Well, it's New Year's Eve. We are safely back in Albania.
I have discovered a few things I didn't know,namely:
1.With clear rds you can drive from Albania to Bosnia in only 9 ½ hrs, not 16!
2.Bosnia is ¾ covered by forest, yes 3/4! And is beautiful with mountains, river canyons & pretty valleys.
3.That on a 4 wheel drive all the tires need to be the same or the circumference will be different (2Pi r etc) & so cause big problems for the 4WD mechanism. Guess what? Ours were all different....More noises, more repairs needed.
4.That in the space of a week, we could spend a third of the car's value on getting it fixed.
5.My husband will run over & kill a puppy rather than swerve on icy, snowy rds to avoid it & cause an accident. I know this is what you should do, I am just glad he was driving as I think I would instinctively have swerved. Fortunately our dog-besotted children were both asleep when this happened.
6.That the effects of a holiday can be erased so fast with the appearance of pot holed roads, mad drivers, death wish drivers, daily power cuts & a house hovering overnight at 5 degrees & 10 degrees during the day.
Both Mr Ngo & my hearts sank as we crossed border. I had been to a 'cross cultural' talk the year I arrived, which talked about when you notice your 'grace levels' going down & you get unreasonably angry & irritated by every little thing, that you normally cope with. e.g the traffic, the bureaucracy, the litter, the bad driving, the noise & pollution, corruption etc. yes I have been like this for about 2 months! But the speaker said that this is caused by the stress of living in another culture particularly if it is very different or difficult (e.g developing etc) This happens about every 2-3 months & you need to get out to recharge your batteries.
Normally this rejuvenates you to enter the fray once more. This time however, despite not having had a brilliant holiday, so it wasn't 'end of holiday blues', we still felt depressed! Mr Ngo said he thinks he's getting to the stage with Albania that he got to with Sri Lanka. Fed up with everything & wearied by the never ending fight against bureaucracy, unfair taxes, & hurdles the Albanian government put in International organisations' way to make it so hard for them to grow & make a success of his microfinance organisation. This for a perfectionist adds to his stress at being thwarted constantly from doing well.
It just so happens that we are going to try & return to the UK next year. Our eldest will be 11 in May, so it is a good time to repatriate in time for secondary school. However, for my husband who works in international development, this could be easier said than done! So far Mr Ngo has changed career 4 times, from Army, to British Airways, to children's charity to overseas development in his 21 year working life. All very successfully I might add. He reassures me that if he cannot get a development job back in the UK, he will opt for career number 5 & retrain as a teacher & send me out to work full time for a year whilst he qualifies!
I have come to the conclusion, that he lives by Mark Twain's quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
He's much more of a “throw off the bowlines” man & I am a “safe harbour” kind of gal. I never used to be, but now I am. I am tired & I want to go home. I hope 2011 is the year we manage to do so.
We are off to celebrate New Year with friends of 5 different nationalities. On such occasions it's nice to dress up. However in an Albanian winter when you know everyone else's house is as cold as yours, you opt for Practical not Party Frock. And of course when, anyway, you always get given 'shapka' (slippers) to put on, it rather defeats the fashionable effect of little black dress, tights & heels. So thermal vest, woolly tights, plus socks & at least 3 more layers it is.
Albanians have been 'warming up' with their fireworks night & day for the last few days. At midnight in Skenderbeg square, all hell breaks loose. People let off fireworks in the crowd, in the street, everywhere. It's utterly mad, chaotic, dangerous & very......Albanian!
We will be watching from the safety of friends' 7th floor baclony!
Happy New Year one & all!