The arrival of December is always exciting to me. I know this reflection is coming a couple days late, but it’s been a busy week. In any case. It’s the month of my birthday, of one of my best friend’s birthdays (shoutout to Kathleen!), of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, of the time when I officially feel entitled to listen to A Charlie Brown Christmas as much as possible and when it feels right to be hunkered down in the evening with Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, and those creepy Rankin/Bass classics. It’s also when my brain officially registers the season as winter. No matter how wintry the weather feels in November, no matter how snowy Thanksgiving is (rare for New Jersey but I remember at least one year that it happened), I can never fully accept the season has come until December 1st.

This year helped out with that by having the snow that tops the mountains which circle my little Balkan city slowly but surely encompass more and more of the distant peaks . This is one of the first sights I see when I walk out the door. It’s not as visible down in the center of town, which is basically located in a valley surrounded by the hills where most of the residents live, but since my house is up on the top of one of said surrounding hills my view is spectacular.

Here’s another angle, looking down into the town, from another day:



The word I learned in class and what the dictionary reveals when you search for “mountain” is “mal(i)/male(t)” [depending on definite/indefinite/singular/plural— man is Albanian a wild ride!]. However, while my host family during training used that word, the only word I have heard from people at my site is “bjeshkë”. I don’t know exactly why people here prefer this word or if it is an exact synonym to “mal” or perhaps has roots in some other language. But it is easier to say since the single “l” in Albanian is this curious, soft “lya”-ish sound that foreigners never get quite right, as opposed to the double “ll” which is closer to the way we use the ell sound in English.

Like I said…. Wild ride.


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