Iowa Martins in Albania

Thursday, September 17, 2009

first weekend in Albania--August 2009

Here I am on Saturday afternoon in Albania. I'm sitting in my classroom which is a good thing because it means that my room has a computer that can access the internet. The greatest thing about this country is the people. I know I hear that from everyone about everywhere. I’ve even heard it said about Kazakhstan. I don’t even listen to it anymore, but just like there was a big popcorn ball in Sac City, this time I’m telling the truth. People smile and when you go into a shop, they try to help you. It’s like they understand the idea that their customers are the key to their livelihood.
This morning, as I ran through a huge park not a half mile from the school, there were several crews of workmen repaving the trails. My foot caught on a string that I assume was there to mark the height of asphalt or something. The string broke. I can think of nothing more annoying if I were a guy working on the sidewalk than a foreigner in a tie-dye shirt come bopping along and ruin my painstakingly placed marker. I couldn’t say that I was sorry. All I can do so far is say thank you (five syllables!) and I count to five. I looked pained made a motion of regret. The nearest guy with a hard hat motioned that I shouldn’t worry about it. The man making the motion was probably not the one who placed the string, but the sentiment was nice. I can imagine something similar happening in Kazakhstan and people yelling at me trying to fine me money. After all, money can salve all wounds.
Things are not expensive here, either. A similar jar of jam that costs $5 in Kazakhstan costs $2.60 here. I bought a monitor and printer for decent prices. I got ripped off on the price of a used computer case, but that was because I didn’t try to haggle or negotiate. I feel like it was partially my fault—I have to get into the culture. Peanut butter, however, is more expensive. When you all come to visit, please bring chunky—at least 32 oz.
We don’t get charged anything for using our ATM card here—just like in Kazakhstan. That means that I can use the card for less here than I can at the Des Moines airport.
Our house has three floors and air conditioners in several of the most important rooms. We live about 3 minutes from our classrooms; the only problem is that we have to go down two flights of stairs use a key to open two doors, and then go up two flights of stairs before using a key on our front door. The younger students, eight years old and less, have their own buildings. The older students have classes in a couple buildings not far away.
Tonight we are going to a BBQ hosted by one of the parents. I think they may be inviting a bunch of people so they can have a look at the new teachers.
The weather has been hot and humid everyday. No rain, which I’ve been told will change soon.
On Monday, the boys and I went with the 7-year-old teacher (a guy from Kentucky) to the beach. We left at 8:10 and were in the water by 9:00. HUGE amount of people. The sand is dark and looks like mud from 10 meters away, but it isn’t mud. Nevertheless, it gets into clothes and hair easily. The water was beautifully warm, but definitely salty.

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