I spent about three days in the hotel before heading back up to Uludağ to teach at another kid’s camp. I was relieved to have a little bit of rest; this was the first time in about two weeks that I had spent more than one night in the same place. I made a tally: since camp about four weeks before, I’d had two night ferries, two night buses, stayed in seven hotels, three hostels, four guest houses and been on two friend’s couches. I was a bit weary.
It was a relaxing few days: I half-heartedly looked for an apartment and spent most of my time sitting on the seaside in Moda, reading books, drinking beer and looking out at the sea. One particularly fine day I decided I’d go for a swim, as it was what everyone else seemed to be doing. I hadn’t washed my jeans in a while either, so I thought I’d go in in my jeans and give them a nice rinse.
Later that evening when I was dropping off a bag of some clothing at a friend’s place before heading to camp the next day and telling them about my day at the Moda seaside they looked at me in disgust, horrified that I’d gone swimming in the Bosphorus. Well, everyone else was in there so I thought it had to be fairly clean! Apparently not. I double bagged my jeans (which were nearly dry by this point) and left them, along with some other items of clothing, in their apartment until I had a more stable living arrangement.
I then spent the next week on Uludağ , instructing children in daily English lessons and hoping that at least some learning was happening. It was a Nesquik sponsored camp complete with a mascot (Quiky), lots of yellow merchandise, daily quotas for products to be consumed and cameras to document its consumption to advertise for future consumers. It was kind of like living in a commercial for a week. I based lessons on various simple songs and played my guitar poorly to start each lesson. As in the Muppets, by singing poorly and making fun of yourself a bit you make everyone less self-conscious so they feel more comfortable to participate.
All this while I’d been thinking about my time in Albania. I began researching summer programs because I was interested in whether or not there were ESL institutions in place in the mountain region where I’d spent some time. I found an organization that has led summer programs in Thethi for the past few years and sent them an email. I received a reply inviting me to a meeting in the middle of September in which the organization was trying to bring together government ministries from Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, along with NGOs and international organizations in the region in the hopes of promoting the “Balkan Peace Park.” I was invited to observe and see if it was something I’d be interested in.
I decided that since I didn’t need to be back at school until the end of September and that my bank funds weren’t quite in the red, a trip back to Albania to scope out whether this was a good institution to become involved in would be a good excuse to have more Albanian adventures.
I thought about going by bus, but then decided that since that would probably involve Istanbul – Skopje – Tirana – Shkoder not just once, but returning as well, the bus would not be a pleasant journey.I don’t like traveling by plane. I like going places by plane, because it’s quick and I’m there and there are no hassles. But when I’m traveling, wandering around, stumbling about, I like staying grounded. I like watching out the window where I am, tracking my progress. If I’m traveling around somewhere, going in and out by air kind of seems like cheating. There’s some level of disassociation that results from air travel; the wandering doesn’t feel as genuine to me when I take off and land. But my time was limited and I needed to be back in Istanbul for my teaching orientation. Also the bus hassle would probably make me ¾ balder, I decided I’d fly to Tirana and take a bus to Shkoder, where the meeting would be. I booked my ticket.
After camp I still had no place of residence. I went back to Istanbul to try to secure my lodging for the next year. Two friends of mine from the previous year and I had agreed to look for a place together. I stayed in a hostel for three days, but was not happy as once again I reminded myself why my days of tolerating hostels are over and done with. My three days mostly consisted of trying to meet up with my friends to talk about apartments followed by swampy evenings in the hostel drinking until the morning with travelers I didn’t like who all told the same stories with the same self-righteous attitude, to awake miserable and sweaty in the same clothes and afraid of going in the hostel shower.
Thankfully I was able to cut my hostel time short and crashed with a friend and his Kurdish communist housemates for the remaining few days before heading off to Albania. We still hadn’t managed to find a flat. My last night before flying out I stayed up freaking out about not having found a flat, then calming down, sipping scotch and discussing travel and literature with my new friends in the flat, sleeping too late for comfort for the bus to the airport (7am flight) and had to take a 4:30am taxi.
The summer was beginning to wind its way down. I still had about two and a half weeks before classes would start, ten days of which I would spend in Albania. I felt like I was in an intermission of sorts. Between years of teaching at the university, between two stints of camp on Uludağ , between trips to Albania and between apartments.
When you’re living in that intermission state life becomes extremely light and you drift in a transient state, attaching little or no importance to anything you’re doing. It’s often how I feel a few weeks before a long trip abroad begins, so it’s not an unfamiliar sensation to me. I’d felt like this for the past few months, however, from June through September, it had begun to feel like it had gone on for too long this time around. I was looking forward to heading back to Albania, but also looking forward to returning to Istanbul, setting my bag down, sleeping in a bed for a while and letting some normalcy return to my existence.