"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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Love Affair with 'Merica: Debriefing

It is my last day in the states for potentially 2 years. It's crazy and I have to say I'm feeling much more prepared for this move than the last one. But, it is that time once again, to write so that I can process through the life I'm living.

So I had a ton of fun in America and I know that next time I return I need to plan more time so that I get to some more places to see some more faces and concerts. Mostly I want to get out to Colorado, and possibly to Omaha. Can you say road-trip  I also didn't have enough time to get some of my vaccinations  so I'm heading to Indonesia without the most important one. Yikes :S My 3 weeks here was way less stressful/scary than I expected it to be. While I enjoyed my time here I finally realized yesterday that I'm ready to get on with seeing new things and having the adventurous life I desire. This round of leaving seems easier in a lot of ways and harder in a few.

I found packing much easier. Last year I packed 3 bags plus a carry-on, this year I packed 2 and one is a third filled with a sleeping bag. I'm pretty sure I have everything I need too. It's crazy how I'm able to fit my whole life in 2 suitcases. I'm also finding that I'm not as overwhelmed by the insanity of moving. Last year I was constantly thinking about my move. This year my freak-outs just come in small waves, and then they are gone, and I forget about the whole dilemma.

The goodbyes have been a lot different. I thought last year was the last time I would ever see two of grandparents, now I pray that it was the last time I say goodbye to two of them. They have both lost it, and are no longer happy, so I hope they can go and leave their families behind in peace.

Saying goodbye to Daryn was a lot harder since I'm not sure when I'll see him next, and I feel like our relationship is changing. Not exactly for the worse, I just know it isn't the same, and it scares me. In a good way I think. When he hugged me goodbye he told me that after this I could only have one more country because he hated doing this too much. The fact that even he is saying this is a good sign that I probably need to come permanently sooner, rather than later. Time will tell.

Saying goodbye to my mom has been easier. I know I get to see her in a year, and I know that she will always be there for me. I talked with her about it and she feels better about it too. She said our relationship has probably gotten stronger in the last year and that she is really proud of me and what I'm doing with my life.

I do not want to say goodbye to my niece and my nephew. Q will be 3 the next time I see him and K will be 6. That's just plain crazy! It breaks my heart that she told my mom "I like skyping with TT, but playing is much better."
At Bradford beach with Q&K

So here is a brief summary of what I know after this trip:

Firstly, I love Minnesota. I love the people, I love the beer, I love the music, and I love being so close to my family.

Something that surprised me: I prepared myself for a lot of the shocks. The first thing I noticed that I hadn't thought of was all the different kinds of cars. Trucks, vans, SUVs, America has it all, while Albania has only one. The grass was also still a major surprise. Enjoy your lawns America. The rest of the world doesn't have them.

Something that changed that I didn't expect to: The beers. So many breweries and beers I hadn't heard of or tried. I don't know what I'm going to do when I come back in 2 years. They will basically all be different.

Something I learned about myself: I like to pretend I'm an independent person, but in some cases you just have to become a reliant person. These weeks taught me that I rely on my family for a lot of support, and I still don't think I've acknowledged that enough. There is no way I could have made it through all this stress without them. Shots, appointments, a packed schedule, and visa troubles. You guys rock!

Something that makes me feel awful: The 27 year old girl who lives next to my parents has never been more than 30 minutes away from my home city. And she has no desire to travel anywhere else. AGH! This is horrible.

Something about myself that changed: Does anyone have any ideas? I haven't noticed that much, but I've been living with myself for last 10 months, and you haven't. I feel like basically the same person. I like my IPA, my bluegrass, my grilled food, and my late nights with my brother. Maybe I'm a little bit more independent?  Or potentially I'm more flexible? I noticed myself wondering why everyone kept planning things so intently. Then I remembered that this is America.

Something that stayed dramatically the same: I need time to myself. Yesterday I just couldn't take it anymore. I decided to workout. My niece came to try and talk to me while I was doing so, and I though I felt a little awful doing it, I turned my music up and ignored her. I just needed my hour to myself to process my life. After I said goodbye to Daryn I had to go downstairs to "nap" or just listen to my music and cry for an hour.
Smelling the fresh air of Wisconsin
Something that confuses me: I sat down for dinner with my best girlfriend. We got to talking about boys and our issues with them. After a little while she noticed my face and commented "oh my...you're still not over him are you?" I responded with "Nope. I keep trying to remind myself about all the awful things he did to me. I've put 3 years and half a world in between us, and I still can't get over it. Something has to be wrong with me." She assured me nothing was wrong, and that if anything this just proved that I was a strong headed woman who stuck with the things she cared about. But why do I still care so much?

Something I want to copy: My brother is crazy passionate. I'm so happy he hasn't changed too much as a person, he just took his passion and multiplied it. by like a hundred. It was a reminder I needed. He taught himself several new instruments and began playing with several more bands. I love listening to him talk about the gigs he played and the band members/friends he has met along the way, while noticing his eyes light up with his descriptions. Listening to him play some new song and falling in love with the lyrics will be one of my favorite memories of my time home. I feel like last year I didn't meet many people with passion like this. I hope I can take this lesson to heart and think about ways to multiply my passion next year.

