by Kleitia Vaso

Albania, or more precisely, daily life in Tirana, possesses two major flaws which can be immediately detected and deeply felt if one has lived for a long time in its diametrical opposite: continuous physical discomfort and a dearth of material, abstract (information and cultural sources) and tangible (things). Comfort and material abundance are the best aspects of life in the U.S. and the primary reason for many people not wanting to leave it. Despite this plenitude or, perhaps, because of it, the U.S. is only inspiring from a distance while life, here, precisely because its many lacks, urges one to transform or, at least, enrich its scarcity. Maybe, places are entirely blameless; our inherent nature desires and, therefore, creates the part that is lacking where we are.

Like mostly everything else, the heating and cooling of large, shared spaces is still in a transitional phase here, in Tirana. By that, I mean that people have not yet understood that a constant, lower temperature keeps a room warm during the cold winter much more efficiently than the constant switching on and off. Not only more efficient, I would add, but also more humane. During an off-moment, I felt my body gradually becoming numb. The painful chill began from the lowest extremity, the feet, and like a wave that froze at the very moment it touched flesh, steadily crept up the other body parts. I thought of vines quickly and aggressively invading walls and spreading on other surfaces, growing beyond control and, then, I felt that this could be death as well – the gradual transformation into an ice sculpture. I almost liked the idea and instantly felt as Daphne in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, who, attempting to flee from Apollo’s unwanted love, turns, eternally, into a tree. The fusion of my body and icy, aggressively invasive winter, which was slowly annihilating any powers of reaction through petrifaction made me see, in a strangely poetic vision, the representation of the two mythological figures’ union as presented by Bernini’s famous sculpture. The sculptor has caught the exact moment of Apollo catching Daphne and the beginning of terrified Daphne’s metamorphosis, who in that very instant, tries to escape by becoming immovable. In a way, she chooses her own death or transfiguration into a more permanent but immovable shape – a simultaneous symbol of both permanence and passivity.

In the U.S. I would have been warm, comfortable and, thus somewhat drowsy and sluggish. This comfort would have nullified the need for Daphne and Apollo’s help. Let the U.S. then chase me like Apollo; for the moment, I’ll be half-frozen and semi-rooted here.

by Kleitia Vaso