The last day

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. Usually, we go back to sleep immediately after this interruption, but today we were awake. After the call to prayer, the trash pickup crew came through and then we were serenaded in Italian by one of the workers who arrived early or got home late. So by 6:00 we were up.

Pack our toothbrush, final weighing of luggage and we were still within the limit. By 7:35 we were set, so there was time for a final check of email. At 8:15 the door bell rings and it is the landlord. She has come down to see the apartment, get instructions for using the dryer and for a computer lesson, as we are letting them use the last of month of our prepaid internet service.

No problem, we give the final computer lesson which lasts about 40 minutes – what does the shift key do, what does the delete key do (remember she speaks no Engish), the end key and so on. As soon the computer lesson was ended, she asked Carol to show her how to use the dryer and Carol also pointed out some the kitchen towels and furnishing we were leaving.

Around 9:00, Matt, the other volunteer in Durrës comes by to pick up some items we are leaving with him and one of Carol’s friend comes by with another gift – a very nice and heavy book about Durrës. After the friend leaves, Carol goes down to deliver the shoes and a shirt to the ladies that have shops on the corner. They have been the distribution point for our give-away clothes and household items. We also had photos developed that said in Albanian “We will miss you – Criss and Carol, May 17” and we gave each of them a copy.

Lots of tears at this point. Even now, we forget that no one (ie few) talks to each other across socio-economic classes and our just saying hello is a bigger thing than it should be.

Aldo arrives at 10 and we are ready to pack the car. He has forgotten the CD of music for Carol, so he leaves the car with us and he returns to the house. He is back before we figure out how to open the trunk. Final goodbyes with the landlord and Matt and we are off with one last goodbye to the vegetable vendor who sells from his truck on the corner.

At the airport, our bags make it on-board easily with 1.5 kilos to spare and we have a final coffee with Aldo. It was hard to say goodbye here, so we just kept is short to avoid any emotional breakdowns. And we are gone.

We do plan to return at least for a vacation and maybe Aldo’s wedding. We are looking for a way to do some part-time work in Albania with the Institute of Culture to continue the GIS work Criss has started. But at the moment, it is all a bit surreal – leaving our home of 2 years, having started a few things, completed none and feeling like we learned more than we taught and received more than we gave.

We will miss Albania. We look forward to getting back to our friends and family in the States. Each ending is a new beginning and we look forward to our next steps. We do not look forward to actually having to get real jobs, but maybe that will pass also. After all, we have learned to live on a very small budget!

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