I visited Albania long before it was a trendy, hot destination in Europe. On my first visit, not long after the fall of communism, the main form of transportation was a donkey cart. Honest to goodness! There were few taxis, no souvenirs, and hardly any tourists. I absolutely loved it.
When I arrived in Tirana, the capital, it was a sleepy little city of 300,000. My bus to the capital dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. I had no clue where I needed to go. So, I stopped a policeman and asked where I could find a taxi. "Taxi?" he answered with a smile. There were no taxis. He blew his whistle, flagged down the first car that passed by, and asked that man to take me to the center of town. It was a very unexpected taxi, but the driver was paid and everyone was happy.
Things have changed. Tirana is now a bustling city of a million people with extremely crowded streets and an abundance of taxis. There are also souvenir shops.
On my first visit, I'm not sure if I knew that Mother Teresa was originally from Albania. Now, after four visits, it's a fact that you can't ignore. There are actually Mother Teresa bobble-head dolls for sale in Tirana. I didn't buy one the last time I was there, but it's on my list if I ever return.
It was also on my last visit that I saw this sister from the Missionaries of Charity on the streets of Tirana. Sometimes, I'm too embarrassed to ask for a photo. This was one of those times. I took several photos from my hip as she walked past me. And, just to be sure, I ran ahead of her and did it again. The actual photo is out of focus, but I'm very pleased with the portrait I drew.
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