Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Also, happy New Year!

Yesterday we celebrated three holidays, not including Nativity, which is officially over but we still greeted one another “Christ is born!” anyway. There was a Liturgy for St Basil the Great, bishop of Cappadocia and Ceaserea, and also the circumcision of Christ. Yes, that’s a holiday. There was vasliopita (sweet bread with a coin in it) in honor of St Basil, and a luncheon because – visitors! And holidays! Followed by cooking, followed by a lovely New Year’s supra. Yay, holidays.

I’ve been researching Kosovo and the Balkans, because I’m planning to more there for two years starting next summer. The idea is to co-teach English (similar to what I was doing in Georgia) with the Peace Corps. We’re their guinea pigs, or “Early Generation Volunteers” in official-speak. This is fun, because it’s interesting to be the first group somewhere. It’s also funny, because the program directors are still figuring out exactly what to do with us, where to train us, who constitutes “us,” whether to teach us Serbian, and so on. The whole process is a little funny, actually, because they work in 70 countries worldwide, and get a great many applicants, who submit detailed applications accompanied by detailed recommendations, so one can imagine what kind of monstrous database situation is probably going on in their placement office. So they put out information a tidbit at a time. “We’d like to teach somewhere: fill out these fingerprint cards.” Three months go by. “We’re thinking Eastern Europe; do you have a boyfriend?” Another couple of months. “How would you feel about being the first volunteer in your area?” Friday of a four day weekend. “No, we can’t tell you what country. Only that it’s new.” A not terribly productive workday. “You’re invited to Kosovo. You have 10 days to decide.” Furious internet research; unsuccessful Orthodox networking. “Umm. Yeah. Cool. Kosovo.” “Great. Send us your passport. Not by USPS, though, or we may destroy it.”

Fr John has been talking about game design lately, and reading a book about it called Reality is Broken (so I’ve been reading it too). I’m not going to review it now, but one of the first game attributes she talks about is “unnecessary obstacles.” Which are fun in games. Bureaucracy is a lot more fun if you think of statements like if you use the wrong postal carrier we may destroy your passport and we know what country we’d like to send you to, but can’t tell you for another 5 days anyway as unnecessary obstacles, designed to make it more of a game.

Kosovo is not, strictly speaking, a country. What it is depends on who you ask, and the answer is political, as so many things are in the Balkans. At the very least, it’s a region, larger than Delaware, but smaller than Connecticut or Sakartvelo. It’s also a political entity that partly belongs to Serbia, but is being protected from Serbia by NATO (which means that it’s partly being protected by us, and has been for nearly 15 years), and is partly run by the United Nations, which is to say that their capital is full of a lot of western European bureaucrats. Probably the kind that want life to be a better and more cooperative game, filled with unnecessary obstacles.

The majority of Kosovars are Albanian (90% or so), and the minority are Serb. They speak different languages — Albanian and Serbian respectively. Neither group is very religious, but the religions they aren’t currently following are different (Islam and Orthodox Christianity). Previously I had never heard of their neighbors: Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia. I had a vague idea that Macedonia was part of Greece, but, no, it’s a real country. They’re some 60 miles north of Greece, though, which I have heard of.


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