After a good journey to Gatwick last Friday morning, kindly taken there by Karen Mehta, we checked in our not inconsiderable luggage including 4 guitars, a keyboard and two pedal boards, just had time to have some breakfast before getting on board our BA flight to Tirana.
On arrival we were met by Elmaz who met us last year and he brought us straight to Elbasan in his minibus. Robert Cook was also there and the mixing desk from his church was also loaded on board. This time we were travelling in daylight, so much better, as BA have changed their flight times. Over the mountains then to Elbasan, to the same apartment we had last year for our guys and then our girls and Ann and me were taken to our hotel. By now it was early evening and everyone was really hungry so off to the Real Skampis where we had our first meal. This restaurant is inside the walls of an old Turkish fort.
As a free starter we were given the Albanian version of spinach pie, cream cheese and spinach in layers of filo pastry. This is when we begin to learn from the team who doesn't like cheese, and then who doesn't like tomato and so on. The meal ended with plates of watermelon, melon and grapes. Very refreshing in the heat.
However the menu is extensive enough with pasta, pizza, risotto, salads, chips and meat for everyone to eat their fill.
This shows part of the walls of the fort and gives an idea of the setting. Some of the team of course eat anything that is going, and Sam is one of them! Sam will not go hungry! It takes really energy to play drums you know!
Saturday morning gave time for us to sort our selves and then prepare for the Concert in the Skampa Theatre. We met with Elsa again who took Matt, Stuart, Anna and Dave to the local radio station Radio Kleo, to do a live broadcast. Flori from Korca arrived in the afternoon. You may recall that Flori came second in the Albania has got talent TV show here. So it makes him pretty famous in Albania. Some people recognize him in the street! Elsa gave the introductions then Flori started the Concert and this was followed by our band. Here is Matt and the guys doing their stuff!
They were followed by Liam who had arrived only an hour or so beforehand coming straight from the airport. He gave a powerful talk involving the whole audience, and 2 guys in particular. He asked then "Had they ever lied?" and then What does this make them feel? and Do they like this? This led to God's plan to deal with this. Liam was very clear, good with the people and challenging all at the same time.
This photo shows you that watermelons are in! By the truck load.
Then on Sunday the team went to the Elbasan church where Liam spoke and the band played. Ann and I went to the nearby village of Hotolisht to attend the wedding of Valentina to Besnik. Besnik comes regularly to our church and Valentina was at our Ladies REAL conference in July. This is Besnik and Valentina with Ann and myself. There were something like 350 guests to this second day of the wedding. Yesterday was the Bride's day now it was the turn of all of Besnik's family and friends and people from the village to celebrate. There was music and dancing from 12 noon until about 5.30, 2 tables at a time taking it in turn to lead the dancing. Yes I had to get on my feet and join in! It is like Greek dancing all linking hands and going round in a circle. Besnik and Valentina have to stand most of the time and eat very little as they are standing to honour all those who have come. During the dancing people are giving and throwing money, paper money, at the lead dancer! This is collected off the floor by young boys who give the money to the band. As it is a village we were told that the music and dancing was very traditional. It certainly was very noisy and everyone was involved. I can see how just like Biblical times one could run out of food and wine!
Towards the end then Besnik and Valentina are hoisted on friends shoulders and dance round in a circle. Finally, finally the couple leave but not to go on honeymoon! I think Besnik and Valentina will be at the Concert we are giving in Librazhd tonight, Monday!