I spent a surprising amount of my first year in Albania trying to find a permanent place to live.
I’ve written before about how I used to be a lousy house guest and how I eventually had to move out of my host family’s apartment. Granted, this was something I’d hoped to do in the long run but it happened all of a sudden. Unfortunately, it also happened when the dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages was out of the country–he had a list of places I could stay–and the only people available to help me were Peace Corps staff who had a lot of other volunteers to worry about.
I was originally told I’d be staying in an apartment owned by a widow. As I understood it, she’d move in with family and I’d get the apartment. It was an okay place, but kind of hidden in a maze of streets. When I arrived with my stuff, she was there and I was told I couldn’t move in then. I was basically homeless with all my stuff in boxes around me.
Luckily, a pair of fellow expatriates took me in “for a short time”. Unfortunately for them, both the Peace Corps and I dragged our feet to get me out. This was surprising because we weren’t, technically, supposed to live with fellow expats.
Eventually, right around the start of winter, at the suggestion of yet another fellow expat, I moved into a house with an older woman who never seemed to smile much, her daughter, who didn’t seem to talk much, and their other boarder, a cute young Albanian woman who was the only friendly one in the house. I lived there over the winter, which was a mixed blessing.
My room was one part cave, one part cold storage. I bought a little electric fan eater that took some of the edge off, but we lost power a lot. The woman started cooking for me, which I hadn’t asked her to do, which would eventually lead to a money argument.
When my dean returned from overseas, he quickly found me a permanent place to stay. I found another boarder for the woman, which helped solve some of the money argument, especially as the person I found was paying more money than I could.
For a while I was fine, but about the time I got settled in and comfortable, my country director forced me to move cities. Luckily, I found a nice apartment quickly, but it was never quite home.