"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

Friday, November 30, 2012

100 vjet pavarësi

100 years of Independence celebration in Vlore!
Today was Albanian’s birthday. 100 whole years of independence! Congrats! We of course had school off (5 day weekend) so we wanted to plan a trip somewhere cool. Cortney’s friends Tim and Brian were coming in from Seattle, so we wanted to spend some time in Tirana, but also wanted to make the most of our vacation time. Many options were tossed around, Kosovo, Shkodra, Berat, and Girokaster to name a few. After considering our time we opted to do Girkaster, and to make a few stops on the way down. We headed out of the city at about 7:30am, and made our second stop (first to pee) in Fier to see the ruins of the Greek city of Apollonia. Upon arriving we noticed that once again, to our luck, there was no charge to get in. We all shared a delicious stout and some peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast and were shown around by a very cute dog we later named Tuna (explanation later.)

After first mentioning the “pastoral scene” and noticing a table in the middle of nature Tuna showed us strait to the columns. It was quite clear that they had done some recent work on the columns, because there were some added red bricks, which we concluded probably weren’t around back in the day. Courtney and I stopped to take our picture in the theatre, similar to the one we took in Butrint, and we took a few Christian rock band photos of the whole group together. 
The columns of Apollonia
We continued to explored and found an amazing view of the mountains complete with acres of farmland and grass in the valley. Whenever we go anywhere we are amazed at how much nature there is in comparison to Tirana. I also paused to take some pictures of the church with some amazing clouds as a backdrop. 
Cortney enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous view

Church, complete with the usual beautiful clouds
By this point in time I was in need of a serious coffee, so me and Scott headed to the café to grab some coffee and some breakfast beer. We were soon followed by Cortney, Brian, and Tim. We also ate a small snack of fruit, granola bars, and corntey’s favorite runa and bake rolls. Scott and Cortney couldn’t resist giving the adorable dog some Tuna as a payment for the way she had shown us around. Thus the insanely adorable dog became knows as Tuna. It was a great breakfast and we were once again surprised that it was only 10:00 in the morning when we were ready to leave, and head to our next stop.
Just enjoying some coffee and a beer in the middle of this field. What's up world? 
Next on our list was Vlore, including Independence Balcony, where the Declaration of Independence was signed by Ismail Qemali 100 years ago. Traffic in Fier was a bit slow, and we kept seeing this hitchhiker along the road. He was walking as fast as we were driving. The cars sped up on the highway and time was moving fast. Of course the traffic was terrible once we got outside of Vlore, and we were stopped on the highway, so we opted to park on the highway and walk the 3km to the center of the city. On the way, as usual, we started craving ice cream, so we stopped at a market to get some and upon walking out of the market we saw our hitchhiker. He made it there at the same time as us. How crazy! So Cortney said “hey there” to him and we ended up hanging out with Kevin while we were in Vlore. 
Independence Balcony way back when
There were no signs telling us where the balcony was located, so we stopped to ask. One teenager told us we couldn’t get there by walking, so we started to lose hope. But we figured we had just walked 3km and something had to be happening, so we kept going. There was a ton of live music, and dancing and it felt a bit like MN on a gopher football game day. We stopped to look at the statue of the 6 most important figures in Albania’s freedom, and then moved on to look for the balcony. But no matter how hard we looked we just couldn’t find it, so we decided to give up and walk the 3km back to our car. Cortney decided to try one more time and went up to ask a cop. He quickly pointed to a balcony nearby with an Albanian flag on it. We had already seen this balcony, but thought it looked nothing like the picture we had seen on the coke cans. 

The balcony now. I see no resemblance....
I quickly snapped a photo of the boring view and we headed back to our car. Scott quickly got us on the road, however we were soon stopped in some 4 lane traffic (on a two lane highway.) We were pretty much in the same place for about 90 minutes. We would sit for 20 minutes and then turn the car off, then traffic would move about 10 meters, and then we would sit still for another 15 minutes, turn off the car, and then traffic would move forward 20 meters. People kept getting out of their cars to walk around and we kept hearing our favorite Albanian song.

