So summer has been incredibly hot. Like, the crawl onto your sofa in the most ventilated room in only your undies sort of hot (thank the lord that I got an apartment). I have never found myself sweating while laying down inside before; but Albania is a land of ‘firsts’ so that’s what happened. While I laid there questioning my life decisions I did think about writing a blog post BUUUUUT the heat had gone to my head and the small thermal capabilities of my computer made the task seem extremely arduous. Did I mention I was sweating INSIDE? Sitting still, doing literally nothing.
When you can’t stand the heat but aren’t allowed to get out of the kitchen
The heat of an Albanian summer is something I will never forget. And since we were under leave restrictions for most of the summer, there was no escape. The sun is more intense than I’ve ever experienced before. It feels like the sun rays have a personal vendetta against you and are dead set on making sure you’re miserable. The temperature my phone reported to me felt unreal and also wildly understated during the months of July and August. It was pretty common to wake up to a 104 degree day, and I’m not sure I ever saw it dip into the 80’s before 9pm. I could barely spend more than a few hours outside at a time, and between the hours of 11-4 I was hidden away in my apartment, Ice-waterbottle under my neck, wondering how I had steered my life into this sweltering, feverish nightmare. And even with the iced water bottle, the heat was too much. I have never been able to sleep without a sheet, but here, in this furnace of a summer, I slept like a baby with only a t-shirt and shorts (let’s be honest, sometimes not even shorts).
The summer where only the cars got washed
To make matters worse Albania was (is) suffering from a drought. In most other cities and towns everyone was on a water schedule, or there just wasn’t water for hours. Luckily, I am situated at the bottom of a very large hill (or some would say a mountain) and was spared this inconvenience, though I did have terrible water pressure (a real tragedy that my fellow PCV’s were definitely sympathetic towards). This lead to many of us strategizing when to shower, or more accurately, how long we could go without a shower. And for those that had particularly difficult water schedules, stocking barrels of water in their bathrooms and under counters so that the days cleanings, washings, and flushing could go on without a hitch.
The very few times that it rained I would run to my window and watch as the heavy drops hurtled to the ground, slowly lowering the temperature from unbearable to simply miserable hot. As the rain water rushed to the rivers my phone would fill with texts, photo’s and sometimes even videos of other volunteers rejoicing alongside me in neighboring towns. I would often send an “IT’S FINALLY RAINING” text and make wild speculations about when and for how long it would rain. To be honest I think it only rained 4 times all summer and only once for any decent length of time. The rivers and lakes were at low levels all summer. This made for a lot of Albanians trying to occupy a small river while I fell back and watched for the most part. I probably should have gone to the river more often but I was unsure of the dress code and what the children would think of me. I am going to be their teacher this year and I don’t remember on any occasion running into any of my instructors in only their swimwear.
And Lastly, a bunch of wildfires had been set all over Albania so any available water was being sent to combat the flames. Apparently, some shepherds believe that the fires will make their lands more fertile; however, in practice all I could see where charred mountainsides and homes that were in danger of being engulfed by flames.
Fashion in the Vode
I was pleasantly surprised by the dress of the Albanians in my town. For many up north shorts are a forbidden item of clothing for women, but here in Corovode it was a free for all. And the short length was pretty much whatever you wanted. Being super silly, I had opted not to bring ANY shorts and had to wear my skirts for most of the summer until, mercifully, my fantastically wonderful parents sent me some of my own from the States. For any of you that are headed to Albania in January BRING a pair of SHORTS! I don’t care where you get stationed. You will go on vacation. You will be inside. You will sweat so much you won’t care if your host mom thinks you’re in your underwear. And failing all else you will visit other PCV’s…maybe even me. So just bring the shorts and thank me when you see me.
And the shirts were pretty ‘modern’ too, I was taken by surprise by the number of crop tops, tube tops, and itty-bitty spaghetti straps I saw. Now, to be fair, most of these were on high schoolers but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to find these garments on teachers or other adults. If you’re wanting to play it safe I’d go with a wide strapped tank and a bunch of v-neck tops that you could also wear to work functions. Essentially for me in my town the dress code was ‘wear what’s comfortable-it’s really freaking hot’ and it looked a whole lot like what everyone back home wears in the summer, just extra cute.
The swimwear was much more ‘normal’ than I was expecting. I had all but had a mental breakdown trying to figure out which swimsuit would be ‘appropriate’ for Albania. the answer: anything baring that way too tiny, basically a thong, swimsuit your weird cousin Penny owns (I’m sorry if you have a normal cousin named penny and this offended you but we all know that one strange human who always wears clothing that’s a little too much for the occasion). I brought with me a one piece that I really liked and thought I wouldn’t get to wear all that much because it’s a bit skimpy up top, and a black two piece from the grown up side of targets swimwear department. Both were never questioned by Albanian’s. And trust me, they would let you know if they had any commentary.
So what did I do all summer?
For the most part this summer I focused on beginning to integrate myself into the community. I would go for a morning coffee at the lokal, or take a morning walk/run but only if it was before 7 because after simply the idea of physical activity had me drenched in sweat. I would go for xhiro in the evenings when being outside was possible.
And I ate a lot of watermelon. Like a concerning amount of watermelon. It was honestly the only part of my day that I would look forward to. The woman I bought my watermelons from would watch with eyebrow arched as I carefully inspected my pick of the day. I would look for the yellow bottom spot, check the stem for that nice frayed brown end, and then I would pick it up, feeling for its weight, and knocking on it to see if it sounded hollow. I actually really enjoyed this strange ceremony and it paid off. I only had one mealy watermelon all season. But, of course, the thing I loved most about the watermelon was getting to eat it.
Oh, and I watched all of Game of Thrones. I am proud, and the shows pretty awesome. I can’t wait to see the last season, in two years, when I COS….WHY IS IT GOING TO TAKE SO LONG???????