Stealth American

People often mistake me for being Kosovar. There is a game I like to play when I am out in public, where I try to see how long an interaction can last before the other person realizes I am not Kosovar. This means I don’t use much Shqip (which is bad), because I don’t want people to hear my accent, or risk making a grammatical mistake that would give me away. At the grocery store checkout, I’ll often make noises or gestures to convey meaning, and pretend to understand what the other person is saying even if I don’t.

I once got halfway through a taxi ride before the driver realized I wasn’t Kosovar. He made a few basic, chit-chatty comments that I was able to answer with one-word responses. It wasn’t until he said something more complicated that I had to give myself away by replying, “Nuk kuptoj.” ([I] don’t understand.)

This gave me a sense of satisfaction, like, I TRICKED YOU FOR HALF A CAB RIDE. Imagine this scene: Me in a crowd of people, wearing a disguise. Suddenly I throw my cape aside and rip off my fake moustache. “ALL THIS TIME! AN AMERICAN! IN YOUR MIDST!”

It is well-known in Kosovo that a group of Americans live here (several groups, actually, counting the Peace Corps, the embassy, the military base, and random expatriates). We have also been told that some people don’t understand what the Peace Corps is, and think that we’re the CIA. I am so bumbling that I can’t imagine someone mistaking me for a CIA agent. (Or is that just my cover? Muwaahahaha.)

Do you want to know a secret? I like to think of myself as having at least average intelligence. But there is a way in which I am really dumb: I CANNOT, for the life of me, follow the plot of spy movies.

My whole family loves the Bourne Identity series. I sat down with them to watch the first one and was determined to remain focused. But within the first ten minutes of the movie, I had completely lost the thread of the plot. Who is that man? Who is that woman? Why are they driving that car down those stairs?

I love Gary Oldman, and so I went to see Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy, despite the fact I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow it. At the end of the movie, I turned to my friend Dana and asked, “So, who was the mole?” She said I would make a good patsy. I asked what a patsy is. She told me, and I was like, “Oh, man, I would totally make a good patsy!”

So, no, I am not with the CIA. I am also not Kosovar. I’m just an American with brown hair and brown eyes, trying to blend in …

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