So, I’ve officially been living in Albania for a week, and the one week anniversary of my first step into this office is today, fittingly, on the 4th of July. (Uhm, queue the fireworks?) No long weekend for us, and no barbecue smoke and sparkler dust to inhale in the streets of Tirana. (Do I really miss my neighbors abusing explosives and lighting their yards on fire? Yeah, I really do.) Amanda and I are both wearing red, white, and blue today to celebrate, but all in all it’s just another day at the office.
My first week in Tirana has flown by, but in a sense, I’ve felt that it has dragged on for ages. I’ve never experienced jetlag on this level before; Albania is 6 hours ahead of Michigan, so as I’m writing this post in the early afternoon heat, my pals back home are still drooling into their pillows while they sleep. It took me at least a couple of days to acclimate to the new time zone, especially after being awake for almost 40 straight hours during my travels from Detroit, to Rome, to Tirana. Who thought it would be a good idea to explore Rome for 6 hours after a 9 hour red-eye flight? This gal. And guess what, it was a good idea—I got to see the city, eat some good vegan food (ridiculously overpriced good vegan food, but I hadn’t eaten in 12 hours) and I didn’t even miss my plane to Tirana. Travel. Win.
The days here are long, hot, and humid. And with no wi-fi in our apartment, we’re forced to go outside and explore. (Not that I mind, of course) There’s literally thousands of things to do in Tirana. Want to be a café rat and try every variation of espresso there is? Well, you’re in luck, because there’s a coffee shop on every block. Want to become a yoga master and do some meditating? Good thing there’s a yoga studio right downtown that offers classes 6 days a week. Want to be a wanderer and just see where your feet take you? Put a pin on your apartment on Google maps, and get going! I’ve gotten lost here more times than I can count, but around every corner has been a new discovery to be made…
That being said, I’m horrible at following my own advice. My main pastimes while here have been downloading shows on Netflix to watch back in the comfort of our air-conditioned apartment, and eating fruits bought from the local produce stand. I’ve made next to no progress in my Albanian skills, and it’s beginning to cause problems for me. The other day, I almost left a cashier with and extra $40 because I didn’t understand what amount she was telling me to pay, so I just shoved a bill at her and turned to walk away. I only realized my mistake when one of my fellow interns, who speaks Albanian, alerted me to the fact that the woman was yelling at me to come back so that she could give me the proper change amount. So, the situation could have gone a lot better (I left with my change in my hand and my head hung in shame), but at least she didn’t attempt to rip me off. Luckily for me, most Albanians are incredibly friendly and helpful.
Now, it’s only my first week. Did I expect to be fluent in Albanian and a total Tirana expert by this time in my internship? Hell no. I don’t think I could be either of those things even if I spent a year here, let alone 8 weeks. So, from here on out, I’ll just take it a day at a time. I’m beginning to realize that not everything has to be so fast-paced and spur-of-the-moment, and nothing happens instantly. There have been, and there will continue to be, situations in which I am uncomfortable; situations that make me think: “man, I wish I were home right now.” But, there are also times when the beauty of this experience catches me off guard, and I think “of course I’m here right now, there’s no place I’d rather be.”