Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Year in Albania!

Today marks one year since we arrived in Albania; a point in time to reflect and remember, to celebrate successes and set goals for the coming year.

Yesterday we (the Jantzi grands and I) took Valerie to Tregu Çam near our first apartment in Tirana, to buy her a pair of shoes – the kind that have little lights that flash when you walk – as a reward for her potty training successes. She seemed a little subdued and emotional, although I’m not sure if it was due to visiting our old neighborhood, or because she overheard Dot and I talking about them leaving next week. I know that I always feel a little pang when I get near our old place. We only lived there five months, but there was an intensity and tenderness of emotion imbued in those five months that can’t be matched in “ordinary life.” Perhaps that’s why Terry and I like to change things up so often (jobs, homes, countries) – to keep reaching that emotional high, even though it can also be painful at times.

After shopping we went to the “orange couch” park (Compleksi Taiwan in Parku Rinia) for juice and coffees. The guy who waited on us was the same guy who waited on us (and whom I invariably tipped extravagantly) all through last winter when I would take the kids there 3-4 times a week. He commented that Valerie “është e rritur” – she has grown. And she has – she seems so long and tall now! When we came here a year ago, she was barely talking – now she narrates funny little stories all day long (and well into the night), recites ditties she’s learned from Shpresa in Shqip, and stays dry all day (and sometimes all night!)!

Gabriel has probably changed the most – from a wobbly infant who slept all the time (albeit in short increments) to a goofy, affectionate toddler who tries to copy everything his sister does – and often everything we do, too. Yesterday after I emptied a sugar packet into my coffee, he took the empty packet and shook it over my cup, stirred it with the spoon, and then carefully blew on it before letting me have a sip!

Terry will have to tell you himself about his life as an office drone; I will say that he continues to blow people away with how well he can speak Shqip. He’s not where he wants to be – which would be completely fluent – and this keeps him up at night studying grammars and children’s books, or surfing YouTube for traditional Shqip songs (which also impresses the heck out of people, that he even knows who Vaçe Zela is, for example, and that he knows all the words to “Unë Jam Njëzet Vjeç.” I’m very proud of him.

I’ve found a balance, I think, thanks to Shpresa’s invaluable help, between motherhood, expat life, and dissertation writing. It’s amazing how much energy each of these pursuits can absorb. There’s not much left for “wife” afterwards (and absolutely none for knitting), though we’ve been able to squeeze in the occasional date night (more like date afternoon) here and there. In a way it’s good we had 8 solid years just the two of us to lay a strong foundation.

It’s hard to believe that a year from now Gabriel will be two – the same age Valerie was when we came – and that Valerie will be four, ready for preschool. I will hopefully be close to finishing a draft of my dissertation (I try to keep my goals realistic!), and Terry will be contemplating life in the classroom once again.

Or else orchestrating a move to Mongolia. ;-) Keep your seat belts fastened!


anita said...

Gabriel looks like a little boy now. Love the boat picture. Seems like you guys have been there a long time.

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