The Great Hale Migration

This summer has definitely been a whirlwind, and unlike the summer before we moved to China, which we spent relaxing in Hawaii, it was busy. A lesson I learned from moving overseas the first time was that you should live in the moment, enjoy the present and not be too preoccupied with what is waiting for you in the future. Even if it’s a huge life change like moving countries and switching jobs. I tried to keep this in mind as the days slipped by in the US this summer and I think I did a better job focusing on whomever I was with and enjoying the time I had with them wherever I was.

The final days in the US were super busy (as noted in a previous blog), and our final journey to Kosovo was going to be a long, very physical journey. After our arrival on Friday morning in San Antonio, we headed home to Ron and Angie’s house to finish packing and get a little rest. We picked up some breakfast tacos and then hurried back to give Paul big hugs because I had missed him a ton that week we were away. Most of our packing was finished, but Ron and Angie had done some extra shopping for Paul while we were away, and we needed to wash a few things from the journey. Our bags were all stuffed to capacity, so we ended up packing another box to be shipped after we left (Donnie also had a suit arriving after our departure). Showers and a few naps ensued, but I was starting to get some serious travel nerves, so I didn’t get much rest on that last day. Around noon, our friend Terry came by with his truck to help us get all our luggage to the airport, and we all drove down there to get checked in. In order to maximize luggage (weird luggage requirements), we were going to have to pick up our bags in Houston and then re-check them to Pristina. Luckily we asked, and the kind ladies at the United check-in desk connected our itineraries and checked our bags all the way to Pristina. No pick up in Houston necessary, although we would have to check in and get boarding passes there. I was so grateful for not having to do a bag exchange, it definitely relieved some of my stress. Our flight wasn’t for a few hours, so we went back home for more rest. I did manage a small nap, but before we knew it, it was time to head back to the airport for our departure.

Saying goodbye to Ron and Angie is never easy, and Paul was pretty upset, but we’ve traveled so much and we know we’ll see them again soon. I love the San Antonio airport because it’s the fastest security and a pretty small airport, so we were waiting at the gate for a little while before our 4pm departure. I got a coffee and Paul got a cakepop and then we got on the plane for the first of 3 flights to Pristina. This one was quick, and uneventful and when we got to Houston, we went to go check in to Turkish Airlines, register our luggage and then go back through security. No fun, but not eventful, which I was thankful for. I can’t remember if we ate in Houston or not, I’m sure we did because our flight wasn’t until 9pm. The flight was full, and seats were cramped as usual, and I hope it’s my last 12+ flight for a while, but Paul and Donnie got some good sleep, and I was able to watch quite a few movies that kept me entertained. I maybe slept a couple of hours, but being in a plane seat that long is hard and I get so uncomfortable it’s unbearable. Just when I had reached my limit, we got to Istanbul. The Istanbul airport was a little crazy, and we were travel weary already. We roamed around looking for a good place to eat after finding our gate. We settled on some Mexican food, which was just barely above average and then made our way to the gate area. This flight looked super crowded and we were lucky to find seats to sit and wait together for the 30 or so minutes we had left. Little did we know there was World Cup playing just downstairs, which would’ve been a much better way to pass the time. Instead, I sat and watched luggage being loaded onto the plane, and was slightly alarmed when I watched them pull our bags off and put them aside. This alarm was heightened when we were walking up to board the plane and our boarding passes flashed red instead of green. The travel gods were smiling on us though, and it was explained that we had been upgraded to business class for this last flight. It was a glorious 50 minutes. We were not a pretty sight I’m sure, but we got the best treatment. It’s funny that my first time in business class was also Paul’s. I had to wait 26 more years than him that lucky kid. We all ate our delightful meal and I took in the sights from the sky, I’m usually the one in the middle seat. Soon enough we were landing in Pristina.

We were among the first off the plane and through immigration, and then our bags appeared first on the carousel (this explains them pulling them off in Istanbul). We weren’t stopped in customs, and finally we were through looking for our office staff who were there to pick us up. They had brought two cars, theirs and ours, so after nearly 36 hours of flying Donnie jumped in the driver’s seat of his new BMW and we set off for our new home. It was early evening when we arrived, and the sun was setting over the hills. I tried to take in as much of the surroundings as possible, which was mostly countryside. We skirted the city on the way to our neighborhood, but what I saw was mostly 2 story homes and businesses similar to what a village in Germany or Austria would have, maybe a little closer to what Poland would have. We pulled into our gated residence and drove up to our house to find it looking very similar to what Donnie had sent me in the pictures. No driveway, but parking in front of a duplex, white, two-story home. I was elated and relieved to be home finally. We unloaded our bags, said goodbye to the office staff and explored our new home. Paul and I wandered through the rooms and took it all in. I’ll have pictures of our home in another post, because we are still working on it. But it’s a 3 bedroom, 3 full bath home with a small backyard and patio. It also has a basement and a gloriously big kitchen. So far, it’s heaven.

That first night is always hard, and it wasn’t any different this time. Donnie let me drive our new car around the corner to our neighborhood grocery store (it took like 10 min but it’s only a 5 min walk…I got us lost). And we stocked up on a few things to make it through the next few days, like breakfast stuff, milk and toiletries. That store is small, but it’s got a lot of stuff! By then it was close to 9pm on Saturday night, and all I could envision was a hot shower and then bed. We had the foresight to buy, wash and pack bed sheets in San Antonio, so we pulled those out of our bag, and made our bed. Paul didn’t have any, so he would have to sleep with us that night.

