Albania: The Land of 1$ Specialty Coffee

Hello again, reader! I have been slipping on my weekly reports, haven’t I?

Well, as my good friend would put it, “I don’t feel like talking about myself. I already know what I did today.” Alas, I’ll try to be a little more keen on publishing new material, since I’m over halfway through my time in Eastern Europe.

 

(A typical, quaint home in the village of Nivicë, Albania – hopefully to soon begin welcoming visitors as an Airbnb)

My last two weeks (or so) have been ebbing and flowing with various activities. Of course, there’s the internship – great as usual. To put it simply, I’ve been doing some English-language marketing work, and my coworkers are wonderful. I may or may not be still hopelessly addicted to caffeine – but as the title suggests, how could I not be when coffee is so cheap and our apartment is wifi-less?

I’ve been told the first sign of an addiction is denial; so while I won’t deny my addiction, I willcontinue justifying it in my head enough to keep doing it.

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Nivicë Canyons

In addition to the internship, I’ve been getting into self-help books, all read online, because Albania shipping fees are positively exorbitant.

I find them quite enlightening. My roommate on the other hand may or may not think I’m having my mid-life crisis at 19.

Jurys out on that one.

While my Albanian lessons have (sadly) taken a backseat to reading, doing personal research on Albanian policy and Tae Kwon Do, I’ve made a point to have a solid conversation whenever I have the moment free.

For example, a perfect moment came two days ago, when our agency’s wifi was out. Having all of my work on my computer, I sat down with the cleaning lady to chat until it came back on.

I’ve seen her every day since I arrived, and we always exchange pleasantries in a picture-perfect Level One, Chapter One: Greetings-esque sort of way.

(In Albanian)

  • “Good morning!” *smiles*
  • “Good morning!” *smiles back*
  • “How are you?”
  • “Good. And you?”
  • “Good. Thank you. *Cue walk into cubicle.*”

Well, after reading my handy-dandy self-help book called How to Win Friends and Influence People, I decided that I was going to make a point to get to know the nice lady’s name.

That sparked a longer, certifiably Level Two conversation about family members and ages, which turned into a Level Three (or maybe even Four) conversation about professions and likes and dislikes. She told me about her daughter, who is a policisë, and her son, an inxhinier mekanik (mechanical engineer – can you see the cognate?). And I told her about my own family and what I was doing at school in America. It was a super pleasant conversation overall and relieved some of the boredom from an internet-less day, and I was enthusiastic to have used my basic Albanian language skills effectively.

The next day, I tried to converse again, this time with a girl my age who works at the coffee shop I frequent most, to similar success. I already knew her name, but she told me to call her by her nickname instead, so we are basically best friends now.

To clarify, I was already on a first-name basis with all of the workers in that coffee shop. That is how often I am in there.

Now when I walk in, they have taken to softly laughing and start making my order before I even get up to the counter. I’m not sure whether to feel complimented or slightly ashamed about this.

I drink a lot of coffee there.

Man, am I going to be sad when I return to America, if only because of the 5$ coffees and generic Starbucks at every corner. You just can’t get friends like Argita or Blerta at any run-of-the-mill American coffee franchise, at least to my knowledge.

But enough about coffee (heck, I even named the title of this post about it – maybe I’m a little addicted). For a mid-internship celebration, my roommate and I made the trek north to Budva, Montenegro for a music festival and to catch some waves on the beautiful Mediterranean. And beyond beautiful, it was.  I’ll let pictures describe this one.

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Budva has it’s own Old Town sector, including an old church and citadel. What we found was sunburnt orange roofs with eggshell brick walls, friendly staff and an wonderful lack of tourist traffic. Budva is popular for cruise ship stops, but there weren’t any that day, so it was like we had the old town to ourselves. The beach, on the other hand, was populated with locals looking to get some weekend sun.

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For the pièce de résistance, my roommate and I went parasailing at sea.

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I took my Nikon up into the air – to the boat captain’s slight chagrin. Worth it.

I jumped into a speedboat with a couple other young adventure-seekers, carrying only my Nikon and a slight sense of unease. But that was immediately assuaged as the boat conductor blasted pop music, lifting us up into the air one-by-one and two-by-two as the rest cheered. Our driver was a tried-and-true surfer dude; conducting the boat with ease, everyone was having as much fun watching the initial fear on people’s faces as actually being up in the air themselves, tasting the sea on their tongues and taking in the glistening waters as far as the eye could see. Overall, parasailing was a great experience and another highlight to add to my summer abroad.

Our night ended with the Sea Dance Festival, which like any other festival entails more than a few drunks and lots of ear-splitting music. We ended up taking the road less travelled and doing a recycling challenge for free t-shirts (picking up empty beer cans left all over the lot), which was advertised at a tiny dilapidated stand nestled in between two larger-than-life booze joints. I don’t have a picture, because it wasn’t very pretty, but it’s fairly easy to imagine the type of scene I’m talking about.

Even if it wasn’t my crowd, the concert was the reason we came to Budva, and that trip alone gave me some unforgettable memories and a great break from the grind of work. I had some of the best hummus that my roommate or I had ever had in our lives (go figure; we’re on the Mediterranean). And I even picked up the habit of bartering with local Albanians to get the non-foreign prices (so far the fruits of my labor have been one bag, a cheaper taxi fare and a bunch of bananas. It actually started by accident; I had gotten the lower price before and was simply trying to ask why it had changed). All in all I’d say the last few weeks have been a roaring success!

Less than a month left. I’d clink a glass to it, but as you know I was too busy recycling.

One thought on “Albania: The Land of 1$ Specialty Coffee

  • July 24, 2017 at 6:47 pm
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    Wow, I love all of these photos! It looks like something out of a Lonely Planet guide. Congrats on your level four conversation with the cleaning lady as well. 🙂

    Reply

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