5. Using the restroom in the wilderness:
At the begininning of May we were lucky enough to have a random Wednesday off from school. Scott, Robert and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and spend the majority of the day outside. We started out with a breakfast of bagels and coffees, and moved on to ice cold beverages while people watching at Shamrock. Next on the list was picking up some wine, so that we could have a bit of a picnic at the artificial lake. It truly was the perfect way to spend our day off.
We headed to the newest wine store we had found, and picked up a few bottles. Knowing this was the plan in advance I had brought a cork screw and some plastic cups with me. On this particular day the artificial lake was extra full, probably because it was a national holiday, so everyone wanted to soak up the sun We went back into the trails to find a nice place to lay down our blanket and pop open the wine. The unfortunate part was that Scott and I both had to pee, and there were no bathrooms in sight. Being an avid camper this was no problem, there were lots of trees all around, and I'm pretty good at doing the "gypsy squat". We attempted to find an area where there were no people. Scott went over behind a section of trees and I tried my best to find another area, however I couldn't, as there was a man that seemed to be following us and slowing down to watch us. What a creeper! Once Scott had finished he yelled for me to come over claiming it was a decent area, and him and Robert would protect me from on coming lookers. As I squatted down and began to relieve myself I noticed a syringe and needle nearby. Not okay! I'm not one who can typically stop mid-stream, and I knew that I was already exposed. I tried to finish more quickly and then noticed another 2 syringes with needles in them.
Luckily after this were were able to run and get rid of the creepy guy following us, and to find a slightly secluded area to lay our blanket down and sip on our wine. I needed those drinks to attempt to forget the yuckiness. I still cringe at the thought.
4. The night I almost got beat up by 12 year olds.
So back in January Cortney made a resolution to go out more. This tended to lead to us all going out, going home at like midnight and her and Kevin staying out until 10am the next morning. For Robert and my birthdays we decided to actually go out and stay out. We started with dinner at Taiwan center, followed by beers at my favorite brewery, which led us to Cargo (our then favorite "club") and on into the block to find somewhere to sing karaoke. The karaoke bar wasn't very interesting that night, so a few people opted to go home and the rest of us ended up at Whiskey bar (where I drank zero whiskey.) For the majority of the night I felt like I was in the background of some awful movie where the people go to a crazy bar. We danced on the tables, we danced on the bar, and we definitely dirty danced with the bartenders. Basically we were the last people there and decided it was time to head home, given that it was about 4:00 in the morning. Keven walked a few of our friends home in one direction, and me and Cortney decided we were fully prepared to handle our 20 minute walk home with my pepper spray in tow. Outside of the bar, we stopped briefly to dance with some 12 or 13 year old boys who were selling cigarettes. Take a minute to think this over. 12 year old boys. Selling cigarettes. At 4 in the morning.
They began to hustle us a bit to stick around and hang out with them. It was pretty clear they were looking for money. We began walking towards my house and were immediately followed by these boys yelling very inappropriate and rude things to us as we went. Naturally, as we strong headed women do, we responded by being defensive. I held up my mace, explained what it did (though I'm sure it was lost in translation) and told them I would blind them so they couldn't read anymore. Then I added in that I loved to teach kids to read. (What Tiara?!?! You are an idiot!) They kept advancing on us, being cheered on by an older 20 some year old Albanain man. So I sprayed a warning shot and followed Cortney as we ran as fast as we could, in high heels, to find a place where we could be safe. Unfortunately instead of smartly running back towards the people of the block we ended up on some deserted streets. We could still hear the group of little boys following us, so we ran into a courtyard and very slowly and quietly went up some stairs to wait for them to pass. We went up to about the 3rd floor, and sat down whispering out a plan for what we would do if they came up the stairs. The whole time I just wished I had any clue where we were, so we could call someone. Luckily, the apartment we were sitting in front of was doing some sort of construction and there were a few bricks next to us. Cortney passed one to me as we discussed the plan. If they came up we could throw the bricks, and run down the stairs back from where we had come, toward people. Eventually we would go, but we wanted to make sure they were gone first.
At one point we heard a noise, but thankfully it was just a rabid dog, acting all scary and weird. Eventually Kevin called us, but unfortunately we could not explain to him where we were. Taking the bricks with us, we made a run for it, Corney grabbed a large stick, and we ended up on the river road. Suddenly we realized how scary we must look running with bricks and stick toward a poor woman on her way to work. We called Kevin back, and said we'd meet him at AMC tower, but as it turns out there are two and we ended up at different ones. Cortney and I were close to my house, so we met him there and continued on our morning of finding food, and eventually, for me, a whole 2 hours of sleep. Worst birthday ever? Well I'll never ever forget it. The bricks still remain in my apartment as I speak.