Well, there you have it. For my last day in the US we had sticky buns for breakfast while dancing in the kitchen to some great tunes. After morning nap I am going out for brunch/bloodies with my family and bestie, followed by an afternoon of laundry/packing. This evening we are having my homemade mac&cheese for dinner followed by popcorn and a movie night.

And that's it folks. I'm outta here. Time for a new adventure to begin.
And may it always be so...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Minneapolis: My true home

So after spending 8 days in the city I called home before leaving for Albania,I feel like I know, without a doubt, that someday I want to live there again. The only problem I potentially see about this is that Minneapolis is a changing city, and I can't guaranty it will be the same when I'm back.

Here are a few things I took for granted while I was gone:
1. The impeccable city artwork. The walls of the buildings are covered in murals, beautiful colors woven together to make the chunk of cement look less like an eyesore and more like happiness. Tirana had its fair share of art doused buildings, but the quality was poor, to say the least.
2. The beer. I know, I'm obsessed, but for real people! In the last 10 months several breweries have opened in the area. I had to ask about so many beers that I had never heard of. And I thought I knew IPAs....
3. The parks and backyards. You can go less than a mile in any direction of your house and run into an area covered with grass, trees, swings, and jungle gyms. What a privilege! Then there are backyards offering you the benefits of sunning yourself, sitting and drinking a beer, and socializing with your friends. Balconies don't have nothing on the comfort of grass. I just missed the green!
4. Bikes! Riding my bike felt like flying. So much better than walking or driving a car. Not to mention that Minneapolis is rated one of the best cities to bike in.
5. The people. Holy nice, Batman! Do people really think that Albanians are the most hospitable people in the world? I won't lie, I've met my fair share of kindness in Albanian, but not to this extent, and never with this many different people in one day. Maybe it was a language barrier issue? I don't know. Either way I felt very welcomed.
6. Live Music! Holy Mama. Don't even try to pretend like you have live music Tirana. If you had live music it would mean that even old people would come out to see it, and they would dance to it. That is live music.

Things I did while I was there:
1. Drank waaaaayy too much IPA. Except I still haven't had enough to make up for the year of Pilsners.
2. Watched live music from the following bands: Roe Family Singers, Armstrong Clawhammer, Pert Near Sandstone, Trampled by Turtles, Brady Perl and the Kinfolk Choir, Reverend Daryn Christenson, Pocahontas County, and one other Jazz band that I can't remember the name of.
3. Went out to the 3 most popular college bars with my college friends.
4. Went shopping at the mall of America (worst experience ever!)
5. Spent 2 weeks paycheck at REI
6. Sat and stared at my brother's ceiling covered in artwork

Song that describes my week there:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Back in the states: Mild Shopping

This morning I woke up, after 4 glorious hours of sleep post 17 hour flight and a few beers with friends, ready to take on the day ahead of me.

Okay...so I woke up at 5:00am confused about where I was and why I couldn't just sleep. Seriously body. 8 hours in 3 days isn't going to cut it if you plan to do all the things on your list. After rolling around for 90 minutes I opted to get myself out of bed, shower and get ready for my "relaxing" day. I had planned on heading to the U to turn in my Master's completion form, but surprise they changed the form since I printed it out. Oh well. I caught up on some e-mails, drank some water, spent 30 minutes reorganizing my luggage for future use, and after seeing Daryn off to work and Luka of to Idaho (yes, I already had to say goodbye to one awesome friend) I decided to head to the store to pick up some essentials. As it turned out I didn't need much because Daryn already had stocked up on yogurt and some grilling supplies. I figured I could go and just get some fresh fruits for snacking as a way to stay healthy.

Oh America....

So I drove (yep, with no problems or freakouts) the 5 blocks to the store. I wish someone could have video taped all my reactions. I immediately grabbed raspberries and blueberries, and proceeded to scan the rows and row of fresh produce looking for something intriguing. I found it: avocados. Ripe, green, perfect avocados. Guacamole! I wanted to make some. What else did I need for guacamole  Tomatoes, onions, cilantro(?), limes, garlic, peppers (?) Wait, peppers are for when I make salsa? I was confused. And I got a little dizzy trying to find the limes, but I got all of the items I needed and headed on to the rest of the grocery store. The donut selection was overwhelming, and I purchased one because I couldn't resist. I was going to go up and down each aisle, but opted to take the easier route. I just looked up and down them from one end and went down when I saw something I wanted. The hot sauce availability was overwhelming. All those delicious mexican ingredients! I just kept smiling and screeching "ermagherd!" under my breath. Cheddar fricken cheese! Extra sharp! Chocolate milk!

I got nervous waiting in the checkout line. Do I have enough money for all of this? Wait I pay with a credit card. How the hell do I swipe a credit card? All went well. On to target.

