Odds and Ends About Albania

I decided to dedicate this post to a variety of random topics about Albania that I keep wanting to share with you but have not gotten around to doing.

Dogs

Owning a pet in Albania is not nearly as common as in the States. I think the reason may have something to do with the cost of pet ownership. Since the average Albanian makes roughly 300 euros ($340) a month, pet ownership is too much of a luxury for most Albanians. Before arriving here I heard that Albania had street dogs that wander around the city and the idea of them frightened me a bit. I was especially concerned about coming across them when I run a couple mornings a week. Here are a few pictures of some street dogs that I took over the last few weeks.

The dogs are usually very laid back dogs who simply sit and watch you. If you pet them or express any kind of affection towards them, they will often get up and start to follow you. Generally, certain dogs stick to certain neighborhoods. As we walk through the city I have noticed that I always see certain dogs in the same general area.

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Do you see the yellow tag in this dog’s ear? That means this dog has ben picked up by the city, vaccinated, neutered or spade and then released back on the streets. The dogs almost always appear to be well fed although I don’t know how. I do see people putting bowls of food out on occasion. There are people who try to adopt these dogs and domesticate them in their homes. This usually is not successful because the dogs are used to having full run of the streets and don’t adjust to living in someone’s home.

Unfortunately, the saddest part about street dogs is that periodically a truck will go through the city and collect any stray dog they see and immediately euthanize them. This seems to be done in waves. We have lived here for one of those waves that I am aware of, so sad.  😦

Chinese New Year

Albania has a history of friendly relations with China that started in the 1960’s when Albania cut off diplomatic ties with all other countries during communism time. Albania eventually cut off ties with China too and did not reestablish a relationship with the until the early 2000’s. Today China supplies financial aid to Albania to build roads and power generating companies.

The Chinese New Year was in early February so the Tirana city center looked like this:

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The woman in the picture above is my friend Dana’s mother. Dana teaches Chinese at Albanian College. Her mom comes to stay with her for six months each year. Dana is an only child whose father passed away several years ago. Dana feels very responsible for the care of her mother. Her mom speaks only Chinese but Randy and I have found that with Google translate we can communicate with her a bit.

Money

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The unit of money used in Albania is the lek. One lek is approximately equal to one cent.  It really is convenient to have the bills a different color when you are looking through your wallet to find the money to pay for something. Also, in the third picture, notice how all the bills are not the same size. This system makes more sense to me than how it is in the States with all green bills, all the same size.

Albania is a cash society. In other words, we rarely pay for things using a credit card, we almost always use cash. This is completely opposite of how Randy and I pay for things in the USA. I am constantly having to remind myself to check my wallet for cash instead of just walking out the door with a credit card like I do at home.

Another interesting thing is that I am paid in euros (not lek) using direct deposit into my Albanian bank account. The school also pays the rent on our apartment by giving me euros in cash, separate from the direct deposit. Albania is too poor to be part of the European Union but since their country is in Europe they use euros for some transactions.

Staying flexible and open to new ways of doing things is important to being content while living in a foreign country. We are always telling ourselves to stay open to new ways of doing things.

Albanian Friends

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These are our friends, Edlira and Aldo. Edlira is my assistant at school. Here they have invited us to their apartment where Aldo has prepared a delicious traditional Albanian lunch for us. They are delightful, positive 20 somethings we enjoy spending time with.

While we were at their apartment they shared their wedding video with us. A couple of interesting facts about Albanian weddings are that when a couple decides to get married there are two events. One on a Saturday which is for the bride’s family and one on Sunday which is for the groom’s family. These events last 6 to 8 hours each. Also, Edlira had three different wedding dresses, one for pictures a couple days before the wedding, one for the bride’s family wedding and one for the groom’s family wedding. Edlira rented all three dresses. So interesting to find out about traditions in different cultures.

Another interesting part of Albanian culture is that there are very few nursing homes in Albania. As parents age, they move in with their adult children. The parents move in with their youngest son and his wife. When we were eating lunch at Edlira and Aldo’s they showed us where in the apartment their future children would sleep and where Aldo’s parents would sleep when they move in with them. I love this way of caring for aging parents! There must be very stressful times but overall it seems like a win/win for everyone.

Right now I am approaching the end of a nine week period of time with no days off school. Ugh! We are looking forward to our son, David, coming to visit next week. Cannot wait! We will then be doing some traveling in March and April.

