An American in Kosovo, Part 3

  • A while back, I was waiting at the bus station/taxi stand one evening. I had spent the day in Peja with some friends, and had to transfer buses to get back to my village. It was only about 8 p.m. but there wasn’t a bus or taxi in sight. I started to get irritated, but then I told myself, “Something will happen in the next 5 minutes to make you love Kosovo again.” A few minutes later, a car pulled up and I heard, “Ap-reel, hajde.” (Come here.) My neighbors were driving by, and their teenage daughter (one of my students) saw me standing by the side of the road and told her parents to pull over. I got a free ride back home.
  • My host mother was commenting that I don’t eat much (cultural note: Albanians will pressure you to eat a lot). I replied that I drink a lot of milk (and for the record, I do drink a lot of milk). My host father, who is pretty chill/quiet and doesn’t comment on much, overheard me and said, “PO.” (YES.) Haha.
  • My host father’s sister is a Catholic nun (side note: she is really sweet, and one of my favorite members of the family). She doesn’t speak English, but she’s pretty good at understanding me when I speak a mix of English and broken Shqip. I was trying to ask her how many other nuns live in her convent, but I was struggling because I don’t know the Shqip word for “nun.” She asked me if I meant other “motrat” (sisters). I thought, “Oh! They call them ‘sisters’ here, too.”
  • The Albanian word for “onion” is qepë. (It sounds kind of like “chep.”) The word for “shut up” is cheppa (that’s spelled wrong. I don’t know how to spell it.) I dislike onions, so whenever I go to a restaurant, I try to tell them “jo qepë” (no onion) and I always end up saying “jo cheppa” (no, shut up). The waiter will give me a weird look and I’m like, “Me fal!” (I’m sorry.)
  • Being an American in Kosovo gives me the chance to think of creative ways of explaining things. I brought some American candy to school last week (thanks, mom). One of the teachers, who speaks a little English, asked me what “maple” is. I said, “It’s … sugar that comes from the trees.”
  • “Të befte mirë” is what you say before eating. My host family asked me what the English translation is. I explained that in America we sometimes say “bon appetite,” but that’s borrowed from French. (I don’t think it’s all that typical for Americans to give any greeting before eating … is it?)

You can read about my other experiences as an American in Kosovo here and here.

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