I pulled up in front of my host family's house in a van pack full of other Americans and lots of luggage. There is no telling what they thought at first. Still, my host mother and father greeted me at their front gate with open arms. They rushed me into the house to show me my room and the other areas in their house. My room is completely white. I have a white bed, white walls, and a small table with a white tablecloth. Apparently they are into white. The house is pretty big, has three stories, and the outside is painted bright yellow and orange.
My host family consists of a mother and a father. They were quite excited to see me and have been pretty nice so far. The one amazing thing about my house is that I have a western-style toilet! No turkish squats for me.
Albanian houses are constructed in a very unique way. The house is built on tall stilts. The bottom part of the building (the area around the stilts) is usually made into a home for the family's son and daughter-in-law. There are many houses all over Albania that look as though they are still under construction because the homes are built tall stilts.
A home is created under the husband's family's home because the tradition in Albania is that the whole family lives together. The grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren all in the same place. Of course, there are many houses which are multiple stories beause of the size of the families. Traditionally, the bride moves in with her husband's family once married. What is also interesting is that the youngest son of the family does not ever move out of his parents home. This son is responsible for taking care of his parents in their old age.
The idea of a whole family living together is quite convenient and helpful because most of the homes are located on farms. The family works together to maintain the farm. As my grandmother says, "many hands make light work." It is also quite common for the men to move to Greece or Italy in order to make enough money to provide for their families. By living with the whole family there are other men around that can make important decisions for the family when some of the men are working in other countries. It has become quite clear that the men are the head of the house, while the women do the house work and raise the children. While living in an Albanian village it looks as though the men just sit in coffee houses all day and talk with each other.