Friday, October 08, 2010

Futbolli Schiptar

How do you say "soccer" in Albanian?

During our morning walk today I noticed scads of sidewalk vendors hawking the Albanian flag in every size, as well as piles of red and black T-shirts and scarves. I wondered whether it was a national holiday, say Skanderbeg day or something like that?

It all became clear to me this afternoon as we walked out to the park and I saw throngs of young men in red shirts waving their arms in unison and chanting songs. It could only mean one thing: the national soccer team must be having an important match.

So, we found a corner of the park away from where the happy youths were congregating and I got out the ball I bought for Valerie this morning. She had a blast running after it, playing catch and chase and kicking it around, pausing every now and then to hop, dance, and twirl around. Every now and then, though, another group of soccer fans would walk by. At first she'd clap along with them but when they'd get close to us the volume and energy of their voices would scare her and she'd huddle up to me. Even Gabriel woke up and wore his frowny face.

Instead of waiting for Terry like we usually do (he walks home through this park so we usually meet him there and play for a bit before heading home for dinner) I put V back in her stroller and we walked over to his office. But it's 2 flights of steps up, and she wouldn't get out of her stroller, and no elevator, so we just went home.

It's funny - when T and I compared notes over dinner, it struck me how different our perceptions and experiences of the park were this afternoon. As a guy and soccer fan himself, he was curious and interested and energized by the throng of happy fans and thought it would have been fun to join them. (He also confirmed for me that there's an important match in Tirana tonight, Albania playing Bosnia-Herzegovina, which I'd also surmised by the very-outnumbered little groups of men in blue and white scarves exchanging taunts with the guys in red.) As a woman with two small children in tow, I didn't feel safe. I knew I was safe, if nothing else judging by the presence of other women with strollers in the park and even some very pregnant women, as well as the rows of old folks lining the park benches. I was also keeping a keen eye on what kinds of beverages were being consumed and saw only two beer cans, so it wasn't an inebriated crowd. But there was just something about the energy of all those male voices chanting together, flags waving, that didn't feel safe.

The city was very loud this late afternoon and evening, and it felt good to be in the quiet of our home making Gabriel laugh and watching Valerie play. If nothing else our walks do serve this purpose - they make this apartment feel more like home, a light and quiet sanctuary.


BigP's Heather said...

I love reading about your life in this new country. Amazing.

Rachel said...