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But there was something in the eyes, and sometimes the hands, even the carriage of bones—a softness that made me wonder.
The more I gazed upon the photographs, the more I noticed something else.
They tap their heart to show ultimate respect for you, but when driving, they will attempt to crush you.
The country is riddled with pocked, at times impassable roads, so that one seems to bounce up and down as much as go forward here—which makes the daily Grand Prix all the more stomach-churning.
According to Ermal, it doesn’t help that his Albanian brethren are "oversensitive and hot-blooded," especially after fender benders, of which there are many on the crappy roads.
Some angry words, a few gunshots, and the next thing you know, you’re holed up in Grandma’s city apartment for five years, trying not to get killed by retribution.
These were the text read, or women who dressed and lived as men, in isolated regions of northern Albania, a land of ultraconservative mores. It was a mild November afternoon, and Haki stood in the bright light of his garden, smoking like the Penguin, with a cane and a cigarette holder, the embers of his Karelia butt burning angrily.
Haki’s house was made of stone, as was the barn with the calf inside, all set in a lost valley. So along with my translator—a husky bear of a young man named Ermal, who, though a fine navigator, drove with all the subtlety of Beethoven’s Ninth—I’d traveled north on Albania’s recently completed highway from the capital of Tirana into Kosovo, where we were stopped at a midnight checkpoint by bored soldiers bearing AK-47’s, then looped back into a northerly, mountainous pocket of Albania. We’d driven up switchbacks and down dirt tracks."What is it? "But are real," he’d said, our heads whiplashing in unison, "and unicorns are not."Now here was the real thing himself, spitting venom.On your wedding night, your father might slip a bullet into your suitcase, for your husband’s use in case you’re not a virgin.You will stand throughout your wedding, eyes downcast as the humble, heeled animal you’ve just become, and soon you will live with your husband’s family, wherever they may live, in virtual enslavement, taking all of your orders from them. You will make no decision, even when it comes to the children to whom you give birth. From sunup to sundown, your life will be full of hard labor.He spit and smoked and milked the cows, just as he put each leg through his pants in the morning.He cursed, then acted as he pleased, living here entirely alone as he did, collecting honey from his bees.