Thank you so much for your comments. They have encouraged us in our time here. It is amazing who our blog reaches. My sister and brother in law in NZ read it. They told me that when they saw the photo of mushmula they recognised it as is kumquat. Indeed it seems that mushmula is the Russian word for the fruit. We read Simon and Catriona's blog of Serenje and feel the same, namely that we are in a completely different culture even though we are in Europe, with different ways of thinking let alone different climate. We have been to Greece before on holiday at this time of the year, but to live in the heat week after week, to work and think and operate in the heat with no air conditioning in our rooms and live at a different pace of life and try and ensure that we keep understanding and communicating well with all the people we meet is a challenge. Last night I had a good time with the main church leader here talking several things through. Tonight will be a Q and A with some of the guys followed by the Champions League football final! Whilst Ann will meet with the pastors wife Rudina and their 3 girls Sara, Eliada and Abigaila and they will go out for coffee and ice cream and chat. The streets are almost completely empty mid afternoon but are brimming with people, children included, in the evening all out walking and talking until late. Some other differences. There are so few schools that a school will have 3 or even 4 lots of children per day in 3 or 4 hour batches from say 7.30 am to 7.30 pm. It is strange to see crocodile lines of children during school time walking somewhere at 5.30pm say. They have lots of homework with school time spent mainly checking homework. Notices of deaths are posted in the street, see photo above. Very few people have gardens as they live in apartments and so help themselves to flowers growing in public parks! Sellers set up their stalls under any available tree in the park or street to set out their wares whether shoes, second hand clothes, food and fruit, pots and kitchen implements, raki and even holly leaves! I asked what they were selling the dried holly leaves for and the answer?....as back scratchers! Ouch! Anything to get a living! Do you ever wonder where all the Ford transit vans, cars, buses and lorries go to die? Well here in Albania. Without being critical 90% of all vehicles here would instantly fail an MOT. Driving standards are slowly improving as more younger people who have had driving lessons and a test take to the road. Several years ago drivers needed no test and it shows. It is hair raising at times as you sit in a minibus with other vehicles headed straight for you playing the game of who will give way first. Washing up! Afterwards we put the pots and pans etc into cupboards that contain drying racks. The air is so dry that even in winter things dry quickly. We could give you photo after photo of ponies and traps, three wheeled motorcycles that have been converted to carry clothes, rubbish, fruit and veg etc. And litter not just paper, but clothes and shoes no longer wanted by the sellers just left anywhere for someone else one day to clear away. Meanwhile the piles get bigger and the smell increases. Keeping the law? I am writing this in a non smoking Internet cafe, only it isn't! Every restaurant like the UK is non smoking only they aren't. Apparently they kept the law for a month and then nobody bothered. People drive the wrong way up one way streets all the time! But there are many joys. The friendliness of the people is one. We have just had an off the cuff conversation with 4 young women in the park, top photo, who are all studying Social Work at University. We could talk all day as they practice their English on us. Tonight we say our farewells to many friends here in Elbasani. On Friday we travel to Lezhe to see Robert and Mira again, and on Sunday go to a March for Jesus in Fushe Arrez and talk to leaders of another church before heading off to the airport and back to cooler climes where our son Simon will meet us at Gatwick. The whole time has been worthwhile and valuable as we see churches, leaders and people, strengthened and encouraged. God has been very good to us. See you soon. Ken and Ann
Some of the varied Books I've read recently in no particular order....
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. Another one of those books I wish I could have read 20 years ago. Excellent about how to achieve organisational health.
The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. very helpful in helping to understand Orthodox history and thinking. The Orthodox Church is the main church in Serbia and Macedonia.
Austria-Hungary and the orgins of the first world war. Helps with the historical background to the Balkans. The Powers at work then are still at work today, politically, economically. Samuel R Williamson Jr
Bradt Guide to Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia etc (excellent and sometimes the only guides avaiable for lesser known countries)
Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes. Opened my eyes to see the Gospels in a new way. Kenneth E Bailey