Thursday, January 12, 2012

Room Temperature, Where Art Thou?

Forgive me while boastfully say, “I think I’ve adjusted pretty damn well to life in Albania.” Granted… many of my fellow volunteers may chide me for the “luxuries” that my site placement of Elbasan provides. And they are right, I am lucky/Jam me fat to live in a larger city that has supermarkets, fairly consistent electricity, 24-hour access to water and a wealth social gathering spots. Elbasan is also considered one of the “warmer” areas of Albania. (Those quotes are meant no disrespect to my dear friends who live up in the mountains and frequently face temps in the negatives.) But hey now! Come on… I’m a desert-dweller and 10 years in the Valley of the Sun has made me soft!

I may have you wondering, “Just how cold/f is it?” Well, the nightly lows are right around freezing, 0C or 32F and the highs range from 6-10C or 43-50F. Hey…I can hear you scoffing…Ugh, that’s not so bad! And well, true, it’s not. (Here comes the BUT!) But I’ve eluded before to construction in Albania. My apartment walls are made of pure concrete block and there is literally no insulation. Windows are usually single pane, and “leaky.” In addition, central heating is a RARE phenomena. This means that more often than not, the temperature inside my apartment is the same as the temperature outside! And NO JOKE…there are times in the mid-morning, when it’s actually warmer OUTSIDE! What was that? The sound of your mind being blown? I’ll give you a moment to re-group.

Now, let’s contine/Tani, le te vazhdojme
. I’ve developed the greatest appreciation for what we in America so casually took for granted – Room Temperature (approx 68F.) Much of this information about climate was provided to us before leaving the US. So… I did pack accordingly…layers, long johns, hats, winter coats, wool socks…the whole she-bang! And... those with hearts bigger than Texas (yea…that’s right, BIGGER than Texas!) sent me some warm goodies. And I am quite certain that my well-intended mother has cleared out Kohl’s entire winter selection of FLEECE. Not even remotely an exaggeration.

Again, I’m a lucky one. My apartment is in great condition and my landlady takes great care to keep me warm, well-fed and happy! For heat, I have an electric unit. But as PCV’s with a TIGHT budget, this can be an expensive option. So it's only used in the COOOOOLDEST situations as a last resort. Usually, I crawl into my sleeping bag and bundle up. I have an *electric blanket that I use from time to time as well. So… truthfully, its not too difficult for me to warm up when I need to. (Here comes another BUT!) But, the low temps insidehave other effects…like how everything inside my apartment is cold too!

So here are some more reasons why I miss Room Temperature….and how I try to deal with it:
Freezing tile floors: Slippers are essential if not popular! And its good practice to have enough for house guests too. When I don’t have my slippers on, I try to hop from one area rug to another!
3-day “dryer cycle”: Wait, I thought they didn’t have dryers in Albania? We don’t! We air dry… and in these cold days, its takes FOREVER.
Take an outfit from the closet…COLD!: On the really cold mornings, I turn on my *electric blanket and lay my outfit folded inside. The first time I did this, I felt like a rocket-scientist.
Chilly mouthwash and toothpaste: I let the Listerine just hangout in my mouth and warm from my body heat. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you try chilling your Scope and see how it feels!
Frigid Deoderant: Clearly, I’m not strong enough for a “cold shower” to wake me up. But I do let the icy deodorant give me a jolt every morning!
Frosty Toilet Seat: Yowzahs! The complete opposite of Hot, crossed buns! It’s gonna get a little personal here. Sheild your eyes if necessary. I don’t pull my pants down the whole way! I let them give me a little frost barrier on the edge of the seat and hope for minimal splash back. (Now I understand why Gramma Dunn liked those old-lady cushioned toilet seats!)

And finally, the best thing I can do when I’m cold in my apartment: Get OUT of my apartment! Kick around a soccer ball with the kids in my neighborhood. Browse the latest collections at the Gabi/Second-hand store. Go to a café and meet a friend for a coffee, hot cocoa or WINE! Challenge the old men in the park to a game of dominos. Go for a walk in the sun and strike up a conversation with a gramma/gjyshe who is selling her hand-knit wool socks. Buy a pair of wool socks! Accept an invitation to visit with my friend/shoqen time. To put it simply, be a good PCV!

Peace, Love and Finger-less Mittens!

*if you've accepted an Invitation To Serve as a future volunteer in Albania and arriving in March, DO NOT bring a US electric blanket. They don't do well with the voltage here. I found mine in Tirana for $25 US and it's perfect! Besides, use that space in your bag for something FUN! Oh...and CONGRATULATIONS!


  1. man meli! just reading that made me cold enough to go over and turn up the thermostat :) your posts....

    1. I wrote this just before reading your Freezer/Hot Mess post and found our minds dangerously linked in our size references to Texas. How do we DO that? :)

  2. I enjoyed this Melia. You've got a cold story, but a warm soul.

  3. I find your first paragraph disrespectful and quite rude.. Even though you put a disclaimer.. this doesn't mean you can brag. Just kidding :) Seriously, I need to visit to take a shower or two.

  4. Try a hair dryer to warm the seat. It works well to heat a sleeping bag too.

  5. As I've always told you, I love your posts. Wish you'd find your living writing to us worldwide.

  6. Hi! I'm leaving for Albania next month so I'm doing my research now. Thank you for writing and for the advice! And if you have any other things you'd recommend, I am all ears :]