e martë, dhjetor 11, 2007

Will I ever understand the Albanians?

Edith Durham starts her book “Albania and the Albanians” with the great quote…

“Englishmans,” said the tame Albanian, “silly mans! No understand my people. My people all one week like this,” here he waved his arms round violently. “Next week go back to work. All quiet. Englishmans no understand that.”

I really like that description.
I encourage myself by thinking that it is just as well I am Scottish!

But it still makes me wonder if I will ever really understand the Albanians.
Yes, I have learnt the language (to a degree, together with grammatical errors!)
Yes, I have adapted greatly to the culture.
But, as someone so wisely advised me many years ago…
“No matter how long you live there, you will always be a foreigner…”
Unfortunately, he was right!
There are times I think with my Scottish head, and fail to understand Albania and the Albanians.

I will give you an example…

There is only so much that I CAN understand. I could write post after post of life under communism and stories I have heard. I could describe it for you. I know all about it…but that is the heart of the problem…I know …but I don’t REALLY KNOW (experientially).

I showed one of my friends pictures of Shkoder in April 1991.
He asked where I got them. He told me he was there at the park. His eyes glazed over and he said, “all the old feelings are coming back”. I felt I was standing on holy ground. I did not understand. I longed to go there…but didn’t dare. It felt too personal, too painful. I changed the subject.

Without experience I cannot know. Without knowledge I cannot understand.

It appears the Scottish are also “silly mans”!

2 komente:

abcd tha...

Take heart my friend!
All that happened before your time. To be able to understand that, you ought to have lived under the same conditions. That,I'm afraid is not possible,for you cannot go back in time.
If there is any consolation, we Albanians living in West have the same difficulty sometimes, although I suppose one can more easily understand something "better" than something "worse"!

Watched "The Last King of Scotland" recently! Made me think of your blog. He too had problems with "understanding" the locals.

Keep up the good writing. I enjoy reading it

Kolin tha...

Thanks abcd,
I DO regret not having at least seen Albania under communism, to get some idea of what life was like.

It is so hard to imagine the mindset.

How can a westerner understand how an Albanian was disappointed in their first taste of Coca Cola?
Or disappointed in the taste of a banana?

It is SO difficult to imagine.

The worst of it, is that because it was communism, there seems to be a whole attitude of "lets try to forget it"...so it is rarely shown on television. I would love to see old films of what Shkoder(or Albania) looked like under communism, but the best I can do is brief glimpses in an old film, or the odd program on Enver Hoxha.

"Last King of Scotland" looks like a good film, and I look forward to seeing it when Digitalb TV get it on their schedule!