My experience so far.
Right now I am sitting on the balcony of our flat. From somewhere there is music, from somewhere else the sound of an electric drill, some kids are shouting, the dog next door is barking shrilly and loudly, as usually. It is 19.45pm and cooling down smoothly. Our house has four or five floors, similarly to some of the surrounding houses. Others, those that were built in or after the nineteens are higher, huge and quite modern, others again are small and very, very basic. Most of them are painted in different colors and patterns, often pink, blue and green. In front of our house for instance, there is a line of small garages and shops, painted in blue and pink. One of the former majors of Tirana was a painter and came up with that, in my opinion quite nice idea. I like it, it changes the still dominating and elsewhere mostly grey socialist architecture.
Small groups of people are passing by, boys and girls and women and men, maybe on their way to one of the bars or that square around the corner between a group of high and relatively new apartment buildings. Here, people of all ages are around at any time of the day, sitting, playing talking, there are people selling popcorn and candyfloss. It is strange, I feel it is hard to understand the people and what living in this city might be like – and not speaking the language does not make it easier. At least, today I managed to have a small conversation with Dorena, a two or three years old girl living in our house. I said „Mire dita, Dorena“. She is a bit shy and would not answer. I said „Si je?“ (How are you,). She said something I did not understand and then I said „Mire?“ (good?) and she very silently said „po“ (yes). Then, I was a bit proud, but after one week, actually this is not really a big success.
I like this place, the city. It is loud and dusty and there are a lot of little shops, you can get baklava and byrek (like Börek) and crêpes. There are small boutiques with colourful dresses of synthetic and a lot of second hand shoes, you can even find some faked H&M and ZARA, and shops where you can buy little dogs and cats in tiny tiny cages. There are tons of fruits and vegetables to get along the streets nearly everywhere and there is a lot of traffic (especially new and expensive Mercedes Benz).
I hardly remember what I had imagined Tirana would be like, but I definitely did not expect it that hard to grasp. Finally, there is still a lot to explore, which I am really excited to do. After a weekend of luxurious camping at the seaside with a lot of sun (too much for some), Caribbean-like water and some seafood (really really good) in Dherma, 400 km away from here (we had quite an impressive and adventurous busride accompanied with 90’s electro-pop mixed with Lady Gaga and some Italian and Albanian folk), I feel more energized now to start working tomorrow.
Hanna (sorry for the unstylish Times New Roman, btw, seems to be , unchangeable)