Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Quick Lesson in Greetings...

Okay if any of you are ever going to try to learn Albanian, the most important word you need to know is "mire," which means, "good." Those of you who speak the language or have ever studied it can attest to this. I say this because the first ten minutes of any conversation with an Albanian are always with questions that you can just simply reply to with "mire." For example:

- Ah Chelsi, how are you?
"Mire."
- How have you been?
"Mire."
- How have things been going?
"Mire."
How is the apartment?
"Mire."
-How was class today?
"Mire."
- Your mother, father, family back in America, how are they?
"Mire."
-What do you think of Albania lately?
It's "Mire."
-How was today for you?
"Shume mire" (which means very good)
- How was lunch or dinner?
"Goxha mire" (another way of very good)
- okay, talk to you later.


I promise I'm not making it up. Plus the words for good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, all have "mire," so really, this is probably the most important word you need to learn. This is not just for foreigners, even when Albanians are talking with each other, it seems that the first part of the conversation is all about how many questions can you answer with the word "mire." So now when you come to visit me, you've got greetings down pack, trust me everything's all "mire."

Introducing for the first time...ID Cards!

Okay, you might be thinking, what is interesting about ID cards and why would I be dedicating a post to them? Well if you think that they're boring and nothing exciting about them, you are far too wrong my friend.

Today in the middle of my Albanian language class, my teacher announced that there would be a ceremony at 10 a.m. on the second floor for the issuing of ID cards, and as a departmental instructor, she was required to be present. She gave us the option of hanging around the classroom for a half hour or so or accompanying her. Needless to say, being the nerd that I am, and because I was curious as to why there was a ceremony for ID cards, I jumped at the chance to go. We walked upstairs to a huge classroom which had about 100 or so university students and a good number of teachers. There were two cameramen in the center of the room and a podium at the front. People stared at us as usual because we look like an international parade whenever we walk around (a Black American girl, Japanese girl, Chinese girl and an Albanian girl who everyone assumes to be French or something because she's with us***).

When the ceremony started a man (who I assume is a dean or something) addressed the crowd, explaining how monumental this day was. He then went on to talk about the importance of ID cards and how they work, what they are used for, the purpose of having them in the first place. It was only then that it hit me: this is the first time in the University of Tirana's history that the students have been issued ID cards! As an American student, an ID card is not something I think about too often. I mean when school starts you go to the records or registrar's office, take a picture and then a few weeks later, you get the card. Everyone has one, everyone uses them around campus, easy right? But in fact up until this point, no one has had ID cards - I'm not sure how people were identified as students before.

When the guy finished talking and thanking the bank representatives (who funded the project), he called out a few students names and they went forward to accept their cards. People clapped and cheered, a few even whooped for this one guy who was smiling and cheering as he went forward to get his card - I think he'd be the candidate for "Mr. Tirana University" or something. You would have thought we were at a graduation ceremony or something! At first I thought that they were going to call each person out one by one but luckily only a few people went forward, the rest will get their cards later.

After this a lady came forward kind of as a guest speaker, and she discussed what it means to have a card. The girl next to me appeared to be taking some hard core notes (as I was) but once I took a closer look, she was actually finishing a homework assignment. It was then that I realized that all of the students around me were doing the same thing. I guess I blended right in taking notes (again, I know, I'm a nerd).

So now university students (at least in Tirana) have ID cards and can prove their student statuses. This comes at a perfect time because the nation has recently implemented a new law that all citizens must hold photo-ID in order to vote, so now these students don't have to worry about the other cards - killing two birds with one stone, see how important ID cards are?




***I don't think I ever wrote about my new classmate, but Austriana joined our class about a month and a half ago. She's Albanian but she grew up in Austria and doesn't know the grammar of the language all that well, though she speaks it very well. Anyhow, she fits right in with the group, I love her! And now she just adds another dictionary to our class collection: German-Albanian!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who?

