I love how one weekend can completely change someones perspective. This was just such a weekend. The plan was to take a van to an old Ottoman town, Gjiokaster, and spend the Mother Theresa three day weekend exploring an old castle. Well, some people were sick, others tired and the plan changed. It became a Tirana weekend.
Perhaps the catalyst of my attitude change came Friday evening. What a way to begin three days of bliss! I made my Christmas plans. Three days in Prague, twelve days in Santa Maria, back to Prague for a day, and then home to Tirana in time for the New Year! These travel plans may seem ordinary, but it took about two months of soul searching to arrive at this decision. I felt an instant peace when I acknowledged that I would rather go home for Christmas than spend two weeks soaking up the sun somewhere along the Indian Ocean. How many days until Christmas?
Saturday, Entela, Tracey and I set out to the the Chinese Turkish Market to find material for this year's Halloween costumes (which will be revealed in a later post, I'm sure). We found the perfect fabric and bought enough for four dresses (for Sarah too, of course). The shop keeper actually had a little shop, as opposed to a stand. He was quite friendly and took a great deal of money off of our purchases. At one point, I started laughing. The man, who is in his late 50s, looked at me and very seriously said, "You are very beautiful." That made my day! I'm not naive; I know it was just flattery, but it's not everyday a girl is called beautiful.
We had such a lovely walk all around Tirana. It was cool, but not cold, the sun was shining, and the Lana River was not smelly. The sky was intensely blue and clear. Autumn days like this past Saturday do not come around too often. The three of us stopped for Albanian fast food: suflaqe. It's pita bread stuffed with chicken, yogurt, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. I highly recommend it. Our dining experience didn't end with the suflaque. Motla, and later Violeta, joined Entela, Tracey and me at Ferdinand's, my second favorite Italian restaurant in the city, for a late dinner. A good meal, followed by a relaxed drink, is always appreciated.
Sunday, I went to church, then went to lunch after. It seemed like such an American thing to do. Sometimes, I just love American customs. Especially, if it is dining with a family with two adorable boys. Then, I came home and Tracey and I baked cookies and walked to the produce market. While we were at the market, we heard the sunset call to prayer. It honestly is so haunting; I get chills every time I hear it.
The evening ended with Tracey, Entela and I having an impromptu dance party in my living room. We had had a movie/dessert night. Really, you can't watch Hairspray without feeling a bit inspired.
Today, was another good day. I did a bit of school work and then joined Stephen and Valbona for Transformers, at the Sheraton movie theater. Sarah, Tracey and Landi (our taxi driver) picked me up. We drove across town to the indoor swimming pool. It was a tough swim, but just what the doctor ordered. Tonight's excitement was Chinese food in the Vanest's living room.
Reading over this post, I realized how this sounds more like a journal entry than a normal post. Oh well. I needed a weekend like this. I needed to start seeing the good in Tirana. Finally, I looked past the crazy traffic, stray dogs, trashy streets and disorderly conduct. Rediscovering home is the ultimate adventure.