Dust, motor exhaust, sweat, garbage, cigarettes, but also grilled kebabs.
Day: August 2, 2007
We woke up early.  Abby headed off to work at 7:30 AM, and I left the house around 8:30 AM.  The plan had been to buy a newspaper, spend an hour or so sipping an espresso at one of the kafes, and make my way leisurely to the Embassy to check e-mail and otherwise see what was going on.  Then I wouldthink of something else to do (all of our books and other household goods still being in transit, I don’t have a lot of options).  And after 6 hours of walking the streets of Tirana and sitting in cafes, I realized something very important: there is a big difference between leisure and indolence, and if I don’t find regular work soon, I’m going to go out of my mind.
We arrived in Tirana at about 11:30 AM Tuesday after an uneventful flight out of Dulles International Airport.  After collecting our luggage, we were met by our sponsors from the embassy, Paula and Wakie (Political Officer and Management Officer, respectively), who brought us to our house.  The house is furnished, and there was a welcome kit with towels, dishes, etc., and Paula and Wakie had done some basic food shopping for us, so we were well-enough situated to start.
After looking around, Abby and I set out into the heat and dust of Tirana to look for some lunch.  We discovered quickly enough that the bar-kafes that line the streets only serve alcohol and coffee; they aren’t cafes.  After walking for about 20 minutes, we ducked into the first sit-down restaurant we found that was open and looked decent, and shared a kebab with marinated cucumber.  Then we walked back, and took a short nap – we were exhausted.
At 7:00, Paula and Wakie picked us up and we went to the Presidential Hotel for dinner.  The temperature had cooled down, so we ate on the rooftop.  We enjoyed the lights of Tirana until the black-out – KESH, the electric company, has been imposing 6-7 hour black-outs daily. Between the dependence on hyrdroelectric power, the heat, the drought, the increased load from air conditioners (which Albania did not have in abundance even a few years ago), and the faulty infrastructure, the system cannot support the load.  The government had promised that there would be full electricity available in 2007, but there has been little progress on this front.  I’ll probably write more about this later.  At any rate, the major hotels and restaurants (and the embassy houses, fortunately) have generators, so we were able to finish our meal in ease and then drive home, and serenaded by the hum of the generators, we went to bed.