Meeting Jim and Claire – my host parents, in Albania
Almost two years ago I wrote a blog named, “The Squamish Host Family Program,” where I talked about my host parents, Jim and Claire. Even though by then I had met them only once, I was amazed by their experiences, knowledge about the world, and passion for outdoor sports. Carlos is a friend of mine from Rwanda whose host parents are Jim and Claire as well. The four of us, often joined by Nina (my host parents’ daughter) and various friends of ours, always go on different adventures from hiking, biking, to tobogganing and snowshoeing. This past weekend, after two years of knowing each other, we meet in the other side of the world. We met in Albania!
First, let me tell you a background story of how all this happened…
A few months ago, Carlos and I were having dinner at our host parents’ house. Like always Jim and Claire had prepared a lovely dinner, Persian cuisine this time, followed by dessert and warm Green tea. While having a conversation, Jim mentioned a trip or better an adventure that he and Claire were thinking of doing. They were planning to bike from Turkey to Spain, a 10,000 km amble across the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea, for six months (April to October). Now they are both very experienced bikers; however, the longest biking tour that they had done in the past was a 12-day biking trip around the island of Maui. Thus, this trip was going to be a challenge and hard at times, but Jim and Claire were determined to make it.
After completing some final preparations, Jim and Claire gave up everything (temporarily), especially their much loved “memory foam” mattress with special pillows for a small tent and two bikes. They had also purchased their tickets to Istanbul, using this city as their starting point. On April 15th, Jim and Claire, began their six month biking tour around Europe, an extraordinary and unbelievable by many trip.
Now this is when our meeting in Sarande, Albania comes to place.
As mentioned, Jim and Claire were planning of biking from Turkey to Spain, staying near the seashore especially in the Balkan. This meant they would bike through Albania, a country adjacent to my home country, Kosovo. As soon as I heard about this, I asked both of them to inform me when they would be in Albania since I would love to see them and also introduce both Jim and Claire to my family. Also since my parents have a beach house in Sarande, they could stay at our place and rest for a bit. This sounded like a great idea to both of them, and they promised to inform me if they would be able to stop for a bit.
After biking through two countries, Turkey and Grecee (including numerous islands), they made it to Corfu. This is a Greek island, located around 35 minutes ferry ride from the city of Sarande (Albania). Jim had emailed me that they would be in Albania on Sunday (May 31st), thus, my parents and I drove to Albania a day before since it is a seven hour long drive. Everyone in my family was excited to meet them, but I think my sister Melodi was the most excited one since she could not wait to hear all about their adventures in Africa and Central America. As we were having breakfast on Sunday morning, we saw the ferry come from the windows of our living room. My father immediately went to the seaport, to greet Jim and Claire.
A few minutes later they made it to our apartment, happy and cheerful. They looked stronger and younger than I had remembered them. It was amazing hugging both Jim and Claire so far from Squamish, the only place that we had ever met before. Afterwards, we all sat in the living room and then balcony for a bit, where we got to chat about their trip and also everyone got to know each other better. My mom walked Claire through the apartment, showing here where everything is and how to operate things like the washing machine. Then, we went on an adventure (not biking this time).
Then we headed to Ksamil, where we had a lovely lunch. Our table was filled with fish, mussels, large country salads, traditional bread, and drinks. This was my first lunch out with my parents this year, since I have made it home on Thursday (a couple of days before travelling to Albania). Even though, I eat seafood in Squamish all the time, I really enjoyed our lunch, maybe because the food was delicious and because we had such good company. After lunch, we were all full and in need of a walk. So some of us went on a beach walk where we saw different beaches and had some good conversations.
We then made it home, and started to pack our bags in the car so that we would begin to drive home. As aforemtioned, it is pretty far from Sarande to Gjakove (my hometown) so we wanted to make sure that we were not driving too late in the evening. It was lovely to see Jim and Claire and to introduce them to my family, eat lunch together, and explore the city of Sarande.
Thank you so much to my parents for showing such warm hospitality to Jim and Claire, and for willing to drive 14 hours in two days. I am very thankful to have such a lovely family. Also, thank you to Jim and Claire for their visit, for showering us with warm hugs and thank you emails. I cannot wait to see them in Squamish in October and hear all about their adventures.
P.s. Jim and Claire have created a blog in which they write all about their adventures while bike touring across Europe. If you would like to read it, please click here.