Monday, October 24, 2005

Around My Neighbourhood

I thought I'd take a short walk in my neighbourhood and shoot a few photos of my daily experience here in Tirana, Albania. I begin with a shot of the front entrance of our apartment building. It isn't a luxury address but it is definitely a lot nicer than the entrances of most apartment blocks in the city. At least it has a door, and lights, and tiles on the floor.
I often visit an Albanian family who lives on the 6th floor of a building with no elevator- at least we have one that is almost always working. The few times when it's been out of order were good opportunities to prove to myself that I could climb 9 flights of stairs and survive!

I walked around the block to our local outdoor market. (You can click on the photos for a closer view). As you can see it is definitely NOT Dean & DeLuca but is ten times more interesting! Don't you love the bicycle in the front of the shot with bags of fresh garlic hanging on the handle bars? Look at the road- it is wet and very muddy. I think it was once a paved road but it isn't any longer. Now is the season for pomegranates and ohhhhhh boy- they are HUGE. We saw one yesterday twice as big as a grapefruit. They bring back a childhood memory of being given a quarter (25 cents) and being allowed to go for a walk with my friends to the 'little store', as we called it. The store was probably 4 blocks away and well out of view from our watchful parents. so it always felt like a big adventure to be able to go there alone. I always had such a hard time deciding what to spend my money on. Sometimes I chose a massive all-day sucker, or a jaw breaker. But when the shop had pomegranates- I ALWAYS chose a pomegranate. It would take me all day to pick out the tiny seeds and the bitter-sweet drops of juice were truly treasures.

Well, for weeks I have been thinking of going out to take these photos, but you know, it really takes a bit of courage because cameras are not seen here every day and a blond woman with a camera attracts a lot of attention. As I toook the shot of the market, this man approached me and starting saying something in Albanian (which I don't understand), so I just started speaking back at him- "Oh you want me to take your picture?? A picture of you? Oh Okay smile!" He had no idea what I was saying back but he started to laugh and I got in close and took a shot. So here he is. Look at the back of the photo and see the graffiti on the wall- "USA". The US has their green card lottery on right now and there are signs everywhere reminding the Albanians of this popular destination.

My last stop was at this busy corner which I have named "Banana Corner". There's this weird Balkan habit of everybody selling the exact same thing at the exact same place. So on this corner, a very busy bus stop, everyone sells bananas. They sell them at half the price of the big supermarket at 20 or 30 LEK (=20/30 us cents) per kilo. The hypermarket sells them for 50. No wonder I got some unusual stares into my shopping cart last week. What nut would buy something for twice the street price?? Okay that's another weird Balkan habit- staring into your shopping cart to see what you are buying. Again, notice the lovely sidewalk- so safe for walking on!

After this I wondered over to the only bookshop in the city which sells some english books and I found a little gem of a cookbook called "Help Yourself to Albanian Cooking". Just what I needed- another recipe for cornmeal mush! All in all a lovely little walk.


Anonymous said...

I have just found your blog and am anxious to read back posts. I just love reading and especially seeing people's lives in other countries!

Choco Pie said...

I like seeing the picture of your neighborhood. In Korea, they have the same habit of everybody selling the same thing in the same place. So you have to go to a particular street to find all the furniture stores, another place for all the pet stores, etc. And Koreans love looking in foreigners' grocery carts, too. My British friend and I were laughing about how we hide the cookies and cheese underneath the vegetables. We don't want to reveal the secret of our oversized rear-ends to the slim and slender Korean women!

christina said...

Nice pictures, Kim! A little peek into your day.

My 9 yr old, who barely eats anything and is intensely suspicious of new foods, discovered pomegranates last year and just ADORES them.

Prairie Girl said...

I love how you've reported on your everyday adventures from an easy-to-relate-to viewpoint. You write clearly and descriptively with just a touch of humour.

Really well done!

ITS said...

I am sure you know that the streets of Tirana are ENTIRELY being reconstructed. Edi Rama has done an amazing job at developing the city wich went from having no private automobiles to having about 200 thousands of them.

I wish somenody could tell me what's Montreal's excuse to having the same problem with the roads.

Joni said...

Hehehehe do you want to know the funniest thing. That graffitti initially was not USA... THis July Albania held elections. One of the major competing parties was a party called LSI (The Socialst movement for integration). It wrote its logo in walls everywhere. Other party supporters (Socialists, Democrats etc.) decided to deface the LSI logo :D. They would tranform it to USA or even LSD by adding lines to its original logo - hence the USA on the wall :D:D!!