Saturday, December 09, 2006

Our Home

Some of you have requested pictures of our home...this is the outside of our building... We live on the fourth floor. Three other teachers and our friend Entela also live in the building. Our landlords live on the bottom. Their dog Mariah guards the place. We'll have to get a picture of Mariah. Stay tuned. You can see our community garden on the right which is filled with persimmon and orange trees and grape vines.

We like to eat our meals out here, however we have to keep a fly swatter close by to kill the bees between bites. It's December now, and we're still swatting bees it's so warm.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Last week we had the luxury of a five-day weekend so we headed to Istanbul with some families and staff from the school. We filled up on amazing Turkish street food and fresh squeezed juices, shopped until we dropped, and visited a few important cultural relics. Here's Amy being drowned out by the Blue Mosque. Luckily we made it out of town a day ahead of the Pope's controversial visit.

We ducked off of this crazy (but fun!) walking street into a little alley where we had a cup of apple tea and a game of backgammon.

Can anyone out there attest to the effectiveness of this stuff? (And I don't mean the Baklava on the left).

International Night

International Night At School. The kids came dressed in their national dress and the parents cooked up a fabulous international feast.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


We did the unthinkable: we rescued two puppies. On our way home last Sunday, we found them in an embankment. They had made a nest for themselves in the grass. We had no idea what to do, but having heard that people often find strays and take them in, that's what we decided to do. We kept stopping on the way home and saying, 'should we just take them back and leave them?' 'what can we do with these things?' 'will anybody take them?' Anyway, we ended up taking them home. Travis prepared a box and Amy made some phone calls about what to do. In the end, we decided it was a bad idea for us to keep them. On Monday night, a vet came to our house to give them worm shots, flea medicine and check them over. The next day we put signs up at school, asking for someone to give them a good home. Wednesday, a highschool kid adopted both puppies. We miss them.

Sudoku and a nap.

Friday, November 17, 2006


This is Kruja (pronounced Krooya), a little town in the mountains about 45 minutes from Tirana. It's known for its shopping, attracting anyone in the market for authentic Albanian carpets and tablecloths, traditional dress, or any other national keepsake. There are also antiques galore. The main shopping street is less than 1/2 a mile long, but you could spend all day weaving in and out of the shops, searching through all the dusty treasures.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Update on the doughnuts: My friend went back the next day (unfortunately in the afternoon again) and the woman still would not sell her a doughnut. "You'll buy it and take it to your international friend," she said.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Amy: My friend Entela and I were out on the town yesterday and we came to this bakery that sells doughnuts – I’m talking the real thing: authentic, Sunday-morning-before-church, police-officer-hang-out, road-trip-middle-of-the-night-gas-station doughnuts. It’s 5:00 at night, haven’t had dinner yet, but of course I have to have one. It’s more than a taste of home. It’s a doughnut. We walk in and I stare at all the choices (half of which are gone since it’s the end of the day): Raspberry-jelly filled (with powdered sugar), Boston Cream-filled, vanilla frosted chocolate, coconut-frosted, etc, etc, etc. I raise my finger to point at the one I want and I hear yo, yo, yo in Albanian which means no, no, no in English. I look at my friend Entela who is sadly shaking her head. She tells me the woman is refusing to sell me a doughnut because they’re not fresh. “I don’t care,” I say, but the woman continues to tell me no. I’m willing to pay her any price, she shoots me down. “You’ll think I make bad doughnuts if I sell you these,” she tells us in Albanian. “No I won’t,” I charm, “I’m sure you make wonderful doughnuts. Besides, Americans sometimes like them old.” I turn to Entela, “Really, they’re very good old. The glaze gets all crunchy and everything. Tell her I like them old. “Yo, yo, yo,” the shopkeeper says. “Look,” I tell her “what if I buy one, and promise not to eat it.” I’m desperate and playing dirty now. She laughs. I laugh politely. I say thank you and tell her good-bye. She smiles and says good-night. I walk out, crushed.


After visiting Vlore we caught a bus to Berat, a 2,000-plus year old city about 2-3 hours outside of Tirana. It's been called "the city of a thousand windows", and it was absolutely stunning. Cobblestone streets, quaint little cafes, lots of was hard to leave. We stayed in a nice hotel for about $7.00 per person. If you come to visit us, this is where we're taking you.

One of the many narrow pathways winding through the whitewashed buildings.

This is one of 8 out of 42 surviving churches in Berat, dating back to the 3rd century. It's inside the castle of Berat. There are still people living within the walls of the castle. It's incredible to see their daily urban lives set against this ancient backdrop. While we were inside the castle walls, we saw a boy returning home carrying a rented playstation game, passing by crumbling walls that are probably a good 1500 years old.

Tobacco sellers at a street market in Berat.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


A couple weeks ago during fall break we took a trip about 3 hours south of Tirana (by bus) to the seaside town of Vlore.

Amy and our friend Entela at a cliffside hotel in Vlore.

A teletubby keeping the evil spirits away from our hotel. Stuffed creatures of all types hang from houses and buildings everywhere for this purpose.

Travis being sacrificed to the gods of the Adriatic.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The best part of the day trip to Shkodra was visiting the mask factory that made the carnival, Venetian masks for the movie "Eyes Wide Shut" with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The masks were absolutely incredible. This mask to the left is our proud purchase.

Incredible view from Rozafa Castle where you can see the huge mosque.

In September we took a trip to the northern city of Shkodra, about 2 hours by bus from Tirana. We hear that Shkodra is much more conservative than the modern Tirana. There are a couple of interesting articles about Shkodra: and

We visited Rozafa Castle, which is about 2,400 years old. This was Amy's first castle ever. Rozafa has kind of a cool legend, you can check it out here:


Travis went to a football match complete with fireworks and totally crazed fans. Albania was playing Romania. Albania lost 2-0.

Monday, October 23, 2006

This is the Kolonat, otherwise known as "the broken arches", however the word Kolonat means "towers". It even has McDonald's style rolling highchairs and their own version of a happy meal called "happy kids". I haven't seen Ronald yet. In any case, all the kids love it. They have more ice-cream flavors than I thought possible. In case you're wondering why it looks like its housed in a tent, one look inside at the strong resemblance will confirm why it's probably not so smart to invest in a long-term permanent structure.

Another view from another balcony...when we go downtown we have to cross these soccer practice fields of the University. We pretty much live on the University campus. Grazing alongside these soccer players are cattle watched over by their weathered caretakers. Sometimes there's even a horse or two. It truly is a multi-purpose field. Travis likes to eat dinner on this balcony and watch the scrimmages. When Amy goes to the gym, she likes to say hello to the old women who are knitting and tending the cattle. The other day, two men with drums tied around their necks were walking along making music and young boys were catching bees in bottles.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

This is the view from our kitchen balcony. In the bottom of the yellow building is a little market where we can get most of the basics. A couple of doors to the left is a new pizzeria that delivers. The street is newly paved. Changes are happening everyday.