For all the information sessions we get from the Peace Corps in Albania, I’ve realized the one they are definitely missing is how to catch a furgon. Furgons are the foundation of the transportation system here (even though there is a serious lack of a “system” involved). I’m honestly not sure how this business started, but from what I’ve gathered a furgon is a privately owned van that goes all over Albania whenever and wherever the driver feels like going. There are no official stops, no set prices, no schedules, and no standard hours of operation…its pretty much catch as catch can. For the most part drivers leave their house when the sun comes up and make their last drop off when the sun goes down; but you really never know.
I sit on a furgon four times a week going to and from Elbasan for classes..and I usually closing my eyes and praying that I will make it home alive. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But as the driver weaves in and out of traffic on the wrong side of the road while going 60 mph around a blind corner, I can’t help but wonder if he chased his morning espresso with a shot of raki (apparently that’s the standard daily ritual for men here).
The good thing is that I’m pretty convinced there is only one road in Albania. Okay, maybe there are more like 5, but seriously. I don’t think I could get lost here if I tried! And that’s saying a lot if you know my track record for getting lost 10 minutes from my house in the U.S. There are no intersections, no turns, no stoplights, no stop signs, and no alternate roads. Every town or city you need to go to is basically on the same main road that runs from the north to the south of the country. I swear, it seems like there are actually no cities off of this main road…they just don’t exist. What came first, the cities or the road? No one will ever know. So need to worry that you will get lost or take the wrong furgon. Regardless of the end destination advertised on the piece of paper on the dashboard, as long as the furgon is headed in the right direction—north or south—you will make it there. For someone like me who’s biggest fear is being lost, I couldn’t be happier. As long as you don’t mind waiting, the system is pretty easy to figure out. No complicated maps or schedules or stations. Just walk outside and wait. A furgon will be there sooner or later and eventually you’ll end up where you’re trying to go (whether it’s all in one piece is still questionable). And now I always have a permanent excuse if I’m running late—“sorry, I had to catch a furgon.” So lets just say furgons are both the bane of my existence and my saving grace these days.
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”