that's our james

Disclaimer: This is my blog. No one else's. This is what I think about stuff. If others think the same thing, it's up to them to express it. The sole purpose of my writings is to keep my friends and family informed. My opinions are just that, opinions so don't get to worked up if something offends you. Thanks.

30 May 2008

Then there's Dhermi...

The "Dh" in Dhermi is pronounced like the "th" in: then and there and this but not like the "th" in thin and think. That's your Albanian language lesson for the day.

Dhermi is a beautiful beach in the southern part of Albania. I have been wanting and trying to go to this beach the whole time I've been here. On three separate occasions I made plans to go but something has always come up in the past, which is weird since I generally have a pretty flexible schedule.
Recently, however, I was finally able to visit this breathtaking beach. Perhaps breathtaking is a little over the top but I had been really looking forward to the visit. Plus many of the beaches in Albania are gross. They are overcrowded, full of trash, and polluted with industrial or human waste. Oh and to reach Dhermi, you travel along a scenic road that winds up the mountains and through the forest to the pass where you are rewarded with amazing coastal views. These things make Dhermi even more awesome.
We camped two nights on the beach. The stars were amazing. Everyone must, at some point in his or her life, fall asleep while to watch for shooting stars. During the day we hung out, played cards and Frisbee, and of course some leisurely reading (D. H. Lawerence, Sons and Lovers). Of course there was some swimming too. And despite the fact that we kept lathering on the sunscreen, there was some unintentional light sun burning.

The beach, the friends, the weather were PERFECT!
I hope I can find the time to go back before I leave Albania.

Gotta jet. Marisa's jet is here. Hehehe.

It's the little things...

Right now I am sitting in Rinas Airport. For those of you out there who have not made frequent flights Tirana, Albania, it's the airport in Albania. Marisa, my sitemate returns today from a nice little trip with her boyfriend. Not wanting to deal with a taxi and hotel in Tirana, Marisa hired a taxi from Berat to take her to Berat. And not wanting to ride back alone at night with a stranger, she asked me to ride up with the taxi from Berat and ride back with her. Simple enough right?

Silly you.
First, before leaving, Marisa had sent me a text message with the name and number of the taxi driver. Yesterday after having a coffee with one of my English students (the student is Ledia who was on our Model UN team if that rings a bell), I ask her to call the driver for me so that he understands exactly (Marisa has done this once already but better safe than sorry they say). I go to retrieve the number from my phone and, you guessed it, it's not there! No I did not accidentally delete the message. I opened the message and half of it had disappeared. Instead of a complete message with the needed name and number, I found *text missing*. Now isn't that helpful. No worries. I can be resourceful. I had a plan. I was pretty sure of his name. So Ledia and I went eto the taxis in the center of town and asked if anyone had his number. They did. Ledia called and everything was in place.
Perhaps you noticed this paragraph began with "First". Ready for the next part?
Second, when Mr. Taxi Driver and I arrive at the airport, he asked me if everything was OK. I said yes. I then asked if we were going to go inside and wait. He said no. He would leave now. I then chuckled and said there had been a little misunderstanding. I explained the plan and he understood.
Along the way there were clues for both of us. However, when you don't exactly speak the same language, you let some odd comments or confusing statements pass without too much question. For example, he thought it odd that I would be only traveling with a small bag (my laptop) and wearing only shorts and flip-flops. I thought it odd when he was saying that I spoke with his daughter when it had been Marisa. I am sure there were other little ones along the way but you just don't notice them.
So now I am here with still an hour to kill. Thankfully there is wi-fi and I thought to bring my laptop :)

Oh and I hate to leave you with no photo so I will tell you of my most recent gabi (used clothes market) purchase. Flip-flops! I really really liked the I brought with me but they just couldn't take it anymore.

07 May 2008

Happily ever after...

Ah an Albanian wedding. Truly an interesting experience. I recommend every person attend at least one Albanian wedding during his lifetime. Last month Marisa and I attended the wedding of our friend Ersa. Katie and I got to know Ersa pretty well during these past two years. Ersa is the one who made Albanian apple pie for my first birthday here. We've spent many wonderful evenings at Ersa's house, eating great food, drinking tasty homemade wine, and just relaxing in a very nice and comfortable house.

The bride and her family.

I should probably explain the makings of an Shqiptare (Albanian) wedding.

First and foremost, Food! Lots of food. I mean way more than could possibly be consumed. You start with a meat plate. I should be more specific. You start with the cold meat plate. Oh and the table is already set with sliced vegetables on plates and bread. Then begins the hot meat selection. The type and number of hot meats varies but at Ersa's we had shishkebab (I don't know how to spell that in English, in Albanian it's shishqebap), followed by biftek vienez. Biftek vienez is one of my favorites and it's more or less a Berat dish. It's like a cordon-blu but with veal and no ham. Same idea though, meat, cheese, and fried. Yummy. This artery clogger was followed by turkey and stuffing. Yep they have turkey and stuffing here too. Finally after all this food and beers/sodas/wine, the cake slices are delivered.

Marisa's food collection. Being a vegetarian, she didn't each much of the offerings and left before the cake arrived. I, now being experienced at Albanian meals, knew not to touch her food. I would have more than I could handle on my own.

Second must-have is music and dancing. Lots of both. The music should be LOUD, really loud and feature hardcore wailing on the clarinet. The dancing takes the form of a circle dance with the circle being overwhelmed by itself and turning into a winding line of dancers, navigating tables, columns, waiters, and other parts of the circle dance line.

Ersa looking radiant leading the dance.

Oh and another interesting tradition is the money giving. Granted in America we often give gifts of money but here they do it with so much more... we'll go with flare. You see instead of putting the money in a lovely card from Hallmark, you put the money in the bride's dress! Hehe. I had to try this out. It was quite fun. It's not degrading or inappropriate in any way. It definitely makes it more energetic. After I clumsily made my contribution, I saw that there was a basket at the foot of the couple's table where money could be given. The rest of my contributions were delivered in that manner.

Ersa being amused by my self-conscious delivery

Albanian weddings are not held in church. It's more like a reception. Another difference is that there is one ceremony for the bride and her family on one day and another ceremony for the groom and his family the following day. There are also family visits and various lunches in the days prior to the ceremonies. Since I am not Albanian, I'm not really familiar with that element.

I had a blast! The food, the dancing, the friends, and even the music. At 3:00am, I said my goodbyes and headed home. And before I finish, I should tell you that I was right on time to the wedding. Well on time according to the details in my head. When we arrived at 9:30, everyone was inside already. Turns out the wedding start time was 9:00 not 9:30. Oops. At least we got there before the bride.