different group of volunteers than last year. It was nice to not be in charge of cooking all the food. I was responsible for dips for Christmas eve and the desserts for Christmas day. I made all the desserts ahead of time and the dips the day of.
The menu was as follows:
- Stuffed grape leaves
- Potato and corn soup
- 7 layer dip (I made this…and it was really only 5 layers)
- Creamy spinach dip (made by me)
- Hot broccoli dip (made by me)
- Cinnamon rolls
- an assortment of hot drinks (FILTER coffee, pumpkin spice syrup, white hot chocolate, hot cider)
- Roasted chicken (cooked by the host, a vegetarian)
- Lentil and rice dish
- Deviled eggs
- Cheesy, garlic mashed potatoes
- Fruit salad
- Mini cinnamon cheesecakes with pumpkin pie frosting (made by me)
- Mini walnut pies (made by me…walnut because there aren’t pecans here)
- Mini cream cheese with white chocolate pumpkin pies with streusel topping (also made by me)
- And we decorated sugar cookies, which I snacked on
I weighed myself when I got home…. definitely packed on a few pounds!
After the Christmas lunch I took a nice little nap before getting ready to go out with one of the volunteers and her Albanian friends. There was a party at one of the clubs in town, so we went out dancing, for about 3.5 hours (but don’t worry, we were home by 10:30). I had so much fun! It was almost like going out in the states! 🙂
For New Years I went up to my host family’s house and had the most AMAZING New Years ever! Before I got there I had to catch a few buses (about 4 hours on one from Gjirokaster, a furgon to Elbasan for 1.25 hours, then another 45 minute bus ride from Elbasan to Gostime where my host dad picked me up and drove me to the village). The bus I catch in Elbasan sits right next to the market, which was PACKED with people getting their goodies for New Years. Fireworks were being sold in the road; entire truck loads of mandarins and apples were on the sidewalk; village wine and raki were being sold in plastic Coke bottles on the side of the street. It was chaos! Once I got my host family’s we had a nice relaxing afternoon, ate a HUGE feast consisting of: pan fried turkey (like you’d cook pieces of chicken), a dish similar in texture to mashed potatoes that was made from cornmeal and the juices from frying the turkey, bread (of course!), tomatoes, feta, cucumber, french fries, fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, pomegranates), and Baklava (the most delicious homemade baklava EVER!). After dinner we watched some specials on TV (New Years is their biggest holiday, so the TV was full of specials for the night). I was exhausted and was not going to make it, so I took a little nap. At midnight my host brother, host cousin and her brother all went to the village lokal (restaurant/bar) for the New Year’s celebration. Pretty much all the younger people in the village were there, as well as some families. Live music was playing and the Fanta was flowing. I circle danced a few times and a few songs they let us do some “American dancing” (my host brother went up to the band and told them an American girl was there and wanted to). It was a very interesting setup. For each song a group of people went up and picked the song (much like you would in Karaoke) and they got the dance floor to circle dance. During the dance those dancing would toss money in the middle of the circle and at the end of the song they’d pick up the money and give it to the band.
The next day I headed up to Burrel to visit another volunteer and we spent the weekend relaxing and seeing around the town (including the prison used during communism that is still in use today…well we saw it through the barbed-wire fence).