Monday, July 2, 2012

I've Come Full Circle!

It is quite common to see older men sitting around tables or makeshift cardboard tables as you walk down the streets in Albania. The retired men spend much of their day drinking coffee and raki and playing dominoes and sometimes card games. It was definitely part of the Albanian culture that I found endearing and made the local community seem more like a family than just strangers passing each other on the street.

One could always hear lively conversations and laughter when passing by one of these games. Some of the men would play, while others would sit around watching and participating in whatever they were talking about.

Upon arriving in my community, Himare, I was first welcomed and 'befriended' by the old men. They all wanted to take me out to coffee, learn about what I was doing in Albania, why I was living in Himare, and correct me whenever I would make a mistake when speaking Albanian. After a few weeks of coffees, I was finally invited to play cards with them one day. That was the moment that I knew I had 'passed their inspection'. One never sees women, much less a young woman, playing dominoes or cards within these groups of older men. By the end of my service many of these men felt like my surrogate grandfathers, they told me what to do, told me jokes, and always corrected my Albanian. 

A few weeks ago I traveled from Dallas, Texas down to Austin, Texas to meet my new roommate and find housing for this coming Fall semester. I happened to be sitting outside at a coffee shop waiting for my friend, when a group of American men sat down at a table and whipped out a set of dominoes. I absolutely can not express the excitement I felt when I noticed this!

The similarities were absolutely uncanny! Albanian men would play at coffee shops, the Austin men played at a coffee shop; Albanian men would play with only men, the Austin men played with only men; Albanian men would play with a coffee and raki on hand, Austin men played with a coffee and beer on hand. The only difference between the two groups of men were that the Albanian men always wore tweed suits frequently with a hat, while the Austin men were wearing blue jeans with cowboys boots and they all had handlebar mustaches.

I can't believe I found Albanian culture with a Texas twist in Austin, Texas!

Men in Austin Playing Dominoes
Men in Albania Playing Dominoes


Anonymous said...

It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

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