Since yesterday I talked about how I got through three years in Niigata, I thought I should talk about one of the ways I got through two years in Albania.
Sometime after we arrived in Albania we had an oath ceremony where we met then Albanian President Sali Berisha and where we took the Peace Corps oath and swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to never commit such acts as might require the constitution to suddenly require defending. (Something like that.)
After that, if my timeline is correct, we had food and drinks at a bar called the Taverna Tafaj. Part of the the Tafaj was underground, but it also had a beer garden at the back. I don’t remember what we ate, but the odds at that time (summer 1992) were that we had beef steak, potatoes, feta style cheese, and ferges (a yogurt meat dish). We also drank lots of beer and raki. Somehow we all managed to get home, despite that fact that all the street lights in Albania had been shot out during several months of anarchy and the city was as dark as if it was suffering a black out.
The food and service at the Tafaj was good enough that it eventually became a Peace Corps and expatriate hangout. It was cheap and actually kind of relaxing. Eventually the Tafaj was successful enough that the owners were able to doll up the beer garden, including adding an upper deck. All of this without raising prices very much.
The problem was that Albania at that time had lots of trash scattered about which meant it also had an impressive infestation of annoying flies. Because of this, the bug zapper became a kind of status symbol for restaurants with outdoor areas. The first one the Tafaj had they stuck over a table in the center of the garden and it became clear within a few minutes, and a rain of charred bug bits, that perhaps a different location might be in order. Eventually they installed a small bird bath and fountain to catch the charred bits.
The funny part is, and copious amounts of beer and alcohol might have played a role in this, the “brzzzt bzzzzap bsssszzzzrt” sound of the bug zapper became part of the entertainment at the Tafaj. We were all annoyed enough at the flies–someday I’ll tell you about the Great Albanian Fly Massacre–that we took a certain pleasure in hearing them fry.
I even remember a small round of applause when one particular large fly became, as my mother would say “a good bug” with a spectacular and loud flame and smoke show. It was better than fireworks.
Eventually, I had to move to a different city and no longer had the Tafaj to escape to regularly. Every time I got to Tirana though, I went to the Taverna Tafaj for the floor show of death. It was relaxing and calming. Well, that and the raki.