TBT: Drive, Play, Fall (Part II)

Here’s the continuation of one of our Albanian adventures that I began sharing a couple of Thursdays ago. These stories were first told on my first blog “Adventures of a Teacher”. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 3: Cave Journey

After our heated night in the hotel room we got up early and headed to the beach to rent some kayaks. We paid an eight year old boy 500  leke ($5) to use the boats for an hour and headed down the shore. Our friend, Erind, lead us to a beautiful cove with a tall cave entrance. The cave was not very deep, but the ceilings were high, and there was a large opening at the top that allowed sunbeams to come through and reflect on the navy water. We immediately pulled our boat on the rocks and began exploring. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t take my camera.)

Our view from where we ate breakfast.
Our view from where we ate breakfast.

I was barefoot so it was a little painful to climb around the coral-like formations, so I decided to take a swim. The water was icy, but refreshing. I swam across the cave to a rock formation where Boyfriend was climbing and kicked something that I thought was coral. However, when I exited the water to examine my foot, I found 4 barbs stuck in my toes from a sea urchin. It really stung, but I tried to laugh it off and talk about how I now had something to blog about.

Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.
Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.

The rock formation we climbed was about 30 feet tall and provided a window out of the cave and into the ocean. The water was crystal clear and very deep so we all took turns jumping off the cliff. It was a little of an adrenaline rush, and shockingly cold when we hit the water. We were past our one-hour rental time so we quickly got in our boats to head back. I could not stop shivering as we paddled so Erind kindly suggested we stop in another close cove to rest on the warm rocks.

CHAPTER 4: What Goes Up Must Come Down

I laid out on the hot stones to stay warm, Erind went for a swim to find more sea urchins, and Boyfriend, being Boyfriend, decided to start climbing all the rocks around us. After about twenty minutes I heard Boyfriend’s feet stepping through the pebbles as he descended the cliff he had conquered. I turned around to tell him I was ready, and was shocked to find him limping and bleeding from almost head-to-toe.

I frantically asked what had happened, and he just limped past me and fell into the water. His face was pale and shocked, and he continued to ignore my questions. He had obviously fallen, and by this time Erind had noticed and we were both trying to get him out of the water to examine the damage.

Boyfriend explained to me hours later that while he was climbing down, a very large rock broke underneath him and he slipped a few feet down, then the large rock fell on top of his right leg and broke in half over his leg. It was apparently traumatic enough to make Boyfriend very sick once his adrenaline lowered. We had to wait on the little beach for almost an hour before he would get back on the kayak. Once that was done, I rowed the two of us for an hour to get back to where we started.

Everyone on the shore was shocked to find us in such a state. A very kind Albanian woman ran to grab her first aid kit and made Boyfriend lay back while she cleaned up his wounds. Another hour passed and we tried to get Boyfriend back to the car, which just made his leg more swollen and bleed even more. Erind and his friends decided to take us to the “emergency room” on the beach.

Here's Peter putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds...you're welcome.
Here’s Boyfriend putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds…you’re welcome.

This “emergency room” was more like a clinic you would imagine in a WWII movie. It was very small, concrete walls, little metal beds, and no A/C. The Albanian doctor was very soft-spoken and could not speak English. Luckily, we had our friends to translate.

After cleaning the wounds once more, the doc suggested he have stitches in his leg (and that there was a 90% chance it was NOT broken). This of course led to a local anesthetic which made Boyfriend sick once more. Finally, it was all cleaned and bandaged, and the extremely kind doctor sent us on our way. (He wouldn’t charge us anything so we left him a tip instead.)

doctor

Finally, (after a 7 hour drive), we made it home. We are still exhausted.

At least the drive home was pretty.
At least the drive home was pretty.

Overall, we really did have a great weekend. After only being here one week, we have toured the capital, made many new friends, seen the mountains, kayaked the ocean, and visited the hospital. Not too bad if I do say so myself. Oh, and Boyfriend totally stole the thunder from my sea urchin sting.

EPILOGUE:

Boyfriend is fine and will survive his little mishap, maybe even learn something from it. Currently, he is horizontal with his leg elevated and watching movies. Mostly, he is frustrated that he cannot leave the apartment. I have a feeling, that our next adventure won’t be too far away.

