Posts tagged ‘ethnic’
My fluency in Albanian has now grown to a grand total of 4 words: mire dita (good morning), ju lutëm (please), mirupafshim (good bye), and faleminderit (thank you).
Sean and I have been in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosova for a 2 week stay; an internship opportunity with a local NGO has brought him here (along with yours truly as the tag-along “parental unit”). Before arriving here, we had enjoyed our time in the seaside locale in Albania. Though it was a long 5 hour journey from that country to our destination in Kosova, the rural and mountainous drive provided plenty of scenic diversion. As our car entered Prishtina, we waved to the massive statue of Bill Clinton that stands on one of the city’s main thoroughfares. In the aftermath of its 1999 war, Kosova is a very America-loving country and as holders of U.S. passports, Sean and I have been made to feel very welcomed here. This is our second visit in 2 years and we have felt very taken in by the familiarity and urban energy of this Balkan city.
We have settled into a daily routine. For Sean, there is time spent at the NGO office, as well as summer assignments for school in which to keep up. For me, I have been gathering photos and reading A LOT. The weather has been rather warm. Our hotel is located in the older, traditional part of the city. I love the vibrancy and ethnicity in these parts. During the day, it is busy and loud with all of its commercial activity. This is definitely not quiet Sonoma!! Most days I have been taking morning walks through the nearby open market/flea market. The afternoons are spent in the comfort of the air conditioned hotel room. In the evenings, Sean and I venture out for our evening meal. In the cool of the evenings, we enjoy wandering into the newer, modern part of the city for dinner. Near the city center, the university, and many of the government buildings, the area is known as Mother Theresa Square. It is a lively combustion of cafés and people strolling around.
A few general observations: I am fascinated by the architecture of the centuries’ old mosques and their minarets. Prishtina is a typical European city in that it has a thriving café culture. In the older part of the city, the cafés are populated by men only — I have not seen one woman sitting around with an endless cup of coffee or glass of tea. In the more modern areas, younger people, both men and women are seen throughout the cafés. Cigarette smoking is widespread here — I don’t even want to think of the amount of second-hand smoke I’ve recently inhaled! I have found it easier to photograph the ethnic men; I have not been able to get any decent shots of the ethnically-clad women. I continue to be impressed by the proficiency of the English language of so many Kosovars.
Kosova is a country that has been in existence for several centuries, from before the Middle Ages and through the Roman and Ottoman Empires. With the exception of the Serbian enclaves in the northern part of the country, today the majority of people in Kosova are ethnic Albanians. In 2008, Kosova declared its sovereignty from what had been the former Yugoslavia. Until then, the Albanian flag was Kosova’s own as well. Nowadays, both the Kosovar and Albanian flag are proudly flown throughout the country. Additionally, the American flag is widely seen here as well. In many ways, this Muslim, ethnically Albanian country could not be more different than the United States. I know that I am a foreigner here. But I have begun to be recognized by many of the outdoor market vendors during my daily walks through. I’m often enthusiastically greeted with the words “hello – photo – American.” It has made me feel a little less different from the people here, and instead, a bit more connected to our common humanity. Faleminderit, and in a few days, mirupafshim.
For more photos of our time here in Prishtina, Kosova, please click here to view my Flickr gallery.
Four days spent in the coastal city of Durrës — Albania’s second largest city and situated on the Adriatic Sea. Across the water, Italy lies 180 miles away. One of the Italian influences in this region can be found in the restaurants — rizotot (risotto) and spageta (spaghetti) are found on most every menu, along with numerous restaurant signs that say Piceri (Pizzeria) on them. The beautiful blue and warm water of the Adriatic Sea makes Durrës a very popular summer vacation destination. In the height of the season, this coastal area becomes very crowded with vacationers from all over Europe. I was happy that our time spent there was just prior to the influx of the summer crowds though.
Sean and I are in the Balkans for Sean’s internship here. His continued interest in this part of the world is being augmented with the opportunity to observe, talk with, and spend time with people who are in the fields of government, diplomacy and NGO’s. Though most of those whom he is associating with speak English, Sean’s rudimentary knowledge of Albanian has been strenuously tested as he was required to attend several lectures that were presented in Albanian.
In the first few days after arriving, jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks. Sleep eluded me at night and so by the tiny light of my Kindle I would read until 4AM. Sean would leave the hotel in the early morning, dressed in his suit and tie, and I would lumber on in a deep sleep until noon. But in the later parts of each day, I engaged in doing what I love best while traveling: wandering around with my camera, hoping to discover some sense of the native culture and life.
Like my experience last year in Kosova, I found the Albanians to be friendly and very eager to make me feel welcome. This was true for the workers in the hotel and restaurants I encountered, as well as the people “in the street” that I met during my photo-gathering wanderings. It is rare for an American to pass this way. I was constantly asked WHY had I come to visit Albania. (Young people, especially school aged children, speak English rather proficiently, as it is taught in school from a very early age. Needless to say, I felt like a stupid American in being able to say only 1 Albanian word — faleminderit, i.e., thank you.) I tried to give honest replies to their question, e.g., my enjoyment in traveling to places so unlike my own country; my enjoyment of being surrounded by the sounds of a foreign language; the photography opportunities that I find, etc.
On my final morning in Durrës, I went to the local furrë (bakery) where I had been going for my daily espresso and buka (bread). The young girl behind the counter then asked me why I was visiting Albania. After giving her my litany of reasons, she responded in her sweet and shy voice (she looked no older than 16 years of age), to me: “Ah, you have come to collect our culture.” Bingo, voila — I was so moved by the spontaneous words that she uttered to me, in my own native language. I could never have expressed it with more authenticity than she.
I invite you to click here to view my Flickr gallery of some of the photos I collected from Durrës, Albania. Faleminderit.