Friday, August 22, 2008
Festa e Birrёs
I forgot to mention the excitement of our last weekend! We joined two dozen or so volunteers in the cultural capital of Korçё, in the east near Lake Ohrid and the Macedonian border, for the annual beer festival. Well, this was year #2, and turned out to be quite a success, so certainly the brewery will be hosting the event indefinitely (or as long as this mayor is in office). In case you ever see a case of Beer Korçё in the supermarket (perhaps in Michigan or Florida, say?) it comes highly recommended, especially the dark variety.
Most of us piled into the house of another married couple, going out together Friday night and sprawling across every available inch of floor space and couch cushions. Saturday morning we were invited to have pancakes at the house of two of their friends—a missionary couple who have lived here for 10 years. They were super nice—a man from Guyana and his exceptionally tall, blond, German wife-- and they ended up serving us a buffet of pancakes with peanut butter (!! This was a real hit) and maple syrups, scrambled eggs, fruits, did I mention the peanut butter? Their house is gorgeous, with a corner fireplace and an array of very un-Albanian fixtures they’ve imported over the years, along with gifts and food packages sent from friends in the States.
Honestly, and not to be gross, but I was up all night with some kind of stomach bug, which didn’t go away but gradually resided into a steady, brutal pain in my abdomen. Another volunteer caught the same thing, so we spent Saturday evening at home, watching The Sopranos on my laptop and whimpering as we clutched our aching bellies; meanwhile, the crew was at the brewery getting an early start on the tap. We caught up with them at the festival, doing what we coined the “Gyshja walk” as we limped down the streets, hunched over and walking at a snail’s pace. The festival was even better the second night, without lines for beer cups (which, by the way, 50¢ a pop) and a band covering mostly American songs that our posse belted out to the confusion and amusement of all the surrounding tables.
Sunday morning everyone had to scramble for buses to make the long journeys back home. We caught a bus that went as far as Permet, a town nestled behind the mountains that loom over Gjirokastёr, and from there took a taxi and a furgon back to the city. Two French guys joined us, crashing on our couches and sharing a meal with us at Kujtim’s, a peaceful family-run restaurant near the castle, along with a few other local friends. We met an Albanian-French woman who is organizing a classical music festival here in Gjirokastёr, to take place for 4 days in September, which will include various international artists and local polyphonic singers.
Now we’re back at work—the rest of August is the lull before the storm in September, when the many projects we have been planning will begin. Chris will be working with two separate organizations to help carry out restoration workshops of several historic houses here in the Old Town, and I will begin lessons in the schools (both in the city and the surrounding villages in conjunction with my counterpart and volunteers from the Albanian Red Cross, Kryqi i Kyqe). I’ll also begin teaching English lessons with a group of nurses, something I’ve never done before. As I was writing out some lesson plans today I realized how confusing it is to explain English grammar-- though 10 times easier than Shqip— because, for example, Shqip has one word for “in”, “at”, “to”, and “into”— so how do I explain why we differentiate going in the house vs. to the store? Furthermore, how does one explain the concept of “at”? And that’s just a start…! (Mos murzit, PC will supply me with English language material next week or so...!)
Next up: Camping in Puke!