Annnddd 4 years later, Husband is still always finding away to get himself into trouble and do something dangerous. Everyday is an adventure with this guy.

Cheers!

TBT: Drive, Play, Fall

Last week, I shared a little TBT post from my former blog, “Adventures of a Teacher.” It ended with a bit of cliffhanger so I figure I should continue this story this week…and maybe next week as well!

As you may have read, we were invited Saturday afternoon to take a trip to Southern Albania. The entire trip was amazing, and quite a learning experience. I honestly don’t know if I can fit even just the minimal details into one blog. Let’s break it down…

CHAPTER 1: Car Sick

We rode with our friend Erind and his friend Dorian for 5 hours to get to the beach. The conversation was so interesting as we got to know our new Albanian friends. These two guys are so smart and speak English better than I do! Also, they were hilarious. You know a person is truly fluent in a language if they can joke around.

The last hour or so of the trip was spent driving up the windiest road on the tallest mountain I have ever experienced. By the time we got to our hotel everyone of us were carsick. (And I NEVER get carsick.) There was even a woman sick on the side of the road near the top. It was unpleasant.

the view
the view

On top of the wooziness, the roads were absolutely insane. Many of the streets were wide enough for one car and maybe a bicycle. Yet, somehow two cars going opposite directions were driving, and a third would try to pass on either side. Several drivers drove as if they were all having an emergency and drunk. They would pass other cars while driving up the twisted mountain roads, or stop their car just to look at the view.

Speaking of stopping cars….our car broke down on the mountain, on the curve, 4 times. I was scared. Luckily, it restarted rather quickly.

the very windy tiny road
the very windy tiny road

Another interesting fact about Albanian driving and culture is that this trip took 5 hours, but distance wise it would have only taken about two in the U.S. On top of bad traffic, we stopped about 3 times for coffee breaks and 3 more times for bathroom breaks. I don’t know about your family, but I used to reduce my liquid intake on family trips so I wouldn’t have to wait for hours to stop. It’s a different world here. I much more relaxed slow-paced world.

CHAPTER 2: When Mountains Meet Beach

Our hotel (a house that rented out rooms) was on the mountain side and overlooked the ocean. We had the most amazing view. I have never seen any beach quite like this one. The mountains literally run right into the ocean. The shore is not sandy, but rocky…very smooth little rocks.

The view from the balcony.
The view from the balcony.

We arrived just in time to watch the sunset. Our friends took us to have dinner with a group of their friends at a seafood restaurant right on the ocean. The food was great, but the time spent getting to know them was much better. I learned so much about their culture and was really taken back. Everyone knew more about every country (including the USA) than I did. It was embarrassing. They were raised to be culturally aware, and most make an effort to stay up on current affairs around the world. Not only that, but they really care about the issues effecting other cultures. Being raised in a communist country that luckily ended and became a democracy made them all very appreciative of what they have and grateful for their freedom.

After dinner we walked down the beach and sat along the shore to chat. Once we were all exhausted, we of course decided to head back. I could not wait to get a good night sleep right next to the ocean. Unfortunately, there was no sleep. Our “hotel” had no A/C. I have never been so hot!

Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.
Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.

Finally, the sun rose, and I was relieved to give up on sleep and get ready for our real adventure.

In next weeks episode of  TBT “Adventures of a Teacher” there is a kayak journey which ends in slight disaster. Will the teacher jump off a cliff? Will the boyfriend end up in a hospital? Will anyone ever get sleep?

Tune in!

Cheers!

TBT: Everyday is an Adventure

Here’s a little TBT post for you. This was written four years ago, about a week after we moved to Albania. Just goes to show you that we have always been the couple that seeks adventure wherever we go.

One thing I love about my boyfriend… we have a great time no matter where we are or what the situation. He makes everything adventurous, and I love him for that. (FYI: I wrote this on Sat. morning and did not finish it until now….on the next blog you will see why this is a very ironic statement…)

For dinner yesterday, boyfriend decided to invite a new Albanian friend to eat with us. What started out as a regular dining experience at an Albanian/Mexican fusion restaurant, turned into a late night excursion around downtown. Peter told our new friend that we are both adventurous and have a passion for traveling and having new experiences. I guess he believed us because that night we spoke with guards at the president’s gates, crossed Tirana University’s campus, went to an upscale bar in the tallest building in Albania, visited a fancy hotel, and climbed an enormous pyramid that houses Top Channel and overlooks the city.

