Covid, London and Home for the Holidays

A couple weeks after my last blog post, in late November, I tested positive for Covid for the first time. I felt horrible for two days and then just tired for a week or so, grateful for my relatively mild symptoms. When we came to Albania in August, we brought several Covid tests with us plus a supply of cold medication. We ran out of both. It is not possible to buy at-home Covid tests here but there are many clinics where, for $15, you can have a test done. The person at the clinic wore no mask even though her job was to administer Covid tests. So interesting and different than many other nations.

Since we ran out of our cold medication supply from home, I went to one of the many small pharmacies near our apartment to find something similar. We have roughly 5 small pharmacies within a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Almost all the pharmacies are staffed by pharmacists who speak excellent English. They suggested I try Tylolhot which cost $2 a packet and could be taken every 6 hours. It is a powder that is dissolved in hot water and consumed like a hot tea. I found the taste to be likable and it felt good to drink something warm when I didn’t feel well. Maybe we have something similar in the States and I am just not aware of it. I liked using it better than DayQuil and will probably bring some back to the States to have on hand.

A final thought about Covid. Last fall I asked about getting a Covid booster. I was told it would be better to wait until I went back to the States to get the vaccination. The physician I was talking to said that most Covid vaccines that were administered in Albania were donated from other countries and there weren’t many available at the time.

That was probably way too many details about being sick but I did find it interesting to get a glimpse of health care in Albania.

As you might remember, Randy went back to the States in late October to deer hunt. Our son, David, was very sweet and said he wanted to meet me somewhere in Europe so we could visit the Christmas markets. He said he felt bad that I was by myself in Albania. I feel perfectly comfortable on my own here since I have a supportive school community to socialize with. Regardless, I appreciated our son’s concern and thoughtfulness. We decided we wanted to go someplace that had a direct flight for both of us. After some thought, we decided London was the best choice.

Upon arriving in London, after a 3 hour flight, one of the first things I saw as I walked through the airport were several of these signs. I admire the UK for being so welcoming to Ukrainian refugees.
Another interesting sign was a reminder about Brexit and that the UK is no longer part of the EU.
Look what else I saw walking through the airport!! Ben & Jerry’s is a big weakness for me. I had never seen it come from a machine before. Yum!!!

We watched the Changing of the Guard Ceremony which starts at St. James Palace and ends at Buckingham Palace.
Heading towards Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s (King’s) Guard arriving at Buckingham Palace. The Guard’s uniforms are gray during the winter and the more traditional red during the warmer months of the year.

Seeing Buckingham Palace does not disappoint. This was the first time I had ever taken a tour, it was well worth it. The flag on top of the palace let us know that the King was not at home at the time we were there.

Isaac Newton is buried at Westminister Abbey as are many others including the following:

The Coronation Chair which has been used at the coronation ceremony for every British monarch since the 1300’s. It will be used for the coronation of King Charles III this coming May.

Hearing a Salvation Army Band on the street added to the charm of being in London at Christmas time.

Dishoom restaurants (there are eight of them) are very popular in London. They take limited reservations which meant we ate dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon so that we would not have to wait in line as long. This was our favorite place to eat featuring flavorful and authentic Indian food.

The Churchill War Room is a relatively new (2003) museum in London. We felt it was well worth the time it took to walk through the actual underground emergency shelter where so many decisions were made during WWII. Also, learning more about the life of Churchill was interesting.

The last time we were living in Albania we did not go back to the States for the holidays. We traveled instead. Now that all of our children and grandchildren live in the northeast part of the U.S. we decided to go home for three weeks. The time went super fast and I felt like I squeezed in a lot in those three weeks.

The grandchildren and their Grandaddy thought it would be fun to cut down a Christmas tree from our Scio property. Notice how huge the tree seems to be.
Dragging the tree to the truck to load it up and take it home.

My mother used to make candy villages with her mother at Christmas time, then I did the same with my mom. My children made candy villages with me when they were young and now my grandchildren have made a candy village to celebrate Christmas. Making candy villages at Christmas time is a five generation family tradition! I loved seeing all the creativity from picking out the various candies to how the children wanted to design the village.

We weren’t sure David and Kevin would be able to make the three hour drive from Schenectady to our home because of the blizzard. They ended up having no problems.
Since the Chervenak Family has lived in South Africa for the last four years, Juliet has no memory of going to see Santa Claus. It looks like she enjoyed the experience!

Christmas Eve dinner followed by Christmas Eve Church

This picture was taken around midnight on Christmas Eve. I love the calmness of this time of the season. All the preparations are complete and there is now time to sit, relax and take it all in. Although I am not Catholic, a tradition I always enjoy is watching the Christmas services from the Vatican which is what you can see on the TV. The experience is so calming and helps center me on why we are celebrating. Notice how small the Christmas tree looks compared to how huge it looked before the family cut it down.
…and a family dance party…
…and watching Bennett zip around on a scooter that used to belong to his Uncle David.
I flew back from Washington D.C. in early January in time for school to start again on the 9th. As I was waiting for my luggage in Tirana, I noticed this sign which I thought was so interesting.Who knew there was medical tourism in Albania?? I do know that there is a plastic surgeon from Italy who has set up a practice (primarily doing nose jobs) near us. It is very common to see young people walking around our neighborhood with big white bandages covering their noses. As I understand it, the plastic surgeon makes a lot more money practicing in Albania. He offers some type of package that includes the surgery, airfare from Italy and a hotel stay. I never get tired of learning about the happenings that occur while living internationally.

Well, that’s it for now. School is going well. Right now I am teaching my grade two students a unit on family history. They have been busy making timelines of their lives, making a family tree, interviewing family members from an older generation and writing an autobiography. It has been a fun unit to teach!

Next week is our February Break so Randy and I are headed to Barcelona and Porto, Portugal. I am looking forward to some time away from school.

As always, thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Covid, London and Home for the Holidays

  1. Thanks so much for this blog entry, which was so fun to read! So relieved that your encounter with the medical community in Albania has been at a minimal level so far. Sounds like your school year continues to go well. Enjoy your February Break trip!♥️


  2. This is amazing, as usual! :). Such fun to see your pictures and read about your many adventures. Have a wonderful trip to Barcelona and Portugal! Wishing you and Randy continued Good Health!


  3. So happy you were able to spend Christmas this year with your children and grandchildren! Your London trip sounded fabulous, too. We spent a week in Portugal last October and really enjoyed Porto. What wonderful adventures you are having!


  4. As always, I love reading your blog! I hope you & Randy have a wonderful trip to Spain & Portugal .. what fun!



  5. As always, I love reading of your adventures. I’m always glued to each post. Thank you for continuing to share. And there’s nothing like young grandchildren to brighten up your days! So glad you had that time together. Enjoy your next trip.


  6. Wow Sarah, that was a great blog! 👍 I feel like I’m all caught up with you and your family. Great photos! I’m so glad you enjoyed your Christmas back at home with the kids and grandkids Going to visit David in London was a great idea! We’ll have to catch up with a phone chat soon! Love and miss you, Pat


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