It took me five seconds to remember why I love Albania, and three days to remember why I was so ready to leave.

I watched the coastline emerging from the clouds, then watched as the hazy hay fields of summer came into view below the tall blue mountains. Tiled roofs over white walls. Ribbons of road. The kids were riveted watching the ground come up to meet the plane. I couldn’t keep the tears from my voice.

I realized that this is where we began our life as a family of four. After a moment of initial strangeness, everything feels so familiar and beloved. Even though we haven’t gone back to our old neighborhood yet. I went shopping and immediately found all our favorite brands of juice, cereal, and other sundries; stopped at the fruit market next to the hostel and loaded up on fresh stone fruits locally in season. Bananas cost an arm and a leg but the cherries and melons are nearly free. The language comes and goes depending whom I’m talking to. It’s hot as heck.

The first thing I did, though, after unloading our bags and taking naps, was to walk two blocks over to Dhurata’s house. She was baking a cake for her and Oz’s shared birthday even though we hadn’t made concrete plans to come over that afternoon. We both cried. Her mother died a week before we arrived and she’s in mourning black.


This morning I woke up tired, feeling the jet lag after the initial excitement. Gimli came back after 2.5 days in another city doing the work that is paying our way here. All afternoon he was blind and deaf to us while writing his report, then off for coffees and beers with former coworkers. In the evening we went together to a playground that’s attached to a pizzeria and met up with his old team, and I remembered why I was so ready to leave this place that has such a strange, strong hold on my heart – I hate, hate, hate his job here. His team at work often referred to themselves as “the family,” because they bonded so well (often in opposition to other divisions at the organization) and I can see so clearly now how often I felt like I was in direct competition with them for his attention and time. Which translates, or feels like it does, into affection. I think it was hard to see this sometimes because I was never jealous of any particular person he worked with (well, maybe one, for a while, but not for very long). But this afternoon the tired resentment that flooded back felt so familiar, as I wrangled the kids while he worked, oblivious to us. It was so much easier, actually, to be a single parent when he was traveling.

I don’t love Colombia. I don’t hate it, but it’s just a place where we happen to live. I don’t miss it (although I do miss being fluent in the language of the place where I am). I do miss the work, our team, the partnership and the balance that Gimli and I have there (imperfect as it is).

I can’t explain why I love this place. I just do. It’s just so damn interesting. What places are you attached to? If it’s not where you live now, would you go back?


6 Responses to “Why”

  1. happygoluckytireegal Says:

    Sorry I have been missing in action and have not been able to ask for you password when you were going through some stuff. I have been reading on my phone but so hard to comment. I feel for you with the job buddy situation – it has happened to friends of mine in cohorts in school as well as other bloggers at work. You sound so comfortable otherwise back in Albania. I hope you have a lovely stay.
    As for favorite places, I would not say that Chicago where i live is a favorite place – though I tolerate it well enough and have for 17 years. So that says something about me I guess.
    But my special place is the Isle of Tiree in scotland, my blog moniker and somewhere I would not really like to live year round but I would be happy there from May – September. We went about every other year when I was a kid and had simple holidays: packed lunches and thermos flasks of coffee on the beach after ice cold swims, seal watching, digging holes in the sand, playing cricket, having the odd treat of afternoon tea at a cafe, lots of reading, telling stories and making plans.
    Another place I love is my partner Susan’s special town on a special island in Croatia. Pucisca on the island of Brac. She has strong family ties there, the food is wonderful and locally grown, the sea is so blue and not too cold, the people are friendly, the coffee is amazing. the cafe society and and hanging out listening to Klapa music. The architecture. Etc etc.
    My dream is to move to a smaller town where we know our neighbors more, somewhere near or by water – cannot stand to be landlocked or not near a lake – where we can feel safe and secure. Picket fence not necessary. I find that these goals may not be very adventurous, but the price and standard of living in this big city is not so much fun anymore, especially with a kid and one on the way.
    Sorry for the super long comment. Hugs to you:)

  2. Esperanza Says:

    I was just talking to my therapist about how time and attention feel like they equal affection. And how I watch my partner give his time and attention to other projects at what feels like the expense of our family. And that really hurts me in ways that it is sometimes hard to articulate. And when I do, it always seems to him like I’m insisting that he shouldn’t spend his time or give his attention to other pursuits. And that’s not it, it’s just that I don’t understand why he can’t also give that kind of time and attention to us.

    I’m excited for you that you’re back in Albania. I hope it was/is a good trip.

    • Rachel Says:

      I feel that same way with my husband! I’m understanding about work stuff, but when he starts spending more time on his hobbies, I get pretty jealous.

  3. jjiraffe Says:

    London. I love it there so much, and even though it’s now been 10 years since we lived there, every time I visit it feels like home. Having the best friends we ever had as a couple still living there helps, but there’s something about the streets, the parks even the gloomy weather that feels, well, ancestral or something. I have always loved books set there, so maybe that explains it, but recently my mom has been working on our family tree and it turns out I am mostly English. So maybe the mother ship is pulling me back or something?

    I’m sorry Gimli’s job and team was so exclusionary. That would feel very lonely….

  4. Rachel Says:

    I can’t really say I’m attached to anywhere. Which is weird because as traditional and sentimental as I am, I would think I would feel attached to somewhere. I enjoy visiting my hometown & would be sad if my family left there, but I would never move back. I love the small city we just moved from. I like the neighborhood we now live in but miss the conveniences. I think I could learn to like to live anywhere.

    Sorry about the job stuff in Albania, at least it’s just a temporary situation right now. Enjoy your visit!

  5. tara Says:

    places that i love are places that make me feel more like me. so in vermont i felt more connected to the earth. in burlington, in particular, i felt independent. cape cod feels lonely in a way that I do. singers glen has quiet depths and takes a while to get to know. appalachia is my history, my family- it’s all damaged and raw and dangerous.

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