I grabbed a java chip frappucino,because it has been so long, and I can tell you that for the rest of my time home I will be sticking with black coffee. It was delicious, but way too sweet (Let's be real, I also ate a donut covered in frosting this morning.) I managed to find a pair of brown flip flops for pretty cheap, so I grabbed those and headed to the clothing section. Mistake. I almost threw up, and then opted to grab the 2 or 3 items I actually really needed, and then see how I felt about clothes. Eyeliner: too many choices, I just grabbed the first one that looked decent. Water bottle: I knew exactly what I wanted. I stopped and grabbed some nuts for healthy snacking. Umbrella: done. I browsed the clothes, but not really, and then headed out.

So far today I have eaten yogurt, half a banana, a frappucino, and a donut, and it is 10:30am. Yesterday I had taco bell. I'm about to head for a walk to the university to pick up some forms, and turn them in, and then I'll probably head home for some salad and a beer for lunch, followed by happy hour and potential grilling with my brother.

P.S. This blog is titled "mild" shopping because when my brother asked me if I was going to the mall I responded by telling him I had to wait for mom and dad for that because I needed some serious support.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My favorite places in Tirana

One of those blogs I've been meaning to write for awhile. It sadly, may be the last. Some of these may be very personal, while others may be highly related to food and drinks.

10. Duff Bar. Why did you have to wait until 3 weeks before I leave to come into my life? Sports bar? Packer gear on the wall? Only "good beer" available for purchase? Delicious mojitos for only 300 lek? Who could ask for more. You easily could have risen to the top 5.

9. Public House. You are a pretty cool bar, with pretty forward thinking people, and better music than any of the other bars around here. And sometimes even decent live music. Thanks for that.

8. Shamrock and Cheers. I'll lump these two together. Mostly just because I go to both of them for the same reason. To drink delicious Paulaner on tap and people watch with my boys.

7. Atsh Cafe. The fresh coffee smells you produce are wonderful. The coffee is great, the tea is better. I had so many nice chats at you little cafe.

6. Jimmy's Pizza. "Jimmy has done it again! This is the best pizza I've ever had." -every time we go. Thanks for the Diovola.

5. The Artificial Lake. Thanks for the runs, thanks for the beer walks with my boys. Thanks for the wine picnic on May Day.

4. Brauhaus. This is one of the few places to get good beer that is brewed in Albania. The red is fantastic, and they even have bock on tap! Also the beer still cost under 200 lek ($2) on tap. The atmosphere is classy, but in a comforting way, and the bathrooms are the top rated on my list of Albanian bathrooms.

3. Umbrellas. I don't know the name of the actual place, but it is where we typically meet after work when we need a beer. The lady who works there is so sweet. She usually gives us free food, and speaks Albanian to us even if we don't speak any back. This is also the first place I ever had a beer in Tirana, and it is where I met Scott.

2. The Holy Tree. Mostly because it the place where I meet my favorite people. "Meet at the holy tree at 7?"

1. Scott and Roberts balcony. Thanks for the drinks, for the laughs, and for the talks.

Well, thanks for all the great times Albania. It's been a year, to say the least. Not a day will go by where I don't think about how lucky I was to have this experience.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Madness. Melancholia. Panic and Fear.

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.
- Graham Greene

Confusion wraps around my heart and brain, and it won't let the feelings out. I try my best to comprehend all that I will go through in the next month of my life, but for some reason my mind won't let me escape all the way to Jakarta before my heart feels completely overwhelmed. 

For awhile I thought the reason was because this time around I'm leaving America for two years, but when I embarked on this journey to Tirana, I didn't expect to go home for two years. Then I realize that it will be more than two years before I can call anywhere in America home. To top off that comprehension, I also recognize that Albania will never again be my home. As we were out walking this weekend I noticed a coffeeshop that sold cafe american in to-go cups. I immediately thought I'd greatly enjoy spending my Saturday morning walking around the artificial lake with a cup of coffee in my hand. I turned to Scott and mentioned this, only to have him point out that I'd easily be able to do this in America in 2 weeks. 

Then there's goodbye. Last time I dealt with saying goodbye to my brother and best friends in Minnesota, and about 2 weeks later I said goodbye to the rest of my family. 2 families, 2 homes. Now I have 3 families, and 3 places that feel like home. I say goodbye to one, head home to be greeted by my loved ones whom I haven't seen in nearly a year. I say goodbye to Minneapolis, to head to my other home, only to greet it and say goodbye less than a week later. Then I have to move on to create another family, and a new home. Let's just top all this off by pointing out that I am also saying goodbye to twelve fantastic students, and less than a month later I'll be starting a job teaching a new grade, at a new school, with all different curriculum. 

As I type I become overwhelmed with happiness and sadness. 10 months of my life. The best, and the worst all compressed into photos, my blog, 2 suitcases, and my small beating heart. No one cares. It is understandable and frustrating. 

I haven't started packing. I took out my suitcases and laid them on the floor on my living room, weeks ago, hoping this would convince me to do something, anything. The school had a clothing drive, so I managed to sort through and create a few bags of winter goodies, no longer necessary. My luggage sits, nearly empty. 

Madness. Melancholia. Panic and Fear. I beg you to escape me.