We had two main sources of frustration after all our travel, the first was not being able to figure out how to get the internet to work. We knew it was set up and we had the passwords, but for some reason it wasn’t working. It wasn’t such a big deal, except I wanted to make contact with our family in the US to let them know we made it. Luckily, Donnie had a working SIM card, so I just had him text everyone and we put off the internet issue.

The second was that we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the water heater that first night, so after much frustration, we settled on heating some water on the stove and dumping it in a bathtub for us all to share. It took about an hour to get enough water to at least bathe our bodies in and by then I was so ready for bed. We all got relatively cleaned up and then settled in for our first night of sleep.

Considering jetlag, it was a pretty good sleep and although I was slightly overwhelmed when I woke up the next day, I was also happy to be finally home. We had so much work ahead of us to get our house livable, but I knew it would come in time. And unlike when we arrived in China, I felt like the house we live in has a lot of furniture that matches our design aesthetic.

Donnie had woken up early, and by the time I woke up, he had solved the internet issue, hooked up the coffee machine (we had shipped it earlier) and was working on getting hot water. Being connected and with a cup of yummy coffee, I was ready to take on the day.

We made a list of all the stuff we needed to find, and after Donnie got the water heater back up and running, we got ready for the day. There was a mall nearby, which had a few household stores, so we went there first. We got Paul bed linens, put in an order for a wardrobe for his room to be delivered, and bought a few other essentials. We would go back to that mall several times in the next few days to get other odds and ends and also just to get out of the house. We didn’t stay out too long though, because after spending the summer watching World Cup, we were not about to miss the final!

We got some snacks from our neighborhood market, ordered some pizza and tried to stay awake through the game. It was fun, although slightly anti-climactic after a summer of exciting games. We crawled into bed afterwards and slept another good sleep.

It was already Monday, and we set about getting the house unpacked and livable. The week mostly consisted of going into work for a few hours (Paul and I went with him a couple of times) and running around different furniture stores searching out the things we needed. We found a lot of what we wanted, but are missing a few key things. In the evenings, we walked down to our little restaurant area in our neighborhood and Paul played while we sat and chatted and ate. This little outdoor mall has quite a few amenities. It has 5-6 restaurants and cafes, some shops, a gym, a massive playground, a dry cleaner, grocery, arcade and hairdressers. Pretty much all you need, but I can see how it will get limited over time. Those first few nights though, it was awesome. And it still is, we ate there last night!

One of the days, Donnie took us out to Germia Park, which is a lovely park in the city with lots of greenery. It’s got a huge swimming pool, lots of playgrounds, and a few restaurants. We ate at a place called Villa Germia, and it was sooo yummy. We ordered Paul a pizza and Donnie and I got a more traditional dish called peppers with cream. This is basically roasted local peppers sitting in a cream sauce made of melted local cheese similar to feta. It’s amazing. It’s served with fresh bread, warm from the oven and I love it. Paul was in a bad mood because he’d been sleeping in the car before we arrived, but by the end of the meal, which included chocolate cake and coffees he was feeling a little better. We went to play on the playground and Paul had a blast on the swings and we had a family see-saw with Donnie on one side and Paul and I on the other. It was a really fun afternoon, and I’d like to explore that park even more.

Germia Park:

Some school pics (first one is from downtown running visa errands) :

The next few days were a mash up of furniture shopping, organizing the house, and exploring our area. I hadn’t run since we left Seattle, but I was apprehensive about running in our neighborhood. It’s not very big, so one lap of it is about a mile. My baseline run is 4 miles, so I couldn’t see running around it 4 times. Finally on Friday, the day we were leaving for Budapest, I got up and carved out a 4 mile run. It includes a stretch on a country road, which definitely wouldn’t be safe at night, but on the mornings I’ve gone, it’s been ok. I really want to join our gym and get back to doing more than just running, but when we stopped in there, the price was a little much. (Not as much as China, but we’d seen them run specials for 100 euro less on their website.) So we’re waiting for a good time to go in and sign up. The best news about it is that it’s 24 hours. So I can run down there and work out before we go to work when school starts, an option I didn’t have in China.

The weather was nice that first week, so much cooler than all the other places we’d been this summer. I even wore a sweatshirt and jeans to dinner one night! We’re adapting to living without A/C, although some nights are harder than others. Also, Paul is learning to deal with insects. Haha, he never had to deal with them in the city. Here there are spiders, bees, flies and massive mosquitoes. But we finally found some bug spray, so life got a little better.

Like all moves, especially international ones, there have been hard times too. Jet lag that first week made all our tempers a little shorter than usual, and we were all a bit short with each other. We’re also all trying to learn how to make Kosovo our new home, and for now it’s going well. The traffic here is a little dicey, but I’ll get used to it like in China, and we still have so much to learn about where to go for certain things. It’s a slow process and I’m trying to stay patient, but I’m eager to get into a routine. I know I’ll miss these summer days when they’re gone though.

We’ve done a few other local things, but this post is now obnoxiously long, so I’ll save them for later. Right now we’re at work with Donnie waiting to head out on our first European roadtrip: a weekend jaunt down to Thessaloniki for some more furniture/grill shopping at IKEA. I’ll write more about it later, hopefully all goes well.

Much love to all,

J

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