Used car shopping in Chicago whilst diving into Lake Michigan
... because I did not read at all while home. And no, it's not because I was watching mindless TV (although my dad did make my sister and I watch the highlights of Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus). I really haven't gotten around to writing anything since I've been home mainly because I've been traveling like a Depression-era carny.
I went to Washington DC (missed the earthquake, though), Frederick, MD, New York City, Toledo, OH, Detroit, Chicago, and Beaver Creek, CO. And for all but Colorado, I was traveling by car or bus. It was my grand tour, except with less culture and more leisure diving (see above picture).
And after five weeks of vacation, I am exhausted and in need of a vacation from my vacation. I could really go for another week in Pittsburgh of doing nothing but hanging out with the family. But alas, alas, the show must go on. So instead of sitting on my couch at home or weeding the front lawn for my father, I'm at the Dulles Airport in DC (no aftershocks) waiting for my flight to Vienna, after which I hop on my flight to Tirana.
I don't really know what to think of my move. Albania, much like Georgia, is a fairly random country that few westerners know about. They're both countries who are still coming to grips with their post-communist identities, but while Georgia has seemingly made giant strides since the Rose Revolution, Albania is still having political problems. But both countries have incredible histories while offering beautiful natural surroundings.
In fact, Albania was named in Lonely Planet's top ten places to visit in 2011, and this little writeup from the New York Times certainly paints their Ionian Sea coast in an appeasing light. At the same time, I've had one Estonian friend who visited Tirana awhile back call Albania, The asshole of Europe, while I had another Georgian friend come back from working two weeks there to call it like Georgia... but ten years ago (just take a look at this picture of the Tirana Airport... yep, I'll be there in less than 17 hours).
But then again, I'll be in the capital and not the rural backwaters (I loved Bandza, but it wasn't exactly a beehive of activity), while I'll be teaching a subject I much rather prefer (TEFL < English Literature and Grammar).
The question I've gotten a lot over the past week is the same question I got before I went to Italy and Georgia, Are you nervous or excited? My answer has always been really lame, Not really. I've never been one of those people who got overly excited before something happens. Every now and then, something might hit me in the moment (my first night in Bandza comes to mind), but for the most part, I just take things in stride as they come. If I was overly nervous about what might meet me in Tirana, it wouldn't help at all. I'm not turning back now, and I wasn't turning back a week ago (or a month ago for that matter). It's just too interesting of an opportunity to pass up at this point in my life.
So here I am, enjoying my last American meal for awhile (Five Guys burger, with fries and a fountain cherry coke... very American), and I'm even keel. As always, no matter what happens, things could be worse. I could be unemployed... or in Libya.
(PS - Those final Georgian posts are still on their way as soon as I have time in Tirana. But I can't promise an approximate date.)