Once upon a time, I listened to Lena even though I repeatedly tell myself not to and then I regretted it.
The high school students from our First Aid group with the Red Cross (Kryqi i Kuq) came in first place in the southern regional competition (yay!) and went to the national competition on Friday. They are awesome, hard-working kids and I was confident they'd win.
Last year, they took first place for the first time! The preceding years they had always taken second. The event is in Tirana, with judges from Tirana, and the Tirana group always took first place...but of course that doesn't suggest anything underhand at all whatsoever. Nope. Inconceivable.
Anyway, Lena told me we'd be there from about 9:00-11:00, and be back in Lushnje by noon. Considering we're in Albania, I built in a solid two-hour delay into my schedule and assumed I could make it back into Lushnje for lunch with my friend Eriola and her family at 2:00.
What does my dad always say? "To assume is to make an ass out of u and me."
Corny dad jokes for the win. Seriously. Why do I ever assume anything in this country?
The day got off to an inauspicious start when I slept through two (TWO) separate alarms and awoke 14 minutes after I was supposed to be at the office to leave with the group. I RAN over only to sit in the office and wait for another 40 minutes until the last two stragglers showed up. Thankfully, the start time was pushed back from 9:00 to 10:00 at the last minute, so we showed up with plenty of time to bake in the hot sun.
The event was held in the main park in the center of Tirana, and the day was gorgeous. Freaking hot, but beautiful. (And this genius chose to wear black pants with a black blazer, this being a professional event.) Again, this being Albania, we were delayed another hour before starting because apparently the president was coming to talk at the opening ceremonies.
My two-hour insurance period was gone before the event even started.
So we all crowded into the hallway in the museum and waited for the president, who ended up sending his secretary instead (to the understandable disappointment of the crowd, and, to be frank, me). After some tedious flower-giving and photo ops, we went back out to the park to start the stations.
Delays, delays, delays. I'm freaking out and dying in the heat. The students (there were nine cities represented), however, were in great spirits and had fun talking and joking with each other, taking the heat and delays in stride. I just tried to stand in the shade of the baby trees before getting yelled at to get off the grass, and tried not to stare daggers at all the Red Cross demonstration volunteers who were slowing the show down. (I mean, come on, how many selfies with fake blood do you need to take?!)
Lushnje finally gets to compete, and they do FANTASTIC. Seriously. I was so proud of them! Things were going along just dandy until the last station, when some old dude started yelling at one of our (admittedly big-mouthed) students. They continued to fight about the proper method of protecting a compound fracture until Lena got involved. As the decibels increased, so did tensions. And my blood pressure.
It was 1:00. I promised Eriola lunch at 2:00. I also still had a good hour and a half of travel left.
Unable to bear it any longer, and knowing this event would extend indefinitely (we were only fourth in line for competing, so there were still teams left to go, plus the awards ceremony, etc.), I decided it was time to go. I got to see the team compete, knew they wouldn't be getting first place (not after the arm-setting fiasco which was still in progress), and so said good bye and left for the bus station.
I hopped on a mini bus, hoping that because it was already chock-full we wouldn't stop at every person on the side of the road to jam them in. WRONG AGAIN. I swear, I'll never learn. After an hour of sitting in the unbearably hot bus (it's only May...so it'll get hotter. And hotter.) we finally got outside the city, still stopping every kilometer for someone to get on, realize there was absolutely no space at all whatsoever, and get back off. And then Lena called.
"Meri, where are you? We just left the city."
Being a responsible adult, I lied through my teeth and said we were halfway home. I couldn't believe they had already left! Wasn't that the reason I left ahead of them, anyway? To get back to Lushnje faster? At this point, my internal monologue consisted mainly of bleeps and asterisks. The longer I sat on that damn bus, the more my adrenaline flowed, anger coursing through my arteries until my fingertips throbbed with angst.
And then she called again.
"Meri, where are you? We're in Lushnje already!"
Oh my God. I almost lost it. I was still twenty minutes away from town, I'd left an hour ahead of them, and in their private cars they'd actually beat me back. Not one to admit defeat (never let Lena win. never.), I said I was already at Eriola's. I literally lied, shamelessly, through my teeth without any regret.
Actually, one regret. I'd left them before the end and they actually beat me home.
My blood pressure is rising just writing this. I was so unbelievably angry, I'm amazed I wasn't literally steaming.
And then the bus driver drove past Lushnje.
I yelled at him to stop, he got mad at me for only paying to get to Lushnje instead of Vlore down the road, and I hopped out, hopping mad. I did eventually make it to Eriola's, only an hour late (only an hour...), had a lovely late lunch, and got a tour of her beautiful home and gardens. All in all, I'm glad I somehow managed to squeeze in both of those things on Friday (not to mention tutoring later, and then English club), but I'm even more glad I didn't die on that hot bus of an aneurysm.
I was in bed, asleep, by 8:00pm.