One of those people I met along the way had to close her Peace Corps service abruptly and early, making her leave country and not get to say goodbye to her coworkers or friends she had made in Kukes. She decided that she wanted to come back then travel with me when I closed my service. The last night that I spent in Albania was idealic. We traveled to Kukes to spend the night with another PCV and reconnect with Emily's (and my) favorite family in Kukes. We started the day off by going by the family's crepe shop and having lunch and everyone kept telling Emily how much better she looked now that she lived in America. Then we went to her old Health Center and met the new Volunteer working there and had coffee with her old coworkers.
We went over to the family's house and at Emily's request that had prepared us a traditional meal, sarma, made only in Northern Albania which consists of meat and rice wrapped and soaked in cabbage. The family consists of 5 girls, ranging from ages of 9 to around 26. One lives in Sweden, one is studying in Tirana, one just got engaged, one is in the high school and one is in the 9-year school! While we waited for the meal to be finished I learned yet one more Albanian tradition, it's amazing that after two years thing still surprise me.
So once a daughter is presented to her future husbands family and the engagement is accepted there is a process called "paje" which essentially consists of the future bride-to-be getting rid of all her old clothes, buying new ones, and preparing for her new home and life as a homemaker. The recently engaged daughter showed us all the clothes, utensils, bags, shoes, cups, hairdryers and hand knitted items she had bought herself and received as gifts from her family and family friends. The goal is to start completely over one you get married and not have anything that you had before. It's a very traditional custom and she said the only reason they were doing is was because her fiance's family was very traditional.
After the presentation of household items and clothing we sat down for a beautiful, I mean beautiful meal. Homemade sarma, grilled peppers, greek salad and homemade bread. Obviously saying goodbye was hard but when the time came we had a fun little photoshoot.
We went back to the PCVs house who we were staying with to sit on the porch and drink homemade Albanian village wine. The power went off, which he said had been happening more frequently because of the road construction. It was just a perfect mixture of everything. A great night with an Albanian family, Emily got to reconnect with people and then the power went off and we sat in the dark and drank wine. This morning we woke up at 4:45am to catch the first ride out of town and headed to Shkoder and then crossed the border to Montenegro to begin our trip. Tomorrow we're off to Dubrovnik! Mirupafshim Nena Shqiperia!