Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Housing is very difficult to find in Albania. There are no real estate companies and there is not a way to look up available apartments or houses in various cities, towns, or villages. Every place that was found for Peace Corps Volunteers was found by word of mouth. "oh, my sister's, husband's, boss's brother owns a building with an empty unit." That is usually what it sounds like when the Peace Corps or other volunteers find housing.

Living and finding a place to live in Himarë is both easy and hard. Since Himarë is a beach and vacation town there are lots of housing options that are not full unless it is pushime (vacation/holiday). This is great news when trying to find an apartment for the fall, winter, and spring. The summer, on the other hand, can create a problem for someone who would like to live in an apartment year-round and who has a very low budget to work with. It was easy to find a landlord that was interested in having an American live in one of their units during the fall, winter, and spring, but not many of them were too keen on having me live in one of their apartments and pay a low rent during the summer. Eventually, Peace Corps was able to work out a deal with a woman here in Himarë.

After a long day of traveling I arrived in Himarë at around 6 pm. The sun was beginning to set and I had to lug my large bag from the bus that I had just got off to my new apartment, which was on the other side of town and up lots and lots of steps (yes, the town is small, but it felt like I had to walk 100 miles!!). My landlord had been informed when I would be arriving and a Peace Corps staff member had made it quite clear what apartment she wanted me living in. Even though all of this had taken place, I still had to deal with a major issue upon my arrival in Himarë.

Carrying my large suitcase up a flight of stairs that are built into a hill, I excitedly knocked on the door of my landlord ready to finally move into my home for the next two years. Unfortunately, she had another idea. She told me that she didn't want me to live in the apartment she and the Peace Corps had agreed upon because she wanted to rent it out during the summer. Ok, let me explain something before I go on. I pay rent every month to my landlord, however, I guess she would have made more for two months out of the whole year if tourists stayed in those apartments. But think about it, I will be paying rent every month of the year and the tourists would only be paying for two months. She would still be making money off of me and be able to rent the rest of her apartments out to tourists. Needless to say, I was pretty upset when she confronted me with this "idea". Fortunately, after a few calls and shumë time on the phone, my living situation was ironed out, again.

My apartment is pretty small. It only consists of two rooms (three, if you count the bathroom) and a small balcony. The main room serves as the kitchen, hang out room, breakfast/lunch/dinner "nook". The other room is my bedroom/hangout room/room with a fireplace in it. My balcony is probably my favorite part of the whole place. It is right off of my bedroom and from the balcony I have an amazing view of the water, beach, and even the mountains around Himarë. The location is great. I am very close to the center of town and only a 5-10 min walk from the high school. Now that I have finally settled in, I think that I will be happy living there for the next couple of years. I mean how bad could it be? I have an amazing view, hot water, and it's right by the beach. Who could ask for more?

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