The last week

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.

We reserved the last week for saying goodbye to our friends, cleaning and packing, and completing the Peace Corps paperwork. We made a list of all the things we needed to do and people to see and then laid out a general plan. It is amazing that after 2 years, we still have not learned you can plan all you want, but to expect to actually follow the plan is a bit culturally insensitive.

It started well with Sunday afternoon lunch with the Bejo family. Carol worked with Monda and they have been good friends. From our first beach adventure to the many dinners at their house, their hospitality and friendship has been wonderful.

After a great Sunday, things returned to normal. Let’s just say each day had its own opportunities. From missed appointments (ie no shows), finding out the airline only allows one checked bag and learning about Carol’s thank-you party at 4pm the day before the party. And so the week passed quickly as we tried to say goodbye to our friends of the past two years, complying with Peace Corps end of service processes, negotiating the last minute adjustments to our plans, reschedule all Peace Corps meetings, and repacking luggage for shipping as freight, which includes a special trip to the airport. And we should mention the last minute photos which had to be taken, printed and delivered.

Friday afternoon, after returning from the Peace Corp office in Tirane, we delivered out final goodbye and completed our final pack and clean. A few open items remained, but we were out of time. Success! We ate a light dinner and just as we were finishing, the phone rang.

Aldo, the young man from the internet café that Criss has been working with, was calling and wanted us to go out for a coffee with him and his girlfriend. That’s easy, sure we can go in about 45 minutes. In Albania, a coffee is a coffee, beer, raki, ice cream or sandwich, however, tonight it turned out to be dinner. We went to a beach side outdoor grill for a light dinner of sauages and fried potatoes. Aldo ordered and our salvation was everything was served family style, so you can push your food around on your plate and make it look like you eating.

The evening was great, the food was good and a final dinner on the beach was the proper ending of our Durrës stay. As we headed back, Aldo says we need to stop by his house and see his parents as they have a small gift for us. He assured us it was just a small gift and we should have no trouble adding it to our packed bags. Well, small is defined as about the size of a shoebox and in fact, a pair of gym shoes were donated to the neighborhood used clothing pile in order to make room for this gift. (Note: these shoes were to be replaced immediately once we return to the states, so it was no loss.) By midnight, all goodbyes were said, the baggage was repacked and we were set.

It is so difficult to say goodbye to Albania and it is not over until your gone.

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