Albania Vlorë Albania

Balkan Inter-Folk Festival

This weekend was the Balkan Inter-Folk Festival here in Vlore. When I was walking to Game Night on Saturday there were hundreds of people gathered in the big green space next to my apartment building, with the prime minister giving a speech. Later the promenade was completely filled with the throngs of people headed back to town. I wish I could tell you more about it but you know me; I take every opportunity to avoid crowds. Here’s a short video clip though.

We played a new game this past week called King of Tokyo. It’s a dice game that also has a lot of “mean cards” that you can inflict on your fellow players. After I won the first game, the second game was chock full of Mean Cards flying my way! And since I’m about 13 years older than the next oldest person there, I’m pretty sure this was Elder Abuse at its finest. I’d never heard of any of the board games we play, but they’re always fun. Some of the others are Dixit (so far I’m undefeated!), Code Name and Love Letter.

I saw this guy strolling along as I waited for the bus this morning. Judging by the clothing, he’s GOT to be an American! An Albanian man of this age would be wearing a suit.

An American looking for Wal-Mart?

I hadn’t really noticed until a friend pointed it out, but during the day all the people hanging out at the street cafes having coffee and a smoke are men! No women. And if you click on the photo and enlarge it a bit, you can see how the typical older Albanian men dress.

My Provisional Residency was granted today! I think it’s considered Provisional until you’ve been here for five years. Until then, it must be renewed annually. Now my facilitator is preparing a document that she’ll send me in the mail (scary prospect!) And I’ll need to get an appointment with the Immigration office at the port here in Vlorë to finalize it. Yay! I was getting concerned that I wouldn’t get it until after I left for Shkoder, and that I’d end up having to take a $200 taxi ride back here to make the appointment time! They only give you one day’s notice.

Albania Expats in Albania Vlorë Albania

Woe Is Me

Well it hasn’t been a very good week. My package with $470 worth of goodies is lost in space. It was shipped on 4/13 and was supposed to arrive in 3-5 business days. The tracking shows it leaving New York on the 18th, never to be seen again. The US post office is trying to find it. The biggest reason I was getting the package was because my US cellphone carrier is upgrading their system and my current phone is obsolete. If I ordered and activated a new phone by May 4 they were offering a $100 rebate. It’s very doubtful that I’ll be able to meet the deadline now.

Also I have a big mess with Residency. My facilitator told me I didn’t need to have my Social Security deposited to the Albanian bank, but a friend went and talked to the Immigration office here in Vlorë and was told unequivocally that it does! I could have had that all done by now! You know my luck….I tried to do it on line but the SS system wants to send me a code via text to verify it’s really me. It says, “Is this your number: XXX-XXX-4495”. I never get the texts and suspect I accidentally gave them my NC area code 828 instead of my AZ area code 928. But there’s no way to check it. It took three tries with nearly 30 minutes waits each time to finally get through on the phone to SS (once a human actually answered, the call would get dropped!) I asked and she couldn’t tell me what the number was. The solution is that they send you a link to change the number by mail, and that takes 5-10 days to arrive. It’ll go to my California friends and they’ll let me know when it arrives, then I can change the contact number and again get online access to my account.

It turns out you can’t change your deposits to a foreign bank using the US 800 number, I have to go through the nearest SS office which is in Rome. I’ve emailed them and am awaiting a reply. So it’s possible I couldn’t have done the change online anyway.

It takes at least 2 months to get the deposits redirected and I wonder if my Residency will be put on hold until they can see the money being deposited!! I hope there’s some other way to prove that it’s been done.

Three months ago my landlady told me I could stay until June 15 but when I went to pay my utility bills this month, she said May 31. I was able to get my stay in Shkoder extended so that’s good, but that place costs nearly twice as much as my apartment here! So more money slip sliding away.

And that means I’ll be leaving in a month! I’m going to have to find some packing boxes and start packing up the things to be stored. Oh I hate to have to make another move!

I wonder if maybe I’ll fall in love with Shkoder. It’s Albania’s 5th largest city and only half the population of Vlorë and it’s supposed to be quite a bit cheaper than here (Airbnb prices notwithstanding!). I was looking at some restaurant menus there and the food looked considerably cheaper. Omelets were $1.40 and they’re $2.50 here. The climate is similar but a few degrees cooler, which might be nice in summer. I guess it’ll depend on what goods & services are available and whether there are any active expat groups.

We’re still having our Expat Game Nights, and they’re still a lot of fun. It’s strange that when I’m walking home at 10:30 pm, the sidewalk and sea promenade have throngs of people strolling along….many more than in the daytime! Albanians eat dinner really late, then go out walking. No wonder there are hardly any fat people here.

On Tuesday an arsonist set fire to the city’s water supply pipe. What a strange target! And how do you BURN a water pipe??? They must have used some accelerant or really oily stuff that would be impervious to floods of water!The city’s water was out for 5 days but came back last night. I don’t know where my water comes from, but mine never went out, thank goodness. I do keep about 10 gallons of tap water in jugs, just in case. My water has gone out a few times but usually only for a few hours.

Here’s some of those cute kiddie three-wheeled skateboards. The toddler stands on it and the parent pulls them along with the long handle.

It seems really strange that in a city of 180,000 people, the main street is only one lane in each direction and there’s only one roundabout and no traffic lights! Yet traffic usually moves right along except for temporary halts when cars have to take turns going around the many double-parked cars. The drivers here seem pretty polite about letting others turn left in front of them or enter from a side street, and I haven’t seen a single fender-bender yet. Pedestrians have the right of way and cars will always stop for people crossing the street. (It’s the people on bicycles you have to watch out for!)

I don’t know who this fisherman is supposed to be, and why is he naked?
One of several little kiddie play areas on the Promenade

I can’t figure out why American candy bars like Mars, Snickers, etc. can be sold here for $.60. Can you?? I seriously doubt they’re made in Albania!