woah..I speak Albanian

As my friend reminded me the other day, I haven’t written a blog in months. Oops. What can be said? I mean…it’s not like my life is boring, but most of the things that happen aren’t in the spirit of this blog.

But guess what??? In the time I was checked out of wordpress, I magically learned Albanian. I say magically, because, seriously, I think I blacked out and came to today in my final exam.

I PASSED!! Heyo. Now, not a crazzzzy feat, it is decently cool because to review, 8 months ago I couldn’t even say hello in Albanian and today, with only 5 minutes prep,  I gave a 10 minute speech on prison management.  The secret trick to the language exam is that you don’t have to actually be factually right about anything you say. They just want to check your train of thought and your language skills. After that, I can say things like the US taxpayers pay $100,000 a year for each prisoner. Is that true??? I thought I read that somewhere, but maybe it was $100,000 over their prison sentence? Yeah, maybe. That makes more sense.

But it doesn’t matter! Sometimes in class I would just say obnoxious things just to use different vocabulary. No one wants to hear me give another speech on my opinions on Northern Virginia’s excellent public school system, so why don’t I just argue that any kid that can should go to private schools and avoid socializing with public school riff raff?

Every once in awhile I felt like I had to explain to my classmates I was lying for the vocab. Couldn’t have them thinking I believe every teacher should carry a gun, or that I own a summer home in Spain.

So, in conclusion. I passed my exam with flying colors. 2+ in speaking (high intermediate)/ 2+ in reading. I was pretty stoked as I only needed a 2/2. Granted the higher score means nothing really..just that I was closer to fluent level 3/3. Dang it would have been baller if I had gotten that because if you have a fluent level you get paid more!! But, alas, those in class for 3/3s are in class until July, so I suppose a 2+ was the best I could have gotten for an April finish.

anyyyyyway. I plan on making my way back to the blog…stories to be TOLD

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making friends at 3:30am

So Saturday night I go out with a friend. Around 2:30am we decide to head home. Now normally I would take a taxi, but since he was riding the metro, I thought, oh, I’ll ride a few stops with him and just metro home.


There is a reason why I taxi late at night. The DC metro is so lame and late night the trains are few and far between. So, if you have to transfer twice, like I did, you just sit there. And sit there. At 3:10 I am still in Metro center. Sitting on the train, which basically just parks itself and waits for the last of the stragglers to hop on.

While I am sitting there some guy tries to talk to me. Eww. Creeper. No. It’s 3:10am and I don’t want to chat.

Or..maybe I do. Or maybe I just want to BE the creeper.

I hear across the car a group of people talking and one says “well, there are lots of Albanians in Boston, also New York, but pretty much all around New England…”

Someone was talking about Albanians! Maybe..they were Albanian??

I hop out of my seat and creep over. “Heyyyy. Couldn’t help but overhearing. Are one of you Albanian??”

This young blond guy says, um yeah, I’m Albanian. I moved here when I was 9. I say, oh! I’m learning Albanian!!

He says, well, go ahead, what do you know? I said, po, si kam thene, po studioj shqip tani ne shkolle….

OMG! he says. You do speak Albanian! I have never heard anyone that wasn’t Albanian speak it.

He tells me we should hang out and he’ll help me study. We exchange numbers and I reach my stop.

We briefly texted back and forth in shqip and then he invites me to brunch in about 9 hours.

We go to brunch.

I have an Albanian friend.

The end.

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Today my physical therapist asked me how swimming was going. (We agreed that was an activity I was allowed to do. We agreed 6 weeks ago.)

I told her: great! Great activity! Doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t tell her: I’ve only been once so far..

Then she asked me if I had checked out Aikido classes that we had talked about. (I said I wanted to do Krav Maga. She said with my ankle Aikido would be better).

I told her: Oh..um.. no. Not yet :S

Then she told me she scoped out the ballroom dancing scene for me over the past week. She reported on where there were younger crowds. Last time I saw her I told her I used to compete in ballroom dancing but didn’t do it here because I didn’t want to take a class, I just wanted to dance.

I told her: Oh..Yes..Um.. I will look into those.

Going to the physical therapist is a constant reminder that my life is boring. Nooo Ms. Physical Therapist, I am not starting fun activities. Are they activities in which I can speak Albanian? Then, no. I’m not doing much of that.

