Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Economies of Scale

Well here we are in Albania. Our second posting. Here's where we start all over again. Again.

We have moved from a humid tropical island of 20 million to a tiny European country of 4 million, which is 90km wide at its 'fattest' point. We have moved from a capital city of 2.2 million, to a capital of 700,000. Although as Tirana is a glorified building site (without the glory actually) that number is obviously predicted (by someone) to grow, judging from the number of apartment blocks more than anything, which are springing up.

We have gone from streets full of cows, stray dogs, bullock carts and tuktuks, to (equally congested) streets full of Mercedes (mainly stolen). In Sri Lanka the streets seemed to be full of women mainly, in vivid,colourful saris. Here in Albania, my 1st impression is that everyone wears black (or shades of grey or brown) and it's men on the streets, in groups, in the cafes, predominantly. It feels very masculine.

It seems to be economies of scale that have struck me most. Here there area few100 ex pats. (With only about 5 NGOs here in total) Even in the first week I was already bumping into the same people. In Sri Lanka, there wereseveral 1000. M will be working with one other ex-pat in an office totalling 5 people, compared to 70 in Colombo.

As for the city, well, I now realise that Colombo was very leafy, green and low-rise, with the sea and a river and jungly undeveloped areas to add to the sense of space. Here it feels quite claustrophobic. Very few green spaces, concrete everywhere and very high rise. It's European style living. Apartments and street cafes ubiquitous.

However there are similarities to make me feel at home. Congestion,pollution,rubbish, pot holes and even giving way on roundabouts, to those joining it.

Our 8 yr old loves his International School, which we are very relieved about. Just as well children don't see things the way adults do. He has gone from 440 to 89 students. 44 nationalities to 14 (50% American), no pool, no gym, no basket ball court, no cricket field, just a small netball-court sized astro turf.Because the school is 50% American, and possibly, the fact that there is only 1 non-American (a Brit) on the Board of Governors, there is a holiday for Thanksgiving (that famous INTERNATIONAL celebration....) and a 12 wk summer vacation U.S style.

To me it feels like moving our son from Radley to the little village school which meets in prefabs. Still, he's happy, and research shows (and this is hardly rocket science) that a child being happy is the most important factor indoingwell at school.It won't be a place to meet parents either. I have never seen such a'masculine school gate', everyone seems to be met by (male) drivers. Don't know why.

I also wonder if I will carry on blogging. Will I have anything to say?Everything, though unfamiliar, feels a bit too normal here. I realize I had become quite fond of the madness and chaos. A teacher at our son's school in Colombo had reassured me that Albania was a 'bonkers' country.

I fear it may not be bonkers enough for me though.... "Fickle, thy name is woman", I know, I know...

Still it's early days, plenty of time for 'bonkers' to rear its reassuringly familiar head I imagine.


Almost American said...

I'm sure you will find things to write about! I'm glad you're back and I look forward to hearing more about Albania.

I'm intrigued that the 'International' school recognizes Thanksgiving. Do the kids get Easter hols? Probably not if the school is following an American calendar. Sounds more like an American school that accepts other nationalities than a truly International school.

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