Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Bumpy Landing.

I'm never quite sure what it's called. The jargon has it that 'transition' is moving on to another country, 're-entry' is moving back to one's 'home' country. I'm not sure what the word is for going back to the host country after a summer in the home country. But I do know the symptoms & emotions. And in my experience the transition is never easy.

The children find it easiest of course. In fact adapting back to the UK was more of an issue. They were great with all the moving around & behaved well, despite table manners seeming to abandon them whenever we were with either set of grandparents. They also seem quite feral compared to kids in the UK, as here they go to the shops by themselves, run way ahead on the roads, browse at the other end of the supermarket to where I am. It's much safer & also there's more of a community feel. People look out for other people's children. I guess I just needed to teach them about a different cultural context which they're not used to. It hadn't occurred to me, after all, England is home.......

Of course 're-entry' encompasses leaving friends & families, leaving behind an exciting & busy time to return to routine &, (in our case), a bit of a social wilderness. Being a developing nation it also involves adjusting again to amenity issues & infrastructure frustrations that it's so easy to forget after a summer in the UK..

And as a family it means jiggling the pieces to fit the jigsaw of our family unit together again after a summer apart. I am now after 5 yrs of this, at least familiar with our family abode morphing into a Bachelor Pad every summer, complete with hydration packs (Camelbaks), for cycling, draped over the backs of chairs, copies of The Matrix, The Bourne Trilogy & Lord of the Rings littering the sitting room floor & a fridge devoid of much beyond beers & chocolate bars (apart that is, from some of the food in there that I had left 8 wks before. I kid you not.) This effect was only added to by a 22 yr old work colleague living with him. I couldn't even get into his room, as the floor was being used as a wardrobe. And I'm quite glad my Albanian didn't stretch to what the cleaner thought of it, as it didn't sound very polite. I have to say I wasn't totally without influence though. On the lads' bike rides I did insist they picked blackberries for my freezer, so they dutifully went out armed with Tupperware in their Camelbaks, & contrary to other photographic evidence, brought quite a lot home...

Our 1st inkling that transition was going to be a bit bumpy was when my husband (henceforth to be known as Mr INGO (i.e.international non governmental organisation, because 'my husband' sounds so pedantic. Ha!) Mr INGO didn't meet us at the airport. We were met at the airport by a friend who said he couldn't get there. Literally. Mr INGO had arrived back from work that evening to discover a 4 ft wide, 4ft deep trench had been dug the length of our street, & so he couldn't drive the car out. This happens all the time here. No warning is given. So our friend dropped us at the end of our street on the main rd, & then helped us negotiate our 6 bags down the unmade up road, under some pipes, along the edge of the trench & then form a human chain & pass them over a pile of sand & pipes & then edge our way round the rim of the trench, whilst the digger & cement pourer carried on working feet away from us. Still it provided evening entertainment for all the workmen & builders who were doing their bit watching the construction proceedings, (a universal character trait of workmen it seems) This was 10 o' clock at night by the way. They work through the night sometimes. The whole of our 1st week back in fact.

And that is our current daily reality Our quiet little dead end street has become a hive of activity. On one side, the motel, which was knocked down, has had very deep foundations dug & has concrete being poured in, & on the other side, the villa 2 down from us has been sold , flattened, the hill is levelled & it is now swarming with a crane, diggers, bulldozer, 2 concrete mixers etc.

There was a quiet Albanian family there with a bit of land, vegetables, an unfinished house, the upper floor only half built, obviously the remittances had dried up; & a little Downs Syndrome girl amongst their children. Sadly, unusual to see a Downs child kept in the family in Albania. I just hope they were offered a fair deal for their home. I sincerely doubt it though. I imagine they were offered 'enough to make a poor family think it seemed a lot' But they were in a prime spot next to the zoo lake in a dead end rd. I hope they're not squashed in some little apartment now with no land, no view & no space. See the before & after photos?

The construction goes on all day so it's incredibly dusty. We all have an urban variant of hay-fever, caused by concrete dust. It has completely changed our immediate environment, which was a quiet forgotten little corner on the outskirts of Tirana, off the beaten track out by the zoo & the park. Quite weird to be living somewhere which is gradually being subsumed into a suburb of Tirana, to have it happening literally around us.

Then of course, there have been the power cuts, always seem to be loads when we 1st arrive back, plus our electrical safety circuit, or something, has failed so our electrics aren't very safe, so our landlord informs us. And that also means the generator (which we are only allowed to use in the evenings, once dark!) doesn't come on either. He also says it's our fault because we used a plug socket we shouldn't have (?) & so we need to fix it. And the tank keeps running out of water. Have I forgotten anything?

Added to all this we have all had a horrible gastric bug which laid me low for 9 days, then my son for 6, then on our last trip to the beach last w/e my daughter got it the day we arrived. And you don't really want to know this, but a really horrible bug, I'm talking blood & mucus in my poor daughter's case. We have survived travels with children in India, South America, Sri Lanka without getting anything like this. I guess we don't have global immunity to the different bugs in the different countries we keep hopping between. And now my 'very kissy' daughter has, albeit in a very loving manner, passed on her cold to me, which she had for a month.

Oh joy.


Mwa said...

Your post reads like an advert for Albanian Tourism. :-)
Hope you're all healing now and they close up that hole soon.

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