My brain, all this week.
Once upon a time, there lived a Peace Corps Volunteer named Mary in a pink apartment - an apartment which was, admittedly, a little too nice for Peace Corps' purposes - on a dusty street in a little city in Albania. Her landlady was crazy old woman named Lola who had let herself into the apartment when our PCV was out and then locked the door with a secret deadbolt key she had, simply because she found the house "too dirty." What the evil landlady didn't know was that it wasn't dirty, but dusty, because Mary was busy making gingerbread cookies and houses for the holiday season to give to friends and coworkers like a nice human being, and so there was flour everywhere. This fact did not stop her from calling Mary the equivalent of "slut" in front of the entire high school when she went to get the secret key so she could get back in her house.
Did Mary learn her lesson about the evil landlady? Did she immediately seek out new housing to get away from the insanity that was Lola? No, she did not. And that is where our story picks up today.
One lovely, unseasonably warm Monday morning (a week ago, in fact), Mary received a call from Lola. "Meri! Blah blah blah husband sick blah blah teacher's house blah blah blah you can put your clothes in the middle room blah blah balhba lbakjhsk;jdfh asdjfh today! Okay?"
To which Mary responded articulately, "Uuhhhh....what?"
Lola sighed exasperatedly and gave the phone to another woman (thankfully, a friend of Mary's) who explained that Lola's husband was terminally ill and she was bringing him home to Lushnje...to die. Oh, and she needed Mary's apartment in five hours.
"Uuhhh, ohh, okay. Ummm, five hours? Uhhh..." responded Mary, further impressing everyone with her eloquence.
"Yes, she's found you a new apartment that you can start moving into today and you can just move whatever stuff you have into the middle room in your apartment until you can get everything out."
Mary expressed her condolences through her friend the compassionate interpreter and immediately called Peace Corps.
(Let's take a moment to appreciate that during this troubled time, Lola the evil landlady actually did find a new apartment for Mary, which is truly lovely and in which she sits typing this story as we speak. So that's nice. It's also the last nice - let alone reasonable - thing Lola does for the rest of the story. So thanks for finding me a new house, Lola. No thanks to your batshit craziness. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
At this point, a new character enters into our story - Rudi, the knight errant. (Not wearing shining armor, that's Megan. But we'll get there.) Rudi is the safety and security officer for Peace Corps in Albania, and she is the last person you want to face in a fight. She's like Fezzik+Inigo Montoya combined from The Princess Bride, so she's scary and powerful and if you mess with her volunteers, prepare to die. Metaphorically, of course. So Mary talks to Rudi, Rudi talks to Lola, then Rudi calls Mary back and ultimately, the pink apartment must be vacated before sunset. (Which is a poetic time of day except that it's late autumn and the sun sets at, like, THREE PM, so there's not much time remaining to get shit done.)
So Mary and Megan - the knight in shining armor who gets ALL the gold stars for being the best sitemate in the history of ever - begin packing and transporting all of Mary's crap across town. So much crap. Like, an insane amount of stuff that boggles the mind with its sheer volume. Because there's the three suitcases full of stuff from America, plus groceries, plus the three dozen books from the Peace Corps library that she's been hording, plus random letters and candles and posters and art supplies and dishes and linens and that juicer that Dad left when he visited. And although
As the sun set over the fields below the city, M&M brought the last batch of belongings across town to Meg's house and flopped exhausted on the couch, totally burned out from the crazy day, and looking forward to finishing this insanity off on the morrow.
If only, if only.
The next day dawned to Mary running to print out the new lease agreement before heading over to her new place. Of course the printer is broken at the kancelari, of course, so she showed up empty handed...c' do bej. (What are you gonna do.) But the new landlords are an adorable older couple moving to Tirana to be close to their two grown children and, goodness me, you were born in 1990? What month? Our son was born in March 1990 and - what's that? You were born in April? You're practically our child, you sweet thing, have a cookie, we already love you.
As in all good fairy tales, we officially have the personification of evil insanity - Lola - and the personification of all that it good and sweet and kind - the Halilaj family, the new landlords.
Later, Mary got a call from Lola to go to the apartment. Upon arrival, it became clear the Lola just got there and thus all that work from yesterday to get out of the apartment by sunset was unreasonable bullpoop. Deep breath.
"Meri, this place is filthy why didn't you clean it?" Um, you gave me five hours to get out and actually, I DID clean it you ungrateful bi- "Why did you break the doorknob? You need to fix the doorknob." There wasn't a doorknob when I moved in and you know it, you greedy fool, so stop trying to milk this situati- "This isn't mine. This isn't mine. This isn't mine why is all this stuff that isn't mine still in the apartment?! I told you to move it into the middle room I thought I made myself clear."OH MY GOD WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE.
Thus the visit continued, until M&M barely escaped with their sanity. And Kip's Christmas tree. (Kip was the previous volunteer, who had a cat, and caused a lot of the problems that Lola continues to blame Mary for. But it's ALL KIP'S FAULT. And sorry, Kip, I'm totally throwing you under the bus but you're 7,000 miles away and you couldn't care less and so under the bus you go.)
Meanwhile, the members of the Office of Health Promotion and Education sat bemused in their office, surrounded by sundry items from the apartment of their resident
"Why did you ever move there in the first place?! Lola's crazy!"
"I TOLD PEACE CORPS NOT TO LET YOU LIVE THERE. I TOLD YOU TO MOVE."
"She's crazy and unreasonable and this is shameful, she's taking advantage of you, she's greedy..."
"I TOLD YOU TO MOVE."
"...Lola should be ashamed of herself, you're a young girl on your own and just trying to work..."
"I TOLD YOU SO, I TOLD YOU TO MOVE."
"...this is ridiculous. You should call Peace Corps, you should yell at Lola and let her know this is unacceptable, you should just take everything..."
"MERI, REMEMBER WHEN I TOLD YOU TO MOVE?"
"...you should have moved the last time there was a problem, you shouldn't have stayed there so long, you should have come to us first, you should have let us deal with this, you should have..."
"I TOLD YOU SO."
"Lena, that's not helpin-"
"I TOLD YOU SO!"
But the other three in the office were much calmer and said all the right things and brought Mary back from the precipice of a meltdown because are there ANY logical people in this country oh my God. But yes. Yes there are.
DAY 3 (Or so. I think. I may be mixing my days up here now.)
On Wednesday, the Halilajs officially moved out and the apartment was open for business. M&M began the process of moving all the stuffs from Megan's house to Mary's new house, and Paulina arrived from Divjake bearing warm sweet buns which tasted like manna from Heaven. The office made a final trip with random stuff left behind in the office to check out Mary's new digs, and (what was supposed to be but wasn't) the last phase of the move got underway.
But Lola was just getting started. Rudi had communicated to Lola that Mary was more than happy to leave 1,000 lek ($10) for a new doorknob, but then would be taking everything that she and other PCVs had contributed to the apartment over the last five years, including a television, bed, bathroom mirror, kitchen supplies, and wardrobe. And showing the maturity of a four-year-old, Lola decided that FINE. Take everything, I don't want your stupid stuff, okay? FINE. Get rid of your garbage within twenty-four hours or I won't return the rent.
(Guys, gals, audience: do you even understand how NOT EVEN REMOTELY logical this situation was becoming? Like, I can't even write about it without scratching my head and rubbing my temples because it's just like a headache in human form hitting me in the forehead with a baseball bat of ridiculousness.)
Also showing the maturity of a four-year-old, Mary just shook her head and took a four-hour nap.