In Tirane, Wade and I couchsurfed with a young Albanian man, Florenc, and his mother. I was exhausted from pregnancy and it was a welcome relief to stay in a home instead of a hostel or sex hotel.
Florenc was recently returned from New York where he lived and worked before being denied political asylum. His mother was a loving, protective conservative woman. I would try to help her prepare dinner, communicating through hand signals since I spoke no Albanian and she only knew a few words of English.
Mostly I did things wrong (diced the garlic into the yogurt instead of just throwing whole cloves in, washed the dishes with our castille soap instead of the dish soap I hadn’t been able to find up in a cabinet etc) but she laughed it off and appreciated the effort.
When Wade got up to help he was yelled at by the mother until he sat back down. I was then told to bring him another beer.
In Albania, the kitchen was clearly a woman’s place.
Honestly, rather than this bothering me, it made me feel included. I enjoy women’s places, especially while pregnant. It was a huge comfort to be around another mother.
With Florenc translating, she asked how old I was (24, the same age she was when she had her first son), how far along I was, what I was craving, what names we were thinking about, why we were going back to my family’s house to have the baby instead of Wade’s, and, the one asked most frequently, why he hadn’t married me yet.
She told me stories of her own pregnancies and encouraged me to eat and eat and eat. It would be easy to wax on about how pregnancy connects women all around the world, but we retain our cultural differences too. As dinner progressed Florenc’s mother proudly offered me some of her homemade raki, a liquor from grapes.
I looked to Florenc to translate that I wasn’t drinking because I was pregnant. His mother looked confused for a minute and then said “How about a beer?”