Wednesday night was erev Rosh Hashanah, and Abby had agreed to host a potluck for what turned out to be 11 guests. Two additional guests had cancelled, which is a good thing, since we were pressed for space around the table as it was. Apart from our friends Mindy and Melissa, the other guests were Israelis – one of them a Jewish Albanian who had moved to Israel, the rest full-on Israelis. (Apparently there are still a few Jews in Albania; I have no idea how they make a minyan.)
The evening began well, but for Abby and me, the evening took a sour turn when one of the guests (I was out of the room at the time, so this is according to Abby) begged Abby to take Cooper out of the room. Cooper had started out being sociable – far more so than I’d expected him to be – but he’d gotten riled up by the attention paid to him by one of the children, and finally the guest became frightened of him. Now, when I’m allergic to a cat at a party, I’m always grateful when the hosts shut the cat away for the evening, but I also take my medicine in advance, or I just don’t show up. We’d warned everyone in advance that we had a puppy, so as a “parent” here, this didn’t sit well with me. But we moved him upstairs, and just kept an eye on him from time to time.
When it was time to sit down, we asked for a volunteer to say the hamotzi over the bread, and no one came forward. Perhaps the Israelis were being gracious – saving the honor for the host – but we asked again, and still no one said anything. So I did it. The irony was lost everyone but Abby.
The meal itself was very good (after a last minute complaint about the lack of salad dressing, made by the woman who’d brought the salad – a situation that Abby quickly remedied using oil, lemon juice and garlic to make a delicious dressing – ed.). However, the Israelis largely spoke Hebrew to each other throughout whole meal and acknowledged us only when we initiated conversation ourselves. Abby and I felt a bit like innkeepers who’d happened to sit down with the paying guests. Fortunately, as soon as the meal was over, they left en masse. In fact, they cleared out so abruptly that one of them didn’t even take his baking dish back with him. You’d have thought we’d suggested putting on some Palestinian folk songs, or at least a Hexagon DVD.
I left shortly thereafter, but only to the bar-cafe down the street because the Albanian football team was playing Holland in the European cup. It turned out to be a bad night for the kuq e zi – the red and black – as well. Albania scored an early point when Holland scored an own goal, but it was called back because of a foul. Then, in the 88th minute of play, one of the Albanian players got ejected for overreacting to a Holland player who himself had just gotten a yellow card for a foul. Four minutes later, Holland scored, and time ran out. Still, Holland had been expected to win, and Albania played far better than was expected. This being neither Detroit nor College Park, MD, no one set anything on fire after the loss. I also saw that McDonald’s was advertising on the sidelines, which is not a good sign.
In the next day’s aftermath of the meal, I emptied the dishwasher, which we’d had to have the Embassy replace because it wasn’t cleaning anything well, and I marveled to Abby about how clean everything was! I’m really becoming a housewife: my next thought was “The dishes are so clean, I have more time to vacuum the drapes!” While I have begun the job search, I’ve had no solid leads so far. I’m not discouraged, but my networking attempts have had some strange results. We met a friend for a coffee yesterday; he is the husband of one of our language instructors, and a travel agent here in Albania. I told him I was looking for work in policy and explained my background. He said that his friend at Albanian Airlines had expressed the need for a manager, and asked us to go up to meet him. This seems to be a very Albanian thing – you need a job, I have a connection, it’s not in your field, but so what? – so to be polite we went along. We all had a nice chat about the airline industry and Albanian work mores (he’s Greek) and picked up some corporate swag, but it was all very silly. Still, if anyone wants an Albanian Airlines key chain, let me know.