Eventually we realized everyone was going to Tirana, where we came from. Luckily about 10 minutes after the cars started moving at a generally slow pace we were able to get off the road to Tirana and on the road to Girokaster. Thank god for going fast. At this point I was getting a terrible headache from not eating a real meal all day long.
Enjoying the traffic jam. Hey, does anyone know what an Albanian flag looks like?
Previously we had drove through Girokaster and Tepelene, and come across a restaurant that looked super delicious and equally relaxing. Eventually, after another hour of scary driving in the rainy night, we made it and ate a delicious meal of fish, fries, salad, and bread. Once we arrived in Girokaster we easily found our hostel, and paid our 2000 lek each for our hostel. The hostel was cold inside, but we knew we could survive since we had our own bathroom, which was to remained locked at all times, for unknown reasons. After a short break we decided to head out to explore a bit by night. The roads reminded us a bit of Ohrid, hills filled with stone, but a nice difference from the busy Tirana roads. I stopped at the market to purchase some tuna for a meal the next day (our go-to easy meal) and we purchased a bottle of wine to share for the evening. I sit here listening to bluegrass, sharing a bottle of wine with a few new friends. Brian and Tim feel like long lost soul mates to our group. I have had a fantastic independence day :)
We made it to Gjirokaster! Cortney thinks this should be our rap album cover. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Culture Shock: A Definition

I feel like the term "culture shock" is used in the smallest sense in the real world. Time to set it straight for those of you who are confused, and for myself.

When i was 10 years old (maybe 11?) I travelled with my family to Honduras to visit my brother. He was going to school there for 9 months and it was my first real family vacation. All of the trips up to that point had been within a few states radius, to visit my aunts, uncles and grandparents. When my mother told me were going to another country my imagination flowed. I would get to swim in the ocean, and possibly see real live dolphins! The vacation was fantastic, but I was surprised by a few things. For example I would see little boys peeing in the middle of a street, and the same little boy would come up and beg for money. We would drive past mansions protected with barbed wire, and right next to them would be a one bedroom home made of a box. Nothing had a price tag on it it, you had to bargain for everything. When I returned to small-city Marshfield everyone wanted to know about my experience, and everyone kept asking if I was culture shocked. I concluded that yes, experiencing the new culture was very shocking for me. Never had I seen a box house actually being used for a house before. So I had experienced culture shock right?

When I came to Albania I learned the term in a whole new light. You cannot experience culture shock just by visiting a place for a brief amount of time. The only way to experience culture shock is to emerse yourself in a culture enough to change your pattern of living, and the way you think about things. For example: Instead of just going to Rainbow and/or target for my weekly groceries I now go to 4 places on average. I go to 1-2 markets, usually a smaller store, and 1 or 2 big chain stores just to find everything I need. If I wanted to save more money I would go to a different store to get my cleaning supplies, and a different one to purchase my cosmetics. It is crazy how much time I have to spend shopping. Don't even get me started on how many stores I have gone into to look for leather boots.

My way of living is different in so many ways, and I can't even begin to explain all the little things I've been forced to change. More small examples: there are no dryers so I have to plan 1-2 days of drying time for clothes; I have to think about when I want to shower so I can turn on the water heater 40-60 minutes in advance; everything I throw away could be a potential craft item for school; I don't get to recycle anymore; I have to remember to stop at the market to pick up jugs of water 3 times a week; I cannot trust traffic lights; the streets don't run in blocks; I have to walk with my head down so I don't fall into a manhole; And don't even get me started on the teaching differences and work culture.

I'm not saying I hate life here at all. I love my life, and I'm loving it more everyday. As my principal told me when I arrived, Tirana is a great city if you are willing to find yourself in it. I'm just saying that living here has taken a lot of getting used to. I had no idea what the word "culture shock" truly meant until I came here. It was little, tiny stresses that added up to a lot of tears and homesickness throughout the past 2 months.

I also have lost many things I used to consider my passions. The live music culture here is very limited, it's not as simple as exploring until you find a good band, and then seeing that band live every week. I've only experienced 2 concerts, and I know there is more out there, I just have to search harder. I used to run about 5 days a week. I have ran only once since I got here, and it resulted in a cold that has lasted a month (plus) long. The air pollution just makes deep breathing seem impossible, and thus running becomes much less healthy. I used to love drinking beer, and I felt as though I was getting somewhat knowledgable about it. Now I have 1-2 choices at a restaurant, 2-5 choices at a market, and if I'm lucky 10 choices at the supermarkets.

