Saturday, July 05, 2014

Holiday weekend

This Independence Day weekend turned out to be a mixture of bad and good weather, here in NYC. 

After a week of extreme heat and humidity, and a couple of dreadful  storms two days in a raw, the rain stopped just in time for the 4th of July fireworks to be enjoyed, also thanks to a drastic drop in temperature during the evening,  by the huge crowds that gathered along the East River in NYC to watch them .  Here in the city, we have been lucky this week to have been spared  by Arthur, the first hurricane of this season that has created havoc along the Eastern coast of the U.S., and today we have gorgeous sunshine tempered by a very strong wind.

As it happens during long holiday weekends, I am usually the only one in town on my floor, and a strange, but welcome silence permeates not only the building in which I live, but also the avenue of our location.  For a variety of reasons it is a very busy and noisy thoroughfare during the week,  but during this type of weekend there is a complete stillness in the air, with practically nonexistent vehicular traffic, except for an occasional taxi passing by.  

It’s great to have all windows open and not hear even a fly go by……it’s a perfect time to catch up with desk work that is not on the ‘must do list’ and to enjoy on TV some of the exiting soccer matches taking place in Brazil.

Unfortunately, the forecast for Monday is again very high temperature and another heat wave for the rest of the week!  Let’s just savor this brief delightful break, before it’s time again to shut the windows and turn on the a/c day and night!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ideal vacation spots

As per trend that is now ongoing for almost two decades, Albania continues its ascent as an ideal country to visit and spend time in, since it offers a great deal of natural beauties in its inland areas, including archeological sites, an attractive coast line, spanning over two seas (Adriatic and Ionian), a Mediterranean climate, and now even an eclectic cuisine. 
Aside from foreign tourist agencies that include Albania in their tours, cruise lines that now begin to make stops in Albanian ports, and blog recounts of adventurous travelers that dare climb even the least accessible mountain areas, the world press is also touting this country's new status as an excellent vacation spot.  
This past week the NY Times Travel Section ranks the Albanian Coast as number 4 among 52 places to explore in the world in 2014, and another article and video by the WorldBank appears today online, indicating what motivates some natives to open small bed and breakfast even in remote areas.   

All of this, coupled with renown Albanian hospitality, it’s no wonder why many wish to return to this tiny, friendly country. You'll be welcomed: 'Mire se vini!' 


Saturday, June 21, 2014

An odd vegetable?

I just came across a well written article about ‘okra’ , the’ strange to some’ vegetable that is native of tropical and warm countries.  
This article is written (in Italian) by an Albanian, who recalls not liking it as a child, but admitting that it is an excellent accompaniment to some dishes. I am sharing it, since I believe it can be enjoyed by my Italian speaking friends and relatives.  

I happen to like okra and have enjoyed it since I was introduced to it decades ago when I was a guest at a friend’s family homestead in South Carolina.  There it was served with the famous southern grits, even for breakfast.  It is, however, a vegetable that was not easily available up north or for that matter in NYC until recent times.  The same can be said about its availability even in northern Italy where I don’t recall ever seen it during my youth there. 

To my great surprise I rediscovered it during my more recent trips to Albania, where it is called 'bamja' , and I can validate its great taste especially when added to a veal stew. I am stealing this picture from the above article to make the point:  A real yummy dish!  
 Buon appetito!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Back Home

My spring trip to Tirana has ended, and I am now back in NY, trying to readjust to home life and environment.  The journey was excellent, as usual, thanks to Austrian Air, and I was also fortunate to be met, upon arrival, by a young dear friend, who drove me home in no time.  At this point, reality sets in. 

Goodbye pleasant, Mediterranean climate, more suitable for my aching joints!  Hello NY with its wind, its heat waves, and very high humidity!!  Found, as usual, a ‘mountain’ of snail mail to sort out and dispose of, and a dirty apartment (only God knows where all this dust comes from, notwithstanding the shut windows)!  Jetlag is par for the course, and it will take me a few days to return to normal hours of eating and sleeping. 

Although my time abroad was a busy one and mostly dedicated to work, European life, even with all its frustrating hassles, annoying circumstances, and ineffective use of time, is interspersed, daily, by relaxing moments, especially when one is surrounded by a large network of loyal, sociable, caring, and supporting friends such as I am blessed with.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rude awakening

At 3am this morning I found myself being swinging left and right within my large bed that was shaking all over.......

M 5.1 Earthquake
10km SW of Cerrik, Albania
5 hours ago – U.S. Geological Survey
An earthquake with magnitude 5.1 occurred near TIRANA, Albania at 00:59:21.30 UTC on May 19, 2014 ...the epicenter of the quake was 43 km south of Tirana, 30 km north-east of Fier and 5 km east of Lushnjes, with a depth of 10 km.   
No damage assessment so far.

I felt  3 separate, strong, distinct movements and a remote control made a noise in changing position on my night table.  

I have been in similar situations throughout my life, and have reacted differently every time. This time, since I was laying down I did not feel nauseated, as it did happen while sitting or standing.  Strangely, I remained supine in a very still position counting the shakes and feeling resigned that I could not do very much living on the 12th floor, except eventually positioning myself close to a building supporting wall.

What I also noticed, and was not surprised by, is that the stray dogs that usually roam the nearby park, began to bark in unison and their ‘scary concert’ lasted for quite a while. Needless to say, it was not a good night, and it is not a good omen to start a new work week!!