June 27, 2014 by theloneblonde
“USA! USA! USA!” Huh? I did a double take as a walked up the hill home from a few hours at my office on a Friday. “USA! ALL THE WAY!” two guys yelled from a truck that I know belongs to our town sheep dealer. It has been a long time since I have heard the loudness of someone screaming “USA! USA! USA!” I think the last time was when my brothers and I were together, they slightly inebriated would celebrate nights out at their favorite Milwaukee Post-Drinking haunt, Ian’s Pizza. After receiving their extra large slices of mac-and cheese pizza on a paper plate, Murica’, they would often try to lead an entire room post bar close in chants of patriotic pride, however it normally would lead to them getting kicked out because we have a high population of Russian Students in the Milwaukee area. But this is Albania, I live in Albania, and to hear someone yelling to me about my country is not something I have ever really experienced outside of the United States.
Then I remember that the United States had played last night in the World Cup and they were advancing into the next round. I do enjoy football and the idea of the World Cup but as of right now with a laundry list of things that I need to get done, and having one of the most productive weeks in a long time, I honestly don’t have the time to care! Albania did not make it past the trial rounds in a bracket against Switzerland and the Czech Republic their chances were pretty slim. But for a chance the United States has been doing pretty well and apparently my local sheep seller is quite the fan, and this morning he wanted me and everyone else on the road to know. “USA! USA! USA!”
PC has three goals, which I have previously mentioned in my blog, which I think about in terms of job percentages to evaluate how I am doing my job on a daily basis. Maybe not the best method of evaluation but it gets me out of the door in the morning. Goal One, to transfer skills and increase the adaptive capacity of those in our host country; Goal two, to increase the awareness of the American People on Host Country Nationals; and Goal Three to increase the awareness of Albanians in the Untied States. So I think of it like this, if I walk out the door in the morning, and say hi to my neighbors showing them that I have learned Albanian and then post about it on facebook, 66% of my job done! Passing Grade. It’s not that easy, and you have to be able to quantify a lot of the things you do, but like I said it gets me out of the door in the morning.
There are a lot of days when I get really confused about the pride those around me have in my own home country, just like I did today. My brothers are a bit of an extreme example of patriotic pride, they go around wearing 3-piece suits of the red-white-and blue, because those colors don’t run. But it was one of those things that I never really expected to see anywhere but my brother’s closet. But I will even find American Flag towels scarred along the beaches of Durres, American Flag shirts with true American Slogans, and even small children knowing random patriotic American songs. Before coming to Albania, this was an idea that was not really fathomable to me, finding a country that has such a pride in my home.
Honestly, at least once a week and if not more someone stops me on the street and ask me where I am from when finding out I am from the United States they do one of two things, they ask me WHY I AM HERE, because it is their dream to leave Albania and go there, or they beg me to take them with, because it is their dream to leave Albania and go there.
I have countless stories of this happening and people stopping me on the street, and some men even flat out proposing to me to convince them to take them to the United States. My personal favorite was a very insistent waiter at a Pizza place that serves BBQ Chicken Pizza. I was on my way to the South of Albania to assist a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp, in which I decided to have a little pit stop in the city of Fier and order one of the best Pizzas around, BBQ Chicken. Glory. The pizza place caters to the Canadian Oil Workers and has an array of diverse dishes. After sitting down, perusing the menu, and deciding I clearly wanted BBQ Chicken Pizza the waiter came up to me, as I was alone and sometimes this makes me a little nervous, because it is rare that a woman is alone in Albania. I placed my order and then he came back!
“Where are you from,” he smiled in shy English.
“Banoj ne Skrapar,” this is my normal leave me alone, I live in Albania and I don’t really want to deal with you right this minute, I really just want Pizza thought process. Then he does what I hope he would not do and sits down at my table. I attempt to look busy on my phone, but you cannot really fool anyone when your phone is dead. So deciding to entertain the young Albanian man for a minute he then speaks up, “no really where are you from,” he questioned again. “The United States,” I roll my eyes because he is not buying my non-interst. “OOOH-OHHHH,” he makes this stereotypical OMG noise that Albanian men make.
“What, No, that is so crazy what are you doing in Alabnia!”
“I work here, I work in Skrapar.”
“Ohhh-Ohhh” that noise… again. “But I don’t understand, you are here, and it is my dream to go there, this does not make sense.”
“I have a job here, I work in partnership with the government”
“But America is the land of dreams and opportunity, it is my dream to go there!”
Cool Story Bro Face, as this story ceases to entertain me any more.
“I want to go to America and play fast and furious, because it is the land of dreams.”
“Do you mean the video game? Or racing in the street.”
“Fast and Furious, do you know fast and furious!?”
