Living in Kosova has expanded my vocabulary. I know how to say “good day,” “good bye,” and “he’s sick in the head” in Albanian. It has also taught me that “winter” can be a verb. For example, I feel compelled to stay inside after dark, which in the bleak mid-winter of Kosova, is anytime after 4 pm. Many factors contribute to this, mainly, my safety, the below freezing temperatures and the need to stoke my fire to keep warm against the cold. As I cuddle in a blanket with a hot cup of tea, alone and loving it, my guilt alarm sounds. I came to Kosova to write about the people here, not about the books I am reading. But luckily the guilt is easily contained, and for the majority of my day, I hear a voice saying, “there is time.” I also hear a voice saying, "What the heck were you thinking, leaving Los Angeles for negative 12 degree weather?"
A long-time resident of Southern California, I am learning to winter. The season forces me to slow down, even when walking. If I try to gallop, I fall on the ice. So gingerly, I place one foot, bulky in two wool socks and a waterproof boot, in front of the other. It looks similar to a giant, blue marshmellow performing Buddhist walking meditation.
I do visit families, and even at my winter pace, the social pressures of Kosova are beginning to overwhelm the introvert within. Agron, a man who takes care of Maria’s house and of me as he comes and chops kindling for my fire, mentioned today that I should come to his home for tea or coffee. He said his wife told him today, “Rebecca has been here two weeks and has not come!” His imitation of his wife made her sound upset, and rather masculine. Though I thought about arguing that I have only been here ten days, and that hardly constitutes two weeks, I opted for social graces and an easier second language conversation, and asked when I should come. Agron laughed, and explained that he does not set the date, I decide when I will come, and just stop by.
The unexpected guest explains much about Kosova. The homes are always clean, warm, and inviting. There is always hot water ready for tea or coffee, and snacks ready to eat. This also explains why the woman of the house looks so tired. And why I am glad that the doorbell on Maria’s gate is broken.