The things that warm my heart edition

When I was in college living abroad to me seemed so glamourous! Sexy foreign languages, history around every corner, the promise of attractive exotic men – basically I was hooked. As anyone who has lived abroad knows, the fantasy quickly fades into a less than glamourous reality (see Dimitri’s post on simply doing laundry), but some small moments just for a second take you back to that fantasy. Disclaimer: There are no attractive exotic men featured in my post – sorry to disappoint.

In no particular order here are some things that have made me swoon a little bit during my time in the Balkans:

Warm heart moment #1: Community bike share programs!

Bikes!!

I pretend to be a fearless bike rider but I have not been brave enough to take one of these babies out on the fierce Albanian streets yet, but the time is coming soon. First I need to track down a helmet and add the extra activity rider to my insurance. Nevertheless, just seeing these stands on the street corner makes this NW bike loving girl happy.

#2. Shoes sales! It turns out I speak quite fluent shopping Albanian. Enough that when I saw a buy one get one free sign, without my pocket dictionary I knew what was up. I call that fluent.

Must maintain a fellow budget! Temptation everywhere.

Must maintain a fellow budget! Temptation everywhere.

#3. Late night pastry and gelato stands. Screw the late night taco, I will take the late night pastry fix anytime. (This is a love/hate item, but lets be real – there is more love than hate going on here. Good thing for my waistline that I live on the 7th floor…)

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There are four pastry stands on my walk home from work…

#4. Walking down the street, ogling shoes, eating a pastry and having a magic moment hearing the call to prayer. Albania in the 1960’s was the first declared atheist state. Hearing the call to prayer here knowing it represents so much to the once persecuted people, as well as adding an incredible soundtrack to the city, gives me serious goosebumps.

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#5. Having a tea under the palm trees. A little Mediterranean influence when it is 32 degrees F (and colder!)  never hurt anyone. Personally I get a big smile 🙂

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#6. Veggie stands on nearly every block. I haven’t found “my guy” yet, but I am enjoying doing the rounds. I though this part of the world I would be hurting for anything other than meat, and while I have had meat up to my eyeballs, I have enjoyed some damn fine veggies along side all that meat.

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Fruit porn!

#7. A solo accordion player. Call me a cheesy romantic but there is something about the lone accordion player that tugs ridiculously hard at my heart strings. Of course I gave him money. I couldn’t help myself.

I did ask permission but did not have him sign a waiver.

I did ask permission but did not have him sign a waiver.

#8. Platter of lamb. I don’t think this needs any elaboration.

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So freaking tasty.

#9. Having a last lunch in Pristina with such lovely people. I have to plug the lovely Ele from Spain and Asdren from Kosovo, I could not have asked for a more thoughtful, fun introduction to Kosovo.

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I have been working at my Kiva.org partner for only two days so I haven’t had any of those magic micro-finance moments that we hear about yet. I am hopeful but in the meantime, work is fulfilling me but the city of Tirana Albania and it’s people are really what is warming my heart for this week.

What is warming your heart or giving you goosebumps?