20 Memories of Life in Albania

Albania is an interesting country and I enjoyed living and working here for the most part. As the memories fade, I wanted to record some of them that still stick out to me for whatever reason, be it gross, awkward or funny. Enjoy.

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For $5 this patriotic van will take you to the capital city.

Traveling

  • The intercity minibus I’m riding to the capital stops at a shack in middle of no where. A plain clothes butcher appears and begins to butcher unrefrigerated meat while onlookers, standing close, are splattered by blood and bones as he hacks away on giant log.
  • An intercity van between Kukes and Peshkopi stops to let people off to vomit. Where we stop there is already another intercity van stopped for a vomit break.
Not a bad view to stop and wait while others casually vomit.

Not a bad view to stop and wait while fellow passengers say goodbye to their lunch.

Romance

  • A roma woman offers me her 16 year old daughter as a wife. “Too old” I respond.
  • Taking an Albanian girl to the movies for the first time. The only seats left are in the very front. She thinks sitting in the first row is a good thing because this is the first time she had been to a theater. I don’t bother to correct her.
  • Going on the world’s most awkward date with a village girl after being literally interrogated by her mother first. Afterwards I seriously question my motivations and sanity.

Work Life

  • Constantly trying to avoid the older guy in town who is literally crazy about maps. Coworkers think it is funny to “sic” him on me.
  • A coworker asks me if I’ve found a woman yet and why not. He then taps my crotch asking if it works.
  • Coworker admits he should have asked for some bribes during a recent land legalization program because “a little is allowed.”
  • A recent hire shows up in my office before the election. I ask another coworker who she is. I then correct myself and ask “whose is she?” i.e. how did she use nepotism to get this job. I am congratulated that I am now Albanian and I don’t receive an answer.

Life in General

  • Constantly avoiding the random villager who wants to bump heads with me every time I see him on the boulevard.
  • Walking with a man from my neighborhood who is quite good at English, I tell him about how a stick was shoved in my lock by a local 10 year old troublemaker. We find the kid who did it whom he proceeds to beat about the head.
  • Attending an Albanian wedding where they keep giving me another bottle of beer before the old one is done. I lost count of the beers but luckily I lived within stumbling distance of the wedding hall.
  • Neighbor would give me a bottle of raki she had made just to be nice. She would give me a glass before work sometimes.
  • Wearing my Albania baseball cap because it made people smile 🙂
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What I looked like after two years in Northern Albania

Kids

  • Giving gifts to kids in an orphanage with french tourists, one of the little kids says “merci bukur” instead of merci beaucoup. (Bukur is a popular word used for “beautiful”)
  • Went on a hike with Albanian kids not long after moving to town. Some of the 4th grade girls ask me to sing an Albanian pop song. Two years later I learned that they still giggle about this performance.
  • During a small 100 years anniversary of Albanian independence a kindergarten aged boy begins to recite passionately a nationalistic speech he had memorized. With great enthusiasm and lively gestures he shouts his speech much to everyone’s amusement.
  • *Visiting a school in Leskovik, a teenage student informs me that people where I live in the north are “malok” or hillbillies. Leskovik is a town smaller than the one where I live and is completely surrounded by mountains. I ask what are the people here in this small southern town if not malok. “Partizan” he responds after considerable thought. (Partisans are the soldiers who somewhat defended and somewhat liberated Albania from occupying fascist powers in World War 2.)
His passionate words are strong and well memorized.

His passionate words are strong and well memorized.

Random

  • On top of a local mountain I encounter the first Albanian I had ever seen reading a book. He has a long robe-like jacket and a pretty awesome shepherd staff. I conclude he is probably a wizard.
  • At one point I had seen bears on a leash walking around so frequently that I stopped caring.
  • Over hearing my landlord’s in-laws discussing how I am a spy. I was kind of spying on them after all.
  • A lawyer in the capital openly laughs at me when I accidentally use local dialect words while giving a statement. “Si?” (what?) she asks as she coaxes me to repeat my villager vocabulary for her amusement.
That guy in the middle? Probably some sort of mountain wizard.

That guy in the middle? The only Albanian I had seen ever reading a book.

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3 responses to “20 Memories of Life in Albania

  1. “Partisans are the soldiers who somewhat defended and somewhat liberated Albania from occupying fascist powers in World War 2.”

    you better check out your doubts, I suggest.

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