Monday, March 21, 2005

Linguistic misunderstandings

So last week I asked my students to write about cross cultural misunderstandings and embarassing situation they have found themselves in. I have a couple of those stories myself, and just so happened that I found myself in the situation the very day I made the assignment.

My electricity for my apartment works like a rechargable telephone card - you go to the electric company, pay for electricity, they give you a receipt with a code on it, you punch the code into your meter and that's how much electricity you have to use. That's all fine and good, since part of the problem with the power plants not working and the electricity going out all the time is because people don't pay their bills. This way, you have to pay before you get lights. It works. However, because my landlord usually handles this sort of thing for me, I didn't have a clue I was about to run out. And run out I did - on a Sunday morning, when it was snowing and bitterly cold. No lights, no hot water, no heat. YIKES!

I went on a desperate search to find somewhere other than the power company to purchase some electricity. A friend suggested I go to the main grocery store and I figured it was worth a shot. I asked the cashier if they sold electricity, and she looked at me as if I was nuts. So I tried another route - I asked if they sold "KEK" (stands for Kosovo Elelctric Commission). Then she nodded in understanding and told me no, but there was a store inside the mall that did. I headed off to find me some electricity and heat. When I got to the store she said to go to, I realized my mistake. The Albanian word "kek" means cake in English. She had sent me to a pastry shop. I didn't stop giggling for 20 minutes, and I had a fantastic piece of chocolate kek.

(I couldn't get any electricity until Monday, so I packed up and spent the night at a friend's. Such is life. I will keep a close eye on my meter from now on!)

On a completely different note, my Fellowship has been renewed, and I will return to Kosovo to teach for another year. I was a little shaky on this point for a week or so, as we've had a couple of bombings since the PM was indicted. The first was on a Friday night a little over a week ago. A 15 year old kid tossed two homemade handgrenades into the UN parking lot. What looked to be an isolated incident, turned out to be a diversionary tactic while 3 snipers were trying to take out the UN communications satellite. (Didn't find that part out until yesterday.) The following Monday I got the renewal notice. Tuesday morning I was awakened by another bombing, this time close enough to make my windows rattle, and promptly got me out of bed. This time the target was the President of Kosovo. A few days later a new Albanian Liberation Army (or something like that) claimed responsibility for it. Still not sure what that was all about. Anyway, everything else has been so calm and normal. People are upset, but they don't want any violence like last year. They don't see the point in it. We all kind of expected all hell to break loose sometime in the past couple of weeks for many reasons - 1, the prime minister was incredibly popular, 2, the 1 year anniversary of the riots was March 17, and 3, the weather has finally decided to warm up a bit, which means more people on the streets. Today they had peaceful protests at the University, and all things are business as usual. I'm pretty confident that things will remain calm, and if they don't.. well, then they'll pull us out of here. I really hope they don't. I want to come back and continue the things I've started this year. Plus the Trav and Phil are coming back too. That's just icing on the kek.

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