On belly touching

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This picture is not exactly what I wanted but it’s close enough. My husband is on his way next week and I cannot wait–seriously I’m jumping up and down like a little kid who can’t sleep on Christmas Eve! Well turns out that my friends, neighbors, and even strangers cannot wait as well for him to get here; some of them may even be more excited than me.

To put things into perspective a bit, as I explained before in a few posts, many folks here in Albania have a difficult time comprehending the fact that I live alone. But living alone is just a part of it. That I would come to Albania, for “research” (remember, many people think this is just a front), and be away from my husband, and do all of this as a woman? This is just absurd. Here are some of the things that I have witnessed or heard over the past two months:

My friend Besa’s great-aunt nearly had a breakdown when she learned that I was here in Albania without my husband. She began to physically put me out of the house, telling me to hurry up and leave for the US, and finally Besa and her cousins calmed her down and convinced her that I was okay to stay for a visit. 

While buying bread, a random stranger says to me, “Oh so you’re married huh? To an Albanian? Oh, an American. Well where is he? Not here?!? Well you better hurry up and get back to him, he’s probably already with somebody else.”

Security guard at the grocery store where I shop often: “Good evening, still alone? Are you still here by yourself?” I told him that I was but that my husband is coming soon for a visit. “Well thank God, this situation is not normal, you have to change it.” 

Alright, so folks have their comments and opinions, and yes, most couples don’t do what we are doing and I understand completely when people are taken aback by this. This is not particular to Albanians. However, I will say that as a female researcher I am often criticized for doing research alone here, whether married or not. Now that I am married it has been interesting to compare the reactions that I receive to those I got before. The politics of gender and research are such that it is still more normative for men to do this type of thing. For those who may want to listen, I once gave a talk about this subject that you can find here: http://miresevini.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/are-you-here-to-find-an-albanian-husband/.

So like I said, the comments on the distance and marriage are somewhat expected. BUT, what I did not expect is the number of times that people, neighbors and strangers, would approach me and touch my belly saying, “Inshallah (if God wills it) you will be blessed with a baby boy when your husband comes.” Yes, that’s right, people touching my lower abdomen and wishing that I get pregnant while my husband is here, and in particular that I have a boy! I was surprised/confused/disturbed the first time this happened, when a street vendor, whom I’ve known for a few years, did it. But then it happened a few more times, sometimes people will just say to me on the bus for example, “Hey are you married? Any kids yet? Well may God give you a boy.” Then today, a woman from my neighborhood did it, placing her hand right on my stomach like it was no big deal–then she insisted that my husband and I have a coffee with her when he gets here. Seriously, I have seen this woman all of four times in my life.

To top it off, last week while having coffee at a friend’s place, one of my friends offered to read my fortune in the remains of my Turkish coffee. Depending on where you are in the country and what generation of folks you’re with, this is a very common practice in Albania (for more read here). Well my friend Orkida claimed to have many years reading coffee grounds, and as soon as she got my cup she said, “Hurry home now, your husband is very sad without you!” I then told her that actually he should be here soon for a visit. “Oh, good,” she said. “And now I see that soon you will be pregnant. Inshallah with a boy.”

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