1. Being "rich" while I'm here. 2. Leaving (albeit, usually for another one)!
So, I'm off tomorrow at
1:45 for the airport! Will catch up with Mike on Friday evening. Hoping to make it into Milan for half a day or more on Friday,
should be able to leave bags at hotel, jump a train in and see a few things. Try to stay out of the shops. . .
stop Bangkok, then hopefully down to Phuket for 6-7 days, and hopefully it won't monsson the entire time!
Monday, June 5, 2006
Thing I HATE about third world countries:
1. Holes in sidewalks that could swallow a VW bug.
Street lights that don't work. (ALL)
3. Traffic that ignores all traffic rules, including lanes, pedestrian crosswalks,
and stop signs.
4. Public bathrooms that are nothing but squats, without toilet paper or running water...
Inadequate internet connections.
6. Feeling like a foreigner.
7. Knowing that no matter what you pay for a
furnished apartment, you are NOT getting a microwave.
8. Getting "The Hearld Tribune" and "USA Today" a day later
than publication. (although I'm glad to get them!)
9. English language books that cost in excess of $20.
Milk that comes in a box, unrefrigerated. Just seems wrong.
11. No box springs on beds.
12. No dryers for
13. Fearing for my life everytime I get in a cab.
14. No medical care.
15. Point and pray
method of ordering off menu's.
16. Not knowing where to buy simple items like a needle and thread, or hangers.
Watching television in a foreign language.
18. Strange and long living facination with techno-pop. . . . at top volume.
19. The belief that laying on a horn when behind an empty car in a driveway or parking lot will actually solve anything.
20. Stray dogs and cats everywhere.
Oh, Albania, why do you want to do me
like you do?!?!? Since my last post we've had a "nice" weather system move in and make it very cold and wet here. Glad to
have my "FBI" Trench Coat here, been looking at it hanging forlornly by the front door, wishing I hadn't brought it, and viola,
it starts to rain and get cold. That's what I get, I guess.
Funny thing though. When it starts to rain, or even get
cloudy, all the internet reception in the country goes off. Must be their bootlegging off some wireless connection in Italy
or Greece or something. Anyway, haven't been on line since Friday, and that was to buy airline tickets.
been uneventful, but getting plenty to eat, drink and read, so not going to complain too hard. Getting ready to leave the
end of the week for Thailand,and it's looking pretty wet over there. Of course, the Stout's are on their way! At least it
will be a warm rain. . .
I am leaving a day before Mike, to prevent another 14 hour lay over in Milan. I leave Thursday
afternoon for Italy, will spend the night in Milan, then fly the next evening to Vienna where I will meet Mike for the 10
hour flight to Bangkok. Don't know what we are going to do yet, stay in Bangkok or go elsewhere. I have a few health issues
I need to get sorted out in Thailand.
Before we left (well before, actually), I had a bad case of bronchitis, and
with it came my ears popping. Well, they are still POPPED, and it is getting quite irritating in addition to starting to be
a little painful (and worrisome). Plus, I don't think my bronchitis has gone, and Friday I discovered some interesting white
spots on my tonsils. Been running a mild fever on and off since we've been here, in addition to a hacking cough. Has cut down
on my cigarette intake, however. Makes me want to do nothing, though. Thank God I'm not someplace where I feel like I'm missing
out on anything!
Watched it rain most of last weekend, but did go bowling with Herb again on Saturday night. I rolled
a 181, my highest game ever! Mike had a 195, and Herb had a 185, so we all had moments of glory.
Will try to keep
you updated on what's happening in Thailand. healthwise and travel wise. I doubt we will stay in Bangkok the entire time.
Monday, Memorial Day, May 29, 2006
Forgive me, because I really don't feel like updating this
today, the computer's slow, and I feel lonely and depressed today. It happens, I know, and it won't last, but today
just feels like a yucky one. . .
We did have a nice weekend, however, starting with Friday
night. We had some pizza and then went to a local bar called Hard Rock (which isn't affliated with the real Hard Rock's
in any way), where they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights. We went last week and the band was really good.
