Wednesday, July 24, 2013


...and the livin' is easy. Too easy.

It's difficult to do anything in the heat. I've always been more productive when I have more to do. Now, when I only have a few simple tasks a week, I'm just not motivated at all to do anything. It doesn't help that the heat is beastly, the humidity is entirely too high considering the drought we're in, and the office's dearth of work to do in the summer.

But motivate myself I must. Also, did I mention I went to Germany? I'll do a post tomorrow.

I just have to remind myself: this too will pass. This is an experience. Embrace the insanity. Revel in the bizarre realities of day-to-day life here in Albania.

Like that one time when I was in the car with two young Albanian dudes and we were discussing, in English, the merits of communism versus socialism and how to translate Che Guevara's idealism into modern reality while listening to Destiny's Child.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


To state the painfully obvious, I love books. I love literature, stories, novels, and mysteries, but I am also obsessed with actual, physical, tangible books.

This infatuation has played a significant part in my life. As a young girl, I carried around HP4 not only to read and re-read, but to hit the bullies who tried to steal my pencils during class. (Aaaaaaaaaaaand my social standing just plummeted by admitting that. Honey badger don't care.) I read the entire Anne of Green Gables canon while driving to Prince Edward Island on a family vacation and clutched a copy while strolling the Haunted Wood and Lover's Lane. After the beanie baby phase died out (praise the Lord), I got a Nancy Drew for every Christmas/Easter/birthday from my grandma, until I owned all 63 installments. As a (snotty, insufferable) freshman in high school I found the AP Lit reading list and read all the books on it, just to say that I had...and kept that up for the next three years.

In college I swore off reading for fun, because I needed to devote all my time to studying...until I realized I was drowning, and my only remedy for sanity was a good book. Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise was the book that pulled me out of that funk; it has an Obama sticker on the first page, because that's what I was reading the day I got to vote in my first election.

Now, I'm reading an obscene amount every day. Because there's not much else I want to do, nor is there much to do.

But, guys. There's a problem. It's not working like it's supposed to. And I know why (tablets suck, hello), but I don't know what to do about it. I love reading, yes, but I love books (almost) more. I love them on my shelf, like friends, like reminders of other realities and problems and places and lives and people. I can't be lonely when I have my books with me. But here in Albania? I can't collect books! I can't bring them home to the States and I certainly don't have the money to buy new ones all the time. I've borrowed some titles from the PC Office in Tirana, but I have to return them eventually (despite an overwhelming urge to squirrel them away somewhere in my apartment forever). I miss my 100 gallons of books from home. I don't feel at home here because I'm not surrounded by books, which are the one thing I've always been surrounded by.

Today, though, I said to myself (honestly, I talk in memes, and it's horrible):

I needed to surround myself with pages of old paper and ink and memories. And I found our library here in Lushnje, connected to a little museum, run by a woman whose name literally means garden in shqip. Because, honestly, folks? I need books in my life. Lots of them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fotos from the Fourth

...and jazz fluting. I forgot to write about the jazz flute...but you'll see it below.

Some of these (i.e. the nice colorful ones) are shamefully stolen from a talented shutterbug, my friend Joyce.

Coffee and kos on a hillside, to the sound of bells clanging as the cows graze.


Luke and I, hitchhikers extraordinaire.
If I do say so myself.

This one's solely for my mumsy. Look, Mom, I met a nun!

And for the actual day of festivities:

the beach at Ksamil where we spent the day

happy fourth! let's be unsociable and read on the beach!

paddleboat WITH A SLIDE out to an island

see that little island out there? we swam back to shore from it!

jazz flute

Happy Fourth!

And the next day, more of the marvelous same:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hitchhiking, Jazz Flute, and Sea Urchins...or, Happy (belated) Fourth, Everyone!

Once upon a time, I hitchhiked five hours south with my friend, Luke. It was awesome and kind of oddly easy. We hit up five vehicles, as follows:

1. Vinegar Delivery Man (in red)
2. Yuppie Couple (in white haha, white doesn't show up, silly. in dark blue.)
3. Bus to Orikum (aka, the only money we spent on travel the whole day!) (aka ONE DOLLAR) (in light blue)
4. Chain-smoking, Kos-loving Real Estate Agent (in silver)
5. Death-wish Çun (in bling gold)

Highlights included:

1. Sitting three in a row with back packs in the front seat of a delivery truck in 95 degree weather...
2. ..but then finding a ride with air conditioning!
3. Surviving the first stomach-churning leg to Vlore.
4. Getting picked up after waiting no longer than 10 minutes at each stop.
5. Getting coffee and sheep's kos (yogurt) in a little chalet in the mountains somewhere between Orikum and Himare but almost having our driver leave without us because Luke bought the coffees and our driver got so embarrassed and insulted and GOOD JOB, LUKE. ("I was just trying to be nice and keep our good karma!")
6. Stopping every 20 minutes on the stretch down the mountains to the coast for "photo opps" (aka, smoke breaks for the driver).
7. Surviving the last stomach churning leg to Saranda.
8. Looking for the "Africa Tree" in Saranda where everyone else allegedly was and not seeing anything remotely like a Rafiki tree (Lion King, anyone?) but finding them anyways by the GIANT NEON INFLATABLE PLAY PALACE which would have been just too easy of a landmark, you know?

It was fun, it was cheap, and it was quite the experience! Also, Mom, don't worry - I'd never do that kind of trip alone. You raised me to be paranoid well!

I spent the night with some group 15 girls in Delvine, chatted up some nuns, and ate some amazing pasta with oyster sauce. The next day was INDEPENDENCE DAY! and we headed back to Saranda and then onto Ksamil where I stayed for the next few days. The beach was marvelous. The people were marvelous. The weather was marvelous. The hostel (and owner, Tani) was marvelous. The water, the swimming, the sun, the food, the music, the parties, the everything...was marvelous.

Not the sea urchins, though. They suck.

I still have a few spines in the soles of my feet...a week later. Boo.

I'm going to post the plethora of photos from the event in another post...coming right up!

Monday, July 1, 2013


WHY DO I SUCK AT BLOGGING? Routines are for losers, anyway.

So what have I been doing with my life? Let's start with the weekends. I try to spend as much time in-site as possible, but the allure of the seaside and time spent with friends I haven't seen in weeks is too strong to ignore. A few weekends ago I made the trip to Kavaje to see Kate and Jill...and ran into a few other friends as well! It was a quick furgon ride, and then an additional 20 minute drive to the beach. Afterward, we hit up an incredible seafood & pasta place. It was kinda eight whole dollars for a plate of mussels, calamari, fresh fish, prawns, and pasta. I may or may not have had a mini-meltdown when they told me they were out of their four-cheese dish (SO DRAMATIC), but they pulled off a miracle for me anyway. #dontgetbetweenabadgerandhercheese.

The following weekend found us in Durres, a big port town about an hour's drive north of Lushnje. I'd only heard bad things about the place, so was pleasantly surprised to find a relatively modern city! Granted, it was pretty dirty, but it had an awesome boardwalk and awesome donuts. So I liked the place.

One of the most endangered world heritage sites in Europe. An ancient Roman amphitheater, discovered in the 1960s, and basically built over with houses. It's slowly being restored(-ish)...but, some fear, too slowly.

And, this being Albania, of course there are chickens living in the stands.

The three Durres-ite volunteers who hosted us!

An old castle tower turned into a bar.


Mural on a kindergarten we stumbled upon...such a fun building!

It's hard to tell, but those bigger tomatoes are the size of grapefruits.

And a closing photo, to give you nightmares: Albanian mannequins. Terrifying.