I like to think that after 3 months I'm finally starting to move past the shock, and I'm able to experience the culture and my life a bit more. I have down my routine. I know how to plan my showers in advance. I know how to stop at the markets on the way home. I know the streets enough to not get lost and confused. My passions have had to change as well. Now I like exploring. Just walking until I find something new, or something that reminds me of my old passions. I'm also starting to throw myself into blogging, because I love reflecting on my life, and organizing my thoughts into something meaningful. If I leave them in my head they all jumbled up into a giant ball of confusion. Thus you can expect more post from me in the future.

To be honest, I'm glad I got to experience culture shock and I hope to experience it again in the future. Hopefully, if I'm really lucky, it will be with a set of friends as good as the ones I have here.
You guys rock!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The debates in my head

I've had a rough month, to say the least. But after finally moving to a new place and getting running water I'm starting to feel better about the next 7 months of my life. I'm scraping by and finally getting a bit used to the lifestyle. My bit of culture shock is done for now. So now that I'm comfortable I think it is time to dive into the uncomfortable. The following things are up to debate in my mind.

1. Where should I go next? I feel completely clueless. The only thing I really know is that I want to make more money than I am here. But as I've been doing research and talking to people I've come up with a list of where I want to teach. The top 4 are as follows: Saudi Arabia (because of the pay,) Thailand (um, I've always wanted to go), Vietnam(from the research they pay quite a bit, and you can easily save), Columbia (I heard this is one of the best places to teach.) I also applied for a job in Japan. I feel it is early to be applying, but you know how I'm a planner.

2. Should I go back to school next semester? I could finish my master's degree with one class. And I'd love to do it, but I'm not sure I want to. The stress of doing this in another culture is scary, but tempting. I'm trying to do more research and I'm currently talking to the professor about the class requirements and whatnot. Pros: I can apply for more jobs, and would probably be given higher salary wherever I do go. Cons: time contraints, taking the class with limited resources, having to pay for more school when I JUST started paying loans.

3. When I get done with this journey of being a travelling teacher, where the hell do I want to go? But wait Tiara, the journey will not end when you go home. This is just a portion of this crazy journey of life. I beg myself to stop worrying so much. I beg myself to quit thinking about my future and just live my life. How did I become this crazy control freak as far as my life goes? Why can't I just let go? It will be a battle forever, but I can keep trying.
For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; And for everything you gain, you lose something else.

It is about your outlook towards life. You can either regret or rejoice. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Turkey Day America!

When I was in high school, our church would take an annual trip to Chicago in the month of November to help out at a place called JPUSA. Mostly it was full of Christian hippies who lived in a communal environment and would volunteer their time to help those in need in return for their home. One year while we were there I took on the task of writing a list of 100 things I was thankful for. It was insane, but very doable. I was thankful for things like friends, my tv, my computer, sweaters, my favorite mocha from Starbucks. Ever since that year I try to write myself a list, either in my head, or on paper/the computer. I recently re-read my list of things I was thankful for last year. It is insane that I’m now living without many of them, and still maintaining a sense of sanity. Here is the list of the 10 things I was most grateful for last year.

1. Love. It stupid and wonderful. It definitely makes us do dumb things, but it's breathtaking and incredible in every single way. It floods you with joy and with sadness, and causes you to feel things you never thought possible. It's just plain amazing,
2. My ability to choose where I go in life. I can go anywhere I want. Arizona, Texas, China, Thailand, North Dakota, or I can stay here. And I'm grateful for the many options.
3. My education. After this year of working in a room with many under privileged children I have become grateful not only to  attend such stellar schools, but also to grow up in a house hold where education is so valued.
4. The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Seriously. They make my life bearable and they are awesome. Go Pack Go!
5.  My iPod. Where would I be without this? Definitely way more depressed.
6. My two feet. Running has become a true outlet for my frustration, stress, and happiness, all in one. I'm glad I can use these two feet for something so wonderful
7.  My family, mostly for being so supportive of my decisions. I've made some pretty bad ones, and someone has always been there to help me through them.
8. My soul mate, Rebecca Nelson, for always encouraging me to dream big, and eating ice cream or whiskey with me when my dreams fall apart.
9. Second, and maybe even third chances. I'm thankful that I can try to be forgiving of others, and that others can be forgiving of me.
10. Coffee, for keeping me awake and Jameson, for helping me sleep. This year would be impossible without you. I know this one seems shallow, but I have to be honest...these two things are necessary in my life.

