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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!