I forgot my camera. boo… Looks like we will have to do it again!

Saturday morning, we went with several friends to the open market in town. It is very similar to the open markets in China. There is booth after booth of purses, shoes, clothes, jewelry, household items, funny Albanian souvenirs, etc. I absolutely love the atmosphere in these markets. There is merchandise everywhere, hundreds of people trying to haggle prices down, the smell of food being grilled; and several streets to shop through. it is similar to shopping on black Friday, which I consider a National holiday.

albanian market

Our trip was cut a little short for a few reasons. A) It was 2 million degrees outside, B) One of our friends got sick to her stomach and had to take a cab home, and C) we got an exciting invite from our new friend.

I only bought hangers and postcards from the market, but I will be back soon! I had my eye on very cute oversized bag and a few pairs of shoes.

Our friend invited us to take a road-trip to Southern Albania. It is the most popular vacation spot in the country and incredibly beautiful. We accepted his invite, ran home, and threw a few clothes in our backpacks. Our adventure began as an amazing trip through the mountains to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and ended with a trip to the Albanian “emergency room”.

To be continued…

But here is a little taste.

me

Guess I’ll have to post the rest of the story next Thursday!

Cheers!

An Oldie, But a Goodie

 

Alright, I have been out of commission the last two days thanks to a lovely little thing called mastitis. In case you don’t know the wonders of this super fun infection is basically the flu and one very very sore boob. Now, that my fever is gone and antibiotics are doing their thang, I’m kinda up to writing something. By “kinda” I mean I am going to post something I wrote 4 years ago.

Four years ago I moved to Albania to teach at an International school and started my first blog “Adventures of a Teacher.”  This is one of the first posts I wrote, it describes our arrival…enjoy.

First off, let me say that we did not receive the warmest of welcomes upon our arrival in Tirana. After 20 hours of traveling (NYC-Rome-Budapest-Tirana) we get to the airport and find NO ONE waiting to pick us up. Trying to stay positive, we wait around hoping they are just running late. After a few hours of sitting in a non-air conditioned airport, with creepy taxi drivers harassing us, and no sleep for 36 hours, we decide to get a non-creepy taxi to take us to try and find the school. (We later learned that this taxi driver ended up charging us A LOT more than he should have charged.)

The taxi driver speaks no english and drove us around the city for two hours trying to find the school. (We were apparently given the wrong address.) Finally, I said “forget it, and get me to a hotel, any hotel, that has internet access before I pass out.” We arrive at a tiny hotel in an alley way. Our room’s AC had been turned off, so we just laid there, in our separate tiny twin beds, until the room cooled off and we passed out…for many hours. (I emailed the school first, of course.)

The next morning (just about the time we were beginning to think this was all a hoax) the school contacted me and said they thought we were arriving the next day. (Interestingly, they never apologized for leaving us stranded in a foreign country.) They quickly came and picked us up from the hotel and brought us to our apartment. whew….

Our apartment is big, nice, completely furnished, and hilarious! You will have to look through the pics I will post to get the gist of it upon our arrival. We have moved a lot of the weird kitschy decor since we’ve moved in. Some of the “highlights” are a headless statue, a lava lamp, a kitty cat poster, chairs that look like they came from the Haunted Mansion, a VCR complete with Albanian VHS’s, cassette tapes, etc, etc. Also, when you get off the elevator at the bottom of our apartment there is a hair salon you basically walk through to get out. Besides all of these things that give our new home character, it is a very nice place. We have 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, kitchen, dining area, living room, large entry way, and a balcony.

living room lava lamp

We also went to the school today, got the grand tour, and learned the philosophy behind the school. I’ll have to write an entire separate blog about the school tomorrow. There is ALOT to type about.

This evening we went grocery shopping at a tiny market near our apartment. Two of the items we bought that we thought were milk turned out to taste like very rotten milk; the rest of the groceries are pretty basic. Our choice of dinner (first thing to eat in 48 hours – minus half a bag of wheat thins) was veggie pizza.

