Thursday, August 22, 2013

About the Host Family...

As most people know, I struggled with my host family at first. A lot. They were (and still are) extremely possessive, they're very traditional, the gender roles drive me to the brink of insanity, and their diet is pilaf and bread and fried potatoes with a tomato every once in a while. However, as time passed and I got used to them and adjusted to their lives, I came to appreciate them as individuals - beyond their roles as cultural products and gender performers (can I get a "heyo!" for Judith Butler?)

And after spending three days with them at Florida's wedding, I realized I really do consider them family now. They treated me just like another sister - in the photos, getting my hair and make-up done, going to the groom's party, sleeping on one of the futons with one of the nieces, kisses and hugs and "te lumshin duart!" (bless your hands!) and "te lumshin kembet!" (bless your feet!) on repeat. Things that really bothered me in PST and, frankly, probably would if I still lived with them - like how the women all descend on me for braids after I plait the neighbor girl's hair - didn't get me at all. I enjoyed it and appreciated having something to do.

But isn't that how all families are?

You love them and simply can't stand them at the same time. You treasure the small moments when you're together, but appreciate that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. No one can hang out with their extended family for a long period of time without wanting to pull out their hair (except for you, Becky, I know) because that many people who care deeply about one another and know so much about each other all smushed into one place is overwhelming.

And wonderful.

I got to join Florida (the bride), Blerina (a sister), Fabiola (a cousin and also the stylist), and Clea & Zoe (nieces) at the shop to do our hair and make up. I had a funny moment with Clea, who's 11 and has lived in England her whole life, when the two of us went to go pick up expressos and little Kakaos (hot chocolate) to bring back to the shop. After talking with the cafe owner while he made our kafes, I asked her how my shqip sounded - "Would you say I sound more like a kindergartner or a three-year-old?"

Her only response was a barely suppressed snigger.

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