Okay, Albanian, like many other languages, has gender specific grammar. By this I mean words have gender, so for instance the word for notebook, "fletore" is feminine, while the word for book, "liber" is masculine. Those of you who have studied Spanish, or perhaps German (I think) are probably familiar with this. Well also in Albanian, there is no word for "it" because all things are either male or female, in this case "ai" or "ajo."

Now, here's the problem: I'm still adjusting to the fact that things are a boy or girl because when I hear the word for boy/girl, I naturally think of a person. So yesterday I'm at Ms. B's house and she was talking about a person and said the sentence, "She brought this." The "she" was referring to a person, her cousin. But I didn't understand what she was talking about, so I said, "What did she bring?" Then Ms. B. pointed at an object and said (in Albanian), "her." I got confused and said, "no, I know who, but what?" "Huh" (says Ms. B). Again I said, "What did she bring, did she bring this?" pointing to a spoon. "No not him" says Ms. B, "her" pointing at something else. Me, thinking to myself, "when did a man enter the conversation?"
Before I could ask something else, Ms. B. said, "Now when she's done we're going to put her in the oven," to which I immediately wanted to know why a person was going in the oven, only to realize that Ms. B was just talking about the dish, which is a feminine word, and thereby the same pronoun as that for the word girl.

Shume veshtire (very difficult!)

I don't even know if you were able to understand what I just wrote, imagine what was going through my head yesterday. Sometimes I think I'm losing it!

Decisions...

I've been accepted to graduate school...WHOOP WHOOP! Time to celebrate, let the party begin, Urime, Gezuar!!!

There's just one problem: I don't know where to go! And I have less than a month left to make this decision....can we say, HELP!!!!!

I've been talking with my friend Fashionetta lately who is also trying to make some decisions in her life. She and I have been talking about how things can be so different once you feel like you have to pick a certain path. That for a while things can come so natural, it seems that everything's kind of laid out and then you have to make some choices for yourself and it can be tough.

So though I think I may be closer to make a decision about school (though I might say the exact opposite tomorrow), but I still haven't done so yet. However, at some point I will have to do this, it's the number 2 thing on my to-do list. Number 1? Trying to better my understanding of Albanian humor so that I can laugh at more jokes...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fresh?

I've been eating a lot more fruit lately and I just don't think fruit is as fresh in the States as it is here in Albania...in fact, I'm pretty sure it's not. What's up with this? Has anyone else experienced this?

Scooterists and Bikers

Okay, so I know I've written a couple of times about how bad some of the drivers can be in Albania and how dangerous it can be for people on foot like myself, but seriously something HAS to be done about people on the motorbikes, scooters and objects like these. I'm not sure why but most people on the scooters don't follow the same rules as people in cars, so this means that many don't stop at lights even when pedestrians are crossing the street! The worse thing that has happened me though occurred recently when I was walking on a street that I pretty much walk everyday. This particular street is a one-way street and everyone knows this, there are signs everywhere. Also many people walk this street in the mornings, especially students because it's near the school. Well since the sidewalks are always narrow and sometimes non-existent (as in the case of this street), most times people walk on the side of the street and look out for cars heading south, only south because as I wrote, it's a one-way street. Well would you believe it, a group of us almost got hit by people on scooters who were driving on the street the WRONG way! I mean if it's one-way for cars, it should be one-way for all vehicles of any sort, right?

Okay, just wanted to vent about this...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dangerous For Male Waiters with Plates aka "Dita e Gruas"

The 8th of March is Women's Day (Dita e Gruas) in Albania and is celebrated in high style and quality - I'm talking big time! You see I had been hearing about "Tete Mars" as it is affectionately called, for quite some time but I don't think I was really all that prepared. Ms. B. invited us to join her and some of her friends at this restaurant for the afternoon. We got there around 12 and once we went inside, they had all of these tables lined up with ribbons and decorations. There was a live band and a dance floor. Oh, and TONS of women! All ages, from about 8 months to the 90s. Everyone was dressed nicely (don't worry Mom I was dressed up too, well at least a little) and had flowers.

