Speakin’ shqip-lish

I was talking to some of my students today as they reminisced about their English-language-learning process and I learned the greatest fun fact ever. Are you ready for a little perspective?

In America, when people want to pretend like they are speaking Spanish we ignorantly put an “o” on the end of everything. So its “Can I have some bread-o?” Or “How is the job-o?” Now, we’re not being serious usual, but it does say a lot about how Spanish sounds to Americans. And in reality, many Spanish words do end in “o” so it’s not that far off.

Would you like to know what Albanians do when they are pretending to speak English? They put “ation” on the end of everything. So it’s “buke-ation” for bread (buke is bread in Shqip) and “pune-ation” for job (pune is job in Shqip). When my students told me that they used to walk around doing this with their friends because they thought it was funny and made them sound like they speak English…I actually almost peed myself laughing. It never occurred to me that people would mock my language like I used to mock others’.  It sure changes the way I look at my own language, that’s for sure.

 

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”

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Winter woes and curried carrot soup

Let me start by saying, I have a sinking feeling that it will be a very cold winter in Albania. It’s only November and I’m already freezing. The main difference between winter here and winter back home in D.C. is that there is no central heat in Shkodra. That’s right. The temperatures here about the same all winter long, but its nearly impossible to thaw your fingers without a wood burning stove in your house. And guess which volunteer doesn’t have one of those small luxuries?! Right again, this one.

Not to worry, I have devised a clever plan for simultaneously eating delicious food all winter and staying relatively warm. Key word here is relatively. I moved my Albanian “furre” (aka as close to an oven as I’m going to get) into the kitchen! So even though I don’t have a real wood burning stove to heat my house even with the power goes out (which is more frequent than I’d like to admit), I can still multi-task by cooking dinner and heating my house at the same time. This oven used to sit on my patio, but now it resides comfortably behind my chair in the kitchen and keeps me quite toasty during dinner.

So the other issue we PCVs in Albania have to tackle is the lack of variety and produce available during the winter months. And there comes a time when you are just plain sick of eating the same thing every night. So tonight I used my abundance of carrots to make a delicious curried carrot soup. The best part? You have to roast the carrots for almost an hour. That’s a whole hour of being warm…which is a priceless thing these days. The only downside is that I will probably smell like a melange of strange spices all winter long. If you ask me, it’s a small price to pay.

Curried Carrot Soup:

1. Cut about 10 large carrots in a small pieces. Toss the pieces in olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin and put them in a large baking dish. Chop a medium sized onion and add it to the baking dish as well.

2. Roast the vegetables for 45 minutes to 1 hour until you can stick a fork in easily.

3. Put the vegetables in a food processor or use an immersion blender and pulse until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. You can add in 1/2 cup of cooked lentils too if you want a thicker soup.

4. Add the mixture to a pot along with 2-4 cups of vegetable stock. Sometimes I do half water and half milk (or coconut milk) if I’m feeling indulgent 🙂

5. Add 2 tsp of curry and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. Slowly bring to a simmer on the stovetop.

6. Enjoy! (P.S. this serves about 4 people) You can even keep this in the refrigerator and heat it up for quick meals when you’re in a hurry.

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”

Çfarë është?

I ask this question every day. Çfarë është? It means What is this? I’m always finding new and strange looking fruit at the markets and my curiosity usually gets the best of me. I end up spending the 50 cents it costs to buy one of these weird looking fruits, just to try it. Then when I get home I find my landlord, hold up the fruit, tilt my head to the side and smile as I ask him Çfarë është??? He usually laughs and tells me how to say it in Shqip. Most of the time I’m still confused and ask him to write it down! Then I run upstairs, power up my computer and go instantly to Google Translate.

Today I struggled a little more because I simply could not find an English translation for this fruit. So here you have it.

Those of you who always ask, What do you eat in Albania? For the most part, we eat the same things as you do in America…but sometimes new produce shows up in the market and I truly feel like I’m in a foreign country. Good thing I’m not afraid to try new things!

Right now in Shkoder every single market is overflowing with pomegranates and persimmons. How lucky can you get, to buy kilos of pomegranates for just a few dollars when in America it would cost the same just to buy one!

 

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”

 

Albanian hospitality

I realize now that it’s been far too long since I’ve posted something about my experience here in Albania. At first I felt a little guilty, but then it dawned on me that the reason I haven’t been posting is because I’ve been too busy having the time of my life. Honestly. I never in a million years thought my Peace Corps experience would turn out like this.

I thank my lucky stars every day to have been assigned the community of Shkoder because the people here have truly taken me under their wing. I can’t tell you how many coffees I’ve had and how many free meals I’ve been invited to in the last 2 months. People here will give you the world. It’s amazing really, because even though they are far less fortunate than I am, they still want to give me everything. If all they had left was one orange on their tree, they would give it to me and be happy just to see the smile on my face.

Just this afternoon I was invited for lunch at my counterpart’s house and I couldn’t refuse. (Not that I would ever dream of refusing a proper Albanian homecooked meal!) Her entire family was there including her parents, grandparents, husband, children, cousins…literally everyone. And all because they wanted me to try the traditional Shkodran food they had prepared and to see the look on my face when I first tasted it. I’ve never seen people so genuinely thankful and happy like that. It’s like I’m doing them a favor by eating their food. Such a strange concept, but one I could get used to!

 

And when I tried to leave to come home, they wouldn’t let me out the door without taking a million leftovers. Then just when I thought I was in the clear at the gate, her daughters ran up to me and gave me the biggest hugs and gave me fresh oranges they had picked from their trees. It’s days like this when I can’t wipe the silly smile off my face.

 

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”