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Leaving Tirana

I wanted to post the link for this Tirana studio apartment listing on Airbnb, in case by some crazy quirk someone wants to come here. I did have some problems early on but some were user error and they were all resolved quickly and the space is pretty well-equipped, immaculately clean and in a convenient, quiet neighborhood. https://abnb.me/p9Y8hVnLbtb

Here are the Albanian Leki bills. As the denomination goes down, so does the size! I can’t help comparing the little 200 Leki bill to Monopoly money except it has a cute little transparent glassine window in it! I wonder why. I don’t think there’s a 100 Leki bill, just coins for that. Right now it takes 117 Leki to equal $1.

I just noticed the bathroom lock key this morning. A skeleton key, can you believe it? It’s a modern lock, too!

Here is the link for my $300 a month apartment in Sarandë. I really love it (except for that very orange kitchen!) But I can’t see myself living in that space…it just seems too nice for the likes of me. I suppose if I try real hard I can get used to it though! https://abnb.me/1pKFeb2Vctb

I guess I’m not going to escape the effects of jetlag after all. I’m now 8 hours ahead of Michigan time. Last night I didn’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. and only slept for two hours, even though I took melatonin before I went to bed. Ugh! I tell myself that it doesn’t really matter since I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time (except tomorrow’s trip to Sarande) but I really would like to get back to a semi-normal sleep pattern soon.

This morning I tried to get directions for tomorrow’s driver to pick me up right at my elevator, in the underground parking garage. That would be the easiest place, with all this heavy luggage. Even though both big suitcases are the 4-wheel “spinner” kind, it’s still not easy to control two of them at the same time. I walked from the elevator to the nearest exit…..quite a long ways, with several turns, and got a gps waypoint for the garage entrance. But then I got hopelessly lost trying to find my way back! I tried several different elevators but they were never the right one. Honestly that garage is like the Catacombs, it just goes on and on under the city, with lots of turns and dead ends! I finally gave up and went out the next exit I saw. There wasn’t a single thing that looked familiar so I had to use Google Maps to find my way back, and it was more than 1/3 mile away! Crazy! And there weren’t any nice guardian angels around today to guide me.

I think I’m getting shin splints. Anyway I’m going to have to meet the driver out at the Pizza Point place in front of my building, and it’s going to be really hard to get my suitcases out there. The walkways here are pavers with holes in them that are large enough that my suitcase wheels will fall down into them instead of rolling. I am pretty sure I’ll have to end up actually carrying 100# of suitcases plus a 20# carryon and smaller daypack! I’m sure to end up with stretched-out long arms like a gorilla. It’ll be about 6:15 a.m. so maybe no one will be around and I can just wrestle one suitcase at a time, leaving the other one sitting unattended. Or hey, maybe a big strong Albanian angel will appear and help me!

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The Kindness of Strangers

Well it’s definitely an adventure here for sure! It’s very strange to not be able to understand a single word being spoken. At least in Ecuador I could pick out a word or two, and I knew most of the “important” words. I am ashamed that at the butcher counter I have to hold up one or two fingers, I can’t even count to two in Albanian! And it seems true that many people speak English here but in many it’s far from perfect and a little hard to figure out the meaning. But they sure know way more English than I know Shqip!

It’s very true people here are very kind! The only ATM that doesn’t charge a $5-15 fee is Credins Bank and it’s 3/4 of a mile from here but I decided to try and go there. I found out that using Google Maps is a lot harder on foot than in a car, because you go so slowly, it takes a while to find out you’re going the wrong way. When I first started out and was staring at my phone trying to figure out which way to go, a man came up and said “where to you go?” And I showed him the phone and said the name of the street I was looking for and he asked again so I said “Credins Bank”. He said “Come, come, I show”. So I went went. He turned in the opposite direction he’d been going. He walked faster than my usual and I started wondering how dumb was I to follow a strange man with no idea where he was leading me??? But we finally turned a corner and he pointed and said “Credins Bank” and there it was! I thanked him profusely and he turned and went back the way we’d come….this man walked a mile and a half out of his way for me!!

Albanian Leki are worth about ten cents so it’s pretty easy to convert to dollars, just move the decimal point over two places. I got confused and a huge wad of 2000 Leki bills came out of the ATM. I’d accidentally withdrawn $800!! Geez I won’t need more cash for about 3 months; my rent comes out of my account automatically!

I was pretty concerned about being able to find my way home from there without my new friend. But there’s a new building being built in front of my apartment and it’s a good landmark. I was so proud that I got within sight of it on the way home, and all by myself….phew! But I couldn’t find the way to get over to it. I was consulting the phone and turning in circles when a policeman walked up and said “No, no, come come”. How did he know where I wanted to go?? But again I went went and he showed me the way to get through to my street!

