Settling Back into Tirana

We have been back in Tirana for about two weeks now and all is well so far. Our flights from Rochester to Tirana were on time and we even arrived with all of our luggage. Yay! Someone had suggested we put an Air Tag in each of our pieces of checked luggage which we ended up doing. Fortunately, we never needed to rely on the Air Tags but it was comforting to know they were there.

Our son, Josh dropped us off at the Rochester airport early in the morning on August 12th.
Here we go!
A month ago, I had no idea what an Air Tag was but I am learning. The Air Tag is linked to your phone using the Find My App. That way at any time you can see the location of your luggage. Pretty cool!
Our son, David frequently tracks our flights as he did here. It was a 10 hour flight to Istanbul from JFK followed by a two hour flight to Tirana.
The Istanbul Airport had areas called Napzones. They were lovely, quiet zones with outlets where you could relax and recharge at no cost.
We have arrived in Tirana and are headed into the airport. The airport was VERY crowded, more crowded than we had ever seen it. There are 30% more passengers in and out of the airport compared to two years ago. We have heard that the taxes on tickets has been significantly reduced causing the influx.
We flew from Istanbul to Tirana on an airline called Air Albania. Air Albania has leased some airplanes from Ukraine which is one of the planes we flew on.

The school pays for us to stay at a hotel for three nights so we can start to acclimate before moving into our apartment. Look at the yummy lunch we had after checking in.

We were thrilled to reconnect with our friends Edlira and Aldo on one of our first nights back in Tirana. As you can see, they now have a 10 month old son, Aled. He is adorable!!!
I have resumed my Saturday morning runs at Artificial Lake. It cost the equivalent of 40 cents to take a city bus almost anywhere in Tirana. It is a 20 minute bus ride to the lake and then about a four mile run around the lake. You may have read about the dogs in Albania on previous posts. I was amazed to see the dog in the foreground again. He laid in pretty much the same spot back when we were here in 2020.
This is our apartment building which is one of 10 identical buildings in the same complex. Our apartment is on the 6th floor. We loved our apartment last time and we are growing to like our current apartment. It is more dated and did not come as well equipped as our former apartment. The landlord has been working to get us a few more basic items (i.e. toaster, silverware, pots and pans, etc.)
If you look carefully, where the red arrow is pointing, you will see a cord that goes from our apartment balcony to the apartment tower across the plaza from ours. That is our internet connection. We could use a more traditional internet source but our landlord told us he had a friend across the way who had recently started his own internet company. The cord links us to his friend’s internet company and cost the equivalent of $8/month. All of our internet communication goes through a VPN so we feel safe using it. When we told our son, Josh (who is a network engineer) about this setup he thought we were crazy to get the internet this way. After giving him more details he feels okay about it. As we have all said to ourselves, “only in Albania.”
An early morning view from our apartment balcony.
The multiple fruit and vegetable stands continue to be plentiful all along our street.
We continue to buy much of our everyday groceries (milk, eggs, yogurt, etc.) here. It is a very small grocery store by American standards but it is amazing to see how well stocked it is.
Three years ago we could get a dinner of pizza and salad for the two of us for $7, now it costs $10. We are definitely noticing an uptick in prices of about 30% on many things. In talking to people who have lived here a long time this increase in prices has all come about in the last six months. This is somewhat hard on us but VERY hard on the average Albanian who makes a limited amount of money to start with. Depressing…
On a more positive note, Tirana is bursting with construction projects. Everywhere you look, there is a new high rise being built. We have not yet figured out what that means. The buildings are primarily offices and apartments. Are that many people moving to Tirana? Is it growing that fast? Will all these new buildings fill up quickly? The mosque in the picture was being renovated for the two years we were here previously and is now open. I am looking forward to going inside soon.
We just had our pictures taken for our visas.
I took this picture as I headed to school for the first day of teacher induction. The American flag has been added to the sign because last year the school started a new section to the school called the “local pathway” at the primary level and the “American Program” at the secondary school level. From what I understand this was done to boost enrollment and to create a more diverse student population.
Today I finished setting up my classroom, yay! I am excited to meet my students tomorrow. As I said earlier the primary students are now housed in a new part of the school. I LOVE all the natural light in my classroom!

One of our concerns with moving back to Tirana was Covid. The first day of teacher training the director of the school tested positive for Covid. The next day three teachers also tested positive. The whole staff then went to wearing masks throughout the day. Most of the meetings were put on Zoom. At this time, no one else has tested positive and we are hoping for a smooth, healthy start to the school year. Randy and I brought several Covid test kits with us but have not needed to use any of them yet, thank goodness! We have found out that it is fairly simple to get a Covid test in Tirana at no cost at several clinics around the city.

