Trials of a vegetarian in Albania

I had been living in Albania for 3 weeks when my host mother invited me to go on a road trip with her to see a dear old friend who lived across the country in Pogradec.  We made the grueling car ride, stuffed in the back seat of a very small car.  Once we arrived we settled in to the small town, went for a stroll along Lake Ohrid and then returned for dinner.  Her friend had prepared a "special" meal for me.  Let me first explain I had only been in Albania three weeks, I lived with a family that spoke no English and I was taking Albanian language classes during my training.  I did not know a word of Albanian prior to landing in the country..so you can imagine the state of my language skills.  (I must note that I was fluent in 2 other languages). 

The story continues, dinner was brought to the table.  Liver!  I had tried to explain that I was vegetarian, no meat.  The answer was always it's not meat it is an organ.  I did not want to insult the host but they understood I did not want liver.  Then about a half hour into dinner, the pièce de résistance was delivered to the table...a glistening sheeps head, eyeballs and all. I can't imagine what my face looked like.  Again, I tried to respect my hosts and the culture and I just wanted to be able to communicate properly and not in my broken Albanian.  My vocabulary was so limited....I could say, want, don't want but that would be rude.  I just wanted to know the word "can't".  I struggled with words, explaining again what vegetarian meant...in the end my hosts understood and respected my dietary preferences and we all enjoyed the rest of the weekend.

That Monday in language class I had a laundry list of words and expressions that I needed to learn immediately.  The experience is one in which I have had many laughs with both Albanians, family members, friends and other RPCV's.




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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.