[How has your evening gone?]
Today Chris and I had our first day of classes, which took place in a very drafty, loud, concrete school. Fine enough conditions (as in, I wasn’t afraid the building would fall down), but I can’t believe how lucky American students are to have insulated, warm classrooms with carpet and bathrooms…! We could hear the wind howling through the building the whole morning, and just before we were finished the rain began and continued all afternoon. So cold here! Unё jam ftotё! [I’m cold!]
After class finished at 1:00 our group of 5 PCTs and our teacher, Ervin, went to get lunch with us in one of the only food establishments in town. There are only a few cafes in our town, mostly catering to the masses of men who come out in the evening and chug coffee and smoke cigarettes, and some serve one or two food options. We had “fast food” next to the town’s concrete mosque, which ended up being meat (except mine), tomatoes, cucumbers, yogurt, and french fries rolled in a pita. Surprisingly tasty!
Ervin, our ‘mёseus’, is a very funny and nice Albanian guy—this is his first time teaching a class but he’s been interning with Peace corps for two years. He laughs hysterically at the littlest jokes and his face turns beet red, and otherwise he is extremely concerned that he doesn’t offend us culturally!
Chris and I got to see the apartments that the other PCTs are living in—one of our girls is being fed only pilaf and bread, so she’s been joking the whole time about starving on the “Peace Corps diet”—but otherwise everyone’s families are great and the homes are all nice and simple; small but typical since pretty much everyone shops at the same store. Our friend Becca, showed us her one bedroom apartment where she is living with an older widow, during which of course we got a round of kisses and hugs and then were presented with small chocolates. We took her back to our home [“shtëpi”] and did some homework together in the living room, surrounded by our immediate family and some of the many cousins who have regularly been visiting. I think learning the language is very intimidating, but if we really put our whole efforts into it and practice reading and speaking all the time we’ll be able to reach a pretty good level, hopefully!
Tonight for dinner we had yet another bountiful feast—this time Chris and the family ate bowls filled with chicken and what appeared to be mashed potatoes, but on closer inspection turned out to be mashed cornbread! They sure like their bread here… (Maybe I didn’t yet mention that each meal begins with several thick chunks of freshly baked bread? Delicious but very filling!)
I had a piece [copё] of burrek, which in case you don’t already know, is a fabulous spinach pie (and quickly became my favorite Albanian food). I love my host mami because not only does she make everything from scratch using foods [ushimë] from her garden, but also serves eggs from their chickens and fresh milk from the nearby cow, *and* get this she makes yogurt, bread, cheese, and fig jam at home too! I think it is so neat and I’m really excited to try it myself. ;)
Did I tell you about our family yet? They are wonderful—even in two days Chris and I have decided they are the best in all of Albania! From the moment we arrived at their door we were welcomed with kisses and hugs (this is an important custom each time you see a friend or family member) and they have been patient and generous with us every moment of the day. It is so difficult to try and say the simplest things (everything must come from the dictionary) and putting together simple sentences is like a bizarre unending word game we play each night.
In the evenings the entire family (and all visiting friends and relatives who stop in for kafe and chocolates) sit in the kitchen/living room where the stove is. This is where Chris and I also sit trying to do homework to the sounds of Albanian hip-hop and rap music emitting from the TV; Chris challenges Serxhio to chess while Darina and Elizabeta try to string sentences together with me. Babi is a furgon driver so he rests throughout the evening, Mami stays at home all day cooking, gardening, cleaning… Its amazing to see gender roles so clearly defined. For example, when anyone comes for a visit the daughters must stop whatever they are doing to cater to the guests’ needs for kafe, chocolate, comfort, etc.
Ok enough for now, more stories from Shqiperië nësër!