Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Shoffing, shopping and farewells...

As Monday would be Lydia's last full day in Elbasan and Albania Lydia had a look at some of the sights of Elbasan. We went to the Ethnographic Museum, which sounds a bit dry, but is in fact a wonderful old Ottoman house that would have been lived in by a wealthy family. The ground floor was used for making crafts such as weaving carpets or clothes as on this loom.

The house has several large rooms on the first floor, a mans room, the womens room, the main bedroom and also this large airy balcony where the family would sit out during the summer heat.

This beautiful silk blouse with silver thread patterns is one of the many items on display. It is every bit as beautiful as it looks and is very fine to feel.

This baby's cradle indicates you are in the womens room with low seating all round the room as you can see behind the cradle.

Here are Lydia and Ann looking out from the balcony. They both thought they could happily own a house like this as a summer residence!

I should have reaslised from the outset that with 2 women there would bound to be some (a lot)of shoffing and shopping! Shoffing is the Albanian word for window shopping.

Lydia and Ann would disappear only to be found in yet another bag/shoe/jewellery/clothes shop. Here we are in a coffee shop, selling ground coffee, that only opened that morning! We were offered a cup of Turkish coffee each, to taste the coffee, before we duly bought some at a fraction of the cost in the UK. The young woman serving us had just returned from 4 years in Campden, London.

The evening was spent having a wonderful meal at the home of Ilir and Rudina and their 3 daughters. We talked and talked as Rudina and Ilir prepared the meal.

Sadly time comes for farewells, and after the meal Lydia said her goodbyes and away we returned to our apartment. A sound nights sleep, if one is not woken by the call to prayer at 5.20 am from the mosque next to the apartment, and then time for Lydia to pack her bags and us get the furgon for Tirana. Shaban, ever graciously, met us in Tirana and took us to the airport. Here we meet with Robert Cook from Lezhe also returning to the UK to see his parents over Easter. We all had lunch together and caught up on news and then it was time for us to say goodbye to Lydia and express our real heartfelt thanks for her coming to Albania. I know Lydia has made many friends here already even in so short a time.

For us, then back the way we came over the mountains to Elbasan with another exciting week ahead of us.

Love to you all,

Ken and Ann

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Another full day

Sunday morning saw us at the church we go to in Elbasan. Lydia spent time with the children whilst I spoke with the rest of the church. Here are Ann, Lydia, Keta and Rudina. Rudina with her husband Ilir lead the church. We have invited Rudina to the Ladies REAL conference at Bracknell in July. Keta is studying at university in Elbasan and came to the first Alpha course the church ran that started last November. Keta and 3 of her friends became followers of Jesus through the course and are now involved in the life of the church. You have seen the room they use at present in yesterday's blog when Robert was speaking. Their building is a work in progress! Here is what will become the main hall. All four walls are up and the roof on! The rest will come. The church building in Elbasan is already something of a centre that other churches gather to because of the city's strategic position and the quality of the building they have. We are helping to equip their kitchens. After the meeting we headed here for coffee. This is known as Skampini which is a restaurant and coffee bar and hotel inside the old walls of the original Turkish fort built on this site. It is stunningly attractive especially when all the flowers are in full colour and it is decked out for a wedding! This afternoon Lydia and Ann met for 2 hours with six ladies from the church who are involved in the Children's ministry. Lydia has the photos of them all together. From what I hear it was a very worthwhile and enjoyable time that left Lydia excited at the prospect of all that could happen. Then a walk through town to the home of Beni and Bardha who now have 2 children, Joel and Jeremiah who was born on 30th December last year. Some of you may remember Bardha who came last year to the REAL conference. Another wonderful Albanian meal and now to the Internet Cafe to write this up and bring another busy day to an end at now 10.25

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Back in Albania

Lydia Harris Lane who heads the 0-5's in our church, Ann and I flew into Albania last Wednesday afternoon. We were met by Shaban Hoxha who leads a church in Tirane the capital. He took us to our hotel. Some of you will know we have some Albanians in our church including Ida. The very first thing we then wanted to do was to see Ida's parents, Ida's mum is above, and give our greetings to them from Ida. Ida has not seen her parents in the flesh for 7 years. So giving our greetings and talking with them and telling them about their precious daughter is an emotional and wonderful time. After talking a while they invited us out to a meal with Ida's sister Mira. Here is Ann and Mira, below. The restaurant was like a very large English pub that served a huge arrange of different meats. We had a wonderful meal and time together. Lydia had a brilliant introduction to Albania! After breakfast on Thursday we then went to see the work that Shaban and his wife Elvira have with Roma children. It is a simple school where local children are taught to read and write and play together all preparing them for State school. Whilst they should all go to State school most schools shun them, indeed refuse to have them and so they are marginalised from the outset. Teaching them the basics means they will be accepted at school and into the larger society. Here is a lad playing a recorder. Many Roma are musical. The music scale he uses is completely different from ours though. As soon as he plays the kids want to dance! Some of the class. Ann with the Roma lady who leads the class... and Lydia with a number of the children. The girl who Lydia has her arm round came to our Youth Camp last year. This was an enormous thing for this girl. To go to a normal young peoples event outside of her home town was just unbelievable for her! Our visit to these Roma children was a very moving time. Lydia is well used to seeing the poverty and very basic conditions found in her home country of South Africa, but this is Europe and it came as a bit of a surprise. Thursday afternoon saw us catch the furgon (minibus) for the 90 minute ride over the mountains to Elbasan. You can see the snow still on the surrounding mountain tops. Beautiful. And the main street of Elbasan, Boulevard Qemel Stafa. No sooner had we unpacked in our apartment we set off to see the people at the second Alpha course that the church we go to in Elbasan is running. Over 30 people were there. Some were from the church and attending the course others were completely new friends who had come along. There was a very good atmosphere and excellent for us to meet people who we know as friends. Then onto see a family Ann and I know and greet them and their daughters. Lydia was introduced to the obligatory Turkish coffee and glass of raki! Friday morning we took Lydia to see the local market, pazaar, and have coffee. In the afternoon there was a Word Plus teaching time to the leaders of the 6 Newfrontiers churches in Albania when Robert from Lezhe and I spoke. When this had finished Lydia had chance to meet 2 of the Children's workers from Edi and Artina's church in Korca. Here they are having a good talk whilst music and Albanian style dancing is going on in the background. We had more teaching sessions this morning, Saturday, when Robert, Edi from Korca and I spoke followed by lunch of guess what?! This was just part of the 35 large pizzas we got through! Another session from me and Robert and then we were finished this Word Plus training . Ann and Lydia are now on their way to Librazhd with Ilir Qelemeni, as I write this, to meet with the girls there who run their Children's work. Then tomorrow Lydia will see the Children's work here in Elbasan and in the evening meet all the Children's Ministry workers. Below is a photo of Robert speaking to some of the 35 people at the training sessions. We brought out a projector that has already been put to good use and a MP3 recorder to record all the teaching that then can be made available to everyone. As I write this I reflect on what a full and exciting time it has already been and there is more to come. Love from Ann, Lydia and me.