I stopped at the little grocery again and got two pork chops for $1.35 and a chicken breast for $1.58. And some frozen mixed fruit to go in my morning chia seeds. It’s got black cherries in it, those aren’t Keto approved but yummm! I’m eating them anyway since I just walked a mile and a half.

I got home just in time before a hard rain started.

I was really concerned about adjusting to the new time, which is 8 hours ahead of Michigan time. I’d read that adjusting can take up to a week for each hour of time change! But I think it’s going to be okay. I didn’t get to sleep until 2 a.m. but slept til 10 this morning, so that’s not TOO far out of whack.

I found a ride to Sarandë on Sunday for only 70 euros! (The euro is about par with USD right now). Normally the trip by private car or van is €150-170 but this driver has to go pick some people up in Sarande so he’s just charging me for the gas. Gas here is around $6.80 a gallon. According to comments on my Facebook group, this is a really good guy but just in case I disappear forever, I sent his photo & I.D. to a friend.

€70 seems like a lot but it’s about a four hour drive by car and I really didn’t want to take the 5 1/2 hour bus trip with all this luggage. The only bad thing is that we have to leave at 5:30 a.m.

Here are some photos of my little studio apartment. It’s immaculately clean and cute as can be and would be a perfect size for me except if I do have company come to visit. I’ve never seen a square toilet before, have you? It never occurred to me that toilets could be anything other than butt-shaped. I had a hard time figuring out how to flush it….. it’s the big white panel on the wall!

And here are a few views from my place. I am on the 6th floor. There are lots of trees, rosebushes and flowers along the sidewalks and pretty green spaces all over the city, many with swings & playgrounds for kids. And LOTS of people pushing baby carriages!

This is my apartment building

The building under construction, my landmark!

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I Made It To Albania!

My luggage and I all made it to Albania, but it was not a trouble-free trip.

My first flight to Chicago went well and I was supposed to have a two hour layover there. But something was wrong with the plane so they changed departure gates and then kept changing the departure times over and over. I felt sorry for all the people who missed their connections in London but I didn’t see anyone having tantrums over it. We got to London and had a pretty scary landing. When the plane touched down it first leaned way over to the right and the wingtip nearly touched the ground! Then it did the same to the left but finally settled down. Phew!

I wasn’t able to sleep much on the 8 hour flight. After all the delays, instead of a 4 1/2 hour layover I had to hurry to make my flight to Tirana….when I got to the gate they were already boarding. Then we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour. There were about 30 people on a big Airbus so I got a whole row to myself. I flipped up the armrests and spread out my little blanket to put my feet on, and laid down but only slept for about an hour of the 3 hour flight. My taxi guy was waiting for me, yay!

I was very worried about my luggage making it with me and loved having the Tile Pro trackers in each suitcase. (They are like AirTags but for Android) I was able to see that they made it to London okay and SO happy to see them in the carousel in Tirana! My brand new suitcase has a corner bashed in but it’s still usable.

I was really wiped out when I got to the apartment in Tirana and anxious to let everyone know I made it safely and hit the bed! It’s been in the 90’s in Tirana so the apartment was very warm. And the air conditioner didn’t work. Then I discovered the wifi didn’t work either, and I was far too tired to go out after dark in a strange city to try and find a free wifi connection. I was really distressed that I might be causing some of my friends a lot of worry. I had to have a good cry and wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into!

The bed is very comfortable and I got a pretty good night’s sleep. I had to leave the two patio doors wide open to catch a bit of a breeze but since I’m on the 6th floor I figured it was pretty safe. I was shocked at how quiet it was in this city of over 300,000 people.

This morning I took the new phone that I’d bought special for Albania and went out to look for a store that sells internet packages. I went into the first oqne I saw and it seemed I’d found the one young person here who didn’t speak English! I managed to get my point across. I didn’t know my passport would be required so I had to walk back to get it . I got a good plan for about $12. When I got back to the apartment I couldn’t get the sim card to fit into the tray so had to go back to the store for a third time! That poor girl must have thought I was an idiot. She installed it for me and I sat right there and set up the new phone to make sure a 4th trip would not be required!

There is a small grocery store right around the corner from the apartment so I stopped there to pick up a few things for my breakfast and dinner. It didn’t seem cheap, maybe because it was small? There was a huge array of cheeses but nothing I recognized, and lots and lots of sausages and lunchmeats.

This studio apartment has just a little hot plate, toaster oven, electric teapot and microwave. I was starving because I hadn’t had much food at all since breakfast Tuesday morning. They fed us on the flight to London but most of it was not stuff I could eat. Well none of the appliances here worked! A few more tears of frustration. I finally figured out these European outlets…I had them plugged in upside-down. User error! Before I’d finished my coffee the neighbor woman came over and went somewhere with a key and got both the wifi and air conditioner working again! So now I’m happy. I plan to just hang out here in the apartment for the rest of the day.