My head is very important to me.
It's got my face.
It's got my brain (when it's not falling with the rest of me down the stairs).
And it sits at the top of my body.
It's like the CEO of the whole enterprise.
Plus, it helps me when making a first impression (for you Ichabod Crane fans out there).
But something has been bothering me.
I came to Albania looking for answers,
looking for a chance to start over.
And as I'm getting older,
time feels like its moving faster.
And the answers have only trickled in,
many times feeling more like a hunch than something definitive.
Plus, it hasn't been easy to make friends here.
But, I've been taking risks.
The obvious language blunders are proof of that.
I said to my Albanian tutor,
"If one day you turn on the evening news and there's a live report of me running towards the walls of the US Embassy with a large crowd at my heels, you know that I tried my best. "
But, I've also been learning about Albanian culture.
Concepts such as Besa,
traditional Albanian laws that govern everything,
even bee hives.
Learning about poets like Dritero Agolli
(he's got an interesting poem titled "Difficult Love")
Havzi Nela (who suffered a lot during communism)
Plus, I've been listening to pop music to build my vocabulary.
Xhensila Myrtezaj, Marsela Cibukaj, and Vedat Ademi are popular artists.
As a side note, if you watch Vedat Ademi's video "Nje Jete Me Ty",
it's a beautiful song that you can follow without knowing any Albanian.
So, learning these things has helped me when making friends.
But, I think I need a new strategy.
So, while I've been working on the inside,
could there be another way to speed up the process?
Maybe, there's a surface-based, outward approach to pulling this altogether?
And that's where my head comes in, literally.
Remember Lindsay Lohan's outsider character, Cady Heron, in Mean Girls?
Cady joined the A-list group, "The Plastics", and started wearing pink and writing in the Burn Book.
And while I'm not at that point where I want a knockoff Louis Vitton manbag and a pack of smokes, I do want something else.
Something that I spotted in my first queue here (which resembled a game of musical chairs) and that I have envied ever since.
The look that says,
"I'm from Tirana. I'm Albanian."
And while I'm a little older, I might be able to pull it off.
I'll just need to be more creative.
So, I decide to put my plan into action.
Taking inspiration from Queen Latifah's character, Georgia Byrd, in Last Holiday
who strolled into a boutique in the Czech republic
and said, "Make me...international,"
I march into my local barbershop on its narrow, bustling street.
When I sit down, my barber asks,
"Okay, same as last time?"
I look in the mirror at my puffy, aging face.
" No. "
"Well, what would you like?"
"I need a haircut that says, 'I belong in Albania.' "
"You want a haircut like an Albanian?"
"Because I am 53 years old, need answers, and only have 2.5 friends."
He looks confused.
"So, can you do that?"
"Patjeter (Of course)."
He switches the attachments on his clippers.
The buzzing sound grows closer to my ears.
He looks in the mirror as he is about to start,
I tell him, "Don't worry. If it doesn't look good, it will grow back."
Then I think for a second.
"Hey, while we're at it, can you me make me look younger?"
"I do not have magical powers."
"Just whatever you do, make me look good.
Make me look like I belong.