April 25, 2016: Happy Fifth Birthday Luciana

I stayed up late working last night, probably until two or three in the morning.  I was the first to post a happy birthday to my baby who turned five this morning.  Officially she will have turned five in Albania and celebrated her birthday later in the day in Kosovo.

We got up and went down for our last giant breakfast in Albania.  We are kind of looking forward to being without so much food soon.  We need a chance to recover from all of the over eating.  It is hard when you wake up still full and are full all of the time from just all of the portions being so ridiculously large.  It is exhausting.

After breakfast we got the car packed up and around noon we managed to get on to the road.  The drive to Kosovo is not a long one but we wanted to get up there nice and early.

There was a bit of back tracking as we drove north in Albania, but soon we turned east into the mountains for what was really an amazing drive.  We climbed up into the lush green, misty hills and took the massive, brand new A1 super highway towards Kosovo.  The drive was just gorgeous and the road empty and impressive.

This is some of the most beautiful country that we have seen yet.  As we approached the border we found the most enchanting high mountain lake anda  little cafe overlooking it.  We stopped as we were near the border and wanted a chance to get coffee and to use the restroom before going to the border in case there were any border complications.

While we were having coffee, Dominica learned that a high school friend that had been in a horrible plane crash a few days ago, had passed away from his extensive burns.  So this was a very sombre afternoon.

The border crossing into Kosovo was pretty easy.  Pretty much everyone needs to get special insurance there so they were totally prepared for us.  It was fifteen Euros and very quick.  We were into the border and everyone was extremely friendly.  This is a model for how border crossings should be.

Once into Kosovo we were onto a major highway that was completed as far as the road was concerned but had no exits, gas stations, all of the signs were for things sometime in the future, etc.  That was odd and confusing but once we figured out that they were all fake and didn’t apply (toll warnings but not toll booths, exit signs without exists, etc.) we were just fine.

We fueled up just outside of Prishtina, the capital, and then headed in.  Navigating the capital was a bit tough and the traffic was terrible.  We moved so slowly through the city.  Our hotel was downtown in the middle of everything right next to the Swiss Embassy, which was a great location.  But getting to it was a challenge.

The hotel was nice.  We liked our room.  We got checked in and dealt with parking the car, which was not too bad.  But we found out that the Internet was down at the hotel.  We have no cell service in Kosovo, sadly, as they do not have the same deals with T-Mobile as the rest of the countries.  So we were in a bit of  a bind.

We figured out that a pizzeria right up the street had WiFi that would reach the edge of our hotel room, so we went there and got dinner.  I got a local style tuna sandwich which was amazing.  They split the bread down the top and pour in the ingredients and then bake it.  So good.  We got their Wifi access and checked in from there.  I like my friend Fatlinda, that I attended RIT with, know that I was in town and where we were staying.  Then it was back to the hotel for a bit.

We spent a little while just relaxing in the hotel.  It was late afternoon and we had some Internet access now so we were letting people know where we were and the girls were happy to have space to play as they had been in the car all morning.

Fatlinda and I had arranged for us to all get together and her and her husband’s apartment which was not too far away.  We struggled to get an address and to map it, however, even the front desk of the hotel could not figure out where I was supposed to go.  So since we were planning to meet around eight or eight thirty I set out on foot at seven to see if I could figure out where we were to go.

While I was out walking for about an hour it started to snow!  Snow, in late April!  I was very surprised and very cold.  I never managed to find their place, even after a very long, cold walk. So I returned to the apartment.

After at least half an hour, maybe an hour, at the apartment we finally figured out where to go and got everyone to agree as to what we were doing and got us all bundled into the car and set out to find their place all together.

Our drive to their condo, which is just 1.1km turned out to be rather an adventure of tight, old city streets where we had no visibility and the car could barely fit through.  And somehow there was supposed to be bidirectional traffic on streets where my mirrors almost had to be pushed it just to get through at a crawl!  This was crazy.

It took us far longer than it should have to get there, but the roads were just insane.  We had to take some longer ways because we could not fit through the shortest path to the condo.

It was probably nine thirty when we arrived.  This is the first time that I have met Fatlinda in person but we did many projects together at university.  She has just had a baby a few weeks ago and her oldest daughter is just three.  Her daughter was still awake specifically so that she could play with the girls.  The three of them immediately set out for a nursery full of toys and had a great time all evening.

Fatlinda had baked a cake for Luciana’s birthday, as well.  So we celebrated Luciana’s birthday with a homemade cake in Prishtina, Kosovo!  This is something for her to remember.  So many birthdays are not very memorable.  This one certainly will be.

We had a really nice time visiting and were there until well after midnight!