That’s also why I don’t write a lot in the ol’ blog. What can you really say about learning a language? If I had funny stories about class I might tell them. But alas, ever since I switched teachers, class is a lot more like work, and less like the luxury that it really is..being a paid student.

My teacher doesn’t like conversation. Anytime there is a whiff of conversation in the air, he shuts that DOWN. We are only allowed to ask questions and give direct answers to those questions. If we stray, he stares, then instantly gives the floor to another person who will then have to answer that boring question.


Student 1: Do you have a Christmas tree at Christmas?

Student 2. Yes, my family and I put one up every year.

Student 1: Yes, mine too! This year though, my..

Teacher: Stare. “Good. Now, you, ask her the same question.” Stare.

Actually. We do a lot of staring in class. Today out of frustration I decided that tomorrow, I will bring a stop watch to class. And every time we sit in silence and stare at each other, I will start the clock and stop it when there is speaking. I am guessing to rack up at least 8 minutes of dead silence a day. It might seem like I’m wasting my time. But, if we aren’t allowed to talk, what else does one do while staring at each other in silence?

Just kidding. I probably won’t do that. But more because I can’t find my stop watch and less because of the idea itself. I’m personally intrigued to know how much silence I am accumulating.

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like a man

So yesterday on our little 5 minute break in class the teacher makes some comment to these two guys in my class (to use the word closet in a sentence). “Kaitlin has a lot of shoes in her closet”. I pipe in, actually I don’t. I have big feet and I it’s hard to find shoes. He says “what size do you have?” Me: 10.5. He says “Oh! like a man!”

Um..i guess. Thanks.

But then he goes on. “I know why you have big feet.” Me: Oh, why? Him: “When your mother was pregnant she thought, I want this baby to be smart and successful, like a man. But in order for you to have the power and success, you had to have some male qualities. That is why you got big feet.”


Now I guess I could of busted out my years of Feminist Studies for some sharp critique on that statement, but since he is old, and I know he meant it as a compliment that I was smart and successful, I let it slide. It was kind of sweet. Definitely a weird and folk tale-ish comment, but nice.

I think that might have been us bonding.

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head to head!

Oh. my. Goodness. I lost it today in class. A true comedic moment. I seriously don’t understand the emotional control of my classmates. They all managed to keep a straight face, but not I.

Let’s sum this up. Before, my teacher was a 63 year old woman who is insanely hilarious with excellent conversation topics and amazing facial expressions and energy. Now, I have a 70 (I’m guessing) year old man who rarely cracks a smile and is prone to very serious, very definite statements.

They are husband and wife.

While speaking in class today, he started correcting our pronunciation of a few words ending with ë. All of the other Albanian teachers have told us that you don’t have to pronounce this letter. Only people in a certain region do.  We told him this, and he says, “no! this is necessary! It must be pronounced. All teachers say this.”

Us: Noo, all teachers say we DONT have to pronounce it.

Him: It’s not true. You must.

Us: Your wife says we don’t have to pronounce it!!! Haha

Him: Hmph! I will get her right now!!!

And he leaves the class with a serious face to search for his wife. She comes in like a bubbly queen of the room. (PS this is all in Albanian)

Her: Hi!!!!! Wasssup?? Omg. sooo. How are you guys??

Us: Do you pronounce the ë at the end of words?

Her: Nooo. It’s all up to you!! You can if you want!

Him: (Shaking his head looking soo annoyed. Staring at the clock) No you cannot. You cannot.

Her: Yeah, so, definitely do what you want. Many people don’t pronounce it.

Him: It is a must.

Her: So, what else have you guys been up to???

Him: Thank you. (Motions to the door)

Her: Kaitlin, how was that date??

Him: (Rolling his eyes, checking his watch, shuffling his papers) Thank YOU!

Her: Okkk, well, it’s been funnnn! Bye guys!!!!!

She leaves. We all try to keep a straight face in front of the defeated teacher. We all stare in silence. Then he proceeds as if nothing ever happened.

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Gone With the Wind vs. Boy Drowned in a River

So, as you all might know, I got a new teacher last week. It’s been quite the flip flop on personality style..all extra interesting since these two teachers are married and sometimes I get distracted thinking about the kinds of things they might both find funny because..they are very different.

