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?