Please compare to the top ten things I am grateful for today
  1. My freedom to go wherever I choose. Here in Albanian the boarders were just recently opened up. People were not always allowed to go wherever they want. This is a great freedom. The majority of the jobs I have been looking are only able to get living permits to Americans, Canadians, Australians, and people from the UK. I’m so lucky to be on that list.
  2. My language. People speak English almost everywhere I go. I’m so thankful, and I wish I had enough energy to get off my lazy but and learn another language. Also people speak English here very well but say they know only a little. When I say I know a little Albanian, I mean I can order in a restaurant, say hello, how are you and goodbye. It is insane how little I have learned in the last 3 months.
  3. My family for supporting me in everything I do. I would not be here if it wasn’t for you guys cheering me on, and listening to my complaining and homesickness. I never knew I could miss people as much as I miss you all. I came with the full intention of not coming home for 2 years, and now I can’t even see how that would be a possibility.
  4. My freedom as an American woman. Albania is living a bit in the past. Here, women are still expected to do the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and to not complain about it. Their main purpose in life is to please their man. Also, in the countryside there are often still arranged marriages, and girls get married as young as 15/16. I’m so thankful I was able to experience 3 whole relationships, and decide that none of them were right for me. Tacked on to this is being single, at least for now. I have learned so much about myself in a year of being single, and I’m excited to learn even more.
  5. Love, because I know it exists in many ways, and surrounds me everywhere.
  6. My education: Last year I worked with a bunch of underprivileged children, and I saw how lucky I was to grow up in my wealth. This year I work with very privileged children and I’m thankful for my roots of working hard and knowing how much my complete education was worth.
  7. The fact that, on a whim, I chose teaching as my degree, and that most days I love it.
  8. My friends, both here and back in America. Between both I feel very lucky. None of you are completely crazy, but all of you are crazy enough for me to tolerate. Thanks for that J
  9. Music. I just don’t know what I’d do without it.
  10. My two feet, for carrying me to beautiful views of the world.

There are definite similarities and differences. But overall I would say that I think about these things more often now than I did in America and that is pretty cool. Happy Turkey Day America! I think of you as we celebrate 100 years of Independence in Albania. I will also be heading to the Christian center for (hopefully) a thanksgiving meal with my friends. If now, we will have a delicious dinner at Piazza, one of our favorite restaurants.

Also, as I sit here writing this I’m doing laundry at my friend’s house yet again, this time because the water in my new place isn’t working. So please be thankful that almost everyday you can wake up and have working water. This is only my 3rd day without, but that is out of 90 days. One more thing, I miss the cold. Today I wore a skirt and t-shirt to work. Oh, and another thing I miss my night of pie making and drinking with my brother. Seriously!
making pies with my big bro!  Still planning on making my pumpkin cheesecake next week. 

Um this all looks delicious! Remember when we somehow ended up with like 7 pies and gave some to Matt Jacobson? And don't even get me started on those cookies.

Remember this awesome contraption we made to carry them?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My New Apartment :)

After about 2 weeks in my first apartment here I knew I hated it and would want to move. Finally the three months I paid for was coming to a close. So I started asking around and the grade 2 teaching assistant, and good friend Silvia volunteered to help me look for a new place.

So on Tuesday I looked at a really terrible apartment. Like horribly dirty, smelly and filled with broken furniture. I was scared to be in it, and I was with 2 other people, so I figured I couldn’t possibly live there. On Thursday we looked at a great 2 bedroom place for 300 Euro a month. This was a bit more than I wanted to pay, but I figured I might be able to have a roommate for part of the time, and that I could afford it since the cost of living is so low here. Then I looked a wonderful 1+1, perfect just for me. It was filled with antique furniture, cozy, quiet and came complete with a cute old man landlord. Unfortunately the man did not want to rent to me since I told him I would only be paying rent through July, and not for a full year. I was a bit devastated, but headed to my second job confident that something would work out and knowing that the 2 bedroom place was also an option.

The next morning I debated in my head how I could change my odds by offering the man more money for the 7 months I lived there, or lying to him and saying someone would replace me after I left. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t see myself making it work out.

I had quite the morning of trying to get my residency application in. After walking to the migration police to fill out the form, I then had to go to the bank to pay the fee, then to the notary to get my lease fixed with a building number, and then back to the migration police to turn the form in. However, the notary wouldn’t fix the document without the person I was living with present (I had to do a bit of fibbing in order to be able to move out of my terrible place and still get all my permits turned in, in time.) So needless to say I haven’t finished applying for my permit yet.