State of confusion, and I believe he is referring to drag racing.
“Well we have a lot of laws, and that is very illegal.”
He looks off into space as I trying to explain the fact that we have speed limits and police officers who don’t stand on the side of the road and probably drive a faster car then you, but he is not having it.
“Do you like Cars?”
OH NO, THIS IS A TRAP, Never admit you like cars in Albania, Karr is a well known and commonly used slag for Penis, I will admit nothing and just stare at him with my stern I want pizza face.
“Do you have a car in America, you must everyone has car”
“I used to drive a Honda”
“Why don’t you drive jfadsjkfsdaj;fdskjdfsajk (name of some fast car that is impossible to afford by anyone ever in the universe of money).
“Because it is expensive, and I don’t make a lot of money, I am a volunteer”
“But there is so much money in America! Everything is possible, you know Paul Walker, I am going to go to America and be Paul Walker II, Paul Walker was Albanian you know”
“You realize that he is dead, right”
“Yes, I know this, this is why you and I will go to America and I will be Paul Walker II and play fast and furious everyday!”
Now, I have decided that I would like my pizza with extra garlic and extra onions, because this dude is clearly delirious. So I eat my pizza, decide to take some to go and head out, however Paul Walker II runs out the door after me, “When will you come back to Fier,” “I Don’t know I don’t have work here, I am only passing through,” “Well please come get me and we can have “coffee” and talk about our plans to go to American together!”
This is a often occurrence, however I appreciate their enthusiasm to head back with me to the homeland, but at the same time the young man was barely 19, with an entire life ahead of him.
Now, what is stranger is that you think about the fact that there are many lands of opportunity, it’s a fact now that the United States is not the only place that has and has had a dream over time. The Canadian dream is something that many Americans think about, specifically around election time, the dreams of State run Health Care, Cheap Drugs, Lower Drinking Ages, Politicians that really don’t give a F@^%, and not lead by which every party that you have decided to hate on, is for sure a thing. But that brings up hard feelings for many around here. When I was here a blue moon before coming to work in Albania, I traveled here with my very Canadian travel buddy, she proudly wears Roots everywhere she goes, when asked a song straight off the bat starts the words to Oh Canada, and when asked where we are from she is the first one to scream her native roots, CANADA! Now the two of us were having dinner in a big café on the water in the South of Albania, and the waiter prompted us with the question of where we were from. As usual she yelled out Canada before I even had a chance to open my mouth. The waiter looked at us confused, and there was a look in his eyes, almost with pity, that we were not from the United States, “Oh,” he exclaimed. “That’s too bad.” Now that is not what you expect when you say you are from Canada.
With it being official this week that Albania has been accepted as a future candidate state to the European Union, it makes me wonder if locals were given a chance to be a full member of the European Union or the 51st American State what would they chose! I mean this is a highly hypothetical situation but the American patriotism here is strong and alive even in my small mountain town.
However there is still a lot of things that I can do to convince my friends and neighbors in Albania that the United States is not all that it is cut out to be. Such as one of my students told me a few months ago her dreams of living in the United States, they were as follows,
“I am going to go to Harvard.”
“Sweetie that is great, but if you are serious about going to schools in the United States, lets set up a time in which we can discuss all about it, because there are a lot of other schools out there then just Harvard.”
“No, that is where I will go, but there is only one thing, I don’t like American Food.”
“Well sweetie, I don’t think you know what American food is all about, we have all different types of food.”
“No, I don’t like it, all you eat is fast food, and I don’t like fast food.”
“Sweetie, what do you think American’s eat.”
“Hamburgers, Crapes, and Sandwiches, for every meal.”
Note: Albanian Hamburgers and Sandwiches and literally a Ham Burger, a slice of ham on a giant bun smothered in mayo topped with French fries and ketchup that will give you a cavity)
“Well sweetie, that’s not exactly true, I have never had a crape in my city, and our burgers are much different, and we have all types of foods, there is so much variety from all around the world!”
“Nope, I won’t like it, so I might die when I am there or something, but University there will be so easy”
Sure, right, great. I mean sure I could literally eat cheeseburgers for every meal, actually I may do this on vacation, but at the same time it is because I am deprived. But there is a mix of positive and interesting and false messages out there that mix with the fact that there is still a long way to go about getting out that positive message about the United States around the world.
I look back to me and my brothers, and I often times wonder how in the world we are related. The twins who get in fights over patriotism at pizza parlors, but then I think that I am not much different. I just chose to do it a little differently. They look at it in the United States, and I just do the same thing abroad. That is what PC ends up doing. Serve your country they said, and do this by getting out and showing the world what you are really made of. “USA! USA! USA!”
*Please note these are the opinions and experience of the author, of which she is sharing them for entertainment value.