Thursday, November 27, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Albania, I believe, is the only European country without a McDonald's but who needs McDonald's when you've got Kolonat. While I have no idea what Kolonat stands for or who Kolonat is/was, this fast food restaurant has everything from the golden slants to the Big Mec. If you've noticed I changed my blogger picture to one with the Kolonat bag. Though the name is different it seemed at first that almost everything about this place reminded me of McDonald's, except for the fact that customers can order beer with a combo meal, which is not called a "combo" but rather a "menu." Upon first inspection though, one might assume that this place is just another effect of globalization and increasing homogeneity everywhere until you see something like this:
That's right the girl behind the counter wrapped my drink in a bag. I tried to stop her and tell her that I could just hold it but I was so intrigued that I just let her continue. Then I took a picture.
So I know that many of you want to know what the food tasted like...well unfortunately I wasn't brave enough to try the Big Mec so I just ate some pizza (another thing McDonald's in the U.S. doesn't have) and french fries. And of course my Sprite that was wrapped in a plastic bag!
Friday, November 21, 2008
So imagine my surprise when I was at a really small fruit and nuts market the other day and came across oatmeal on one of the shelves. I mean I was truly in heaven - I'm afraid I won't be able to find biscuits or grits anywhere here in Albania. But as for oatmeal, I mean to find that here just made my day. Naturally I did the likely thing once I found it: I began to make it for breakfast in the morning. For some reason though, no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to wake up an extra ten minutes early so that I have enough time to eat the oatmeal before leaving the house. Considering this coupled with the fact that I've always eaten oatmeal on the go, and plus my mom sent me over here with Glad Tupperware from the U.S., I decided to just take the oatmeal with me to class. I soon learned however just how odd of an experience this was for everyone around me.
For one thing, no one else in the class had ever seen oatmeal. Ikuko said she had heard about it but the dish was foreign to all of them. Now I have seen several Albanian students eating snacks around the campus, stuffed croissants with chocolate inside, or bags of chips, or candy bars, things like that. So I assumed that it would be no problem to just eat whatever I wanted in class as long as I wasn't loud. But ummmmm....no! Everyone watched me as I took out my spoon and before I ate my first bite they had to say, "Ju bufe te mire" which when translated basically means, "Bon Appetit." Then when I finished everyone wanted to know if it was good or not and if I was satisfied. I thought it was a weird experience but assumed they had those reactions simply because it was the first time I'd eaten something in class. Besides Huija eats bread and crackers all of the time and no one makes a big deal about it. So I decided to try the oatmeal again but still got the same reaction. I'm not exactly sure why. Today I ate yogurt in class and it did not warrant a single response...there must be something about oatmeal!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Since then I've been to the Albanian hair salon where my new found beautician, Alona, gave me my first "wash and set" here in Albania. Though she did not part my hair, oil my scalp or have any oil sheen, I'd say that the style turned out very well. I received numerous comments about my hair at the Marine Ball last night and though it's very frizzy now (from all of the dancing and then rain today), I'd say that everything turned out A okay - THANK GOD!
Below is a picture of me from last night and also a picture of me with Mindy, who has now found a calling relaxing hair!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Okay people so here's the deal, on Thursday my friend Mindy and I attempted to relax my hair. You see there's this ball coming up here in Albania (it's actually tonight) that's thrown by the embassy and as a "prestigious Fulbrighter" I'm going to it. But my last relaxer was 8 weeks ago, before I left the U.S. For those of you who are not familiar with this process, you should google something like "Black Women and Hair" to learn more, and you can also read one of my earlier blog posts, "Hair: A Black Woman's Dilemma" to learn more about my personal takes.
So I am now posting the first video above this post, I believe two more will follow. Please prepare yourselves...this really did happen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Anyhow Mr. G brings me my coffee and we attempt to have a conversation. While using my hands to gesture, which I am frequently forced to do, Mrs. G grabbed my left hand and noticed there was no ring on my finger. She showed my hand to Mr. G and he smiled, then the two of them proceeded to talk without me, all the while the guy next to me is cracking up laughing. About 5 minutes later Mr. G asked me if I would be his wife. My eyebrows furrowed and I made a face as if to say, "but isn't this your wife right here?" Then Mrs. G starts to nod her head as if to encourage this, and then everyone just starts laughing, me included, though my laugh was more of that "uhhhh this is kinda awkward, what's really going on" type laugh. After a few minutes Mr. G finally cleared things up: he would leave his wife, marry me so that we could move to America together and then he could make more money and send it home to his wife. She was thrilled with this idea and again said that she loved my smile!
I told Cindy and Dave about this and Dave said that the couple must think that I'm their new retirement plan! Perhaps this is the case but I'm not looking forward to marrying any Albanian guys any time soon, especially not those that already have wives. Although I must admit that this is not my first Albanian marriage proposal!
Since that night Mr. and Mrs. G have been really cool, always speaking and frequently inviting me for coffees at the cafe. We talk, we laugh and the entire time I'm asking questions in my head about what would happen if this guy really tried to marry me...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Since I've been here I've taken many notes about the behavior of guys here, how it is more socially acceptable for men to just talk with anyone in the street, or for men to yell whatever they want at women, or how I am often the only female eating at a restaurant in the middle of day with a bunch of guys because all of the females are "supposed" to be at home. This manliness displayed by all of the men is very confusing however because...they kiss! Traditional greetings in Albania involve kissing twice, once on each cheek. This practice does not stop with the men, who may also even hold hands when walking. I guess I just find it extremely interesting for a man to yell at another guy about being tough and willing to beat him up, but then five minutes later kiss another guy and walk arm in arm down the street. Interesting!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Albanians are definitely excited about Obama. My neighbors own a small convenient store and one of the guys was taking a break from work to drink a beer when I walked in this afternoon. He told me that his beer was in honor of Obama. Lina, a girl who owns a sandwich stand near my house, gave me an American keychain last week (which I wasn't sure why, thought it should have been the other way around) and so I gave her one of my Obama buttons to wear for today, which she loved! And cab drivers or basically anyone on the street will just shout, "Urime Urime per ti" which means "Congratulations, congratulations to you." When I first heard it this morning I thought, "why are they saying congratulations to me, I don't normally hear that on election day." But then I thought about it, the Albanians are congratulating me because he's my new president. I guess it just took me a while to realize it since it's my first time to not be in America when the new president is announced.
I'm posting some pictures from the election party this morning. They had a live feed of CNN international which was great to watch, I was even able to watch Obama's speech. And I met a whole bunch of people including a Peace Corps Volunteer who has invited me to speak at his school in Southern Albania because he's teaching students about cultural anthropology. Cool huh?
I promised that I would also upload pictures from Halloween. Ikuko and I went to a party together and it was her first time to go to a costume party. You may not be able to see very well but I decided to go as a sandwich...the cardboard is the bread and I'm wearing a yellow jacket for mustard. There are pink and green pieces of paper to represent the meat and lettuce and there's even real spinach on the front of the bread.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
So lesson for the day: Hmmmm actually I'm really not quite sure what the lesson is, but I guess remember that when you're living outside the US, don't think that just because something is a cultural normative "at home," means it's a cultural normative somewhere else. And also, if you come to visit me in Albania (which I hope many of you do), don't leave 15% of your check for a tip...or if you do, you just might get a huge kiss or something from your waiter!