Sirwin
Sirwin
albanian_bus

Journey to Fushe-Arrez

By rah | rah | 30 Jul 2020


This article was originally published on my website and it has been well received by multitudes of clients and students who I have worked with over the years. It is fun, if slightly dangerous at the time and an enjoyable short read. So I present to you now my Journey to Fushe Arrez.

Enjoy!

lure

I had been working all summer, in Rreshen for Lightforce International (LFI), and had seen very little of Albania, apart from the occasional trip to the capital Tirana when it was decided that I would go to visit one of our other main centres halfway up the northern mountains in Fushe-Arrez (literally Field of Walnuts).  The other, Fushe Lure (see above), was a smaller operation located even further into the picturesque Albanian mountains.   It was also decided that I would go alone on the public bus, bearing in mind my increasing confidence in getting about and an improvement in my ability to speak Albanian, which although little more than rudimentary was at least functional.

Unfortunately the bus did not leave from the centre of Rreshen, as the main Tirana- Kukes road turns north just before reaching Rreshen. I was walked with my bag to the main road, where I could catch the bus. I had dressed down, in an attempt to blend in a little better (this never actually works, people can always tell that you are foreign, although it is still good practice as it reduces the amount of undue attention that you receive). I waited with a small group of people for quite a while looking down the valley for the bus.

The bus finally came up the valley, although describing it as a bus was a compliment. It was rickety and rusty and falling apart and, even worse, it was absolutely packed with people. It stopped but it was very clear that the driver had no intention of letting anyone get on; he had only stopped to drop people off. However I was very insistent about getting on and I climbed onto the step and could go no further. People already on the bus wrapped their arms around me and held me on as the door closed behind me. The bus set off the very second the door closed.

The interior of the bus was like a scene from some disaster. Parts of the bus were hanging off, seats were ripped and there was rust everywhere. The smell was musty and sweaty and had the distinct odour of a farmyard. The reason for this became obvious when my eyes adjusted to the poorer light – someone had brought some chickens on board! Elsewhere there was a stove and several sacks of potatoes.

The road, which just got worse, the further we went was very bumpy, full of potholes (see picture on the left) and covered in large stones. These stones had been put in the potholes in order to repair the road, but every time it rained they simply washed out and made the road conditions even worse. Every time it hit a pothole or stone the entire bus shook and rattled. If it hadn’t been for the press of people holding me I would have been thrown about all over the place. To make matters even worse, I had no view, and no chance of anticipating any of the bumps and had nothing to hold on to so I could not even prepare or brace myself.

As we continued into the mountains it started getting darker and started to rain, making the bad conditions almost impossible. After some time the bus made a stop and some people got off. This made some room and I was finally able to get onto the bus properly. With no alternative I upended my holdall and sat on it in the central aisle. Another stop further on and I was finally able to get a seat, after clambering over the potatoes and sidestepping the chickens first. The man in the next seat was wearing a Russian hat and he was the spitting image of Boris Yeltsin.

The seat was comfortable but a little bouncy. Disconcertingly there were holes in the floor of the bus near my feet and I could see the road passing underneath. A cold drip startled me as it touched the back of my neck and I realised the roof was leaking and letting the weather in. Fortunately I was able to adjust my position and the rain bothered me no more and I could finally relax – at least a bit. ‘Boris’ and I soon struck up a conversation in Albanian and he proceeded to tell me about his family and where he lived.

The mountain roads became narrower and more dangerous as we neared Fushe-Arrez. At one point the bus turned, stopped and reversed and then shunted forward again before continuing. The bend had been so tight in the road that this was the only way around it. This also caused some alarm as it was high up in the mountains with a precipice on one side and a wall of rock on the other. One error and we would have crashed into the mountainside or fallen off the edge. At another point there was a hole blown in the road and I could see the bottom of the valley through the holes in the bus! The local roads ministry had blown up the road in an attempt to get funding to repair the road with.

And so we proceeded for three hours deeper and deeper into the Albanian mountains, with the road surface getting worse and worse. Eventually I arrived in Fushe-Arrez and it was a relief to finally get off the bus although it was now dark. There were plenty of people about, not only those who had got off the bus but also friends and family who had come out to meet them. It was my first time in Fushe-Arrez, I was alone and I had no idea where to go, but knew I had to find the ‘English Flat’.

Ku eshte shtepi Anglais?’ I asked in my basic Albanian, as I went from person to person, each replying with a blank stare.

I began to worry that I would never find anybody who knew what I was looking for when suddenly a voice said, ‘Une e di, une e di.’

Finally someone came out of the crowd and led me to a flat, which turned out to be Kevin’s. Kevin was English, but it was not his flat I was looking for. Fortunately Kevin knew where I needed to be and after a long time on the road it was wonderful to be in the company of people I knew.

Originally published in 2014 (Copyright Omega Support Services) 

A departure from my normal Crypto and Business writing, but all good fun! Hope you enjoyed it.

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rah
rah

I love reading and technology as well as history. I teach English and Business to professional clients as well as soft skills with a focus on communications. I am a big fan of both Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City Football clubs


rah
rah

Experienced Business Owner and Coach and Tutor who now trades in Crypto. It is proving to be an interesting journey with so much technical language involved. Follow me as I learn the trade (and how to trade). Made some howling mistakes to begin with, but still learning and will share what I learn as I learn it for the benefit of the community. - RAH

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