My old teacher was all, “Oh Gone with the Wind! Excellent movie!..I know, that presidential debate was crazy! I hated the shirts…wait? you had a date? Was he good looking..what happened?..what do you mean the couch doesn’t fit!? don’t worry. it will be ok…Kaitlin, you are funny, like my daughter!..Sometimes women are smarter then men. Is true.”

With my old teacher we chatted about everything. She’s veryyy up on pop culture.

My new teacher is all “….”. (PS. that’s a serious silence. We have silences a lot where we all look at each other. Usually I break first and giggle, though that’s not part of it. We are supposed to be silent).

Actually though, my new teacher can talk. He likes drawing a map of the region on the board in the form of various size circles as he explains historical battles. He also gets very animated about folk stories so far these are my two fave:

1. (PS these are shorter, both for your reading convenience and for the fact that they were told in Albanian and I mighhhht of missed some pertinent details..soo, know that.) It used to be in Albanian culture that old men were taken to the edge of a cliff when they got to be to old and burdensome and their younger sons would push them off. But then one day one son took his son with him on the journey. When he got to the cliff he realized that he didn’t later want to be pushed off too by his little son, so he decided not to push his dad off. The end.


2. Guests are really important in Albanian culture. Seriously, you’re supposed to slaughter a lamb for them when they come over. Once in a village a guest appeared in a middle of the night. The men gathered together in the living room while the women prepared a feast. The men sang and played instruments. At one point they hear a scream outside. It sounded like a young boy. The guest said, what is that?? The host said, please, don’t worry. Enjoy your time. Don’t worry about other noises.

But in fact, the screaming had been the son of the house who had gone outside and fallen into a river. His scream were his pleas for help as he was drowning. PS. The son DROWNED and no one paid attention because the guest came first. The end.

(Please note that this story was actually really long and I definitely missed a few parts and my teacher actually teared up when he got to the part about the boy dying. When that happened I was just like, Waiit? What? Why are you upset?? Omg. Did I totally miss the point of this story? Did this happen to your family or something???

On our break, I went up to him and asked, ummm, was that a real story? He responds no, it was a play. A very good play.

The end.)

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taco buddies

On Friday I was craving a taco soooo badly. But not just any taco. A legit Mexican taco. Now, I don’t think anything outside of Sonora, Mexico, can compare to a Sonoran taco, but I was happy to settle for real other Mexican. I had heard rumors of a food truck near my apartment that was supposed to be good.

After an embarrassingly long search for the truck considering its literally a 4 minute drive from where I live (and I’ve driven by it multiple times)..I found it! Tacos El Chilango.  As I walked up..I knew! This was going to be good!

There were two Hispanic guys eating next to the truck, three in the front seat, and 4 guys inside cooking.  They took one look at me and were just like, this gringa doesn’t know. The guys handed me my tacos and were like, do you want some of this salsa it’s…

And then I just told them. I know. I know because tacos are my jam. You don’t eat tacos 4 times a week for two years and not come out an expert. I pulled out the Spanish and explained my stay in the Sonoran Capitol, Hermosillo.

Instant friends with all Mexicans.  It’s the only conversation I’ve had since July where I used a Mexican hand gesture by accident, but then didn’t have to explain why I was doing a silly little finger wave, because they would know!!

We swapped stories on different towns in Mexico and then we all chatted for a long while after I finished my TWO DOLLAR TACOS. I even got a taco on the house. Not really necessary when they are 2 bucks, but it was nice!

My conclusion: not as good as Hermosillo. Nope. But Hermosillo rules and it was not to be expected. They were legit Distrito Federal tacos however, and for that I will be back as a frequent customer. Besides, it’s the only place in town I know of that I can do my finger wave and go by my adopted Mexican name of Sofi.

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I don’t care

Nuk pyes. That means “I don’t care” in Albanian. It’s in my notes from today. It’s in my notes because my teacher wrote it on the board. He wrote it on the board because he said it out loud. He said it out loud because..he wanted to tell me, he didn’t care what I was saying.

Dave Chappelle has this line in his stand up routine where he says “you ever hear something that was so racist, you weren’t even mad? You were just like, DAMN, that was racist!”

Yeah, the moment was kind of like that. Basically my classmate had shared her hw which was a summary of some article of jobs where people are the happiest. After she was done, I chimed in that I didn’t agree with the elementary school teacher one. And she said, I know! I don’t agree with the analyst one. I was an analyst for four years. eck!

