I am at the sketchiest internet cafe in all of Europe. My sweet host family took me here because they want me to get in touch with you. They know NO English at all. It has been a struggle to say the least. One day I will actually be able to talk to them instead of my mom just gesturing to her crotch to ask if I need to go to the bathroom!
Anyway, I can get on facebook here (obviously) but gmail and twitter are no-gos because they don’t have a “certificate” which I’m assuming means “this corner of the Balkans is too shady for Google.” So I am sitting on Skype right now casually hoping that one of you will get online, but I have no way of alerting you that I’m online and no way of calling you from Skype because I need money on my account and all my cards are at home because my host mother rushed me out the door with my nephew saying only “Artemio” (nephew) and “internet” so I didn’t really know what I was in for. Hee hee. Artemio keeps looking over at me expecting me to be talking to some white people on headphones but doesn’t look like that will happen because you’re in church now.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dad! Are you 50? That’s old. I told my host dad that you are a politician because that’s the easiest word I could find in the dictionary and he freaked out. I think he assumes I am Obama’s daughter now. When I first got in I shared my gifts with them. Metrie (mama) loves the potholder and Naime (baba) spent all night looking at the Las Vegas book. They have the keychains on their house keys now. And I’m super happy I brought the dream catcher because Albanians are very superstitious and I told them it meant good luck, “paq fat.” Naime has picked out a bunch of pictures I have of the family and has placed them all over the house. He asks about you all the time, any way he can.
The paper told me I was supposed to have a host brother but he is studying abroad in Greece. I really wish he was here so he could translate a little. The children are all older, and one of the daughters is married with kids (Artemio included) and her family has been so sweet to me. They’re the ones who took me here. Metrie would be very meddlesome and goofy by American standards but that’s normal for Schip mothers. I genuinely like her though, and she reminds me of someone in the States but I don’t know who. I am in extremely good hands, in case you were worried. Even through the language barrier I can tell they love and care about me. It makes me really miss you though.
Metrie is a cook professionally so her food is fantastic. She stuffs me full, though. I’ve had to say “U ngopa” or “I’m full” like 500x. It’s just culture. I’m finally unpacked and settled in to the house and I start training tomorrow. Every PCV says that the next 10 weeks are the hardest part of service, so, as the Joker says, “heeere weee gooo!”
I’m trying to think of what else to tell you. Librazhd (my training site) is a beautiful town along the river, nestled in the mountains. People in the US would drive around and judge it as “ghetto” but the homes and shops inside are immaculate and modern. It’s the opposite of the US where people buy gigantic, fancy homes but they look terrible inside. Metrie is very particular with how she keeps house, and again, that’s typical. I have designated room slippers vs shower sandals vs balcony slippers. I cannot be barefoot indoors, I have to wear socks. You were right about the wetroom thing, Mom–the shower is just a spout in the ceiling with a big drain in the center and the toilet and bidet around it. I have my own room, as per PC qualifications, with a lock on it so I get privacy when I want it. It’s interesting because only one room in the house is heated, and mine definitely isn’t at night, so I’m super happy with those REI wool socks you got me.
Today some PC pals texted me to meet them at the town square. The process of a) telling Metrie what I was doing, b) convincing her I was not going to meet an Albanian man, and c) asking for directions to the square took about 20 minutes, and I’m not convinced I accomplished goal B because her daughter (Artemio’s mom) immediately asked me, “Ku eshte djalle?!” when she came in tonight. “Who is the boy?!” Ugh. Anyway, I met up with my friends Erin and Miranda and their host sisters and their friends, a few of whom spoke perfect English. They were a lot of fun and were very sweet to us. (I have yet to meet a rude Albanian!)
Looks like I’m getting the signal that it’s time to leave. I will talk to you later. When, I don’t know. You can call me on Skype after 5pm Tirana time or text me whenever. I can’t call you unfortunately, until I can get some money on my account. I love you!!! Have a good Sunday and give Dad a kiss for me, then complain about his stubbly face and pat his head.