I arrived back at school for lunch and a bit of prep time to catch up (I missed my prep and one of my teaching hours running around the city.) On my way to pick up the kids I saw a strange man who look quite like the landlord of the “perfect for me” apartment. I was definitely so exhausted from my walking that I was imagining things. But no, wait, the man was approaching me and soon afterward my teaching assistant was translating for me. After being scolded by his wife, he was offering me the apartment for the next 7 months. She reminded him that his kids lived in America and he wanted them to come home, so it was understandable that after 7 months I would want to go back home to my family. I set up a time to meet him and get the keys, but was still a bit skeptical.

At 4:15 I headed out to try and find the apartment again, which I did with little difficulty. The man and his wife were kindly waiting to welcome me into my new home. They showed me around and talked in broken English, explaining that lived in the US for 7 years, but that was a long time ago, and they have since forgotten most of the English they learned. They seemed very interested in meeting monthly for coffee to talk and practice English. They also constantly reminded me that there were a few broken things (a light was out, the bedroom needed new curtains, and the toilet need a new back cover) and also mentioned that they would clean the place thoroughly before my official move in day on Monday. However they were very willing to let me bring loads of my stuff during this time. This was great since I already had brought a load. I wasn’t going to waste a 25 minute walk to take nothing there.

We set up a time the following day to exchange money and sign the lease. Once they left I began assigning drawers for various items, and made note of the few things I would need. Essentials like silverware, a blanket/quilt, something to hang my clothes to dry on, a spatula, and then headed home.

I was a little devastated when I got home and found out that my German friend officially got the go ahead on moving to a new place. I hate living alone, so it would have been nice to have someone to live with, but I also loved my new place.

The following day we were unable to sign the lease, because the notary place was closed, however we did stop and get a coffee. Between my minimal memory of Italian, the little bit of Albanian I know/speak, and the little bit of English the man knows/speaks we were able to get through a coffee. We planned on setting up a time to sign the lease on Monday. At this point the only thing I was nervous about was getting an internet connection in the place, but would it really be the worst thing to be without internet for 6 months? Probably. When I get homesick I need my skype and email at hand. But I suppose I could make due with borrowing the fellow teachers and spending a bit of extra time at the school to download movies and tv shows.

On Sunday we went to Teg (the mall) to get some stuff we needed. We all purchased fancy winter jackets, searched for boots, got some things for our classroom, and I was able to get my bedding and kitchen stuff. Overall I spent about $100 for all of the stuff for my apartment and about $100 on my super nice looking winter jacket.

On Saturday I finished moving my stuff in with the help of Scott for one load. In total it took 2 big suitcases, one little suitcase, a load in my hiking pack, 2 backpack’s full, and the fan being carried on it’s own. Also one load in the hiking pack from the Mall.

On Monday I went to sign my lease. I was lucky to have Silvia volunteer last minute to go with me. It was great to have her there to translate and make sure that I was paying the right amount, and not signing my life away. It took much longer than expected because the notary was about 30 minutes late (typical in Albania.) Eventually we got it all sorted out and I headed home completely tired. I arrived home at 6:30 and decided to go check and see if the internet company was still open, so that I could hopefully get internet within the week. Last time I moved it took a good 2 weeks to get it all sorted out, so I hoped that it wouldn’t take quite as long this time, since I was planning a vacation a few days later. Luckily they were still open.

The following day, they of course, called while I was at school, even though I was very clear that I needed them to come after 4. I told the man on the phone to come in the evening. I arrived home at 4, finished unpacking and just about the time I was all done, the men came to set it up. I can’t believe that so much has worked out in the right way at the right time. I’m currently sitting in my new home with working internet, listening to the drone of traffic and occasional honking. It feels like I’m back on Como (other than the honking.) Now if only a train would whistle on through, and I could drink a stout and eat some cheddar cheese. Korca dark, pasta, and salad will have to do. Unfortunately the water isn’t working tonight, so no laundry and no shower. This is one of two complaints so far. The other is that there are no lights in the hallway. Luckily all phones in Albania come complete with flashlights attached. So far I have to say I’m quite happy with my new place. And now the much awaited pictures:

My bedroom

Entry way

Living room, balcony is behind me. Dang, I need some porcelorses

sink, stove. Sadly, I can't do my dishes without running water.

