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!

1 comment:

Caro said...

It took T at least a week to adjust when we went to Ecuador last October. Sounds good though.