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!

There’s a First Time for Everything

I have never bought a lottery ticket, ever. I do not play the lottery for all the obvious reasons. It is so unrealistic to think that I could possibly be the winner, so when the lottery gets ridiculously high (like over $500 million!), I find it fascinating! Everyone on Facebook posts their numbers, co-workers put their money together and promise to split the winnings, and its all the news can seem to talk about.

Several of my co-workers bought their own lottery tickets and were busy picking their numbers and chatting about their chances during lunch. I was interested…considering I have never bought one myself, but not interested enough to buy one. I mean, sure a few extra million bucks would be nice, but losing a few bucks would be very irritating.

An hour later I had this conversation with one of my  5 year old students…

5 year old: Oh! I just love your Eiffel Tower earrings!

Me: Thank you! I bought them at Disneyland Paris! (I sounded so proud to have actually been to Paris.)

5 year old: They remind me of my house in Paris.

Me:... Oh……well…. How nice.

Fast forward a few hours….

A friend of mine, also a lottery virgin went with me to get my very first lottery ticket. We had no idea how the lottery even works and had to actually read the directions on the back of the ticket! The line at the bodega was out the door and everyone in front of me seemed to be purchasing multiple tickets.

All I know is if I win I plan on purchasing this house.

Then, my earrings will remind me of MY house in Paris.

Good luck to all the other yuppies who played!

Cheers!

Tears of Joy

Have you ever been so happy you could cry? Or, maybe you actually do cry. I know I have. I mean I cry pretty easily anyways, but I can very clearly remember some special moments that pure joy brought me to tears.

The first time Fiance took me to  New York was our one year anniversary, and I thought I was flying to Ohio to visit Fiance at school. It wasn’t until I was screaming at the poor lady working behind Continental’s desk that they must have screwed up my flight, that Fiance called to let me know that I indeed was flying to NYC. Surprise.

The surprise didn’t end there. Our second night in NY, he took me to see Wicked, 8th row dead center, seats. I had never seen a broadway show, and I had been obsessed with Wicked from the moment it opened on Broadway. I was in disbelief through the entire show. When the curtain came down for intermission, tears were just streaming down my face. Fiance looked surprised and asked what was wrong… “I am just SO happy.” It felt like a dream.

Aww young Hilarie and Fiance

While teaching elementary school in Tennesse, I was also coaching dance, and middle school drama. I put every single bit of me into these 3 jobs. I was working often over 70 hours a week, Monday through Sunday, through literally blood, sweat, and tears. (Luckily, I was not alone in this. My friend Marsha was working with me side by side through the whole year.) We were eating, breathing, and sleeping school, but mostly drama. The drama club was our baby and we were determined to rock everyone’s socks off.

By the time the end of the year rolled around, my 1st graders had taken their state standardized test and blown it out of the water, the dance recital was the best one yet, and all that was left was our first full-on broadway-esque performance of Seussical. The night Seussical opened was insane. Fiance was scarily ill (out of nowhere!), my family had flown in to see what I’d been spending ALL my time working on,  hundreds of people were filing into the auditorium, and our precious middle schoolers were nervously applying their stage makeup backstage..

The curtains opened. The students sang, danced, and acted unbelievably well! The curtain fell, the crowd roared with applause, and before I knew it, I was on stage holding a microphone attempting to thank everyone for coming and supporting our students. Before I knew it, tears were streaming, and a sweet student stole the microphone to thank US for our hard work and dedication. That was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. I cried tears of joy the rest of the night.

Several of my friends have gotten married…I cried at every wedding. Now, lots of those friends have children.. more tears of joy. It just warms my heart to see my friends start their beautiful families!

Being a very anxious person, can cause “tears of joy” to be very tricky. Sometimes this happiness quickly morphs into fear, and often guilt. Let me explain…

The day after we returned from Albania (about a year ago) I woke up about before 6am (yay for jet lag) and found myself sneaking out to my parents back porch in Texas to watch the sunrise. I sat in a large rocking chair contemplating all the amazing things that had occurred over the last few days.

-Fiance and I were so thrilled to be done with our year in Albania. Even though we had lots of fantastic and unforgettable memories traveling through Europe and making new friends. 

Some of my favorite friends in Albania

-We had just completed a three week journey through Scandinavia with some of our favorite people.

Exploring Norway

-Within hours of flying back to the states we were at our most favorite place – Disney World.

-Fiance proposed!

-And, in a blink of an eye we are on a  flight to Texas to share the great news with my family.

Everything was so surreal. I felt the warm summer breeze on the back porch and thought, “Damn, I’m lucky.” My eyes started to well up with tears. I was just so happy, and could not believe how everything in life was unfolding. But, then it hit me.

The panic monster. “Im too happy. I shouldn’t be so lucky. There are so many less fortunate people in the world, what have I done to deserve this happiness? Surely, something terrible is lurking just around the corner.” All I could think about was impending doom…and my tears of joy soon changed to tears of panic.

I had a very similar experience today. Fiance and I have been working our little tails off on several special DIY projects for the wedding. Fiance mentioned that he felt like he “is working in a sweat shop” this weekend, but I think that has more to do with the fact that the AC was off and it’s been 85 degrees outside. I was laughing at all his jokes, as we sat sprawled out on the floor trying to convince one another to cook something. It got quiet for a few minutes, and I looked at Fiance, who was writing a very nice letter to someone he cares about, and I became overwhelmed with joy.

I get to marry this wonderful, smart, caring, and hilarious man in just 12 days. Damn, I’m lucky.

Daydreams of our dance party/reception began to fill my thoughts, when out of the blue, Mr. Panic sneaks up on me. The same terrible thoughts consumed me. I don’t deserve to be this happy. I don’t deserve him. Surely, something horrible is going to happen before the wedding. No one is this lucky or this happy.

I tried to hide what I was feeling, but Fiance sensed something was wrong, as usual, and I broke. I’ll spare you all the rest of the conversation. But, it ended with a decision to take a break, go to the park, get some fresh air, and enjoy the summer-like weather.

Now, after all of this. I do feel much better. We came home and finished our projects while watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Thankfully, I have  fiancé who knows exactly what to do in my times of need. He reminds me that it is okay to be happy, I should feel happy, deserve to be happy, and it in no way means something terrible is forthcoming.

That’s something I’ll have to talk to a psychologist about, next year, once that insurance kicks in! I should probably start making a list: Hilarie’s List of How She’s Crazy.

I guess I’m feeling pretty damn lucky again. I may even feel some joyful tears coming on…

Geez, I am going to be such a ball of mush at this wedding! Have your hankees ready!

Happy Memorial Day…We can all be happy to have our freedom!

Cheers!