Kitchen/dining room

Bathroom, without running water :(

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Untitled blog post number 2

November 3rd 2012

Some days I have a lot of time to myself, and I start thinking about the things I miss. Then, there are days I have TOO much time to myself, and I get lonely and I think about you. The thing about “me time” is that I need it, just as anyone does.

But this “me time” leads to memories. And I miss you, and I miss how I felt about you, and I crave our love. And then the reality of our love sinks in. It was real. I loved you, and you loved me (at least I think you did,) but it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. We had our passion, but we also created a mess. Somewhere along the way, probably from the very beginning of us, we both got confused. And we ended up where we shouldn’t have. In love. And young. And stupid.

When I think back to all of the memories of us, and I remember the good with the bad I’m so glad for the reality of where I am today. Because, the mess we made taught me who I was and made me strong. And, of all the places in the world, I chose here. And it was really the first decision I have ever made that was completely my own. I’m so glad my present and future are mine, and not ours.

November 8th 2012

I had a great day today. I switched my classroom layout around yesterday and I was afraid it would throw the kids off, but overall they did really good after I explained the reason to them. The students are finally into the routine of our English morning. My 4th grade class loved talking about the oxygen cycle and the environment, and I’m starting to get them psyched about our upcoming endangered species research project. My math class was great: my students understand their number lines, they are understanding their patterns and they all love “my” math game (flipping two cards over and adding them.) During my social studies time we did a picture sort and talked about how we are all different and that is okay. On Tuesday we did Venn diagrams to compare students and they loved that too. This week was a seg-way leading into our culture studies, which will start next week. For the last 5 minutes of class we talked about culture and what it is. I was so surprised to hear them talk openly about their home lives, and they all seem excited to share.

I also taught games club today after school. The new game was different from many of the other games we have played, but toward the end the students started to get it and we had the least amount of whining yet.

Then I went to my second job of teaching English to teachers. Last week they gave me a ton of suggestions for teaching, mostly things they wanted to learn. So I came prepared tonight with a pronunciation key, American slang terms, prepositions, and a feelings chart. We spent so much time talking about these that we hardly made it to the essays I’m supposed to be using. But, either way they are learning pronunciation and vocabulary, and tonight was super enjoyable. Also, one of my students gave me an Albeni bar at the break, and translated it to mean “buy me” or “you want me.” How hilarious, since I always want to buy them.

November 12, 2012
Today I want to get on the next plane and fly home. I’m so stressed about moving and just trying to keep up with everything. If I’m packing I might as well go somewhere I love right? And I know I love Minneapolis. Plus it’s a Monday and if I hurry I can make it back in time for Roe Family Singers. Heck, if I really hurry I can make it back for $3 surlys.

November 13th 2012

How many times do I click my heels to go home?
It was a day I needed music.
It was a day I looked through my quotes.
It was a day I cried.
It was a day I wanted a hug from my mom.
It was a day I needed a stout, or 4.
It was a day I wondered, “what the hell was I thinking.”
It was a day I remembered why I got my tattoo.
It was a day I had strength to get through.
And I will get through many more like it.

November 18th 2012

All is right in the world again. That is a lie. Things in the world are better, and as they should be. I miss home, like crazy, and for some reason I still want to go there. As I was packing to move (yes I found a new, wonderful apartment) I just kept thinking that I wish I was packing to go home. Maybe it’s because it’s getting close to the holidays, maybe I miss the cold (I wore a short sleeve shirt today), or maybe I’m still just frustrated with being lost. I got to talk to my brother last week and that was really helping. He is so good at convincing me that I’m where I need to be and I’ll find my path out here somewhere.

I find myself looking at international job posting daily. No, make that 3 times a day. I’m dreaming too much. I need to start living more. I already know I have options, but it is too early to apply to most of them. I’m considering doing some European traveling in July, moving back home in August and waiting for an immediate hire job. It is so not my style to have an unplanned future, but these are the jobs that pay more. All I want to do is pay off my loans so I can live life the way I want. I want to go everywhere. Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Columbia, India, Brazil, Ireland, Morocco, China, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, South Africa, Kenya, Venezuela, Bali, the list goes on and on. There is so much to see in this vast world. I knew this before I came here, but really had no idea. Every time I talk to someone they tell me about somewhere they have been that I want to go to.

The part of me that wants to settle down in one location is becoming more and more distant. She is there, but she knows thats if she wants to do this traveling now is the time to do it. When I settle down I want to be close to home. And by home, I mean I want to be close to my family.

