Sunday, October 9, 2011

Surviving Syd

My mom and I have an amazing relationship and every single day, I know just how blessed I am to be her daughter. That being said….she (Syd) and I also have what I’ve come to call… our “togetherness shelf life.” As I came into my adulthood, we found that spending more than 5-7 days together could bring about such negative side effects as headaches, irritability, thoughts of suicide and most significant, the need to emphasize that I am perfectly capable of deciding if I need to take a jacket or not!

And yet, I was a little sad when I realized my mom’s September visit to Albania would be only for 1 week. Surely it would go by too quickly! How would we see everything, meet everyone in just one week?

During her visit, I had the opportunity to play tour guide and translator. Hey, after 6 months, I can actually speak this Shqip! Frankly, my ego may be over-inflated since compared to Syd I’m damn near fluent! (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!) And I was also able to introduce her to many of the people who’ve become fixtures in my Albanian life… and fixtures in my heart. And just as you might imagine, they were as wonderful and welcoming to her, as they’ve been to me.

Zyri, my landlady, was amazing, taking my mom and I for a day trip around Lake Ohrid. We stopped for a coffee in Tushemisht, a small village on the border of Macedonia that was the
former communist dictator’s private lands. It was breath-taking but just another example of a needle-in-a-haystack destination that tells a great story. If only more tourists were lured here! Three women on a road trip, you can imagine the conversations… travel, food, men we love and men who make us crazy! What a hoot! Following our day together, Zyri and her Mama Lumi also hosted us to a traditional Elbasan breakfast with bugace (fried bread stuffed inside a roll of bread) petulla (think doughnuts or Indian fry bread) and home-made djath and mjalt (cheese and honey). Tasty, but it sure wasn’t part of the Atkins diet!

Visiting my host family was the chance for my two Moms to meet and to have an atypical tourist experience. It is in the villages where tradition runs deep. We were welcomed with hugs, kisses and more hugs and had the chance to tour the fields of the farm. The grape vines, the 4 o’clocks, the chickens, the freshness of products –so much of my host family’s life reminded Syd of her childhood… her mom and grandmother. Our Slovenian heritage seems to resonate here. And although we see the similarities…don’t dare suggest that the Balkan countries are the same! What we see as subtle differences are huge points of pride and identity for the Albanian people.

Diamanta and Mayor Sejdini, My “bosses” at the bashkia. The Mayor invited Diamanta, Syd and me to have coffee….in his office! This was quite a treat for us. But as Diamanta helped with translations, he confessed that Syd was volunteer Mom he’d ever met. He was so touched that she chose to visit Elbasan. Like others before, they showered my mom with gifts traditional of Elbasan and Albania. She was going to need another suitcase!

And finally…Vjollca, my language instructor and friend! We met… of course over coffee and talked about life in America and Albania. My mom was instantly connected to Vjollca, they bonded over “The Prophet” and other great books. My mom is making up a spare bedroom just in case V ever gets a visa to the States! Plus, Vjollca took us for my first Albanian haircut….success! Oh and of course Syd met the other PCV’s here…but we’re Americans, how boring. ;)

So in just one week…we accomplished a lot. But there’s still much I wish I could have shared with Syd. The week did go by too quickly, but all things considered, the timing was just right. I was reaching my limit on the “are you sure?’s” and the “wouldn’t it be better if’s.” Syd just can’t help herself. Of course, it was still a teary good-bye for me. Our togetherness shelf-life only approached its expiration date. Syd left me wishing we had just one more day….rather than wishing I could find a rope to strangle her. Serenity Now. (That one’s for you, Ry!)

Peace, Love and “Mom… Alright! I Got iI!”