So we’ve been here in Gjirokaster for 2 weeks now, acclimating to our new home, new jobs, new streets, new faces, etc. Every other morning I have been waking at the crack of dawn to go running with Greg, since we are training for the Athens Marathon in November, then I come home for a quick shower before I head back down the hill to my office in the Directory of Public Health. I work with a man named Bledi, who is in charge of Monitoring Health Education and Promotion, and with a young woman in another office named Edlira, who does Health Education and Promotion. These titles mean nothing, but titles are always important.
Bledi seems to work more closely with the Director, who is somewhat of a big shot with many connections, as he is also both a lead surgeon and major car-importer, and is usually spotted driving his canvas-topped black Cadillac while blasting American country music. His entire family lives in Michigan, so he is fluent in English, and actually lives in America for 4-6 months each year with them (also conveniently buying cars to ship). Edlira works over in the Office of Family Planning, with a gaggle of other women, and with her I will be going to various schools and community venues to conduct classes and pass out health education fliers, etc.
There are lots of other people in the Directory, spread among 3 different buildings in the New City. I spent the first week simply touring various offices and shaking hands with many people, as well as meeting doctors from the local hospital. I can’t remember anyone’s name, but I don’t think I will work much with most of them, so I’m not sweating it for now.
Usually in the afternoon its ungodly hot here, so much that when I climb back up the hill to our house around 1:30 I am absolutely drenched when I arrive and have to lie down on the floor for a good 15 minutes to recover. We don’t have A/C, or even a fan, but if we close the windows and pull the shades down in the morning the house temperature remains fairly decent—like maybe 90 degrees or so.
Last week I suffered my first bout of sickness in Albania—one morning I was feeling quite ill while preparing for work, and just before I wanted to leave the house I had to sit back down on the bed, and very quickly succumbed to a fever with crazy violent chills. My landlady and Chris came over to wrap me in a blanket and force-feed me hot tea, which calmed me down enough to sleep for the afternoon.
So now, we’re doing great, keeping fairly busy. Yesterday I went to a luncheon with members of the Directory, a party to celebrate the retirement of a few doctors. Despite the city-wide power outage, most restaurants blast gas-powered generators, so we were able to eat, drink, and dance to loud traditional Albanian music, one woman even showing off her skills at dancing with a glass of raki on the top of her head. It was an unexpectedly wild afternoon, followed by a private ice cream & coffee social in a café further down the street. Afterward, I met with Tara and Greg to attend a music school concert at an outdoor café outside of town. We were there to accompany Greg’s counterpart, who teaches flute the school, and is always to kind and excited to sit for a kafe and converse in Shqiplish.
Another exciting event for the week is Max is here! Chris’ longtime childhood friend hopped a ferry from Italy (where he’d been vacationing with his family) and is staying in our house for the week. Its so nice to have visitors already, Chris and Max keep busy spending the day in the Old Quarter around the office and walking around the castle and town. Max will be leaving from here on Monday, passing through Greece to meet with another friend in Istanbul before he flies home to San Fran.
We’ve also been completely inundated with the EuroCup. I consider this a totally cultural experience—the excitement of all of Europe to watch the series of soccer matches, its jut funny to watch it here with the Albanians. And I am amazed at how many coffee shops open up quite late into the night, serving raki and coffee to the slews of men who roar with enthusiasm at the game, most of which are projected onto a nearby wall and have Shqip commentary broadcasted through loud radio speakers.
That’s it for now—kaq. If anything exciting picks up here I’ll be sure to let ya’ll know. ;)