I remember telling my advisor freshman year that I couldn’t do study abroad because I would miss my family too much. At this point, it was a lie. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend for another 3 months. Long distance sucked. But now I’m realizing it really is true. I miss them all like crazy! Keeping my mind on the fact that I get to see my brother in about 36 days helps. After that, who knows. But it is time to live. Road trip(s) in the next two weeks, so I’ll have to be living.

I’m also starting to get a little nervous about what life will be like when I do move back home. I have a feeling I’m going to go through culture shock all over again. There won’t be 8 café’s on one block. I’ll have to obey traffic laws, and say thank you all the time. I’ll have to stand appropriately in lines. It won’t take me 8 stops to do my shopping for the week. What will I do with all that extra time. I’ll have to start carrying a phone with me again. Strange to think of how much my life has changed in less than 3 months. Crazy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Through a new set of eyes

The majority of this post will be in the form of pictures. Today me and my fellow teacher Scott decided to walk around some parts of Tirana we hadn't really visited. We began with a little morning croissant, and coffee from one of our favorite bakeries.
Breakfast: chocolate filled croissants and espresso/machiato
As far as tourist and sight seeing goes, Tirana has little to offer. It can almost all be summed up in the Qendra (center) where the famous statue of Skenderbeg, the clock tower  mosque, museum, and opera house all reside.
The opera house is decorate with our banner for our 100 years of freedom, celebrated in the end of November. This view shows the opera house, the clock tower, the mosque and Skanderbeg Square all in one picture. Behind me is the museum. All in one area.
But there are of course, many strange and beautiful things to see around the city if you open your eyes and explore. We walked to the center and continued down a road we had never traveled on. This road gave us many interesting pieces of art in the form of graffiti.
Interesting, to say the least

Distorted double headed golden eagle.

Now that is what I call art.

The music lover in my loved this one.
The further away we got, the more strange things seemed to get. We saw many markets run by chinese people. Perhaps there is a china town in Tirana? We also saw some christmas trees for sale and I saw the first black person I have seen since I arrived here. There was also a very large, crowded market full of clothing and shoes for sale. This market reminded me of the markets we visited when I was in Honduras.
Christmas trees and the first black person I've seen in Albania

After getting a little lost we ran into the man made river. This is probably the stinkiest river I've ever smelled in my whole life. We've always wondered where it started, and as it turns out, it starts at a huge pile of trash and a sewage dumping area. Oh Tirana.....
These random uncovered holes are everywhere. You have to really watch where you step.

The start of the river

The day ended at 1:00 when we decided we were finally hungry enough to split a burger at Stephen Center. I took several pictures of interesting buildings along the way as well:

The "manners building." I named it that because Je Lutem is please, Faleminderit is thank you, and Me Falni is I'm sorry. It was covered in "Kind words and actions" as we say at school. 

This is some famously old bridge, over grass. Why?

Loved the clouds today. Here is the clock tower on the way home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Travelin' Through

Part of me expected to come to Tirana and just figure out everything I needed to discover about myself.  There is no way I can deny that. But, that just isn’t the way the world works. I left America, 2 plus some months ago, not knowing what I wanted out of life. I was just a typical 20 something girl who had no idea who she wanted to be, where she would end up, or who she would meet along the way.

And I still don’t know. I think I’m finally starting to freak out about it, because I don’t know if I want to stay for another year, and I don’t know where I will go if I don’t. I just feel lost. But, truth be told I have found a bit of myself here. . I have learned 2 things:
1)    I don’t want to be alone. I want to find someone I love to be with for the rest of my life. Not yet, but eventually.
2)    I’m not ready to go home. And I won’t be ready to go home next summer. Perhaps for a visit, but not permanently. I’d be selling myself, and my dreams short if I did. There is so much I want to see, and so much I want to do. I also know that to learn about myself I need to be on my own. I hate being alone (single girl, and away from my family) but it is important that I do this to get my own perspective. I’m dreaming about things I never would have dreamed about, not because the people in my life don’t support me (they do) but because I’m seeing myself and the world through different eyes. The people I’ve met along the way have different connections, and the traveling teacher viewpoints I need. Thank you Cortney and Scott for all of the support and encouragement on this journey.

So overall, no matter where I go or what I do, I’m living my life, and figuring it out one little bit at a time. And I have options, and that is something that I should be so very thankful for. And once again music is saving my life: