The Vacuum

November 14th, 2008

Found this in the drafts folder while cleaning up & thought I would post it….

Ok….the previous post was not our last, but this might be.

Throughout our stay, we were watched closely and evaluated daily. One theme that seemed to re-occur was “you Americans are so clever, you can do anything”. A few quick stories and then you decide who was being clever.

The Desk

When Carol arrived at her office, the only desk (everyone worked at tables) had three drawers down the left-hand side but one of the panels that held the draws in place had pulled away and no longer supported the drawers. The drawers just sat on top of each other and only the top on was used as it was too difficult to get to the lower drawers. What was needed was some glue, take the drawers out and push the panel back into place with some glue on the dowels.

This was explained several times, but the response was “We need to get a carpenter to do that, but we have no money”. End of story, not my job.

Finally, we decided to fix the desk ourselves. We set the date for Criss to come to the office and help with the repair. Helping turned out to be doing while the office staff left the room when the work began. Once finished, they returned and while surprised it actually was back together, they were obviously not comfortable with us making the repair. (Only later did we learn the last person to touch something is responsible and therefore, never try anything unless you want to be blamed for all future problems.)

The Vacuum

When we moved into our apartment, there was a vacuum in the closet that had been used without a bag. After a day of disassembly and cleaning, Criss got the vacuum to work. The next step was to find a bag, so off to the appliance stores that sell the vacuum cleaners. Not a singe store that sold vacuum cleaners sold the bags. Baffled by this marketing, but not defeated, we continued our quest for vacuum cleaner bags.

As we asked for bags, the store owners would nod knowingly and say check here or there. We are convinced they had no clue, but were just trying to be helpful. Finally, as we were heading home, we passed an old, dusty repair shop with 3 old men inside drinking raki and watching soccer. Against all reason, we checked in and sure enough the store had bags.

We used the vacuum for 3 months and returned for another bag.  Not a bag in the shop.  So the quest continued and finally at a kitchen shop, they had a box of bags.  We bought several.

Vacuuming life continued as normal and the landlord observed that we had repaired the vacuum and was impressed.  Then one day, the oldest daughter asked if she could borrow the vacuum for only 1 day.  Sure, after all it was theirs.  1 week later, still no vacuum we asked about it.  Of course, no one knew anything about it and they would have to ask their mother.  Another week passed and we asked again when mom was around.  “Oh, it is at our beach apartment and we are using it there” was the reply to our request about it.  End of story, no offer to return it.

We are still puzzeled about this as we mop.

Final Post

June 13th, 2008

We left Albania with mixed feelings. We wanted to see family and friends in the states, but we knew we would miss our friends in Albania. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons Learned

June 13th, 2008

What have we learned from our 2+ year stay in Albania? Lots, but we will limit this to a short list. Some of the items have expanded entries and links are provided where that is the case. There is no importance in the order. We tried to rank them by importance, but it changed each day.

We return more engaged citizens, Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of Education

June 13th, 2008

If you read about Albania, you will learn that education is valued, a large percentage of the population holds a college degree and nearly everyone speaks 3 or 4 languages (Italian, English, Greek and Russian are the most prevalent). Over the course of 2 years, we have had an opportunity to observe the educational system and have come to appreciate that an education is more than passing an end of year examine. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking to People

June 12th, 2008

In relationships, it is often the little things that have the biggest impact. Read the rest of this entry »

When a Government Spies on its Citizens

June 12th, 2008

What happens when the government spies on its citizens and recruits individuals to monitor and report on each other? Living in Albania has given some insight to that. In the past under Enver Hoxha, there were approximately 50 years of totalitarian control. During this time, citizens were recruited to spy Read the rest of this entry »

The first day back

May 25th, 2008

Back in the States after the longest day filled with travel stress – the cab driver was 20 minutes late, the traffic was backed up at the airport, a large tour group arrived at the ticket counter just before us, we could only get our luggage checked to LA even though our final destination was Oklahoma City, the plane was late which made our connect in Frankfurt very tight. But even after having to re-check our luggage in LA, we made it and after two days of sleeping through dinner and being wide-awake at 3am, we are close to being back on a normal schedule.

What have we noticed the most…..

  • You have to drive to go anywhere. For 2 years, we could walk to stores to take care of most domestic purchases like groceries and clothes. After 2 days in OKC, we were already fatigued by having to drive everywhere for the simplest of things.
  • We actually know how to ask for items and we understand the answers.
  • Sugar is added to nearly every food product on the shelf and you have to be a careful shopper to avoid the extra sugar.
  • Sweet bread is not good, we miss the bakery.
  • The variety of fruits and vegetables in amazing….Criss is waiting for blueberry season.
  • The internet service is fast and always on – really always on.
  • We miss the 50-cent coffee.
  • It is quiet here, especially at 3am.

The last day

May 23rd, 2008

Each day has its surprises, but since we were leaving the house at 10am, there was not a lot of time for the usual number of surprises.

The day began early with the call to prayer at 4:30am. Read the rest of this entry »

The last week

May 18th, 2008

More fests, of course! If you have read the last 2 posts you have the idea. To say goodbye, we have printed off pictures and given out albums of the things we will treasure about Albania. And the memories are not of the days without power, how bitter cold it was this winter or how beastly hot is was in the summer. No, the things that first come to mind are the people and the warmness towards us. We have been included in so many things – conventions, archaeological trips, dinners, parties, outing to archaeological sites, meetings conventions and Carol has been on television several times to talk about activities of the women’s center. She is quite the local celebrity. Read the rest of this entry »

And the Fests continue

May 11th, 2008

Every day we come home frustrated that something has not gone off well, never has and never will. It fells like you are banging your head against the wall, and then we say, “I don’t know why, but I will miss this place”.

And that is the truth. Part of the answer is we will miss the people and the pace of life where there is always time for a coffee or party.

Read the rest of this entry »