We have not got to explore much of the city, but what we’ve seen, we like. It’s big and very crowded. All the streets are lined with hundreds of little shops and thousands of cafes. What I like best is the fact that any time you walk outside the cute little tables outside of the cafes are full of people relaxing and having coffee. Everyone is so laid back and faithfully takes coffee breaks 3 times a day. My kind of town…. Where we live is surprisingly quiet and is the greenest part of the city, which is also very nice.

There is much, much more to learn and explore, and I cannot wait to write all about it! Wish me luck!

The end. And, we had no idea what that year had in store for us!

Cheers!

 

The Last Time…

I am a very sentimental person. I am always celebrating something or going on some sort of adventure because I want to make memories. I want the days to be special. Maybe this stems from being anxious…it’s possible that my fear of dying encourages me to live a life full of great memories. Or maybe it’s just part of my sensitive nature. Either way, I like to turn mediocre occurrences into great life events, especially when something is ending.

When Husband and I left Disney World we made the decision to keep dating which meant committing to a long distance relationship for 2 and a half years. We also decided that we were in love, which made leaving Disney much harder than it already was. Every single moment became “the last…”. The last time we people watched in EPCOT. The last time we rode Dinosaur. The last meal with our best friends. The last time we drank vodka out of water bottles illegally. The last time we watched “Wishes” and sang every word as tears streamed down our cheeks. I wanted EVERYONE to remember these moments, and each other, so I constantly reminded them that “it’s our last time!” I took a hundred photos of “our last night” together and will never forget the laughs we shared.

When I left my first teaching job, I made a huge deal about the last dance recital, the last school play, the last classroom party, the last time I hugged my students and even the last time I closed my classroom door. Every thing was “a moment”.

I salsa dance with my fellow dance teacher at our last dance recital. It was the last recital for ALL 3 of us, and we went out with a bang!
I salsa danced with my fellow dance teachers at our last dance recital. It was the last recital for ALL 3 of us, and we went out with a bang!

Before moving out of the country we had to have a huge going away party to celebrate our “last days” in the states.

Our "European" themed party.
Our “European” themed party.

When we left Albania, I made sure to point out the last time we rode in a furgon, the last time we ate burek, the last time we had to speak Albanian and the last time we had a picnic at the park. Some of these “lasts” were more like “Yay! It’s my last day to work for someone who hates me!” But, the last day working some wonderful friends and students was not so happy.

All teary-eyed on the last day of school.
All teary-eyed on the last day of school.

Now, my days are spent remembering the “lasts” of the city. I don’t dwell on the “lasts” to make myself sad or to say that we will never do these things again, but because I want to soak it all in and remember these moments forever. I want to savor my last bites of NY pizza, gaze at the city skyline and do nothing but sit in Central Park so I can one day tell my grandchildren about my  adventurous life and actually remember these details. I want to look back with fondness at all of our trips, moves and good-byes and know that we took advantage of every day and made the best of all our situations.

Husbands “last night” (although not really…he’s coming to see me next week!) was spent eating dinner at the Russian Tea Room with some friends and family. We have both always wanted to try this famous restaurant, and we were not disappointed.

We then walked through Time Square for some last-minute people-watching and our “last trip” to the Disney Store. From there we headed to Bryant park for one final relaxing night in a city park.

bryantpark

Husband still wasn’t quite ready to call it a night so we took a “last walk” through Grand Central Station, where I friend Steve taught us about the Whispering Corners. How have we never heard of this? And why is a friend from Tennessee telling us about it?

whisperingcorners

Husband’s “last night” was a great one. I am still looking forward to my last time to host a visitor, my last NY coffee, my last time on the train and of course my last time to walk home from work. Then, I will be excited to start celebrating lots of “first times”!

Cheers!

Day Trip to D.C.

While my friend Sara was staying with us we decided to take an overnight trip to Washington DC, because why wouldn’t we have a 24 hour road trip during her four-day NYC vacation? Sara and I had many many road trips during our year together in Albania, which are some of my fondest and most ridiculous memories. (Like the time we found 20 puppies at the Montenegro/Albania border and stopped for an hour to play with them….Or the time we went caving and discovered the most beautiful blue stream.) I have been anxiously awaiting another adventure!

