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”!