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Albania

Holidays

The weather has been so nice, consistently 5-10° above normal, and no rain for the past couple of weeks, just lovely bright sunny days. On average it rains 15 days in January but the forecast for the next two weeks only shows two rainy days.  I suppose the farmer’s might not be happy but I am!

If it’s above 60° when I go into the city I just wear a long sleeve shirt or microfleece shirt but virtually everyone else is wearing winter coats! I don’t get it….I get hot when I walk. Doesn’t everyone? The other day at a produce stand in town the girl said “Hello,” so I asked her how she knew I was American and it embarrassed her. She said I just looked like I spoke English. I’m pretty sure it’s the clothes. While I was waiting for the bus I noticed the old ladies, 60 & up. Some wore dressy slacks but most, especially the older ones, wore skirts well below their knees and thick stockings. Not a one of them in jeans. I only have three pairs of pants and two are jeans! A lot of people here say Hello to me before I even open my mouth so something is tipping them off!

A lot of the street vendors are selling raw olives right now. Harvest is in late November.  They cost around $.45 a pound but they’re not edible (extremely bitter) until soaked in brine or oil for 6 months.  I guess a lot of people must do that though, considering how many are being sold.

Here’s one of the little street booths. There’s one street downtown that’s blocked off from traffic for about two blocks and has lots of people selling everything…fruit, nuts, fish, mops, pots and pans and clothing. The price signs are in leke, for one kilo (2.2#). So the lemons are $.34 USD a pound. Vine ripened tomatoes are usually around $.50 a pound.

I bought a little propane stove so I can cook in case of power outage, it cost $10 and the gas cartridges are $1. 10 each. The power has gone out a few times but so far never for more than ten minutes. I have my solar Luci Light handy in case it happens after dark!

Also at the Mercato I bought this cute blackberry table runner for $1.80! I love it. The lady took my 200 leke and said “Gracias? Thank you”? (I ask you, do I look Latina at all??) We both laughed and I said “Thank you, faleminderit” and went on my way. It’s these funny little encounters with people that really brighten my days.

The other day I had another funny encounter, with the lady at the produce stand near my apartment. I am determined to start speaking Shqip more, even though I’m not sure of the pronunciation. I’ve been getting some avocados that never ripen, and I’m not sure how to pick a good one. I wanted to ask if this was a good avocado but I accidentally asked if it was a happy avocado! She looked puzzled and shrugged her shoulders and then I realized what I’d said and we both laughed. I wish I could get photos of this lady. She’s in her 50’s with jet black hair and huge eyebrows that look like they were drawn on with a wide tip black Sharpie!

I didn’t see any turkeys anywhere until Christmas eve, when I passed a woman on the street carrying a live turkey in a plastic shopping bag! Just his head was sticking up out of the bag. I fear he came to a bad end. Then in the butcher shop I saw turkeys. They’re just as scrawny as the chickens. A friend who lives in Cyprus said the European Union does not allow growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids in poultry, so they don’t end up with all that breast meat that we’re used to. They are also probably a different breed. Apparently the turkeys here can actually walk around without falling on their faces! What a concept. They have more thigh meat than ours, because they are allowed to get some exercise. She cooked one for Christmas and said it was delicious. I know that the chicken here tastes way better than even the organic chicken I used to buy in AZ. These turkeys (back row) are quite expensive at $6 USD a pound!

I bought a little chunk of beef for my Christmas dinner. Beef here is cut with the grain instead of against it like in the US so it’s hard to recognize the cuts. A lot of them look like a big muscle (which of course they are). There’s no factory farming here so all the meat animals are grass fed or pastured and are very lean. Beef is not very tender but like the chicken, it really tastes great. I simmered the beef on very low heat for two hours but should have started earlier. It wasn’t shoe leather but it was chewy!

I had a very quiet Christmas and New Year but New Year’s Eve is a huge celebration here. New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday of the year because for the 50 years of Communist reign, all religion was forbidden. Even though that era is 20+ years past, the tradition continues. Also, 70% of Albania is Muslim so Christmas is not a big deal. There were some decorations along the street and in stores, but not much. New Year’s Eve was incredibly noisy though, filled with heavy artillery noise from fireworks and maybe cherry bombs (?) stating as soon as it got dark. Much louder than firecrackers anyway; they made me jump every time.

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6 replies on “Holidays”

Thanks for all of the great insights in this blog post. I feel like I am learning so much about Albania through your experience, and you provide a good laugh or two also. Happy, healthy 2023!!

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I enjoy reading your blog and seeing how you are doing, seems your really getting into living there. Love you are trying to learn the language and that is always a challenge.
Happy New Year!!

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