I love Dibër. While the scenery, the architecture, the visual evidence of how people live their lives are exciting to me, the heart of the place is always its people. As I’ve met and gotten to know the people in Dibër, I have discovered a community of warm, welcoming people who are always willing to help, to visit, to give directions, or just to have coffee. Some of them want to hear about my family. Others tell me long stories of the history of the Albanian people, or of their families. Most tell me about their relatives living in America. They are often perplexed by my willingness to be here away from my children. Here are some pictures.
My host family, a mother and her grown son, Lidi and Burim, have provided me with a home. This picture is from New Years Eve dinner before they went out to the festivities.
This is Tina, Lidi’s sister, at her salon, where I get my hair cut.
Here is the school director’s wife, Qanije, and their children Besa, Ejona, and Arlinda.
Close-up of Besa.
Qanije taught me how to make leek burek – so delicious!
Briefly, Arlinda had a rabbit. Grandpa started feeding it immediately. However, the rabbit was nixed at home, so it went back to the farm.
Afrim, Tina’s husband, and Burim, the school director, and Qanije’s husband.
Teachers at the school are sitting around the table on break. Notice the teapot on the table. This is for “chai rusi” or Russian tea. It is served in small tulip shaped glasses (see the glass in the foreground). The Turks brought tea with them during the Ottoman Empire, making it in the double decker pot. When they left and the communists took over, it was illegal to import tea from Turkey. So Russia imported it from Asia (Ceylon), and the name Russian tea stuck. During the school break, Turkish coffee is also on offer.
Teachers huddling around the radiators before classes. My counterpart, Adhurim is at the back of the picture. Lindita, front left, has befriended me. Her husband owns a restaurant with delicious Albanian food.
Adhurim meditating on his iPhone next to the radiator.
The radiator serves a dual purpose. Sometimes teachers put bread or a cheese sandwich in it to heat up before break.
The children put on a performance on December 29, the last day of school before the winter break.
I am planning some activities with the music teacher, and I visited one of his sixth grade classes. They had difficulty carrying the tune, but they seemed to enjoy singing very much.
On Saturdays, the music teacher volunteers his time to students who want to learn an instrument. I visited his lesson on a couple of Saturdays, and found a warm environment, where children could explore music in any way that interested them. The teacher went from child to child, giving them instruction.
The child at the keyboard did a beautiful job of playing a couple of pieces, and was applauded when she finished.
Musicians in the making.
After our big snowstorm, I found children sledding on homemade sleds wherever they found a hilly street.
This is Senad, the man I buy honey from. When he sees me, he greets me in Albanian with, “Good Morning, Professor!”
This is a common sight in Dibër. People in coffee shops deliver Turkish coffee to the vendors in the area at various times of the day.
These two were having a high time, just sitting in front of this coffee place. When I asked if I could take a picture, they said sure, but why? I just shrugged and smiled. After the picture, they started talking animatedly as I left.Qanije took me to visit relatives, where we were served “chai rusi” and lots of little snacks.Although she doesn’t celebrate Christmas, Qanije made Christmas dinner for David (Fullbright teacher) and me.
Burim’s mother and me at Christmas dinner.These two are the last survivors of seven siblings.
The man in the middle here is Mustafa, who has a döner (gyros) shop that I like to go to. His friend Adrian (left) told David (right, Fullbright teacher) and me lots of stories about the dynamics of the Balkans and about Albanian literature. Mustafa promised to take us into Albania in March, and Adrian will be showing us some good hiking in the mountains come spring.Then there are my fur people. That last one is such a cuddler!There is a lot of heart here.