Almost without noticing, earlier this month it was six months since we arrived in Albania and started our adventure. It feels like forever and yesterday all at the same time.
Our crazy life has become so normal to us. This was brought home to me when my parents came to stay in June. Their reactions to the everyday madness of life in Tirana reminded me of how I first reacted when I arrived – before it all just became normal!
Hands down what I’ve treasured most is that I’ve spent pretty much all day every day of the last six months with my husband. Who gets to do that these days?! We’ve been able to have the best of each other’s time – not the bits left over after a long day at work. It’s pretty much been the best way to start married life ever! That I’ve not driven him completely crazy is a testament to how amazing he is!
The next best thing is the ‘not working’ bit! It is amazing to have eliminated work stress from our lives – which isn’t to say that it hasn’t been replaced by other stresses, like money stress!
Looking back at my strategic plan, put together in December last year, I’ve been able to tick off six of my ten objectives. Not a bad effort! My biggest failing has been in (not) mastering the Albanian language. My understanding isn’t too bad at all – I can follow most conversations – but my speaking is terrible. It’s been too easy to rely on English-speakers around me and it’s definitely made me lazy!
It’s also been disappointing how little time we’ve been able to invest in the farm house. A lesson for me in how things aren’t quite so easy to achieve here as they may be in the UK or NZ.
I have definitely improved my Albanian housewife skills. There is always a supply of drinks and snacks in my cupboards that can be served up to unexpected guests. The house is never more than a few minutes away from extreme tidiness (although I should confess this is more due to the efforts of my husband than me – oops). I can prepare the guest bedroom in mere minutes.
I have come to love Albania – although I am not blind to its faults. This country has so much potential but too many of its citizens have little sense of their civic responsibilities. (Yet who can blame them after generations of politicians and leaders have repeatedly ripped them off.)
I find myself screaming in frustration on an almost daily basis at the bizarre bureaucracy. It is not unusual for us to spend a day walking between four or five government buildings before we’re finally directed to the one we’re supposed to be at. Or, turning up at the visa office to collect my visa only to discover that almost overnight the visa office has been relocated to a town outside of Tirana! And don’t get me started on the driving…
It has been a challenge to live in a culture where there are prevailing views that seem so out of step with what I am familiar with. I particularly struggle with the societal position women are shoe-horned into.
But I am embracing the simplicity of life… the locally sourced, deliciously fresh and tasty food, the companionship of family, the relentlessly beautiful weather, the lazy coffees that last for hours, the evening walks through the mountains behind our apartment building. It’s not a bad way to live.
Six months brings us to our half-way mark on our one year adventure. But plans always change and the next six months are certainly bringing some new challenges as we figure out where to next.