Immersion Trip: Day 8

Today we went on the Hash. The Hash House Harriers is an international running club, organized primarily wherever there are English-speaking ex-pats, although there are many non-English-speaking adherents. The point is to follow a trail laid out earlier in the day by the “hares”. The trail is marked in chalk or flour (D.C.’s clubs discontinued their use of flour after the anthrax scares post-9/11) and it includes false trails, turnarounds, and such.

We set out early on Saturday morning and took the Durres Road out. Today’s group was impressively multinational – represented were Albania, Australia, China, Egypt, France, the Netherlands and the U.S. The traffic was a mess – the two roundabouts were jammed as was the highway itself. Rruga Durresit, one of the major roads out of Tirana, is intersected with another major roadway a few kilometers out of town. (Notice how I use the European system of distance? As if I could estimate a kilometer …) Thus, traffic is nearly at a standstill, and people will drive on the sidewalks, the opposing lanes, whatever, in order to get to where they need to go. It’s entertaining. (The situation is not helped by the politics: at one point, the national DP/local SP – I forget which – built an overpass to clear up the rotary traffic; the local SP/national DP tore it down.

Eventually we escaped the traffic and drove off the highway and into the hills above Tirana. The scenery is truly splended (Abby took the photos). After the preliminaries, we were off, running and bounding along the mountain trail (and perilously close to the edge at some points), jumping roots and rocks and looking for the flour markers. Then we ran down the mountain face and into a green valley, across a stream, and then up the next mountain … or, to be more honest, many of us began walking up the next mountain (besides those who were smart enough to start at hiking pace). S’është lehte fare. I eventually got separated from the lead group and then joined another group, and we talked as we made our way down the mountain, and past a herd of goats grazing in the valley. I was half-expecting to see Heidi, or Julie Andrews with a guitar.

The day ended with a visit to the Chicken Shack for lots of cold beer and freshly killed, roasted chickens.

Immersion Trip: Day 7

Good Lord, I am the worst blogger ever … today’s June 3 and I’m still on April 20.

Today we visited two outdoor markets. &nbspThe second market is the village market (Treg Fshatari) where they had the most amazing food – gorgeous fruits and vegetables, and fresh meat. &nbspYou know the meat is fresh because the butcher puts the skinned head of the unlucky donor on the counter … &nbspNote the old-fashioned scale in the second photo.

I spent the rest of the day meeting people, and then went to the Marine House for happy hour where I met more people. &nbspThe night ended with dinner at King’s House, this time with all sorts of ex-pats. &nbspThis is a weekly event. &nbspIn addition to us, there were people from Bulgaria, Finland, England, and probably some other countries, but we didn’t meet everyone, and after the raki I probably wouldn’t have remembered anyway.