Monday, September 27, 2010

Some photos or Tirana

A view from our balcony. I have to stop myself from taking 100s of pictures of the same scene, because the constantly changing light makes such fascinating, subtle differences in the view. After rain, you can see individual trees on those mountains, the air is so clear.

The local fruit stand, literally around the corner from our place. We are on the 10th floor of an apartment building. The tiny elevator is precisely big enough for me carrying Gabriel in the Bjorn, Terry, and Valerie in her stroller (which I am SOOOOOOOO glad we brought!!!). There was nobody at the fruit stand at this moment because it was raining. I took the photo from in front of the 3-story grocery store where we get most of what we need. Each floor is a tiny maze of shelves: meat, dairy, and eggs on the first floor; pantry stuff and toiletries on the second (including Pampers and ketchup - the essentials of life with two littles); stuff like handbags and clothes on the third floor. Very handy! Except of course the stairs which I can't get the stroller up, so can't (yet) take Valerie there as she refuses to go anywhere except in the stroller. But that's another story.
Terry pushing V. down the street in said stroller.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Veze (there's supposed to be an umlaut over the second e)

On Thursday, I went to the corner grocery near our place to buy eggs. There was a whole big deli section full of meats and cheeses and olives of all kinds, but look high and low as I might I could find no eggs. Terry had said there were eggs there, so finally I approached the man behind the counter and said "eggs?" I pointed to a display of chocolate eggs hoping this might help facilitate communication.

"Chocolat," he said.

"Um... real eggs? Huevos?" I tried. "Eggs?"

The light bulb went on: "Ah! Veze! Jo, jo," he shook his head no, and reached behind the counter for a sample - a cracked egg. So, no eggs for breakfast on Saturday, but I had the satisfaction of communicating at least.

All Forlorn

We were walking home through the nearest park the other day and saw a little guy, maybe 8 years old, asleep in the middle of the sidewalk on a flattened piece of cardboard. His clothes and skin were dirty and he was very thin. He was fast asleep as people walked past, stepping carefully around him. There was a bag of popcorn by his head. (Now, writing this, all I can think of is the other guys who weren't the Good Samaritan.)

We've been told that during the communist era one didn't see this kind of abject poverty, nor the concentrations of wealth that exist now either. Not that Tirana strikes me as a hugely wealthy city - we went through the posh district and it was quite modest compared to Lima, or even Santa Cruz (Bolivia).

It was heartbreaking. I guess it's also why we're here.

"Breast Is Best" In Albania

Saturday afternoon we took the family out for our daily jaunt around the city, and walked to an extensive wooded park next to a lake. A wide brick road curved up over a hill past a snack kiosk; joggers and grandmothers pushing strollers passed us both ways. A group of old men sat on stumps in a circle playing cards while others lounged lakeside in their skivvies. It was a pleasant place, and Valerie had the time of her life playing with a small dog on a leash held by an indulgent gentleman.

On the way back, Gabriel started fussing and I realized he was hungry, so I sat down on a park bench to nurse him while Terry took Valerie to buy a snack. I wondered what Albanians might think of public breastfeeding but figured what the heck, I KNOW I look like a foreigner so hopefully they'll just avert their eyes if it bothers them. We settled in, listening to the sound of Michael Jackson classics ("Billie Jean," mostly) piped over a loudspeaker at what I surmised was a birthday party nearby. Nobody seemed put out by the fact that a baby was taking his repast in the park. Then a tall, tanned and toned couple walked by, maybe in their early 50s, and the man leaned in to say "Bravo! Bravo!"

"Thank you," I said, and he added in accented English, "is the best thing!" and gave me a thumbs-up.

Pictures coming soon - I put a lot up on Facebook but I'll get some up here too. They just take a long time to load on blogger for some reason.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First days in Albania

Hello from Tirana! It's our 4th day here, if you count the day we arrived, and our first cloudy day.

