Friday, March 1, 2013

Home Sweet Home

A sunset view from our balcony
After a long week away, we're home.  While in Germany I relished in all that wasn't Albania.  First lets talk driving.  The Autobahn allowed us to cruise for kilometer after kilometer without the fear of a sudden loss of pavement.  (This is a regular, and expected, occurrence when driving on any Albanian road).  Traffic sped along but no one ever cut you off, streetlights and stop lights worked, and in a most un-Albanian way, traffic circles expedited rather than hindered the flow of traffic.  I also did a lot of walking this past week and it made me realize how much I really miss walking.  Sure I walk home from work most days but due to the lack of sidewalks, erratic traffic patterns, and pollution clogged air, the short trip is anything but enjoyable.  In Germany I walked on wide, well maintained sidewalks without the fear of stumbling into open man holes or encountering unexplained missing pavers.  When I approached intersections, all traffic came to a stop in anticipation of my crossing the road.  I'll admit, after close to two years in Albania I tend to be gun shy about stepping into a roadway even when I am in a crosswalk.  In Germany, everyone stops.  In fact, I quickly learned not to linger at intersections otherwise traffic from all directions comes to a standstill.  And I didn't want to be that person.

Because we stayed on Ramstein Air Force Base, in many respects if felt as though we were in a little America. I love traveling and exploring new cities and countries but there was something comforting about the law and order, U.S. military regiment that I was accustomed to.  And sometimes it is these little things in life that make me happy.  Rules and expectations for behavior are clearly posted and abided by.  Everyone I encountered was respectful and exceedingly polite.  The military hospital was immaculately clean, efficient, and most importantly, it had heat.  Unlimited hot water meant I could enjoy long, hot showers.  I'm not normally a soda drinker but the unlimited free refills of Dr. Pepper in the food court kept me going back for more.  The Exchange, the military's version of a Target, was just like the ones we shopped in back in the United States.  Restaurants, both on and off base, were truly smoke free.  Because Glenn was in training each day I was even in charge of the television's remote control. (I know this isn't an Albania specific issue; rather it is one I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, but I still enjoyed it for what it was).

It was nice to visit with friends, compare notes on our respective Embassies and even have an impromptu lunch with a friend from Moscow who I happened to run into a the hospital, but by this morning I was more than ready to come back home.  I knew we were flying to Tirana the minute we boarded our flight in Vienna.  Flight attendants were reprimanding fellow passengers on the size of their carry-ons (which resembled bags that really should be checked), numerous people were unable to find their assigned seats and sat where ever they wanted, cell phones rang long after they should have been turned off, and general directions from the cabin crew were ignored.  Ironically, the March issue of the in flight magazine had an article on proper airport and airplane etiquette.  Unfortunately, it was only printed in Austrian and English.  Yes, we were heading home.  Upon landing we saw our first glimpses of sunshine in over a week.  (While Germany is beautiful and clean, it is gray).  We definitely saw more luxury automobiles on our drive between the airport and our house than we did all week in Germany.  The traffic was horrible, cars were double parked in what should have been no-parking zones, under the direction of police traffic circles were a clogged mess, and we witnessed more than one vehicle reverse direction on the main street and then take a left hand turn from the right lane across several lanes of traffic. This is just makes Albania, Albania.

Sidney welcomed us with open arms and we're quickly settling back into our usual weekend routine.    Our neighbor's crushed car is still sitting across the street from our house, the street dogs are howling, and our split-packs are making their usual creaky noises.  But despite all of this it is good to be back in Tirana. Given our lifestyle we move around a lot so home is what you make of it.  For us, home is where ever we are together as a family and at the moment, that just happens to be Tirana, Albania.  As Dorothy so famously said, "there is no place like home."

No comments:

Post a Comment