This week, however, they were an 80's big hair metal cover band, and they weren't very good, so we left. Earlier during
the week when we ate at a place called Serendipity's, which is a nice, covered patio serving Mexican (amongst others) food,
some folks told us there were live bands there on the weekend as well. So, being it was on our way home, we wandered
over there, and it was ROCKING! We stayed for several beers and ended up dancing the night away (well, I danced).
Got home around 2 AM! Oh, and I managed to rip my favorite pair of jeans up, too! That really stunk. Got
them caught on a chair and ripped them in three places, but didn't damage the skin underneath. BUMMED OUT! Will
have to try and find a replacement I like as much. Glad I only paid $9 for them!!! heehee
Saturday was a necessary slow day around the Stout apartment.
Got up late, did a little laundry, ventured out for lunch, got the papers, worked on crosswords, laid around, read a book,
etc. Couldn't hardly work up the energy to even go back out that night, but ended up meeting Herb for a couple beers,
then over to the Chinese restaurant. Good food, and home by 10:30!
Up Sunday morning for our trip up to Kruja castle.
Met the taxi driver in front of the Embassy at 9:30 and took off for a little cruise into the mountains. Got there around
11 AM. Medieval Castle built orginally in the 1400's, but completely (almost) restored. Nestled in a cute little
town. If you squinted hard enough and ignored the mosque parapet in the middle of town you could almost pretend you
were in Northern Italy. . . almost.
Very surprised at the poor air quality up there. Black
burning fires everywhere! A very brown haze laying over everything. I would place this countries economic development
about on par with Bolivia. They're getting it, but at a HUGE cost of pollution and land raping. There is trash
everywhere in town, along the road, through the mountains, plus any and all industry belching smoke into the air. Not
a pretty scene, as it could be a beautiful country. Hard to take a country seriously that won't even pick up after itself.
Had a nice couple hours at the castle, though. Went
through the two museums there, had a nice pizza and coke lunch on top of the hill, then cruised on back to Tirane. Sat
around for a little while, then hooked back up with Herb for some dinner and bowling! Oh, you know it, we had to go
bowling in Albania!
The lanes looked nice, but they had no slide. Mike
did roll a 189 his first game, though. Herb and I didn't do quite as well, but we all had fun.
Saw a billboard on the way back from the castle for Asso
cigarettes. I have to find some of these. . . Either sounds Japanese or like Asshole. . . too funny either way!
Looks like we will probably be outta here on the 9th of June
as scheduled, going to Thailand and sitting and waiting until the 19th, when we are scheduled to start in Cambodia.
Trying to figure out where to go in Thailand, I want to go somewhere we haven't been, Mike wants to go to a golf mecca. .
. go figure.
Okay, enough. Just wanted to get something down and
see if it made me feel any better. . . it did, a little. Drop me a line and cheer me up!
Friday, May 26, 2006
Oh God, I just realized typing that date that in a month
Mike and I will have been married six years! Not that that's an "oh, God" but just that we will be just arriving in
Cambodia! How am I gonna arrange a remarriage via email!!?!? Oh well, I know the perfect spot! We'll do
it on Snow's bar's veranda! Keeping with the river theme and all. Will look for a pastor/priest/preacher on line,
I guess. Wonder what the official six year anniversary gift is? Just googled it, traditional is CANDY, modern
is Iron, and alternative modern is wood. . . so, I guess anything goes, eh? I'll take an iron bowl full of candy, please.
Anyhoo, so bored today decided to go and get my haircut.
Thinking smartly, I went back to the hotel we moved out of, thinking it there was an English speaking hairstylist anywhere
in Tirane, she/he would be at the most expensive hotel's hair salon. WRONG. Once again had to muddle through with
someone who's only English is "euro", "hello" and "thank you". Oh well, actually turned out okay, and there was a gal
there getting her nails done that could help with translation. No worries. She cut my bangs a tad short, but nothing
like Cambodia, no tears.
Planning on going to a castle north of town on Sunday called
Kruja Castle. That's all I know, that's it's a castle and it's north. May cruise over to the west coast as well,
depending on time, daylight, and our taxi driver (someone being arranged by the Embassy who our friend Tommy used when he
was here last year). Also, Herb wants to take a field trip to the mall located about 5 miles out of town, as he heard
they have an "American" style supermarket (he's looking for some oatmeal, strange the things we crave while we are out here).