We began the afternoon with salad and a plate of food with three pieces of meat, cheese, a boiled egg, yogurt sauce, and bread. We also had soda, red wine, and beer. I thought that would be it for the day but silly me, OF COURSE NOT! After that we had more meat, french fries, fergese (a traditional Albanian dish), fruit, and a torte. I would write about how horrible this is going to be for my health but hopefully I danced away all of the calories because I don't think I've ever danced this much in my life! We made circles around the dance floor and held hands, doing traditional Albanian dances. I also realized today that Albanian songs are REALLY long, I mean they were going on forever it seemed. People were dancing on top of chairs and even the younger ones under the table. Would you know it but Ms. B. can really move, I mean there is no way that she's 66 because she was out-dancing everybody! The only males in the entire restaurant were the waiters and someone needs to create a better system for them to serve because the women were dancing all over the place and boys were moving through with plates full of food, I almost got whacked in the face with beef steak!

I honestly think that we need to adopt this holiday in America, just a day to celebrate women! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, we were actually there for about 6 hours! Albanians know how to throw a party, that's for sure. The power even went out twice during the middle of everything but that didn't stop anyone, the drummer kept playing and we kept our napkins in the air and danced anyway (anyone who wants to learn how to dance with napkins, I can now teach you!)

Gezuar Festa e Gruas 2009!!! U kenaqa shume!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dita e Mesueses

March 07 is Dita e Mesueses*, "Day of Teachers" here in Albania. From what I've gathered this is not necessarily a day off for teachers but rather a day when students show thanks for their teachers. My classmates and I have gotten together to get some flowers for our teacher for tomorrow, since March 07 actually falls on a Saturday this year.

But I was completely surprised when Sokol and Irena showed up at my house tonight with flowers. If you remember, about 4 months ago I started teaching English in my apartment to an Albanian couple (Sokol and Irena). Though I "teach" English (I used quotations because I'm not sure how great of a job I'm doing, ha ha) I hadn't really considered myself a teacher but sure enough they gave me a gift tonight, which almost made me cry. The first thing I said was, "Oh, I'm gonna tell my mom!"

When we went to this flower shop to pay for our teacher's flowers today, one of the employees asked me about the "Day of Teachers" in America and I stared at him with a blank look because I honestly could not remember if we have such a day in America, and if so, when it is. So please don't fault me but I'm wondering, does such a day exist? When is it?



*For those readers who speak Albanian, I may have messed up the word "mesueses" because I sometimes have trouble with this particular rasa, since it's the Gjinore form, but I'm promise I'm working on it...

Thanks

I really like the fact that many of you enjoy reading the blog and I just want to write thanks to all of you who've provided positive feedback and comments lately, they mean a lot.

I especially want to thank those Albanian readers that may live outside of Albania right now and enjoy reading the blog and have sent me encouraging remarks. I haven't found a way yet to send feedback via the comments under the posts, so I'm just writing a thanks now.

Gezuar!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Please

I created this blog to document my experiences and travels while living here in Albania, especially so that my friends and family could read about my journey over the course of this year. I realize that sometimes I express deep emotions and feelings and that some of you may not agree wholeheartedly with me, but I am not asking you to - this blog exists for me to convey my thoughts.

That being said, I would appreciate it if those who would like to comment could refrain from derogatory language (i.e. PLEASE DON'T CALL ME THE N***** WORD) and abusive statements, I would appreciate it.

Perhaps some people who have written such things (if you're confused, see the comments in the previous post from Thursday Feb 27) are mad at me about something I wrote. I'd appreciate it if you could express yourself in a more adult manner and just let me know if I offend you or offend someone you know. In no way whatsoever do I write this blog to offend anyone, rather to just capture my life while living here. I often record personal thoughts and reactions to situations, but in no way am I trying to disrespect Albanian, Albanians, or anyone for that matter. I would hope that people would also not disrespect me!

Just to clear things up about the previous post, I was in no way trying to convince people that something was "wrong" with Albania or the people here, RATHER, just examining cultural differences and how I understand them. If you have a problem with this, there is no need for name calling or hatred, just in an appropriate manner learn to express yourself.