Monday, September 10, 2012

Lost in Translation 3: Nothin' but Love for Upton Circle.

Other titles considered:   
Lost in Translation 3: Stacked like a shelf
Lost in Translation 3: Pothuajse/Sort of

Why SORT OF? Well…this little keqkuptimi/misunderstanding didn’t occur from English to Shqip, but actually English to English.  Making matters worse, this was not just a silly gabim/mistake between two friends speaking privately and oops, Freudian slip!  No….this was via an international Skype conversation with an entire family….the Mingioni clan at their home on Upton Circle.  Picture it:  three generations worth in one room….popping in and out of the screen to give well-wishes and ask curious questions about life in Albania and then I took an utterly inappropriate turn.

For my readers who don’t know the Mingioni’s…a little background:

The Happy Family (pre-Fi)
There’s Gina, my primary connection to this proud Italian-Irish family is the middle child/daughter.  Her sisters may/may not confirm that she’s been known to display typical textbook middle child behaviors.  Gina and I (among a tight-knit crew known as 11 Garner Court and The Guys) became friends during our Freshman Year at Penn State.  And in spite of my sometimes (often) egregious ways, Gina has remained a true and loyal friend who brought me into the fold of her loving family.  Bridget and Katie…the older and younger sisters respectively were part of our Penn State world and thanks to banking conferences in Phoenix, Annual Memorial Day Karaoke Parties and Facebook, I’ve been fortunate to stay connected with them as well.  Bridget brings two adorable munchkins to the party, Jamie and Fi (50% credit to Matt Keeley, who can do a mean Lionel Richie when he’s tickling the ivories).  And of course….there are the two who are responsible for the whole lot, Kathy and Tony.  These two kind souls managed, while raising three, dare I say it, dramatic young women, built a home like none I’ve experienced before or since.   Let me put it this way, in a time when we look around and recognize just how nutty, crazy and damaging families can be… when you see the Mingioni’s you can’t help but think….Wow!  They really know how to do this thing right.  A happy, healthy and loving family is not impossible; they are the proof.  And this love and concerns extends beyond bloodlines.   Any of us lucky enough to be in Gina’s cirlce become part of the Inner Upton Circle. 

Upon hearing of my Albanian destination, my babai plus/bonus dad, Tony promptly called me to discuss the movie Taken and made me promise to be careful.  As I did with my own parents, I gave him the obligatory “Yeeeeees, Daaaaaaad” style response.  And yet, it was sweet to know that he genuinely cares.  Just as he’s been genuinely interested in my experiences while serving as a PCV. 

OK….back to the error of my words….

Gina and I had set a “skype” date to start planning our trip to Greece, a hop, skip and a jump for me, a nine-hour business class flight for her.  (stay tuned to read about that fab little get-a-way that I refer to as the vacation of a lifetime!)  Sundays often bring the Mingioni family all together so I was eager to speak with her then and get a chance to see everyone and wish them well.

It started out great with Gina, Bridget and a curious llil' Jamie who was far more interested in his own image on the screen than talking with some silly lady across the world.  And one-by-one the gang trickled in squeezing their heads in the frame, or Gina would shift her computer to give me the full room panorama and a slight case of vertigo.  It was a barrage of pyetet/questions:

What’s it like there?  "Great, exciting, different everyday."  
Do you love it? "I really do, but there are things I miss things from home."
Are you happy? "Yes, even if some days are frustrating, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
Tell us about your house? At which point I could give the panorama of my digs.
Is the language difficult? "
What are your co-workers like? "
And so on.  And then what I thought I heard… was Tony enthusiastically requesting,
“Melia, tell me about the b_ _ _ _!”   
(Yes…I’m going to leave you guessing for the fun of it...)

Immediately, I launched into something like this “Whoa! Tony! …you wouldn’t believe them!  I mean the women here are stacked like shelves.  I’ve seen some serious racks on young girls and even up to mid-age women.  I don’t know if its from the water, or if the bras here are just SUPER padded or what, but I mean, DAY-UM!”

If I had any self-awareness, which is debatable, I may have noticed Bridget covering the innocent ears of her son or the warning looks on Gina’s face.  At first confusion peppered with some disgust and then a devilish joy as she realized she’d get to ZING me in 3……2……1……. 

“OH MY GOD, Melia!  He said booze!  Booze, not Boobs! What’s wrong with you!?

The display on the outside door of a store near my house.
This is only the top row!
And now, if I had any shame (no debate required…I don’t) I would have been mortified.  I got by with some blush-worthy embarrassment.  But this does raise some issues.

First of all….why was it so easy for me to launch into a graphic description of Albanian Female Anatomy with my friend’s Dad!?  Well, some creedence….there are some serious boobs here in Albania.  And on more recent research outings, I’ve discovered they ain’t kidding around with the push-up bras!  Wonderbra….you’ve met your match and its name is the Albanian Street Market Bra.  Secondarily, why would I ever assume so casually that he would even ask me about boobs!?  Clearly I'm a sick individual.  (Note to self: resume counseling upon return to the US.)  This must be the fruedianEST slip of my lifetime, thus far.  Oh…there’s still time.

To his credit, Tony laughed whole-heartedly… the only way he knows how, getting a kick out of my gross misunderstanding.  And while he and Kathy may have been thinking it, they never made me feel like the total donkey’s ass that I am.  I attempted a recovery, giving a quick explaination of raki…the actual “booze” traditional of Albania.  But for the most part….the conversation after that was nothing but giggles and snickers from Gina, Bridge and Katie. 

Since then, I’ve learned that perhaps Skype is best only one-on-one.  But after an experience like that, how can I have anything but LOVE for Upton Circle? 

Peace, Love, Shamelessness and MCRO   

PS: A little shout-out to extended member of the family via Katie.  Shume urime per Ju!  Congratulations to you two!