Here are some first impressions in bullet points, starting with the trip:

  • Board books and beanie babies are really heavy.
  • I will never again mock the voice in US airports that announces "the moving walkway, is ending. The moving walkway, is ending." My knees still hurt!
  • International travel with a 2-month old? Piece of cake. International travel with a 2-year-old? Piece of headache!
  • Oh - I guess there was that spit-up issue. And that other time too. Spit-up being the biggest issue for Gabe and me.

First impressions of Albania/Tirana:
  • The mountains are really close to the ocean! And they're really big!
  • The outskirts of the city remind me of Cusco - tile roofs, green fields, same colors of paint
  • It's more subtropical than I expected or pictured in my mind - palm trees and oleander shrubs line the avenue coming in from the airport.
  • Big billboards, none of which I can read
  • Everyone seems to be really thin
  • Laundry hanging out from apartment block windows
  • Old and shabby next to new and shiny - lots of building projects going up
  • As Terry put it, the fashion moment here seems to be the "shrink-wrapped" look
  • Feels like a small city
We're still recovering from jet lag; Gabe has adapted the most (perhaps because he sleeps so much anyway!) and since I'm more or less on his schedule, I'm getting there too. Valerie is completely off kilter, and since Terry is doing the lion's share of night parenting for her, he's pretty messed up too. Our first night here V. slept SEVENTEEN HOURS. She was completely exhausted after not sleeping much at all on the airplane, and then being way too stimulated during our layover in Munich to nap at all. She conked out on the short flight to Tirana abut then was awake the rest of the afternoon until she went down kicking and screaming at 7:30 p.m. She woke up a few times asking for water (in fact, she wanted to sleep clutching her water bottle) but didn't get up until 1 p.m. the next day. Gabriel, for his part, was up EVERY HOUR on the hour wanting to nurse - I think he might have been dehydrated, since he only nursed twice on the 8-hour flight.

The second night was a different story - down at 11:30, up at 1:00 a.m., awake until 5 a.m., then we got her up around noon.

The third night was a little more successful - down at 9:30, and still sleeping now at 10:30 a.m.
There have been no naps, unless you consider the first part of the second night a "nap" (it would have been roughly naptime in the US - subtract 6 hours).

Right now Terry and Valerie are both still asleep and I'm just hanging out with the G-man.

Thursday and Friday after everyone was up and had eaten and dressed, we all went out for a walk through the city. Given our late rising that was around 3 or 4 p.m.! The first day we cruised around looking for parks and found a little playground nearby where Valerie had fun going down the twisty slide, swinging, and riding a little horse on a spring (you know what I mean?) She did NOT want to leave so we consoled her with potato chips, and she fell asleep in the stroller on the way home.

Aside: speaking of strollers, I've seen a lot of toddlers in strollers out and about but it wasn't until late Friday afternoon that I spotted actual babies - although I really had to peer to see them since they were so cocooned in their strollers - swathed in blankets and then draped in gauze curtains. Gabe's bare legs dangling from the Baby Bjorn have garnered a lot of attention!

Our walk yesterday took us to the World Vision office where Valerie had fun going up and down stairs and drumming on big plastic jugs of water. She wasn't sure what to do with all the attention she was getting from the staff so she mostly chewed on Daddy's shirt (a not-so-charming new habit under stress - his shoulder is a mass of welts and bruises from the trip) and said "NIEW!" ("No," in Valerese). Then we went to the playground. There were a lot of other kids there so she was ok with leaving when we decided it was time to go.

The city reminds me in some ways of parts of Lima, with wide shady avenues and noisy traffic. Lots of pedestrians. Old communist-era buildings are lined on the ground floor with shiny new shops selling just about anything you can think of - lots of clothes, shoes, stuff like that. On nearly every corner, it seems, someone is crouched over a small grill roasting ears of corn - Terry said they weren't there when he came in June, so it must be a seasonal thing. The building we are in is a 10-story apartment building, I guess it's pretty new. There are two crooked little alleys you can take - just wide enough for a car - to the main street in either direction. One of them takes you past a magnificent fruit stand which is open til well after dark, selling all manner of fresh fruit and vegetables. Just next to it is a tall, narrow grocery store where we've been getting our staples and things for the apartment (although it came fully furnished even with bed linens and towels, dishes and tea, there was no toilet paper or salt).

