The following will give you a little taste of what albania sounds like….from furgon rides to afternoons at the host family’s house to coffee in the afternoon at a lokal, muzik populore follows your every move…
On the bus, at home, in the furgon (minibus taxi-ish public transport), in restaurants, even in language class, it’s as if the techno heart of all that is flashy and culturally insane about American pop music and Italian dance tunes thumps out a rythym to daily life. Techno is everywhere. In the last two weeks I have watched and absorbed more music videos and heard more bizarre remixes of American songs simply through osmosis from my daily routine.
My host sister likes to dance while she does housework (which she does for many hours each day…the house is spotless). She will come into the kitchen in the afternoons while I am studying at the table and turn on the TV to the “Folk Plus” channel – all Albanian music videos all the time – and then promptly grab my hand and we’ll laugh and do three rounds of the Albanian wedding circle dance around the room. This is a dance the language teachers taught us the last night we stayed in the hotel during orientation, and it appears to be the one dance all Albanians know how to do.
Let me back up and just say that weddings here are a BIG deal. This is evident by the fact that at least 80% of the music videos on TV that are Albanian are set at a wedding but also in the fact that my host family talks about their older children’s recent weddings all the time (recent as in 4 years ago). I have watched the 1.5 hour wedding video of their son Bairam and have been asked multiple times why, at age 22, I am not married. Apparently the traditional Albanian wedding is a multiple day event that takes place in both the hometown of the groom and the bride. In Elbasan there are more wedding stores than seems appropriate for a city of around 100,000, and it’s doubtful that many can afford what is inside. In addition, Susan’s host sister here in Bishqem is 16 and engaged, so we get a lot of local wedding gossip in the village as well. So far, I am all weddinged out.
So – learning the wedding dance and spinning around the room with Jerina is fun, but in a way that underlines the differences between her expectations for the future and mine. Instead of focusing on the wedding itself, I would rather talk with her about the life that comes after the wedding (or before), and the way she wants to lead her life in or outside Albania in the future.