Here’s a recap from the party last weekend:
1. As instructed I showed up to Mrs. B.’s house and we ate our “small” lunch before going to the 80th birthday party. We ate soup, salad, veggies, and byrek with leeks which was really good. She did a great job making it, and as usual talked about how wonderful it all came out as we ate. After lunch we had Turkish coffee and then headed to the event.
2. On the way to the party Mrs. B. informed me that it was not necessary to really talk about exactly what I do here in Albania, as folks didn’t need to know all of that (sometimes she acts like I work for the CIA or something, which surprisingly folks do ask from time to time; why the CIA would send a Black woman here “undercover” I’m not sure). Anyhow, she informed me that she had already told most of the women that I was here studying the Albanian language. She considered this to be a suitable response but of course throughout the party folks kept asking what I was doing here, as they thought it odd that I would seemingly come here for many years just to learn Albanian.
3. The first plate of food that came (key word, first) included: various types of salami, cheeses, olives, eggs, yogurt sauce, beef cuts, bread, salad, tomatoes, sliced carrots, grilled peppers, and cabbage. I ate a few things here and there but of course I was already stuffed. People started whispering and then asking Mrs. B. if her American friend was hungry or not. She then said, “Oh we already ate, Chelsi loves byrek so much and wanted me to make one before we came.” I almost choked on an olive. She smiled as she said this and patted my back. “So you like byrek, huh,” my neighbor asked, and I simply smiled and nodded my head. I later heard Mrs. B. yelling across the table to someone explaining that because I loved byrek so much, she just had to make one earlier for me. “She even takes some home with her!” All the ladies marveled at my apparent love of byrek.
4. Later the second plate of beef steak and potatoes arrived, and I ate what I could but again, I was very full. Mrs. B. did not even touch hers but no one paid attention to her plate — instead they were fixated on mine. And of course there was fruit and dessert afterwards. Thankfully I did not have much time to think about these as folks were dancing more and Mrs. B. kept making me get up to dance with her. Sidenote: Albanians really like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”. I swear I hear it at every party and wedding with a DJ. And it’s usually mixed in with Albanian music and that Americana song that folks love so much. So we did the twist. We did traditional Albanian “Valle”, we danced in and out of circles, making lines all over the place.
5. Later I went back to my seat to catch my breath for a second and give my feet a rest. The lady next to me heard the next song and got ready to get up a dance. She grabbed my hand and motioned towards the dance floor. At first I said, “No, no, I’ll wait until the next one,” but she grabbed me anyway and said, “Come on, you’ll lose a little weight,” and smiled. Right, I thought to myself. Time to dance off that byrek that I love so much.