And as she was saying that, my teacher stands up, and writes on the board “I don’t care”. Then he says. “That’s how you say I don’t care. It’s actually kind of a rude way of saying it, but, anyway, I don’t care about your opinions. I care that you wrote a good piece of homework. Next person.”

My mouth just went agape and then I just burst out laughing. Who says that??????????????????????? Aren’t we in class to chat and practice our crappy speaking skills?? I was just like, OH SNAP! BURNNN!

I feel like he wasn’t being rude in his mind. He seems like a nice guy. But..that did happen.

But we seriously do need a mockumentary camera in the class so, I can do this face from time to time to the camera.

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shiz show

Worst. Black Friday. Ever.

Let’s just time line this out..

1 am Friday: At my friend’s house and everyone decides that the Brazilian and Venezuelan who are visiting should see what a Black Friday is like. I had work Friday, but I didn’t want to miss out on the night time adventure, so I say: sureeee, I’ll come along. I didn’t need anything though.

1:30am: Leesburg Outlets are crazzzyyy. Lines to get into most stores. Everyone is practically in pjs and the scene looks slightly like a zombie movie..walking dead.

2:50 am: Bought some tights. Wowww. What a crazy shopping evening…not really.  Getting ready to reunite with the group, then I remember. There used to be a couch at Restoration Hardware that I wanted. I go. It’s still there, BUT on SALE. Literally 900 cheaper.

3:02 am: Bought the most beautiful leather couch ever. A true adult luxury purchase.

Total happiness.

Fast forward to 2pm.

2pm: I get out of Albanian class, and without even leaving the classroom, I call the delivery guy to get my beautiful couch to my apartment!!

2:03 pm: WORST MOMENT EVER. The delivery guy basically goes, “wait, what size couch..wait, what apartment complex?? Um, your couch won’t fit in the elevator there.”

Hold up. What?

The guy is like, “yeah, call your building if you want, but that couch won’t fit.”


Why F? Because it’s an outlet store and there are signs in it everywhere “ALL SALES FINAL”


2:10pm: My Albanian teacher who is still in the room, says “don’t worry. you have good job. you have health. you have family”. Ok. true. But this was a bad moment.

2:20pm: I get back on the road to drive out to Leesburg to try and beg the store to let me return my very expensive couch.

4:50pm: Aghhhhhhh Worst mall traffic I’ve ever seen. I didn’t understand why people without devastating life moments were even continuing to wait in line.

5:40pm: I knew ultimately it was my error for not checking the size of my apartment, I could only beg for help from the store manager. Which I did. Layering on my nicest of nice..despite only 3.5 hours of sleep that morning and the crazy traffic wait.

6pm: I broke him! He agreed to let me get another couch and purchase some other things to make up the price.

So. It worked out. Thank GOD.

I am now getting this lovely couch delivered to me manana!

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What’s wrong with how I look?

I’ve gathered enough evidence now to know that many people don’t think I look like a diplomat. This first became clear when I would stand in the “Diplomats Only” line at immigration in Mexico and they would always have a slight eye roll like, this girl clearly didn’t read the sign. Sometimes they would even vocalize it “This is a diplomats only line, m’am”.

Um. Yes. Understood. That’s why I’m in it…

Now that I am studying in cafes all the time around Arlington more than one person has approached me and said..are you studying for the foreign service exam??

I suppose they ask that because I have all these piles of books and notebooks in front of me which say on them “Foreign Service Institute”.

But why isn’t the first question, “are you in the foreign service?” Why would someone not in the foreign service have all the FS gear? Clearly, there is something about how I look that makes them sure I couldn’t already be a diplomat.

But, I mean, did they see “Argo”??? I’m pretty sure I look like a 2012 version of this lady:

And here is me (actually in my Tina Fey Halloween costume):

Perhaps it’s because people think I look young, but that seems strange since I’m pretty sure I got confused for a teacher more than once in high school. (But maybe that’s because I wore polo’s, khaki’s and these shoes everyday:

Not a joke, ladies and gentlemen. And, unfortunately, as my sister likes to remind me. Not only did I own a pair..when they got worn out, I bought the same exact pair again for the next school year.)

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