Ever since I arrived in Albania I’ve found it easier to make decisions.  Take this evening for instance.  My friends and I stopped in at the farmaci where I told the clerk “mirëmbrëma,” before making the international sign for “ear-plug.”  The clerk, understanding with a grunt, promptly produced a clear, plastic cylinder of one-hundred cotton swabs.  “Yo, yo,” I said giving the international sign for “I’m going to wear these when I try to go to sleep.”  A pair of ear-plugs appeared on the counter.  The price tag read 250.

Now I have to caution you when you come to Albania.  There is old Lek and there is new Lek.  Prices are often given in old Lek, but you are expected to know that, and to pay one-tenth of that price in new Lek.

For example: the first time I went to the market by myself I picked out six eggs, a foot-long sausage, and about a kilogram of apples.  The lady behind the desk showed me the price: 3600.  “O.K.,” I thought, “seems expensive, but what do I know?”  I handed her four new 1000 Lek bills.  Her husband smiled at my mistake as the woman said “Yo,” and handed me back three of the four bills.  I also received a five-hundred Lek bill with a coin for 100 and two 20 Lek coins.  I had an immediate appreciation for her honesty.

So, was I being asked to pay 250 old Lek or 250 new Lek for a single pair of ear-plugs?  I produced a 100 Lek coin and placed it on the counter.  “Yo,” the clerk said and then she showed me a 200 Lek bill with a 50 Lek coin to serve as my example.  Call me Scottish, but I thanked her for her time and exited the store at a measured pace.

Other examples of decision making are more clear-cut.  My next stop was at a small market.  “Si thuhet…?” I began before giving the international sign for “underarm deodorant.”  The clerk stepped from behind the cash register and presented my options: two products total; one for men, the other for women.  I could get used to shopping like this.

Inspired perhaps with the knowledge that I have reached the magic mark of 92.75 kilograms of weight, I stopped in at the berber in Sauk on my way home.  I have never received a hair-cut abroad before.  I’m going to put the young stylist at 19 years old.  He worked quickly to bring my flokë to its proper shape.  If the United States Army has a soccer team, I think I’m now officially their mascot.  So far only the women at school have laughed at my new style, which I’m interpreting as a positive indicator.  I have decided to buy into the myth that women are attracted to men who can make them laugh.