Can I just point out how weird the word “eel” looks when capitalized?
Thursday Kip was hosting a lunch for us and his three counterparts (my three new counterparts!) at a nice restaurant up by the Ardenice monastery. I’ll get to that part in a bit. But first, let’s talk about the morning, shall we?
Megan went for a run while I read on the couch. (Sounds about right.) About half an hour later, I heard someone trying to jiggle the handle on the door, and assumed it was Meg because the door is really hard to open from the outside. BAD IDEA. I opened the door and LENA CAME BARRELING INTO KIP’S HOUSE (Kip, who was still asleep), sat down on the couch, demanded coffee, and expected entertainment. I hadn’t showered in three days, I’d been reading for the past hour and was trying to extricate myself from the novel into the real world, I wasn’t even wearing a bra…and a middle-aged Albanian woman was sitting on my couch looking at me expectantly making demands in a language I’m still not very good at understanding.
So I texted a warning to the sleeping Kip, put a pot of water to boil on the stove, gave Lena free reign on my facebook photos to stalk to her heart’s delight, and hopped in the shower. Thankfully for me, Megan came home and kept Lena out of trouble until I was ready. Shortly thereafter, we succeeded in getting Lena to leave with the promise that yes, we were meeting her later, for lunch.
Shortly thereafter, there was another knock on the door. This time it was Moza…and the infamous Kerry Ann.
(A quick note about Kerry Ann. She’s a legend. She’s a group 12 volunteer – I’m group 16 – fluent in the language, who got a job in Tirana and stuck around. Lena and Moza LOVE HER. To them, she is the epitome of perfection. Everything I do will be measured against Kerry Ann. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But certainly an intimidating thing.)
Anyway, Moza strutted in with KA and sat at the table and demanded coffee. (For those of you who’ve missed all the hints, coffee = life for Albanians.) Kip was up but didn’t want to make coffee for an uninvited guest, so KA (feeling bad because Kip had no idea she was coming along, even though Moza had invited her, which is just so Albanian) started making Moza coffee. And then for some reason Moza abruptly stood up and indignantly stormed out of the apartment.
THIS COUNTRY IS A NON-STOP SOAP OPERA.
(A quick note about Moza. Moza is a dear. And she took great care of KA and Kip, and I know I can really count on her as well. But like most Albanian women, she is very black and white. And abrupt. And dramatic.)
KA chased after her to talk her down, while the three of us left up in the apartment quickly got ready for lunch. We met up at the furgon station, I finally got to meet my third counterpart, Gesti, and we settled in for the short drive to Ardenice.
Ardenice is not only stunning, it is incredibly important historically. Scanderberg, Albania’s national hero, was married there in the early fifteenth century. Additionally, even though it was used as a barracks during communism, the church is still in fantastic shape. It’s one of those places where stepping through the doorway instantly makes you stop and go quiet, listening for echoes of those who’d lived and worshipped there through the centuries. The old smell of incense and beeswax and smoke, along with the damp smell of ancient stone bricks, is a stark contrast to the young and fresh and new rose garden outside. Down the center aisle, the brick is worn where generations of Orthodox Christians have tread to the altar. There was a font filled with sand into which, for a few leke (1 lek is about 1 cent), you could stick a tall, thin, tapered candle with a prayer.
Seriously, folks, I could have stayed there for hours. Literally.
After six thousand photos, we went to a restaurant close by. For eight courses of meat. Thanks, Kip, for a great lunch! (Just like on birthdays, when the birthday person buys for everyone, at going-away parties the person leaving buys.) And, of course, circle dancing. And middle-aged Albanian women learning how to do Gangnam Style.
We survived our site visit!
The head and tail of the eel...missing the 8 middle sections.
Then we returned home, spent one more night with Kip, and made our way back to Elbasan. Which was an adventure in itself, involving: one taxi driver who convinced himself to drive us to the highway for free because God would take care of him for taking care of two beautiful Americans; four furgon drivers fighting about who got to drive us; one mini-bus driver who swept in and took us to Cerme; one more furgon driver who shoved us in the back seat; two families sitting on top of each other in the trunk of the furgon; and one super sweet little boy who wanted to talk but was sitting behind me so every time I had an answer to a question I had to turn around and consequently get car sick.
Thus was the beginning of the end of PST.
The view from Ardenice, with Lushnje in the distance.