Puppies!
Puppies!
The Montenegro/Albania border
The Montenegro/Albania border
The start of our hike...
The start of our hike…
The end of our hike
The end of our hike

Plus, the main reason for the visit, the only reason really, was to meet up with another friend who we met in Albania! Our friend Meghan was in the Peace Corps in Albania and is now living in DC. We took a 5 hour bus on Friday morning and arrived to our Nation’s Capital with just enough daylight to checkout DC’s most popular attractions. Also, one of Husband’s friends from high school (they haven’t seen each other in 11 years!) lives in DC. Husband’s long-lost friend was nice enough to pick us up at the train station and act as our tour guide.

The Capital Building
The Capital Building
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument
Mr. Lincoln
Mr. Lincoln

I tried telling the friendly men with guns that I had a coffee date with Michelle, but no one took me seriously…Sorry Mrs. Obama guess we will have to have coffee in New York!

Husband and I in front of the The White House.
Husband and I in front of the The White House.

For dinner, we met up with our friend Meghan and had Albanian food and alcohol at a new Balkan style restaurant! It was not only freakin’ amazing food, but so nostalgic. AND, I ATE SALMON. I have been a vegetarian for almost 5 whole years, but lately I have been seriously craving fish. I don’t know if it was the Albanian rakia or the excitement of the whole day, but I gave into temptation and ordered salmon for dinner. I was sick all night, but it was SO worth it.

3 different flavors of Rakia
3 different flavors of Rakia
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso

It was the most fun night I have had in a long time. Husband and I shared a couch that night, but I made sure to get some snuggle/girl talk time in the morning!

IMG_5852

 

We were back on a bus to NY by 10am. It was a quick trip, but worth every excruciating minute on the bus. Cannot wait until our next reunion!

Cheers!

A Cupcake for my Cupcake

If you are just reading this blog for the first time, you should know that I (as well as my Husband) love to eat at new places. While living in Albania, we bought a little travel guide titled “Tirana in Your Pocket” that listed the best restaurants in the city. Our goal was to eat at every single one of them. Sadly, we did not complete our goal, BUT we were very, very close! I even had a little rating system consisting of smiley faces, check marks, and sad faces to rate my experience at each location; it was a solid system.

Now in NYC, we are fully aware that eating at every single restaurant is not only impossible, but so not worth our time and money. We thought about eating at all the best reviewed restaurants, but after some research we discovered that it would cost us about $890,988 and quickly scrapped that idea. Instead, we are just eating at as many different, unique, and well reviewed places we can find (and afford).

New York is pretty famous for it’s bakeries. We have had some mouth-watering desserts at Magnolia’s, Crumbs, Two Little Red Hens, and Milk and Cookies. All were great, but there is one dessert place we have put off visiting:  Sprinkles.

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of Sprinkles, tried them, or even made them with the mixes they sell at William Sonoma. Husband and I have not because, for one, we aren’t big cupcake fans and secondly, it just didn’t seem like a New York “must-do”. Sprinkles was started in Beverly Hills and is all over the place now, and there are just so many other New York based bakeries. Husband, however, has been asking to try Sprinkles for a while now, and this week seemed like a good time to cave.

Lots of different mixes to make at home!

During my day off, (Yay for Yom Kippur! and also sorry for the sacrilege…we were fasting, spiritually) we took a walk around Midtown and happened to find ourselves right in front of Sprinkles. Belle was with us, but sadly was forced to wait outside with Husband as I ordered dessert.

They had lots and lots of delicious looking cupcakes with flavors like chocolate marshmallow, pumpkin, and gluten-free red velvet. After much debate (mostly because I was in line for 20 minutes) I decided on one German chocolate and one ginger lemon.

When I got home I decided to document the story of our dessert with pictures, just like my high school French teacher.

During my four years of French my very smart and eccentric teacher (who taught us very little French btw) would go to Paris every summer, and return with a slideshow to share with the class. During every slideshow he would show us a series of pastry pictures that would go like this: pastry shop, bag of pastries, box of pastries, opened box, contents within the box, and empty box with only pastry crumbs. These were always my favorite pictures.

So, in honor of Mr. Hanks, here’s my story.

German Chocolate Cupcake (my fav)
Ginger Lemon

(I was too full to remember to take an “empty box with crumbs” shot, woops…well you get the idea.)

The end. Now excuse me while I see if my workout clothes still fit.

Cheers!