Days of shopping at legit American supermarkets are all but forgotten in my mind. Some days, I really miss the orderly rows, lined with numerous brands and products. And I do reminisce about everything being in English, taking away all guessing games. However, there is no such thing as a boring trip to the market here. Someone or something will undoubtedly cross your path, leaving you to walk home, shaking your head. Either due to the disbelief that things like that happen, or at the utter ridiculousness of it all. These past few weeks, I have had more than my fair share of these moments.
It is fig season right now, which is AWESOME!! I hadn’t eaten fresh figs before Albania. Now, after discovering how delicious they are, I can’t get enough! Which is why I was innocently digging through a pile of fresh figs the other morning. When all of a sudden I felt someone grabbing my side. And stomach. And butt. As I turned around, expecting to see someone I knew, I was surprised to be staring into the face of an old lady. I had no idea who she was and she continued to grope me and speak in Albanian. She had no teeth and was extremely hard to understand, especially since she seemed to accompany everything with, what I can only describe as, a crazy person’s laugh. I have learned to just smile and nod along when I am lost in translation, so that is exactly what I did. Because I had absolutely no idea what or why she was talking to me. After a few minutes of this awkward, extremely touchy, conversation, she slapped my butt and walked away. Laughing the whole way. I just stared after her, unsure if that had actually happened and turned back to the fig man. He wasn’t phased, so I followed suit and quickly returned to digging through the figs before all the good ones were taken.
After my figs were purchased, I headed towards the bigger farmers market. This takes place every morning in my city, and it’s the best place to find the freshest produce. I walked up to a man selling grapes and began looking through them. He looked at me and said, “I saw you this morning. You were running. It was early and I was on my way to pick these grapes.” Can’t get much fresher than that I suppose. I laughed and we started talking about where I am from and what I am doing here. Which attracted the attention of a nearby farmer and he wandered over. I soon found myself standing in a small crowd of 6-7 farmers, explaining to them what I do in Albania. After that day, whenever I am walking through their stands, one of them always shouts, “she knows Albanian! She can speak Albanian! She is American! She can talk to you!”
The neighboring town, Kelcyre, is home for two PCV’s. On Sundays, there is a large market that attracts people from surrounding villages and other cities. You can buy everything from old rugs and tupperware to animals and used clothing. As we walked through the numerous venders, there were three different men that looked at me and said “I saw you running this morning.” Which was followed by a stare, as they waited for me to explain what I was doing out on the roads before 6 am. Cue smiling and laughter in between any uncomfortable silences.
I should explain. For the past three months, I have been training for a Tough Mudder competition in Ireland. It is a 10-12 mile obstacle course that has you climbing walls, crawling through mud and just about anything else you can think of. I haven’t been scaling walls or anything of the sort in Permet, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to be ready for the running part. So I have been running four days a week all summer. Now, in the end phase of my training program, I have been logging more and more miles. As I run farther and farther out of town, I usually end up picking up one or two stray dogs along the way. They are the happiest running companions I could ask for here. It also gives me something to look forward to on my long runs. However, as I run back into town, I can’t help but wonder if I am being labeled as the crazy dog lady. Every time the locals see me running across the bridge, I am dragging another stray dog home with me.
Then again, maybe that is a fitting description. I have been told, only someone with a little crazy in their bones, would willingly sign up for this… and think it looks fun!