Money Beauty Queens and Boy George Boys

Soon after I got to Albania, for reasons having to do with politics and me being posted to the Faculty of Foreign Languages in Tirana and the fact you can fool most of the people most of the time early on in the relationship, I was asked to chair the entrance interview for what was described as the first free and fair entrance exam in the faculty’s history.

This amounted to first double checking the written test and then convening with four of my future colleagues (which they were, sort of, in a way) to interview and rate potential students. I vaguely remember that we agreed on which order we’d ask questions and what kinds of questions we would ask.

To this day I don’t remember what questions I asked or even if I asked questions. All I remember is that I welcomed the candidates and introduced myself and that things proceeded from there, for better and for worse and for interesting.

Most of the interviews were relatively bland and I remember faces more than what they said. The first interview that stands out was a stocky kid with a rustic look that screamed farmer. He spoke English slowly, but seemed to understand everything. One of us asked what his family did and he said they were vegetable farmers. One of my fellow interviewees then said. “You must be making a lot of money now.” I went “What the f–” but he gave the greatest knowing smirk and soft “yes” I’ve ever seen and we all knew he was getting in because money.

The second was an especially attractive young woman–you’ll see why that’s important in a second. Her English was excellent and she had the Balkan poise the vegetable farmer didn’t. One of my fellow interviewers, who had a bushy head of hair and aviator/Elvis style eyeglasses asked her if she’d ever heard of the Miss Albania pageant. She said yes. He asked her if she’d ever considered entering it. She said no. He said “but you’re very beautiful” and encouraged her to enter it right about the time I was thinking “Are you fucking kidding me!” but saying something like “ANYWAY, moving on to the next question.”

The last one I remember was a frail, rather effeminate kid with a style that would later be described as Emo. He was wearing dark aviator sunglasses that were twice as wide as his head in the interview, so I was torn between liking him and thinking “poser”. His English was good, though, so it was hard to complain about him. Later, the man who’d asked about Miss Albania, asked the kid if he’d ever heard of Boy George. The kid said no. The man said “But you have a lot in common with him you–” I never heard exactly what they had in common because I interrupted at that point. I don’t even remember what I said. I just remember interrupting.

All three of those candidates were chosen for the faculty, although I would only teach Miss Albania and the vegetable farmer (both were really nice, although it was a lecture class so I spoke at them more than to them). I saw Boy George boy a few months later. He was still sporting the aviator shades and actually looking more confident and cool.

All I could think was “poser”.

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