Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Park Part Three - Snakes and Satin Blouses

The worst encounter I’ve had in the park so far was caused by a 2 ft long snake slithering across my path. And that was only intriguing really. One feels quite safe on a bike somehow. I forget of course that Albania is the Mediterranean really, and therefore has snakes. The park lulls you with its gentle, green deciduous look of an English park (with a few tree species exceptions). People seem unbothered and picnic quite happily in the long grass. Since Sri Lanka I have been conditioned to be phobic about long grass.

As I bike along I constantly hear skitterings in the bushes from lizards and the slower noise, presumably of snakes. Not sure if any are poisonous. Funny, having lived in Africa and Asia and never encountered a single snake, I meet one within 4 months of arriving in Albania, on a busy tarmac path too. Knowing it’s not a Cobra or Krait and probably harmless, makes for an interesting rather than scary encounter. But I realise I should get a reptile book, and check it out before getting too blasé.

The other encounter I had where I came off worst was only in a sartorial way. Albanian women really dress up, and, despite the atrocious roads and broken up pavements, they all wear heels, stilettos, you name it, the more impractical the better. And everyone walks everywhere too. It’s mad.

I have rarely worn heels ever since the (short) boys in my sixth form used to tease me mercilessly for being ‘too tall’. I am only 5 foot 8” so hardly Goliath proportions. Just goes to show how short they were that they needed an attention deflector. Me. But I was very self-conscious, and so felt uncomfortable towering over my male peers. Even having married someone of 6ft 3” I still don’t wear high heels. Maybe it’s a throwback to being 16 or maybe it’s just because I can’t walk in them.

But here I feel positively out of place NOT wearing heels. One day I was in one of the only play parks in Tirana, and a mum was there pushing her little girl on the swing. This mother was wearing a lime green satin blouse with puffed and ruched sleeves, a puffball skirt and kitten heel mules. And she was in the playground…? I felt distinctly frumpy and British in my bike helmet and Birkenstocks.

I am happy to dress up when the occasion demands, in fact I like doing so, just hadn’t realised the park was one such social engagement. Is that a cultural difference, how one views a trip to the park with the kiddies?? Or is it that clothes are seen as decorative and not functional? That would certainly seem the case here, where practical dressing would see you in wellies, and a duvet coat in the very wet winters, and flip flops and a wide brimmed hat in the hot, dry summers. And a mask to protect you from the pollution and dust all year round.


Iota said...

Hey, you're back blogging again! Good to hear your news.

You're very brave about snakes. That encounter would finish me off. But I suppose they can't be dangerous, as those heels would be no good for running away in. Or perhaps Albanian footwear vanity would triumph over even the fear of a fatal snake bite.

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