Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'm not much of a list maker--they usually end up forgotten on the counter along with any coupons I may have casually obtained. However, I find lists to be incredibly useful for organizing my thoughts--both task oriented and abstract.

So, in anticipation of our transfer to Albania, I'm going to share a list of my expectations for the move: those I'm looking forward to, and those of which I'm afraid.

The Good

1. Help, in the form of a helper. We've already hired our housekeeper/babysitter, who I hope will still be waiting for us when we arrive. I am just about foaming at the mouth at not being able to take a yoga class, go the gym, or work at my computer without interruption, much less teach yoga, volunteer, or otherwise exercise my brain beyond being a full time mama.

2. Work. EFM jobs are scarce in Tirana, and so I'm not holding out much hope of being able to work at the Embassy. However, that reality has forced me to seriously consider developing a portable career beyond teaching yoga.

3. House. That is, to really be able to settle in for two years, and the return of our HHE.

4. Albania, Europe, and the Balkans. Never have I so looked forward to the travel opportunities that will be at our fingertips, and hope that neighboring Italy will be enough bait for our friends and family to visit.

5. Mountains. Apparently we have a view of a small mountain range from the back of our house. Heaven!

6. Space. The density of NoVa and DC was initially unwelcome after two years in Manila. Thank gosh for the wonderful parks in this area, and I hope that Tirana will offer similar natural comforts.

7. Baby love. Like Filipinos, Albanians love children, and sweet Kyle's a flirt.

The Bad (maybe)
I have no idea what I will find in Tirana, so these are just fears.

1. Air pollution. People talk about the city being polluted, but I can't believe it. After Manila, I think only China could impress me.

2. Feeling trapped in my house. Will the area be walkable? Driveable? Will not speaking Albania turn out to be a significant problem? Will leaving my house be such a chaotic experience that I end up hanging out on the compound due to exhaustion?

3. Size of the expat community. Nearly everyone who's been in Tirana really enjoyed the post, and I'm not detecting a lot of hedging. However, it is a smaller post--about 1/6 the size of Manila, so I don't know what to expect.

4. Work. I was able to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish in Manila, and earn money. Will the same be true in Tirana?

5. Family. It has been wonderful to spend so much time with my friends and family, and witness how attached Kyle has become to my parents, and vice versa. As far as I'm concerned, the travel time to Tirana is a breeze compared to the 26+ hour ordeal that was traveling to Manila, but not everyone has that perspective, nor is everyone as comfortable with air travel.

6. Groceries, illness, and ease of errand-doing. Tirana is a 20% hardship with consumables, so I expect that all the above will present difficulties.

What will I think of my list a year from now? Hopefully I'll remember I wrote this list. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Musings of a reluctant mover

In my luxurious life as an EFM, I look forward to dragging my reluctant bum away from yet another home. A home that, once again, I will have spent five months resisting, one month enjoying, and four months freaking out about leaving.

This life would be so much easier if I didn't have dogs, child, cars, or any material goods whatsoever. Of course, such unencumbered and unaccompanied lives have their own challenges, and, all things considered, I would not choose that for myself.

SO, once again, we prepare for packout. Do other people stress out about not having access to a rocking chair for two months? Do they stay up at night wondering if their dog will not be allowed to re-board the plane in Vienna because the Austrians use a 15 digit chip reader instead of a 10 digit reader? Do they spend a great deal of time wondering if they should ship crates of tomato paste to their new homes?

Probably not. Unless they also drag their reluctant bums around the world every year or three.

There are many gaps of support in the FAM, the FS regulations for everything domestic. For example, we couldn't sell our truck in Manila without taking a huge loss (as in, $10K). But even though we were required to spend a year in DC for training, we were only allotted one car shipment, which we used to bring the truck home. The truck is just about sold, and for a good price for both buyer and seller--yay--but now we worry about buying a car in Albania. We could of course buy a new car from somewhere in Europe, but then won't we be in the same boat when we are leaving Albania? The boat where your car is too expensive for both the locals and the Embassy community, and you anticipate at least six months of training in NoVA, where you will need a car? Sigh.

There are also many strengths, most of which, having been back in the US for almost a year, I've forgotten about. But I remember feeling pretty well taken care of, despite our housing adventures. This time we have been assigned a 3 bedroom home where we will likely have enough room to unpack, and a guest room, which is all I want from my life in the FS. That, and a good babysitter who will also do the vacuuming.