Home Sweet Vlora

Fier was beautiful, but, no offense to Fieraket, but I was dying to go to my home town. You know, my hood. My bed. My...well, for heaven sakes, it *was* my city for 9 months. I felt like I raised it as it raised me! That feeling is quite natural, of course, but I cannot replace the experiences I had in Vlore with anything, so...
First, there are some that notice that sometimes I write Vlora, and sometimes Vlore (should be an 'e' with an umlaut, but I'm too lazy to find the character). In English it would always be Vlora, but since I'm Albanian, I write it differently in different parts of the sentence. Vlora when it's the subject, and Vlore when it's not (that's the general rule, we won't get into specifics). You'll notice the same with Tirana. Tirane-Tirana. You might notice similar things with Fier and Durres: Fier, Fieri...Durres, Durresi. Anyway, there's your culture for today.
Now...before we left the Morton's house in Fier, I was finishing the blog entries, when, all of the sudden, we heard a 'psssshhhhhhhhhh' sound. I'm used to crazy noises here, so I figured it was a tank filling up. Well, it wasn't. It was their pipes exploding in the kitchen.
HAHA!! If we didn't help clean up, I wouldn't laugh now, and I know they had to spend their day fixing it, but I think it's important to find the humor in this. We mopped up over 80 liters of water as it drained out of their hot water heater (yeah, the water was steaming), and even more until we could stop the water from coming down the tank on the roof.

The Morton's, after we had contained the water and I had helped get some help, told us to make our way to Vlora before it got late, so we took off. The road was uneventful, except they fell asleep. Psh. I at least allowed them to sleep the night before, right?? I know I'm running them ragged but...right???? Okay, so they weren't asleep the entire time...that would be gjynah, and they wouldn't be able to enjoy all the wonderful countryside that this country has to offer...on the side.
Vlora is a special sort of town. It's a port town, a beach town, and has mountains all around it. So, that makes is even more special. As soon as you go over the hills, you see the entire city, right there on the coast. Magnificent.
As I drove (haha, I'm *driving* in Albania!!) through the boulevard, my mind got lost in all of the memories I had there. Seriously, I forgot so much of what I was doing, I ended up at the port itself, having passed the entire city. Haha...that was okay...I decided to keep going. We went further out of the city and pretty soon we were on the road to Dhermiu. Yes, that is the place with the amazing water, if you all remember. I planned on taking the fam to Himara, since that's where I was told one of the Lusho boys was, working as a waiter in a restaurant. However, upon approaching Dhermi, I found out from his brother that he was in Dhermi itself, at a place called Jolly.
We found Jolly quite capably, the only problem we had was parking. Grrr. I parked in a stall, only to have a lady come out and ask if we were Americans. I replied in Albanian--my worst mistake--and she told me that that parking place was for the hotel. So I went and found another parking place, and scratched the rental car up pretty good from the trees. Oh well, nothing a little shoe polish won't fix. When in Albania...
We had a great visit with Klevi Lusho--he's working 12 hour days on a beach and he's not allowed vacation. He can't even go the beach to swim. With all the hotels there, the waiters stay in tents. He's a shy kid, and he can't be enjoying it too much, but I admire his work effort. He's in it to stay (although his dad says he might pull him out).

After having a good time there, we headed back to Vlora. A long (1.5 hour each way) drive you may say, but I love that kid enough that it was more than worth it.
We got back into Vlore and got a hotel. Nicest hotel I've seen in Albania--thanks to President Clayton's recommendation. Classy hotels for classy people, right? I had all of my numbers on a Google Doc, so I had to run to the internet cafe to get them, since there was no wireless.
Ah, the memories. Internet cafes...especially this one!
I got the numbers, and tried a few, none of the house numbers worked for some reason, but I was able to set up two meetings with the Rrokaj and Isufi families. Sister Isufi (Eva) is the Rrokaj daughter. We met first with the Rrokaj's, had a nice talk, then went to Eva's house. The Rrokaj's gave me some pleasant news before I left: Krenar, Eva's husband had been baptised!!
Of course, nobody thought to tell me about it...just kidding. Eva was having a baby around the same time, so I understand how crazy it would have been. And the new baby is so cute!!! His name is Bruno, and he had these big eyes that would just stare at you...
Whoa...sorry. I'm back.
Noel, Eva's boy, had been asking her for days when I was coming. The kid is 3 years old and is really cute (here it is again), but he didn't even talk 10 words when I left. When I showed up, however, he got really bashful and wouldn't even smile at me directly (he kept sneaking smiles when I wasn't looking, which was comforting). We figured it was because I was with strange people (haha), I wasn't in a shirt and tie, I had longer hair and a goatie, and I had new glasses. Poor kid, I didn't mean to give him such anxiety...
We went to bed kinda early, so we coud get up to go to church. Apparently, they hadn't yet changed the hour from 10am to 9, because we got there really early. So, we took a drive around the city.
When church did start, and people started filtering in, it was real fun to see people's faces as they recognized me. Haha, it was like Santa Clause was real or something like that, and these people recognized him.
Church was great--President Chatfield, who is actually a patriarch, which is really nice because they are allowing him to give patriarchal blessings in the country, asked me to bear my testimony, which was crazy cool...but it also made me nervous. It was good though, and I know I said what I was supposed to say.
The afternoon as spent visiting my families, so there wasn't too much excitement. Well, okay, they were all over me.
At the end of the day, we went to leave Vlore. It was hard, but I felt good. I had visited all of the people that I needed to see--all of the people who really made a diference in my life in those 9 months I served there. I even visited my bartender, Mondi!!

We planned on getting to Tirana at night, but I had promised I would stop at some people's house in Fier. We drove out to Apoloni to see som cool stuff, then we ended up visiting the Morton's again to see how their water situation was. Well, of course we talked forever, so we ended up staying the night, and we just got our rental car in Tirana to get up to Italy. We have our confirmation to pick up in Tirana and to drop off in Italy, but the man told us that it said we couldn't take the vehicle out of Albania. This will be interesting...


  1. Po s'i nuk ju ndane problemet. Ne Tirane iken dritat, ne Vlore plasen ujerat. Well, that's Albania. Hope your parents didn't get nje shije te keqe nga Shqiperia. Mami jot duket shume humble though...

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!po ti hiqi keto fotot e mia ats se kam dale shume keq!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!