Today we started at the Muzeu Kombetar, the National Museum, which has this mosaic above the doorway.  The museum collection spans from ancient Illyria through the current day.  We stopped right after WWII, so we didn’t get to the part that shows Hoxha’s excesses.  That can wait until we return.
After the Museum visit, I went into a bookstore to purchase an Albanian language dictionary and some other books.  I wanted to see if I could conduct the entire transaction in Albanian, so I carefully explained to the saleswoman that I was an American and that I didn’t speak Albanian well, but that I was interested in such-and-such books.  She responded by asking me if I was married.  Apparently, if the wedding ring isn’t gold, it’s not obviously a wedding ring, so I cleared up the confusion and carried on.
Tirana has a stray dog problem.  There are thousands of strays on the street, many of them ill (but others looking very healthy and adorable).  The Norwegian ambassador’s wife is heading a project to develop a shelter and a clinic and some sort of adoption infrastructure.  I’d been tipped off to this by the husband of an FSO (whose blog, http://www.ourmanintirana.blogspot.com, is worth reading), so I arranged to meet with her at the Hotel Rogner.  I came away with an appreciation of how much work the project still needs to accomplish and how expensive coffee in the international hotels is.
Abby and I finished the afternoon by seeing our house (see the previous blog entry for a few photos; at three stories and 6,000 square feet, with three bathrooms and a total of eight rooms off the main living/dining areas, Abby says she cannot describe the house without using the words “f***ing” and “ginormous”). We then went to Tirana’s only Indian restaurant for a dinner arranged by the Embassy’s Community Liaison Officer.  The restaurant owners are an Indian man and his Albanian wife.  The food is tasty, although not especially spicy – the Albanian palate is on the mild side – and we met more embassy people and other ex-pats.  The conversation was great, and we’ve found the embassy community to be very welcoming.  We left the evening with high hopes for a great three years.