Writer, traveler, maker


Travel updates and occasional commentary

GSP 1: An Albanian wedding

My research on the global experience of singleness started with a wedding, providing a chance to use both my German and Spanish, test my anti-mosquito program and see if sourdough starter can survive lengthy air travels (so far, yes).

Since said occasion was that of my youngest brother, it also provided a chance for some very special time with family.

We made our temporary home in a small hotel steps from the shore of the Adriatic. Every meeting we woke to bright sunshine turning the sea outside to an azure that almost matched our curving staircase down to the ground floor where we breakfasted each day.

It provided an almost surreal contrast to the stress and fatigue of California days before, when my move ended with an all-nighter and frantic effort to pack and stow the last of my belongings. (Let's just say I left greatly in the debt of my incredibly generous housemates and various other friends from church.)

In California, I'd almost timed things down to the second in those last few hours, but once in Albania, we spent the first day so aimlessly that I remember nothing except that we ate and laughed and tried with only partial success to make our allure for mosquitos.

The assembled family at the hotel included our parents; another brother and his family from Germany; and our 87-year-old grandmother. Along with a Brazilian friend of the bride's, we soon formed a cheerful party: crowding into the downstairs room for breakfasts each day, then lunching and dining mostly at an adjoining restaurant where we always had the same muscular waiter.

Twilight next to our temporary Albanian Cheers.

Twilight next to our temporary Albanian Cheers.

We did not go entirely without working, though. One morning, we assembled almost 1,000 heart-topped skewers to decorate the wedding grounds. At other times, Mom and Dad practiced a song he'd written for the occasion, while I did my best to sew matching Merimekko pajama pants for the soon-to-be-wed pair, using a borrowed machine.

One night we drove into town in a rented van with two bench seats and two upholstered stools in the back, to spend a special visit with the bride's family, who served snacks, Turkish coffee and a local plum spirit called raki.


The wedding day dawned hot enough that I opted for a sleeveless blouse and skirt, instead of a dress. Despite the possibly higher risk of mosquito bites (though I applied a liberal spritz of eau de repellent), I never regretted that fashion choice. Between the outdoor midday ceremony and aerobic indoor dancing at the reception, I had no thought of cold.


Many years ago, I learned some Jewish dances in which participants also form a circle by holding hands. I'd forgotten how nice it is when you can participate in a dance without needing a partner. In that, the wedding perhaps provided an apt start for my research.

Cost snapshot:

  • Beer: About $1/bottle at restaurant (didn't buy in stores)

  • Flour for sourdough: $1.02 for a 1 kilo bag