I'm almost frightened to go, I might buy a whole bunch of stuff I need to cook. . . YIKES! Naw, probably not.
Haven't done much all week, though. Just sitting in
cafe's, drinking diet Pepsi and working on crosswords, watching the people go by. Went out for pizza last night in the
pizzeria in our apartment building, then home for "movie night". Watched "Kingdom of Heaven", about Jerusalem and the
crusades, set in 1154, with Orlando Bloom. Okay.
Typical European laundry machine here, you would think European's
would demand machines like ours that can actually do a load of laundry in less than two hours (not counting drying time).
I find this remarkable, even in Japan it took that long for the wash cycle. What is up with that? It can't possibly
be getting the clothes cleaner, or else us clean-conscious Americans would be demanding it. Must be something to do
with energy efficiency, although I find that hard to imagine that longer is better. Whatever. Was thinking
of all the countries I've done laundry in, or had my laundry done in, and can remember everything I did except in Hawaii.
We were there five weeks and I have not one recollection of how we got clean clothes. . . must have been the booze. .
. random thought.
Will report Monday on castle, mall, etc. Will also
find internet cafe with USB port, as is mandatory; Mike has to send in his expense report!
Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all the Americans!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Saturday was a nice day, and we spent the majority of it
walking around exploring the immediate downtown area, primarily scouting for restaurants and evening entertainment.
Lots of shopping options, and I don't think anyone here is going shoeless, more shoe stores here than in Italy!
Our friend Herb (worked with him in Japan and Bolivia) is
here, too, so we hooked up with him late in the afternoon, went out and had a couple drinks and some chicken wings, then met
up later again for dinner. Had a hard time finding a restaurant! Everything we thought was a restaurant earlier
in the day is basically a cafe/bar (no food). So, we wandered into a bar called "Route 66" (funny, huh?), and after
some aprehension on our part, the guy there threw us into his Audi Quattro wagon and drove us to a restaurant (just around
the corner!). We proceeded to eat more seafood than three people should have. . . Was good, not Bali, but good.
Sunday morning we had our final breakfast buffett at the
hotel, packed our stuff and grabbed a cab to our new digs. We have a one bedroom apartment in a 13 floor building that
is part of a type of complex about a half mile from where the hotel is located. It's pretty big and spacious, if not
modestly furnished, with two couches that could sleep visitors (anyone? anyone?).
After settling in, we went out and bought the essentails;
coffee maker, toilet paper, air freshner, laundry soap. Yes, we have a washing machine, damn it, so it looks like I'll
have to do laundry in addition to hauling beer up to the apartment (although we have an elevator- YEAH!). Work work
work, that's all I do. . . heehee.
Went out for a stroll later, found a fast food place called
YAHOO fast food, their logo is exactly like Yahoo's, so I had to sit there and sing "yahooooo" like an idiot. Had a
nice sandwich there, hit a couple cafe's on the way home for some liquid refreshment. Funny, depending on where you
stop beers range between $1 and $4. Hard to tell why the discrepancies, as all the places are basically the same level
of "class" or decor. Our last stop was the XL Club, which is basically just outside our door. Beers were $2.50
there, so not so bad. Got a couple free ashtrays for our apartment, too!
No internet in the apartment, but two cafe's just in the
apartment complex. Easy enough, but the internet was down all day Sunday and yesterday, so this is my first experience
with non-five-star-hotel internet. Seems to be okay, but the computer has no USB port to post pics from. Will
have to investigate the other cafe, as Mike will need this to send in his expense reports and hours.
Yesterday Mike went to work and I cruised around a little,
did some more shopping. After work we met up with Herb and had some Chinese food. Adequate.
Tirane seems to be an okay town, and for the level of poverty
and unemployment very few beggars or homeless people around. Although a predominately Muslim country, very hard to tell.
The girls walk around in stilleto's, half dressed, haven't heard one call to prayer, and haven't seen a mosque yet, either.
Albanian people, men and women, seem to be pretty attractive
on a whole, but haven't seen that many "middle-age" (ie: my age) people around at all. Seems to be mostly young (university
age) or elderly.
