Let me start this post by affirming that I am not, by far, the most culturally literate person out there. I can say however, that when someone's lack of cultural literacy has something directly to do with you, you tend to feel a little bit on the up-and-up as far as things like that are concerned.
With that introduction, let me take you through a few of the more interesting moments of intercultural exchange the took place whilst I was in Albania.
1. "American Culture" vs. "British Culture" or Wii Gone Wrong?
While in Albania I stayed in a most fabulous hostel, called Propaganda Hostel. The staff are super friendly and the prices are quite manageable, etc etc. In short, loved it.
However, there are a few bad apples in every barrel. In this case it was the older British man who insisted on complaining or griping over anything that didn't go his way. For those not into the crazy party life when they are indoors and trying to sleep, this is the hostel for you. With that in mind, I aimed to take advantage of a wii and my games to, you know, have some fun. Some end by 8:00PM even though quiet hours start at 11:00PM fun.
Still, someone saw fit to complain about it and when I was helping bring in our pizza orders, muttered that I could at least be teaching something cultural to the high school boys I was gaming with. He then added, "But then again American culture isn't really culture, is it?"
This was a new one for me, as I am used to these comments being either race or gender based. Nice to know there's another angle.
At any rate, this guy comes in the gaming area in the middle of "Sweet Home Alabama" on Guitar Hero (here's where things get good) and tries to shame me because the song is racist. Ummmmm....
So I say, "If I can forgive you for what you said about American culture, I can forgive these people for writing this song. If I went around worrying about what other people thought and said of me I would be angry all the time. What matters is what God thinks of me. Nothing more, nothing less."
Bam! He shut right up, I ended up in the class journal of those high school boys, and the acts of forgiveness and kindness I continued to show that man were remarked upon with awe, leading someone to say, "It's because she has Jesus." (No one else liked him and pretty much everyone avoided him like the plague.)
Another awesome moment occurred when, after singing "Our Father"-Bethel Church in Albanian with a buddy, this buddy's grandmother became open to going to church (whoooo!), and apparently, also to cross cultural interactions. The most momentous moment like this being when she braided my hair in straight-backs. That's right folks. My friend's Albanian grandmother braided my hair. Awesome.
This moment was so baffling as to cause difficulty coming up with a title.
So I met this woman who was married to an American. Being thusly united, I assumed a certain level of cultural literacy. Wrong.
I am standing with my guitar when this woman asks me if I'm from Africa. In Europe this question is pretty standard and actually makes sense given that most immigrants of color actually are more directly tied to the continent. Anyway, when I said I was American, she apologized and said she wasn't sure why she thought that. I told her there were a few giveaways that would give her that idea, and that it was perfectly fine for her to think I was from Africa since, in effect, that's where my roots trace back to anyway.
Then she says something about dance and I say something to the effect that yes I like to dance, and yes, I suppose it is important in African American culture, but no, I wasn't here to dance today.
Then she says, complete with a broadway-esque hip high hand flare with spirit fingers on the word "dance", "Oh, I just walked in and I saw you and I thought, here's this African woman and she's gonna dance for us!"
At this point I kindly ended the conversation while trying not to laugh. I did laugh later though. No harm done ;).