Proposals Both Bizarre and Surreal

Although I’ve been accidentally and unknowingly engaged, I’ve also had two proposals that were so bizarre I still can’t believe they happened and often wonder what exactly did happen.

Of course, they all happened in Albania.

The bizarre proposal happened during my second year of service. Because I and a few other Peace Corps volunteers hung out at the US Embassy (even though we weren’t supposed to) we made friends/acquaintances with members of the embassy staff and with the military advisers assigned to work with the Albanian military. As such, we were were invited to a party at the military advisers’ residence which was a large tacky mansion in a gated area that had been reserved for the senior communist party members as a symbol of the fact that under communism “everyone was equal” and “there were no privileged classes”.

That was surreal enough.

However, during the party one of the Peace Corps staff, lets call her Margita, said she wanted to talk to me and pulled me away from the party to a quiet place. (So far, so good.) She then said “I love you” and pretty much offered to marry me. (So far, so HUH? Could you say that again?)

Mind you, Margita was cute enough that my brain was actually tripping over ways to exploit the situation. Instead my mouth pointed out that at no point during my time in Albania had she ever shown anything even resembling affection or interest. She then made the real proposal (in so many words) two years of paradise and then that would be enough of that “if I wanted”. (Wink wink. Nudge nudge.)

Because I’d already been suspicious of one relationship with someone I actually did care about, I ran through a litany of excuses. “I need some time.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I love you but not in that way.” “Can we actually be friends first?” Whatever I said worked and that’s the last I ever heard about that. (Although I did get dirty looks from her friends on the Peace Corps staff for a long time, making me wish I’d said “Prove you love me” or something equally tawdry.)

(For the record: this may be the first time ever that my mouth actually got me OUT of trouble.)

The surreal proposal happened on the trip to Elbasan where I was supposed to proctor an entrance exam. On the way to the vineyard where I’d drink a lot of raki, Abdul,my host, told the van driver to stop and pick up a heavy middle aged woman who was apparently hitchhiking our direction.

As we drove to the vineyard, Abdul kept making lewd remarks about what he’d like to do to the woman. I didn’t find her at all attractive, especially as she had a faint mustache and seemed badly assembled, but I was glad she impressed Abdul. I just found myself wishing he’d left me out of his interest.

Then after 10 glasses of raki (for me), we said goodbye to the vineyard staff and returned to the hotel. I was surprised the woman came along with us as she’d appeared to be heading in a different direction when we found her.

At the hotel, Abdul pulled me aside and explained that the woman would go with me to my room and let me “know her” in a Biblical sense. (So far, so HUH? Could you say that again?) Abdul said “I want you to have this experience”. And I was like 1) “Why?” and 2) “If you’re so gung ho about this do you mind if I choose? I mean, there’s a university full of women near here or, if you insist on staying creepy and surreal, there’s an all-girls high school just down the street and I have 10 glasses of raki in me so that actually seems like the moral alternative right now.” (Something like that.)

The woman went with me to my room as I tried to figure out ways to get out of it without insulting her or Abdul who seemed to be in a fugue state that was making him act out of character.

When I got to my room it was already occupied. The maid was still cleaning and the maintenance man was fixing the room light that hadn’t worked the night before (and which I’d called to complain about). The woman panicked and went away and I never saw her again. I was never so happy to see hotel staff in my life, even when they gave me knowing “you old dog, you” winks and looks.

Abdul explained that she’d got scared and he apologized that nothing had happened.

I told him to give her my best and my apologies. Sadly, I don’t remember her name. In fact, I don’t remember if anyone actually told me her name. That made it even more surreal.



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