We have CNN at the apartment, the Herald Tribune and USA
Today are readily available, if not a day out of date, so should be in the know most of the time, which is nice, too.
Plus, access to crosswords to pass the time. Addicted to Sudoku now, too.
Taking pictures, too. Will get them up, I promise.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
It was a long and winding road, some of it self-inflicted,
some of it not, but I finally made it here at 1 AM on Friday morning. My sweet, dear husband did come out to the airport
to get me, and furnished me with a cold beer to help wind me down and get me to sleep.
Here's the saga. Used air miles on Delta to get here,
which wasn't all that bad except I had a 14 hour layover in Milan waiting for the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Albania.
In preparation for said layover, I had booked a hotel about 4 miles from the airport and planned on sleeping the day away
in Milan. However, when I arrived in Atlanta to catch the flight (direct) to Milan, it was delayed, and of course, overbooked.
Unconcerned, as I had PLENTY of time in Milan to catch my next flight, I went directly to the bar for a drink. An hour
later, when I returned to the gate, there was still no word on the flight. Knowing it was overbooked I went to the counter
to see if they were interested in my seat, and what they could do for ME if I gave it up.
The desk informed me that if I could wait until 8 PM (two
hours from then) to fly, they could put me in business class to Barcelona, with a one hour layover there, then on to Milan,
plus a $400 airfare certificate and a meal voucher. Well, why not!?!? So, that's what I did, figuring it
was fine to kill a couple more hours in Atlanta. Back to the bar. . .
My flight to Barcelona was relatively on time leaving Atlanta,
and all was on schedule. When I arrived in Barcelona, I needed to go to the transit desk in order to get a boarding
pass for my flight to Milan. There I was informed that the flight was delayed, was issued my boarding pass, and told
to go to the gate for more information. Arriving at the gate, the sign said Stuttgart. Hmmmm. . . . no one there,
either. It's about noon now, Spain time, and the flight to Milan is only 1 hour 30 minutes, BUT my flight ends up being
delayed another FIVE HOURS!!!!
I finally arrived in Milan where I had to pick up my checked
luggage and rebook for my flight to Albania. Now it is 5 PM and my flight leaves at 10:30 PM, so I decide that the three
hours I would get to spend in the hotel in Milan is just not worth it, so I hang out in the airport (again) until I can check-in,
etc. A very exciting time. By the time the plane touched down in Albania I had actually been travelling for close
to 35 hours!!! What a drag! I could have come home from Bali in that time!
Oh well, I'm here and I have $400 Delta dollars in my pocket
and another nightmare travel story to add to the collection.
Tirane appears to be a fairly quiet town, some beautiful
mountains surrouding it, VERY nice weather, close to 80 in the day, in the sixties at night. Our hotel is okay, but
very expensive. Mike had went and looked at an apartment on Thursday before I arrived and we went back to see it yesterday,
and are moving into it tomorrow. Large one-bedroom in a strange type of complex with lots of mini-markets, hair salons
and BARS. Will be nice.
Money is the LEK, and things seem pretty affordable.
Beer is Triane, but I don't care for it. Am drinking German beers instead. Went to a nice Italian retaurant yesterday
called the Lion's Gate, very near our new apartment. Will probably be a weekly treat! Doesn't look as if we will
lack for places to eat or for variety, either.
And, it's only about three weeks we will actually be here,
anyway. Possibly some good shopping, too!
Haven't taken one picture yet, though, so wait for that!
Tuesday, May 16, 2005
So, this is a little premature, as I haven't actually left
yet, but my better (and more productive) half is actually already in Tirane, Albania hard at work. He left Monday and
I leave tomorrow at noon.
We should only be there for about four weeks, then we are
off/back to Cambodia for another four weeks of fun in southeast Asia (what IS it with this area of the world and why do we
keep having to return!?!?!). Oh well, could be worse, could have had to go to Mali. Dodged that bullet!
Had a bit of fun buying tickets for myself. Was the
first time I was able to use air miles to get me across the pond (they were Mike's, but what's his is mine, right?).
Bad news, I have a 14 hour layover at the Milan airport. Good news, I finally got a hotel today, so at least 8 hours
of it can be spent on a bed (alone *sigh*).