Tirana, the big city!
While the heat of summer wears off, we start to enjoy the fresh breeze September brings along. Schools are about to start and it is time to refocus and return to work. Here in Tirana, where I’m writing from, a lot of construction is going on without missing a beat. Some main city roads are being repaired, side roads too, entire neighborhoods are being restructured. I live by ‘Komuna e Parisit’, and recently my daily wakeup call has been at 6 am by a harsh construction sound of some kind. Yes, some serious noise and dust come with these changes no doubt. We hope it’s all for the better…. A lot of people must be expected to move to Tirana in the next few years, considering the number of residential high-rises pinching our Mediterranean sky.
I remember Tirana when it only had 250,000 inhabitants. Back then it was so small we could reach on foot just about every location in the city, or should I say town. Most of the town was concentrated within the ‘small ring’, still functioning today. Some lucky Tirana residents had a bicycle but most people walked to places or took public transport. Was impossible to go from ‘a’ to ‘b’ without running into someone you knew, a relative, mom’s friend, or a friend of a friend. This was not so long ago, yet this town has fully transformed and is becoming slowly a cosmopolitan city.
Often expat friends residing here have expressed feeling lonely in the city. This came as a surprise to me considering us Albanians are generally warm and friendly. Of course, this got me thinking of all the possible why this could be? As warm and welcoming us locals can be, we are also shy and reserved which can often be misunderstood for something else. Let’s not forget the fact that a lot of today’s residents of Tirana are newcomers themselves still finding their way in the ‘big city’. They may have been recently uprooted from smaller towns or small villages deep in the rural areas, coming to the ‘big city’ for a new life, new opportunities, looking for work, or schooling.
More expats come into Albania every year and most likely all of them spend some time in Tirana making this city even more transient following the big changes it already has gone through in the past 30 years. So, these are some of the ‘why-s’ I can come up with about feeling lonely in the ‘big city’ of Tirana. Having lived abroad most of my life and having had experienced an expat life first hand myself, I think anywhere one goes bittersweet feelings accompany someone going into a new environment, new culture, new place geographically. Adjustment time is needed to read all that this new place represents, to understand the jokes, to understand the culture, and to fully “get it”. Just like learning a new song that you like, initially you hum along, then you listen to it several times until the words start to stay in your memory and lastly you get all the tunes right with the words and the whole song comes together.