March 18, 2012
Konvikti VI is the faculty dorm on the University of Pristina campus which I call home.
I can’t recall the last time I felt so content, the product of a good sleep, a satisfying meal, and a sense of mission.
My severe-looking bed turns out to be quite comfortable, and with two wool blankets I stayed plenty warm.
After rising at 5:00, I fired up the hot-water pot, drank coffee, and read from Bron Taylor’s Dark Green Religion: Nature, Spirituality, and the Planetary Future, a book that celebrates Thoreau but actually relates in powerful ways to much of the 20th-century American literature I will read with my students. Think of Willy Loman longing for a garden to plant, or Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim finding some peace in a world of fire-bombings in his Buddha-like discovery of the simultaneity of every moment. More on this later.
Then breakfast: cranberry juice and yogurt (both chilled on my balcony) as well as a tomato, a banana, a chunk of cheese, and an even chunkier slice of bread. Such basic food satisfies deeply, and I’m certain that the pleasure comes as much from touch as from taste and smell.
My ‘mission’? To teach my Kosovaran students American literature by helping them to grow as writers and researchers, yes, but—even more fundamentally—to teach myself to listen and to lose myself in others’ stories.
But my rich experiences here come at a heavy price: my separation from Judy and from all the people and critters I love. Skyping helps, but I know that days will come when the mission fails and even electronics can’t bridge the gap between here and home.
Shume ftohte! Very cold—25 F last night! With only a space heater warming the dining room in the Grand Hotel coffee shop early this mengjez (morning), my hand shook as I journaled.
Loud music from some hotel party kept me tossing till 3:00 AM; still, I’m pumped and ready for moving day! I have found a room in the faculty branch of a university konviktit (dorm), a Spartan but comfortable space where I will live until the end of June. I’m fixin (Southern Albanian for ‘getting ready’) to check out of the Grand, load my stuff in a cab, and head for campus just two miles away.
Five hours later: Dave McTier continues to be a blessing to me. After helping me haul my suitcases—full of my books and my favorite brick collection—up the slushy slopes and stairs of our dorm, he secured an internet connection for me. I hate admitting such dependence on electronics, but in this situation I feel close to desperate if I can’t connect to my family, friends, and colleagues in Mississippi, Texas, California, Illinois, Georgia, New Mexico, Arkansas, Wyoming—in short, the USA. Showing my appreciation to Dave, I promptly skyped Judy!
After unpacking my gear, we headed to “Ben-Af” for lunch, which consisted of baseball-sized meatballs, buke (bread), and salad for about $3. Below the cafeteria, Ben-Af has a market, where I bought breakfast goodies: yogurt, bananas, djathe (cheese), lenge pemesh (fruit juice), and of course more buke.
Now back at the dorm, I’m fixin (again) to read some Thoreau, smugly satisfied that I know a bit more now about what he called ‘living deep and sucking out the marrow of life.’