We are sitting at a small table, laid out on the cobblestone street outside of a café. The narrow street slopes to the right; leading up to the white stone houses perched on the mountainside.
“Kafe,” says the old man sitting across from me while pointing inside the miniature porcelain cup.
He is the owner of the café, who upon incredulously realizing I was about to enjoy my coffee alone, sat down to keep me company.
He has deep-set eyes surrounded by wrinkles that take Dali-esque shapes all along his face. On the top of his head sits a white Fez-like hat, which he was explaining the significance of with animated hand gestures as we sat down.
“Kafe,” I say, and a toothless smile appears.
He speaks no English, and I speak no Albanian. This was my first lesson.
His weathered hands pick up the coffee saucer, or what looks like an open-top French press and says:
“Kafe e xhezve” he exclaims, holding both the cup and the saucer in front of him, followed by, to my surprise, “good! E mirë”
I nod along, but I get distracted by the moving clouds and the shadows they cast on the bricks. We are in the shade, but the sunlight is slowly engulfing the street, pushing its way toward us.
I look down, and he has two of the sweet desserts in his hand. I’ve known this man for all of five minutes, and he already senses my sweet tooth. He puts one of the spongy, pistachio-filled squares on a small plate and says “halvë,” then swiftly puts the other one next to it.
He pushes the decorative plate toward me, and since I am not one to turn down a sweet offering, I put one of the squares into my mouth.
I chew with intention, furrowing my brows, trying to extract information from my flavour sensors while my new friend waits excitedly for my final judgement.
“E mirë,” I say with my cheeks puffed and a stretched out grin.
His anticipation evaporates as a hearty laugh bellows out from him:
“Good, good,” he says between chuckles as he refills our coffee cups.
I turn around, and see a procession of young people, giving out flowers and small white and red bracelets along the sunlit street.
“Beautiful,” he says with a softened expression.
I watch the dancing children and think, “yes, life is.”