Money, money, money

 I made a dumb mistake today and offered to overpay for a bottle of water.   In restaurants, they often give prices in “old Lek” which are 10X the “new Lek.”  So, my bottle of water was 600 lek, but that was “old lek.”  When I tried to give them 600 lek they told me to just take the water and not worry about it. Then I understood that it was idiotic for a bottle off water to be almost twice what I paid for all three of the crepes I had bought and then I fished out 60 lek in coins and paid for my water.

At the same time as I’m trying to remember the difference between old and new lek, I’m also trying to keep track of how much a lek is in relation to a dollar (basically, a dollar is something like 104 lek) and get used to carrying around and using 1000 and 5000 lek notes (which are equivalent to tens and fifties).  Then I have to remember what sorts of things those lek can buy.  This  morning we stopped at a “creperie” around the corner from our hostel.  We bought three crepes (Shawna had cheese and mushroom, I had ham and cheese and Carly had Nutella, which she put all over her face) and it cost us 440 lek (about four dollars) for all three of them.  Then there was the 60 lek bottle of water.  You can’t have just one crepe in the US for $5, not to mention all three plus water. 

In addition to using Lek as currency, the Euro is common here, even though Albania is not in the European Union.  So our rent is paid in Euro, as is our rent at the hostel.  We’re paying 25 euro a night at the hostel and our rent will be 400 Euro a month.  Now you have to translate Euro into dollars so you know what you’re paying.  Lately, it’s about $1.32 to a Euro, so our rent will be something like $520.  For some reason, I’ve never heard anyone pay rent here in Lek, only Euro, though  it’s also possible to pay rent in dollars if you arrange that ahead of time.  Of course, when we travel, we’ll  be using Euro in Italy and other EU countries so, in contrast to looking at a 1000 Lek note and thinking ($10), I have to remember that the 10 Euro note is ($13).  Unless a place takes dollars.  Then I have to make sure that I’m not paying more in dollars than I would in Euro.  Or lek.

Errand today:  find an ATM and take out dollars.  Change them into Euro to pay for rent tomorrow.  Make sure to get some changed to Lek, too, so I can buy coffee and crepes.  Remind self that when I’m walking around with 10,000 Lek in my pocket and buying 5-star dinners for three for the equivalent of $40, I am indeed a very Lekky man.

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8 thoughts on “Money, money, money

  1. Greg, I’m loving the blog entries. I’ve planned to forward your blog address but have been slammed here at work. I’ll do that right now.

    So tell us some more about the place you will be living in an upcoming blog.

    1. Will do. We will move to our new apt tomorrow after spending four nights in Freddy’s hostel. It’s the perfect place for a backpacker to crash but not so good longterm with two elegant ladies. We walked by the apt today, stopped at a cafe and had Korcu (great beer!) beer and charcoal grilled chicken at a local place. We ordered two chickens and could only eat one even though they were small. Then we managed to get turned around on our way back to the hostel and ended up out on the edge of town where the only guy we thought of asking directions of was standing guard outside a bank with an assault weapon. “We’d better not ask the guy with the Kalashnikov,” I said. “What did you say his name was?” Shawna replied. I figure we walked ~10 miles today. I love my hiking boots! Tomorrow we meet at the embassy for a security briefing. I don’t know if it’s a standard thing or if it has something to do with the rumored protests for Friday. Don’t worry–if there are protests then, we’re staying in our new apt and watching it on TV. I’ve been invited to give a lecture on African American history month at the University in Elbasan next Thurs. The embassy folks will drive me out there, give me lunch and drive me back. I don’t know if I should disclose that I’m not African American (well, I am a little) as I don’t know for sure what they know about AA lit here. I’m trying to nail down how long as how narrowed the discussion should be. I might talk about AA narratives and Douglass. We’ll see.

      1. Hi Greg!

        Linda just passed along this blog address, so I am thrilled to know that you all arrived safely and are beginning to acclimate to your area. Please do stay inside on Friday and watch those protests from a safe location!

        Schroder is doing well, though not a big eater and somewhat unsettled by the two large golden creatures routinely sniffing at the tank. I think he or she has finally decided that at least I am not a threat, so we’re making progress.

        Say hello to Shawna and Carly from the Carlson family! Looking forward to reading more on your blogs!

        Beth

  2. You definitely are one Lekky fellow. I am enjoying your blogs and am glad that you all arrived safely. I’m rather curious as to what questions you’ll encounter after your lecture on African American lit. Stay safe.

    1. I’m interested in finding what they know about African American lit, too. I know Soviets used to be quite interested in 20th c. AA lit like Wright etc due to its revolutionary nature, but I don’t know what Albanians are exposed to. Don’t know if I should do some sort of general discussion or something more narrowed. Perhaps I’ll find out today when I talk with my embassy contact.

  3. Greg, Isabel Wilkerson’s nonfiction book “The Warmth of Other Suns” (a quote from Wright) documents well the African American experience during the 20th century. I realize you don’t have time to read it before your lecture; however, you may want to recommend it as future reading because it captures in very personal terms their struggle to escape the dehumanizing world of Jim Crow. Below is the link to the “New York Times” book review. By the way, this book has been on several of the notable books lists for 2010.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/books/31book.html?_r=1

  4. I dont think you’ll find much by way of African-American literature in Albania, although you may find that the youth are familliar with Tupac and Rihanna…

    This book may be a good reference on where to start looking:

    http://www.toena.com.al/toena/the_publishing_catalogue/albanian_artistic_literature/Vjollca_Hysenbegas.html

    Also, in 2009, the US Embassy hosted an evening focussing on African-American Culture via Poetry and Music.

    http://tirana.usembassy.gov/february_2009.html

    1. I guess this blog has “gone viral” since I don’t recognize you. Thanks for posting. You’re right that most folks here aren’t too acquainted with African-American lit but they were quite interested when I discussed Frederick Douglass and Harlem Renaissance poetry in a lecture at the university at Elbasan (there’s a separate post on this and a small bit on the embassy website about it for now). I look forward to reading the Hysenbegas link. Most of the Albanian poetry available in English translation seems to be in a volume by Robert Elsie.

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