|Home safe at 5:30am!|
3. The night I fell into the sewer.
Oh my. Where to begin? This story takes place in the beginning of January, the weekend after I got back from Christmas vacation. It was one of the very first nights of Cortney's resolution to go out more. We went in search of a great club. Needless to say, before we went out I had a bit too much to drink, probably because I was extremely homesick, but after walking a bit I sobered up and we found the club. We define clubs as good if there are people dancing inside, and there weren't. We weren't willing to pay the 5 dollar cover to get in to a bad club, so we opted to head to another place. Naomi's Husband (she works at our school) happens to work for a liquor distribution company, so we went to one of the bars he distributes to, to listen to some live music. Cortney and I danced to the pleasure of some slightly decent melodies, and after we had all finished our drinks we left, knowing we had a long walk ahead of us. We stopped at a few random locations, unwilling to pay the expensive prices for drinks, thought I am told we danced on some poles at one bar before they kicked us out. This is the part of the story that is blurry to me. I don't really understand what happened, but in Cortney's words, "The sidewalk crumbled under your feet." Apparently I stepped on a weak point in the sidewalk, it broke away and I fell into the sewage below it. I attempted to crawl out and fell down once again. Eventually they got me out and attempted to get me a cab home. I sat in the cab crying that I needed to walk home. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the stench in the cab, and all I wanted to do was walk. Adam and his poor nose kindly walked me to the river road, and I was easily able to get home from this point. I immediately changed, and started a batch of laundry after rinsing everything off in the shower. Unfortunately I had no hot water, and it was winter, so I had to wait until the next morning to shower. Gross. This was also the end of my favorite pants ever, as the crotch tore when I tried to crawl out the first time. This story makes me sound like some drunk. Trust me I wasn't that drunk. With Cortney as my witness I wasn't walking in a drunk way at all when this happened. I just stepped on the wrong part of the sidewalk.
2. The time I met the famous magician.
I have been to the post office many times to mail simple items like postcards, but I have never had to pick up a package from there. About 2 days before my birthday I received a slip from the post office, saying that I had a package to pick up. They don't deliver them, you have to go and get them. After school I decided to head there to get it, wondering to myself what would be inside of it. Upon arriving I knew it wouldn't be as simple as "giving them the slip, waiting, signing, and giving them some lek," which were the directions I was given. There a "line." And by line, I mean there was a gigantic hoard of people gathered around the kiosks waiting to pick up their packages, and yelling at the ladies behind the desk.
I overheard a man talking on the phone in English, holding a little boy in his arms next to me. Whenever I hear english I can't help but listen in, mostly because I'm just always intrigued. He said something like, "it is worse than it usually is, and none of the ladies I know are here. I'll be home a little later than expected." Then the lady next to me asked me something in Albanian. I didn't understand any of it. "Mafal. Anglist?" She just looked at me weirdly. Then the english speaking man responded to her in Albanian and asked me where I was from. As it turned out he was from Texas. I asked him what he was doing in Albania. He told me that his wife was from Kosovo and that he was actually a bit of a famous man in the area for his TV program, a magic show. At this precise moment some other kids came up to him and sort of smiled at him. He did a magic trick, pulling out a coin from behind one of their ears. Suddenly I noticed everyone kept looking over at us as we continued the conversation about why I was in Albania. Eventually he saw a girl working that he recognized and he told me to follow him. He gave her both of our slips of paper and told me we would just have to wait for one minute. Eventually she brought the packages back. He signed for his, and pulled out his wallet to give them some lek. As he opened his wallet it burst into flames. Yep. Burst into flames, and when he closed it it stopped. He kindly handed me my package and said he had already paid for it. I tried to pay him back, but he wouldn't accept. Thank god he came or I would have been there all night waiting in "line."
|Cool saying I saw a long time ago and haven't had a place to add. Random but a good message.|
1. The time the bus started on fire.
During my first few weeks in Tirana we made quite a few trips to the mall outside of the city called Teg. At this mall there was a store that had basically everything you could ever want (other than cheddar cheese and IPA) and it was a bit of a comfortable place for us foreigners to shop. We later discovered you could get all of these items at shops in the city. To get there you took a short 20 minute bus ride from the center of the city, which was about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. One day after school Cortney and I decided to head to the mall to pick up some school supplies. During the first few weeks here I had some terrible stomach issues. I grew up with a bad stomach but this was something new for me. We initially referred to it at Tirana tummy as all of us got it, but later switched the name to Tiara tummy, since I got the worst bit of it.
After finishing my shopping I left right away because my stomach was bothering me and I wanted to get home. Cortney stayed behind to do a bit of shopping for teaching clothes. I hopped on a bus just in time for it to leave which was perfect. I was psyched that I would still manage to get home by 7. About 5 minutes down the road the bus started feeling incredibly warm. I didn't really think much of it as it was a very crowded and non-airconditioned bus. However 5 minutes later people began to scream and squish together and shortly after the bus stopped and everyone ran out as quickly as they could. The bus was on fire underneath. The bus driver brought around a jug of water and poured it on, but the smoke and flames continued.
Lucky for us another city bus came along. I hopped on even though I had no idea where it would take me or how much it would cost. Luckily it's route happened to be through the center, and it only cost me 30 lek (30 cents.) Needless to say it has remained my favorite story of my time here, mostly because it reflects so much of what Albania is. A bus that looks fine and safe on the outside, but is full of corruption that may burst into flames at any moment.