Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Over the border

On Saturday we took a furgon, minibus, early to avoid the heat of the day, and got to Qafe e Thane the border point where we met Edi, Artina and Flori their worship leader, coming from Korca. Then we crossed the border out of Albania and into Macedonia. See photo above. Don't think of border crossings like traveling from France to Belgium, where you drive through the border in a moment or even England France where you have check points leaving and entering but close together. Here there are check points but they are a good walk apart, half a mile or in some places a mile apart. You cannot see one border crossing point to the next as it is round a bend in the road and out of sight. You could set up camp in no man's land! I have seen motorists changing their car number plates between leaving one country and entering the next and shepherds with flocks of sheep! Then a taxi ride to Ohrid. My guide book says Ohrid is the jewel in Macedonia's crown. It is their main lakeside resort, cultural centre and holiday destination especially to escape the heat of summer. It is an ancient city with a castle and has UNESCO heritage status.
We booked into the accommodation Edi and Arta often use, and then they took us on a long walk. We walked through the old town and upto the castle which I thought was just stunning with its view over the town and Lake Ohrid. Then back to town and a late lunch under the shade of a large tree. One way we can tell we are out of Albania is the food on offer. Gone are the salads with everything. We are now eating Slav food. (Russian, Polish, Bulgarian etc) Wonderful bowls of hot soup if you wish, even on a hot day, quantities of beer being drunk with gusto as in any northern European city on a hot day rather than wine, and huge platefuls of hearty food. Meat, sausages, boiled potatoes and vegetables, with sour cream! Then back for a lie down/sleep as it was so hot and we had got up at 5.30. A siesta is part of the daily routine here all year round. Then at 8pm we went our for a bite to eat and to meet up with the guys and girls Edi and Arta have gathered. They catch up on news and talk about the everyday and the serious, building relationships, and asking questions. We walk and talk and have coffee. Eventually we say our farewells at well past midnight. It is some of these young people who we look to have come to the Youth Camp in July and renew friendship with them.
Come the morning Edi, Arta and Flori pack their bags and head home for their own meetings on Sunday afternoon. We stay on as in the evening we are going to a Macedonian speaking church in a neighbouring town whose leaders we have met before. We knew it would be different as Macedonian is written in a version of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet and so totally incomprehensible to us!! We recognised some of the worship songs though and sang along in English! The meeting was translated for us by a wonderful young woman who was a delight to talk to. It is so interesting to see where they are as a church and hear what God is doing. Then they helped us get a local cheap taxi and we return to our room.
The next morning we travel amazingly well by taxis and furgon so that we are back in Elbasani 2 hours after leaving Ohrid. When you can wait an hour or more for a minibus this is no small miracle.
One of the challenges of Macedonia is that there are two main groups of people. The Macedonian speaking who are the great majority and who would automatically consider themselves Orthodox Christian, and the Albanian speaking who would automatically be considered Muslim. So the idea of being Albanian speaking and being a Christian is unthinkable and so is the one of being Macedonian speaking but a Christian who is not Orthodox.
Now we are into our last week here and final meetings with leaders here and in other towns. There are conversations to finish off, farewells to say, wisdom to give, questions to answer, experiences to share and love to give.
Finally for today. Remember the swimming pool we checked out? It is wonderful. We couldn't believe it! Now a bite of lunch and then time to cool down in the pool!
Ken and Ann

1 comment:

  1. Hey there Ken and Ann...you keeping this blog up to date is really great....you have been serving the church over there for so long and we didnt really know what was happening and how you fitted in ..or what exactly you were doing....and now we know.!!

    Its been a good prayer prompt too..as reading about places and people "real time" has led to prayers on the spot for you both and all that you have been doing.

    so glad you got to sample the swimming pool....excellent...
    enjoy the last day or so till you begin the homeward travel...take care and know Gods blessing upon you