As always, thanks for reading my blog!

 

 

21 thoughts on “Odds and Ends About Albania

  1. Love this post! It can often be the myriad of details that makes international travel and living so interesting and meaningful! Was Valentines Day celebrated at your school like we do here?

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    1. Who knows what we can do with a collection of coins from around the world. In my class in Fairport, i keep a canister of them. The kids love examining them, sorting them and talking about them.

      Mary, did you decide to go a river cruise or not? I think I remember you commenting about that a few months ago.

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  2. You have opened up a part of the world I knew nothing about, and your words make the learning a pleasure. What a great teacher you are! Also, as someone who lives with a father-in-law, I think the system of caring for parents is wonderful.

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    1. You do know first hand about living with an aging parent. I often wish my mom could have been with us more near the end of her life. One thing Edlira and Aldo also explained to us is that when Aldo’s parents move in with them the parents will help with child care while Edlira and Aldo are at work. I have not seen any child care centers here in Albania. It seems like the kids are all cared for by the extended family. Many of my students have grandparents that live with them. All so interesting…

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  3. Absolutely fascinating!
    I cannot wait to hear what Josh thinks about y’all moving in with him when you are older! 😉
    Can’t wait to hear about David’s visit.
    XO

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  4. Hi Sarah!
    I so love reading your blog posts! I was just thinking about you this morning on the way to school and wondering how life was going for you in Albania, and there you were! It sounds fabulous, still! I have to admit I am a bit envious! So happy for you and your experience and happy too that you will get a bit of a break to do a bit more traveling and to see your son!
    Love to you in Albania!
    Barb

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  5. Thanks for your lovely message, Barb! I hear that you will be retiring in a few months. How exciting for you and your family! I am sure you are looking forward to having more time to pursue your own interests and to spend more time with those precious grandchildren. Thanks again for keeping in touch. I am happy here but I do miss my friends including you. Hugs!!

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  6. Love your blog! Thank you for expanding our minds. Happy to hear about David’s visit … enjoy! Miss you here & looking forward to a walk & movie when you return. In the meantime, keep blogging! Hugs! Lisa

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  7. We have not been to a movie since moving to Albania. With the Oscars last weekend I had only heard of one of the movies so I’m definitely behind with all of that. A visit to Starbucks followed by a movie sounds wonderful and I look forward to when we can do that again. Hugs to you!

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  8. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for sharing all of those interesting things. I remember the street dogs in Spain and Ecuador, but never really thought about why, or how amazing it is that they are so tame!
    I’ve been meaning to reach out to you to see if you’re interested in participating in our Flat Stanley adventure. I think you may remember doing this with our class. I’ve been hesitant because I don’t want to create more work for you. But it might be something we could share with lots of Dudley teachers. If you’re interested, email me at emurphy@fairport.org and we could work out the details. If it seems like a lot right now with everything else on your plate, I completely understand, no worries!

    Continue to enjoy this amazing adventure! I’m so envious!!
    Ellen Murphy

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  9. Sarah, I really look forward to reading your blog! !! I am so glad you are enjoying your time there and you have the perfect attitude…..keep an open mind and stay flexible! Enjoy your next excursions!

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    1. Thanks, Martha!! I am wondering how you are feeling a few months from your retirement. A bit nervous and a bit excited? I think that is how I would feel. Hugs to you!

      On Mon, 4 Mar 2019 at 12:13 am, Teaching in Albania wrote:

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  10. Loving this blog. I want to adopt those beautiful dogs. So interesting that adoption is not viable option because they are used to roaming. So interesting that they randomly vaccinate and euthanize when needed.

    I love that the parents are cared for by their children, that it is expected/tradition. . I wonder if mental wellness/cognitive wellness among those elderly residing with their children and children’s children is better or improved. I’ve heard that is sometime the case.
    All cash society is interesting. My guess is you are at the ATM a lot. Or the bank? My guess would be there is a financial reason for the payment in euro’s. The connection/history to China is interesting that China cares for the roads. LOVE the dancing dragon , would love to have seen that. What an adventure you and Randy are on.
    Grateful you have nice friends to play with in Albania. I want to be one of those friends!
    Sarah, I am happy for you to have this experience. It will enrich your life and deepen appreciation for everything on so many levels.
    Love you sister 🙂

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