Yes and No

Traveling through countries where the native tongue is a long stream of unbroken gibberish to your untrained ears, universal symbols gain a lot of weight. Pointing at your wrist, counting with fingers, hands together in thanks – all understood across the globe. The most common of course though, is the nod for a `yes´, and a shake of the head for a `no´. Imagine the confusion then, when at the top of a mountain village in Albania, you ask for confirmation of the correct route, and an old woman shakes her head at you, saying “Po, po” – “Yes, yes”.
Relying on international communication would have you heading down the wrong track. Instinct assumes this is a negative reply, and it takes a good deal of re-training to nod “yes”, but mean “no”.
Was this invented as some kind of clever ploy to misdirect tourists? Or perhaps an old combat tactic – similar to the 60,000 weapon-filled war bunkers spread across the country, forming a huge decentralized army for the nation, where everyone was a soldier.
Opponent: “Will you agree to a cease fire?”
The General nods his head. “That´ll fool them” he mutters to himself.

Albania is charmingly full of these contradictions. Less than a decade ago, the currency was changed simply by dropping one of the zero´s. What used to cost 1000 Lek, now costs 100. Only, most of the small towns have taken a while to catch on, and it can be quite the trick to ascertain whether you´re being charged 5 euros for a watermelon, or 50 cents.

Finally, you work out how to be understood in this beautiful backwards country, and decide to continue peddling on towards Greece. Crossing the border, you breath a sigh of relief, as you slowly return to your old, instinctual communication. Asking a man for some water, he tells you “Neh, neh”. It´s with a turn of the stomach, but a smile at the corners of your mouth, that you realize he means “Yes, yes”.


2 thoughts on “Yes and No

  1. Hey Lily, what up there? where are you now?
    this is Lucas, remember me??
    zadar?the port?the maps?
    well, just wondered whee you are now and how is it going.
    Any trouble?
    see you soon in barcelona!

  2. Hi Lily,
    I just saw your movie, Skipping Waste, and I am amazed. I am in my senior year at Hamilton College in NY, finishing up my degree in sociology. I’m currently preparing a proposal for a grant to do a year’s worth of research on alternative ways of recycling. I was so excited to see the community of dumpster divers you discovered during your video project and I would love to get in touch with some of them. I really want to make hands on experience part of my project. If you could email me with any background and contact info you can on some of the people you worked with, I would be forever grateful, especially because my proposal is due on October 2nd!
    Thank you so much for making that film and I hope to hear from you soon.
    Liz Kessler

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