Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming to Albania

I've been wearing this song out.

I'm singing the title of this blog post in my head to the tune of "Living in America", which is two layers relevant since my friends, who live in America, are coming to Albania. Layers of relevant- mmmm, I want cake now. Wait, I get cake tomorrow! Here's why...

Bri and Timmie touch down at Rinas Airport tomorrow at 4 p.m., and they should be in my neck of the woods around 4:30. Since today is Tim's birthday, I went to my favorite bakery here in Tirana and got him a cake. I even went all out with cups, plates, and napkins. Between my love of cleaning, cooking for other people, taking copious amounts of group pictures, and throwing birthday parties I'm the best 1950's mom ever, minus the kids and plus 62 years.

Tomorrow is also the start of my 5 day vacation. I know what you're thinking- vacation, again? Do you ever work? Yes, I do, and yes, that's a sweet perk of being a teacher (yes, it was a consideration when I took this career path). However, this school vacation is unique because it is in celebration of 100 years of independence for Albania. When I moved to Albania I had no idea I'd be living here during their 100 year celebration, but once I found out I was grateful for the opportunity to witness it.

Towns have slowly become more and more flag and banner covered. Starting as early as late October flags began cropping up, and slowly more and more bunting and banners and fliers and ribbons have filled in the spaces to join everything together in a huge red and black takeover of the city. In the last two weeks there has been an exponential increase in preparations. Each day on my walk to work or the grocery store or to meet up with friends I see something new adorning a wall or the side of a building, and even the lamp posts are now black and red swirled. A huge, black, double headed eagle now sits in the middle of my nemesis, the traffic circle Zogu i Zi, and the circle itself is ringed with banners and flags. It definitely makes wading across the sea of traffic a bit more celebratory in the mornings when I congratulate myself for once again not getting hit by a car or a bus or a motorcycle going the wrong way.

Last minute construction and beautification projects are also springing up at an alarming pace. The most recent involved tilling up all the land and sidewalk in a small triangular park on our street. Since the sidewalk is gone, one must now walk in the street, which unfortunately does not have a shoulder. The center is also encircled with red and black columns, banners, and flags. The land is tilled up in some areas around the grass there, too, and it looks as though last minute sidewalk repairs are being completed. Another huge double headed eagle stands in front of the Skanderbeg statue (pictured in my blog header). The Albanian eagle is such a unique and strong symbol, and paired with all the black and red everything looks gloriously militaristic and proud. I can't quite put into words how I feel when I see all of the decorations, but it makes me happy to see the joy in everyone as they gear up for the celebration. Albania has had a difficult past, and independence means a great deal.

We plan to take Bri and Tim down to Gjirokaster, by way of Fier and Vlore. I know that I wasn't that into Vlore the first time, but as I mentioned it is the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and where the Albania flag was waved from what is now known as Independence Balcony. I'm sure we'll be in for a huge celebration when we stop by. We're also planning on seeing the ruins of Apollonia near Fier. Finally, we land in Gjirokaster for two nights. After driving through Gjirokaster on our way home from Saranda and catching a brief view of the old town I cannot wait to finally spend time there. Since driving has worked out so well for us thus far we're renting a car again. This makes our pit stops in Vlore and Fier much more manageable, without having to drag ourselves on and off buses with all of our things, or having to arrange timetables. I'm excited to give Bri and Tim a good old fashioned Albanian road trip!

I head straight from work to pick up the boys, and then it's going to be a non-stop independence vacation visitors from America party for the next 5 days. I'll see ya'll on the flip side. Hopefully not of our car. Just, you know, the normal, safe, not related to cars flip side.

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