“Waking up begins with saying am and now. That which has awoken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognized I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. Here comes next, and is at least negatively reassuring; because here, this morning, is where it has expected to find itself: what’s called at home.”
– Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

My morning routine has adapted to the current situation, but remains relatively unchanged from what it has been for the past near 2 + decades (I don’t include the early, early years.  Those mostly consisted, I imagine, of crying, eating, pooping, or some combination.  Still not entirely different but I have no recollection so cannot confirm or deny anything.  I’ll ask mom.).

5:00 am – the alarm goes off.  Ignore said alarm.

5:10 am – the alarm goes off again.  Remind myself, why I do it.

5:15 am – get up.

5:30 am – out the door for quick run.  Today I am listening to Carl Orff’s, Carmina Burana.

Today, however, will be different.  Today I’m going to Pogradec. Today is actually last Saturday.  As soon as I’m home and conclude the rest of the ritual (coffee, shower, etc.) I throw a few items into my hipster stylish messenger bag, grab a compact sleeping bag from OA closet, and rush to the Librazhd furgon station on the opposite side of town.  These days I travel light, and slide into the back seat of the second furgon I find (the first was going to Korçë  – he looked a little disappointed.) with two other passengers on either side. I text my friend Alex (a.k.a. Alexandra), “Sitting in the furgon.  We need two more to leave.  Be there soon.”  Alex replies, “OK.”

We wait for a bit longer than normal, and despite the early hour, the air is still and getting hot.  The man next to me is clearly anxious to get on the road.  He waves his arms, speaking emphatically and looking me in the eye.  I must have said the right thing because he keeps going but I can’t keep up the charade for long.  “Me fal, nuk kuptoj. Nuk jam shiqptare.” Usually at this point, they lose interest and I fall asleep.  “Oh, you’re American?” he asks, “I speak some English!”

By this point we’re finally on our way and I’m conversing with my new friend.  I speak to him in broken shqip, he to me in broken English, and we’re getting along famously.  I get a real kick out of his telling the woman on my other side everything about me.  She seems delighted.  This is about the point the furgon breaks down outside of Librazhd.  I update Alex to let her know my predicament and that I might be running late, but that at the very least, I’ve made some friends to keep me company.  She writes, “Hahaha, oh no! Who are your friends?” In Albania, many times all you can do is laugh.

We passengers are all loitering about the parking lot of a road-side lokal and gas station.  A mother and her small child are being told about me by the woman.  They seem delighted as well. A young chune and chuna are off to one side getting a little handsy and my friend has gone off.  I manage to ask the furgon driver about the situation and this is where our company parted.  I pay my hundred lek and am about to update Alex and go wait by the road for another furgon, when my friend appears out of nowhere and calls me over to a parked tour bus heading to Greece.  “He will take us all to Pogradec.  200 lek.”  “Sweet!,” I exclaim, overjoyed.  He looks at me funny.  I update Alex.

We continue on our merry way and my friend tells me about his work in Tirane, and how he has an American engineer friend who he used to work with.  He tells me about the economy of the country and the different mining operations we pass, some still functioning, most defunct.  He tells me about the friends he is going to see just outside of Pogradec and the few drinks he’s going to have before heading back to Elbasan in the afternoon.  He never tells me his name.

Just outside of Pogradec, we shake hands and I wave goodbye to my friend as he gets off the bus.  The chune and chuna are now making out hardcore in the back of the bus and I can hear their lippy-smacky noises.  We pull around the corner and I can see my destination along the shore of shimmering Lake Ohrid.  Macedonia is just in the distance, on the opposite shore.  I update Alex.
“OK, cool.” she writes.

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