Recently, I was lucky to be invited by Sergio, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Volunteer, to participate in his English Camp. This was a morning program for Albanian children/teens that were learning the language. But it also provided an opportunity for Education Majors at the University to gain some classroom experience. During one of my visits, the “teacher-in-training” shared a story about an old man who wanted to teach his lazy sons a lesson about hard work. In so doing, he told a lie. If you’re interested in the parable, visit http://anustoriesforchildren.blogspot.com/2010/07/hidden-treasure.html. (sorry, the link feature's being a pain in the ass at the moment.)
The young teacher had students practice diction by reading aloud, answer comprehension questions and then she lead a more philosophical discussion. Have you ever told a lie? When, if ever, is it OK to lie? Are there times when you should lie? The children’s answers were diverse and brought thoughtful justifications. Not to mention, pretty impressive English skills for these “beginner-intermediates!” As you’d imagine, they talked of occasions where the truth is black and white, as well as those that called for shades of grey. Their rhetoric made me think of debates I’ve entertained about the value of stretching the truth vs. brutal honesty (Hey, what’s up, Levi?).
All that being said, let me share some (essentially harmless) fibs, misrepresentations, half-truths and/or omissions that I’ve experienced during my service so far. Aside: Isn’t it fascinating how many softer words we use to buffer the intensity of the word LIE? Anyway, here goes:
• Stickers on the back of furgons or busses that say “air-conditioned” and often have snowflakes to further entice a rider. I’ve discovered that such stickers should lead you to believe that not only is there no A/C on the vehicle, but the windows are sealed shut, so don’t assume you’ll even enjoy a hot breeze!
• 150 Leke sandwich. UGH! I already told you about being over-charged for my sandwich in Voskopoja! But clearly, I’m still a little peeved! A 50% MARK-UP! What about my ill-fitting wardrobe makes you think I’m a well-off American? Oh right…the part where I’m American. Whatever, that doesn’t make it right!
• The meeting will start at 11. OK, so it’s well-understood that Albanian meeting times are merely suggestions. This is something I can deal with. But I’m still trying to find the right period of lateness that doesn’t cause me to sit idle, but to be early enough to beat the last attendee. It’s a delicate dance.
• A furgon driver yelling, “Tiranë, gati!” Essentially, this means he’s READY to leave. Furgons are the mini-buses we use for city-to-city travel. The fiscally aware driver knows he gets more bang for his furgon buck if he leaves with a full load (8-10 people). So yelling GATI leads the gullible rider (guilty as charged) to assume he’s nearly full and will be departing shortly. NOT SO! In fact, there were only 3 others on the furgon I chose this morning and so we waited for about 25 minutes before heading out of Elbasan. GATI he was most certainly not.
Live and learn. And then discover that it usually takes several go-rounds to actually learn. E.G. That furgon I was “fished-into” this morning ... yea, about the 4th time I’ve been duped. Çfarë mund të bëj?/ What can I do? This is life in Albania. Should become jaded and less trusting? Or maybe I should just accept that it’s gonna be a while, turn on my iPod and enjoy another segment of “Wait, wait! Don’t tell me!” Thank you NPR Podcasts! I think I’m getting more NPR in Albania than I did in the States! NOW THAT’S THE TRUTH!
Peace, Love and Little White Lies
PS...there's a really great Freakanomics Podcast about "Faking It" that delves into the lies we ALL (yea, I said it.) tell everyday. It's worth a listen, if you are remotely interested.