We've been eating crusty bread, fresh tomatoes that taste like they were picked ripe, olives, cheese -

oops, Valerie is up - more later!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One week

One more week until we move to Albania...!

I'm pretty excited. It feels like we're really close to ready, thanks to my fabulous sister-in-law who has done the lion's share, along with my mom (when she was here in June/July), of packing up and organizing all our stuff. Pretty much all that's left out yet is the stuff we're actually using, and we've got a group of friends coming over Saturday to help us get all that randomness bundled into the basement.

It's amazing how much STUFF we have.

I think about all the boxes upon boxes of stuff we've hauled downstairs, the truckload that went to Goodwill, the other truckload that went to the dump/recycling, and then I look around the house and think... hm, it doesn't really look all that different - I mean, the walls and bookshelves are bare, but there's still a lot of stuff lying around. It's the stuff we use everyday. Do we really need all the rest of it, then? All the stuff that's packed away now?


File this under "awesome"

Gabriel slept 7 hours straight last night !!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Birthdays!

Happy shared Birthday to Terry and Solana today!
(I know that's Valerie, not Solana, but I don't seem to have any pictures of Terry and Solana together, strangely enough!!)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Two months!

Gabriel is two months old today! Does his right cheek look bigger than his left to you? It does to me. He has a dimple although you can't see it in this picture.

We're in the midst of packing up our house to move out for two years, so stressed and exhausted. But having two little ones means we're also forced to stop and enjoy life. This morning we all took a walk to Red Front for a few groceries - Valerie in the stroller, Gabriel in the Bjorn. He fell asleep instantly as soon as we set out and slept the whole walk there and back. We had to go the long way around too, so Valerie wouldn't see the playground...

Gabriel is such a sweetheart. When I change his diaper he looks into my eyes and grins. He sleeps soundly at night, though he's still waking up every 3-4 hours or so (sometimes more) to nurse. But he goes back to sleep quickly. We've sort of started sleep training in that I'm working on establishing regular nap times, and putting him down still awake. It mostly works. Some days he's just fussy and takes a lot of wrangling, and he often wants to eat much sooner than my schedule says he should. But the fact that he CAN fall asleep on his own without any props or without being rocked or nursed to sleep is such a blessing, and I want to reinforce it as much as possible.

We've been using cloth diapers off and on, and the funny thing is that even with the disposable ones, he really hates being wet!

He's holding his head up really well and although I don't have proof, I believe he's over 13 pounds now - meaning he's about doubled his birth weight in two months!!! He's incredibly efficient at nursing - usually under 5 minutes. Still swallows air, but is burping better and hardly spitting up at all (with a few memorable exceptions). The gassiness is much improved. Whether it was the chiropractor, the probiotics, evening out our supply-and-demand, or a combination of all three, I'm very glad. I have learned the hard way, however, that I really MUST avoid dairy. The past 2 Friday nights I ate lots of cheese and the past 2 Saturday nights were pretty miserable, on into Sunday. So no more cheese. Or ice cream, or milk. Sad. Well, it won't be forever.

Valerie is doing much better with him as well, although if she's tired or hungry or both, she can't tolerate the smallest noise from him. But if she's happy and content she doesn't mind him, and will now even say "Beebee!" when she sees him, which is cute.

He's so soft and fuzzy and squishy and huggable, I'm trying to remember to soak up all the delicious baby-ness of him while it lasts, to kiss those adorable cheeks and rub his downy hair against my face. Such a sweetie.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


I think Valerie must be cutting her 2 year molars, for real this time. She's been sucking on her fingers constantly the past few days and last night was awake for 3+ hours (from 2 a.m. til well after 5) sucking on a pacifier and crying off and on. Poor thing!