Monday, March 07, 2011

Elbasan: The Trip

This picture, a view from our hotel balcony, will stand for the trip to Elbasan. I was a little bit nervous about taking public transportation by myself (with the two kids) but I didn't think we could be ready before 8 a.m. when Terry was leaving with the World Vision van. And we did it! It worked out fine, and it made me feel more confident - and in many ways more like myself - to navigate the trip on my own even with two little ones in tow.

After breakfast and Gabriel's first nap, I packed up our bag - a process made easier by our recent move which had forced me to define carefully what basic things we need the most with us. The hardest part was actually getting down the elevator, out of the building, and walking two blocks with a rollerbag, backpack, and stroller (and Gabriel in the Bjorn) to the taxi stand. Pushing a stroller one-handed on uneven sidewalks is a little tricky. But we made it, with a 20-minute interlude out front for Valerie to play on the sidewalk. I wasn't in a particular hurry so I let her get her wiggles out.

The taxi took us to the street corner from where 8-passenger vans leave for Elbasan as they fill up with people. We were the first people in our van and waited about 40 minutes until it filled up, which was a drag. Gabriel got fussy and tired and as soon as we took off he fell asleep on my lap. Valerie had her own seat by the window and would have fallen asleep had the road not been comprised primarily of hairpin turns. I think she enjoyed looking out the window because we occasionally saw cows and other animals (once we got out of the city), and on the return trip when we got in the van she said "see animals!"

The van ride was about an hour and fifteen minutes. If it weren't for the intervening mountains, apparently it would be a 20-minute trip! We got off in the city center and waited there for Terry to come get us in the World Vision vehicle, which then took us to the hotel. It was a bright, sunny day, and Valerie was excited to see Daddy!

The road into the city parallels the river in the picture above, and that's the direction we came from to come in. Elbasan is much smaller than Tirana; the word that came to my mind was "modest." There is much less traffic, the buildings are smaller and fewer, but the mountains are equally beautiful and the people equally kind (to us!). There's an enormous factory complex there that was built during communist times and I've heard rumors of concentrated health problems resulting from pollution/environmental degradation, but being there for just a few days we didn't really see any of that.

The return trip went smoothly as well, just a reverse of the trip there, and I timed it similarly so we were home in time for lunch and naps. I am so glad that Valerie didn't get carsick either way!

Next up: The Hotel

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