Before we came to Albania a couple weeks ago we were told that many places in Europe were having trouble getting flour because of the war in Ukraine. Because of the flour shortage we heard that there were very limited baked goods available. None of that has been true in Tirana. The baked goods are as plentiful as always. As I said earlier in this post the inflation rate here is very high. I do not know if that is a result of the war or Covid or because inflation is happening worldwide. I am looking forward to having a Ukrainian refugee child in my grade two class this year.

Thanks for reading this blog post. I always think I will be making a short post and then I keep adding more and more. Kudos to you if you are still reading! It will probably be a few weeks before I make another post. The craziness of school starting always takes a lot of time as my school friends know.

30 thoughts on “Settling Back into Tirana

  1. I eagerly read every word of this post, Sarah, and could hear “your voice” in my head while reading it.♥️ All of your students, including the child from Ukraine, are very fortunate to have you, as are your colleagues. Hope that you & Randy continue to successfully dodge COVID. Have a wonderful start to your school year!

    Like

  2. Fascinating as always! I am so happy to see you new set up. I agree with Josh the internet is slightly sketchy but what choice do you have? Gotta appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of your provider! Loved seeing the markets and the school. Glad you are settling right back in! Look forward to the next update!

    Like

  3. Glad you enjoyed reading the post, Sarah! It is possible for us to get a more traditional Internet set up if we want to. But for now, we thought we would try this. We’ll see what happens. 🙂 I was able to retrieve some of the books you had donated (three years ago) to Albanian College for my classroom. Yay!

    Like

  4. Sarah, I was so excited to read your first post and now this one. I love that you are back there; you are amazing! I am so looking forward to reading about your adventures, and those students are lucky to have you. Quick update from us: after going to Estes Park and having a family service for Katie; Collin, Madison, and Weston decided to move to Denver. Their favorite babysitters have decided to follow, so we are in the middle of yet another move.

    Like

    1. Talk about amazing! You are amazing! You’re moving to Denver and the mountains, sounds wonderful! I’m so glad that you are staying in the same city as that sweet grandson of yours. Good luck with your move! Collin and Madison are so fortunate to have you and Gary as babysitters!

      Like

  5. Sarah, Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Looking forward to the next one. Glad you made it back to Albania safely. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Like

  6. This is so great Sarah. I am so inspired that you are following your passion and sharing your gifts to give to greater causes.

    Thank you for sharing- Wishing you and your husband the best.

    Regards,

    Brett

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Brett! I must admit that I have a bit of a heart tug about not returning to teach in Fairport this fall. I am happy with my decision to teach internationally again but I do miss FCSD. All the best as you get started with a new school year!

      Like

  7. Sarah, I so love reading your posts! You and Randy are quite the adventurers. I admire that. You’re doing so much good in this world! Good luck with school starting and with steering clear of Covid. I look forward to seeing your next post. Love ya, Monica

    Like

  8. As always, I love reading your posts and seeing your pictures! I hope the start of your school year goes well. Stay healthy! 🙂

    Like

  9. Loved “catching up” with you! I am subscribed:) I just don’t check my email as often as I should!

    Like

  10. Sarah! Love the blog! So happy for you and Randy to be in Albania again. It is interesting about the air tags. Love the one lil wire providing internet for $8/mo. Your room for teaching is beautiful. Glad you have flour in Albania. LOVE your posts. Love you, sister Jeanette

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Sarah! Being back here does feel surreal at times. We are glad to have a bit more of international living. I did not know you had a blog. I LOVED reading about your first days in Albania and about the arrival of baby Edie. So glad we are still in touch after our Albania encounter.

      Like

  11. Sarah,

    I’m finally writing back to you in response to your blog posts. Way to go, Randy and Sarah!! You are such experienced travelers now. I can just feel it in your comments and your ability to settle back into Tirana with ease. I like your new approach to blogging. The ‘captions’ under the photographs are nice, informative and really help to tell your Albania story. I thought the apartment complex you are staying at now looked nice from your balcony when we were across the way!! The plaza always looked pretty, from above, anyway! Hope your kitchen is functioning now:)

    Classes have started. I hope grade 2 is easy for you to transition into. Some of the children have learned more English skills, I’m guessing, as second graders. It must be so heartwarming and exciting to see former teacher friends, neighbors, even store owners? again. That’s a lot of why you wanted to return, I’m sure.

    I will go for now. We are all fine here and in St. Louis. Everyone is happy to be in their school routines again. Andrew is feeling fine, by the way ❤.

    Enjoy your weekend. Hello to Randy!

    Laurie

    Like

    1. It was so good to read your comment, Laurie! Since you have been here you can really relate to where we are living, love that! I am so glad that Andrew continues to feel good. Thank you, God!!

      Like

  12. So fun to be reading this again. Just finished a 95th reunion with mom in Hilton Head. 21 attended. Enjoy your time and keep the blogs coming.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s