A wise man (my father) once told me that the major difference between developing and developed countries is how much of your time you spend on basic life sustaining activities. I was probably complaining about how busy I was and how much time I spend grocery shopping at the time he gave me this wise advise and I probably didn’t listen as closely as I should have. But it’s stuck with me ever since. And now that winter is here, I’ve come to realize that there is one more big distinction between the two strata of nations – how much of your life is controlled by the weather.
When it’s summer time in Albania I use the excuse “it’s too hot to do that” on a regular basis. The heat and the sun and the lack of oxygen due to humidity becomes my general reason not to do anything. Well, anything besides sleep, lounge around, and go to the beach (thank god I live in a town near the Adriatic Sea). Then winter rolls around, and I replace the word “hot” with “cold” and continue coming up with excuses not to do work. It’s too cold to type on my computer without gloves, to walk to the grocery store, take a shower, or anything else for that matter.
And then we have the rainy days. In Shkoder it rains more days in the year than the rest of Europe. So much so that we are considered a tropical region. For real. It’s kind of crazy. So when the rain starts, I yet again let myself be lazy because it’s raining too hard to leave my house, to go to the gym, and to meet my friends for a coffee.
When did I become this person?! It blows my mind sometimes. For those of you who knew me in the US, you know that I’m a pretty busy person. And busy might be an understatement. I used to pack my day full of meetings, activities, classes, errands, etc. and I’d use a planner to make sure I had every single minute of my day filled up. No joke. But then I moved to Albania and everything changed.
And its a good thing I’m not alone! Albanians do the same. Maybe I learned it from them? It’s not uncommon for the director of our school to cancel the last 3 classes because it’s too cold, too hot, too anything. And people often show up late to our meetings because they were waiting for the rain to stop. When I first moved here it drove me crazy. But the longer I’ve lived in Shkoder the more I want to high-five them and congratulate them on their superior reasoning skills for staying home.
So all in all, I’m pretty sure that my fellow Albanians and I work hard for a solid 4 months of the year. Not too shabby.
In the US I had a car and central heating/AC, yet I never realized how much I depended upon them for my happiness. You could forget your umbrella and only get drizzled on for a hot five minutes as you ran from your car to the door and back again. I could wear a flimsy jacket in 10 degree weather because I’d only be cold for the 2 minutes it takes for the heat to warm up in my car and inside during the winter. All you lucky people back home reading this in the comfort of your living rooms, realize how lucky you are. You are lucky to live in a place where the rest of the world’s luxury comes standard. And god do I miss it. It’s amazing how much the weather controls your attitude and your life when you’re living in a developing country.
I can’t help but shake my head when I skype friends and family back home that say “it’s so hot/cold here!” while they’re wearing sweatpants in the summer and a t-shirt in the winter. It does make me realize just how much energy we waste heating and cooling our buildings and houses back the US. It’s a terrible yet beautiful, beautiful thing. Oh what I wouldn’t give not to wear 6 layers, a scarf, and winter jacket inside my house to cook dinner.
But on the bright side, I know have a completely justified reason to do nothing but sit in bed and watch movies while eating cookies (my oven inadvertently heats my house, don’t judge me) all winter long!
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”