How about a little Scottish culture in Albania? I didn't think it was possible either.... A parent from our school is Scottish. He asked his wife, Hilary, (an American and one of my book club friends) to organize the first annual Tirana Burns Ball. And what is a Burns Ball? It a celebration of the acclaimed Scottish poet's, Robert Burns, birthday. This was the 250 year since Robby's birth. (He shares a birthday with my aunt, Anita. Happy birthday Aunt Anita!) I remember some of his poetry from British Literature. Burns traveled around Scotland collecting old Scottish ballads. He also wrote a very famous one called "Auld Lang Syne". (Ring any bells now?) In the words of one speaker, "The English have Shakespeare, the Americans have Longfellow, and the Scots have Burns..." Now, think of something stereotypically Scottish: Bagpipes. Check. Haggis. Check. Kilts. Check. Dancing. Check. Poetry. Check. Whiskey. Check, check. Put them all together for an all-things-Scottish evening!
Here I am with my very awesome friend, Amy. I tagged along with Amy and Travis. (Travis is behind his camera for this shot.) We were all excited to be transported to Scotland!
Cocktail time! These additional friends are two really fun parents from school. I have Sylvie's son and will have Agnieszka's daughter next year. Really, this was the social event of the season... so far.
My Bible study pals, Amy and Mary Jo!
The ceremony started out with a salute to the Haggis. This bagpiper was imported from Scotland, along with his pipes of course! He told Mary Jo and me that he was "77 years young." He paraded the Haggis all around the room. It actually smelled really tasty as it passed by our table... Then came the gruesome part. The Haggis was placed in the center of the room. Words were said over it, to the effect of "let's chop you up in the most disgusting manner possible with this dagger I'm holding over you." After the Haggis tribute, came the tribute to the Lassies and the Lassies' response. The American ambassador read a poem in American English (can't remember it off the top of my head, but I swear it was memorable) and then a lady read another poem that had been translated into Albanian. I really can't count the times that we were told to "raise our glasses." I had Scottish whiskey...so warm on the throat... and they kept the wine flowing! It was amazing that I wasn't hung over, since the waiters filled my glass at every available moment.
Now for the answer to everyone's question. YES! I tried the haggis; it was a rule after all and I'm such a rule follower. The taste was meaty and smokey. Not bad. The TEXTURE, on the other hand, left something to be desired. It was like chewing gummy meat crushed up into little balls. I didn't finish mine.
Travis and Amy polished their portions off! Brave souls.
After our dinner and dessert came the dancing! I learned only one of the two dances that were introduced (but danced it twice...once with an authentic Scotsman who really knew how to twirl!!!). This dance (once again, I can't remember the dance's name...maybe the whiskey harmed my long-term memory) was complicated and I was a side-line observer. The live band for the "disco" dancing was actually good too. Although this ball was in the same room as the Marine Ball, it had a completely different feel. It was a culture experience, but also a let-your-hair-down night!