Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sunday lunch in Kukes


This is my first attempt at writing my blog using Blogsy. Any errors blame me

The photo above is of the whole kid that was placed on the table along with several types of goats cheese, salads, chips and corn bread for us to devour.


This second photo perhaps gives you a clearer idea of some of the spread. No that is not HP sauce in the bottle but beer from Korca.

Sitting down to eat was Nadi and Sofi, Ida, her sister Mira, Elsa, Nida, Nadi's sister from Michigan, Gezim, who gave me a bottle of local blackberry raki, Elsa, another girl and Ann and me. So here is a photo of the girls after our meal. What you cannot tell from the photo is that we are half way up a mountainside overlooking a huge reservoir with mountains surrounding us and the hot air from the mountains blowing down on us. The temperature was 43C, but fortunately we were in the shade.

So we have from l to r Ann, Sofi, Ida, ?, Elsa and in front Mira and Nida. After lunch it was time to go back to the hotel, shower, have a rest and get ready for the evening wedding party. You will appreciate that for the girls to get ready took a while. Ida said she would be ready for about 8, but when I phoned her just after 8 the girls were still at the hairdressers!!

Then it was off to the final wedding celebration along with 300 other friends and relatives! An evening of dancing, eating, singing and celebration until 3 in the morning. More to follow..



Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Final wedding party!

After lunch on the Sunday afternoon it was time to return to our hotel and a bedroom that is air conditioned-wonderful! A chance to cool down, have a shower and a brief rest before getting ready for the final event. The wedding parties started last Wednesday! We were collected and taken with Ida to the final wedding party with 300 people present. Food was already laid out on the table and the eating and drinking and dancing began. If you have ever been to a disco or similar then you will have experienced when the noise from the sound system vibrates your internal organs. Well it was like that when we walked in the door! There is a formality to the occasion with different family members being seated in the right place and the bride and groom are at a table overlooking the whole proceedings, but they stand up all the time, yes all the time, as a mark of respect to everyone present. The bride looks miserable, which she is supposed to do, as she is leaving her parents home. Part way through the evening her father came with about a dozen other family members. That are clapped as they come in, are seated and fed whole roast lamb, exchange pleasantries with the grooms family and them after a while leave, again to applause. The women's dresses are a sight to behold. Only photos will do them justice. All the women on our table had 2 dresses for the wedding party that night and changed half way through the evening. Sofi, declared that she had bought 10 dresses with her for all the wedding events. As the women are all dark haired and darker skinned than Ann, they wore vibrant colours. Silver, gold, orange, crimson red, royal blue, purple and so on. I am told they are bought on line or in Albania or I know they are easily obtainable in Kosovo only a few miles away where dresses come from Iran and Turkey. The dancing, similar to Greek style, is done holding hands in a circle always moving anti clockwise. You never dance on your toes, it is always with a flat foot to the ground. Different men and women lead the dancing, sometimes it is the fathers friends who dance, then the mothers friends and so on. Songs are sung to the music all the time. At specific times the groom and then the bride and groom dance in the middle of the room and they are showered with money, notes, no coins! Food keeps coming and drinks are replenished immediately. Eventually at 2.30 am the bride and groom leave and go to his parents house for the night. And this is where they live until they go to a house the groom will provide. If he had insufficient money, then they would live with his parents and the bride would be at the mother in laws beck and call. That is the custom in Albania and has been for centuries. This results in families building many storied houses, 4 stories is common, with parents living on one level and their sons with wives on other levels. And so to bed! Hot and tired. But up in the morning and after breakfast, topped up my mobile phone (I have an Albanian SIM card), and then had coffee with Nadi, Sofi's husband who had kindly booked us a seat on the bus back to Tirana. Kukes and the mountains and the stifling heat were left behind with memories of a wonderful wedding and new people we had met. PS the blog has been written from my iPad which is great in one way in that like now I am using a hotel wi-fi to send this and I don't have to hunt for an Internet cafe. The down side is that I haven't yet worked out how to add pictures to a blog when sending from the iPad. From a computer no problem, just down load photos from our camera and then up load them to the blog. So sorry no photos as yet as we have been on the move from event to event and meeting one person to the next,without getting to an Internet cafe. But photos will be added. Love to you all, Ken and Ann

Sunday, 15 July 2012

It's only 43C outside

Such a lot has happened since our last blog last Tuesday. The Youth Camp has come and gone, and our team of Liam, Dave, Pauline and Neil are now back in Bracknell. Dave speaks in the 10/10 this evening. Yesterday, Saturday morning we all piled aboard a forgon and headed home for Tirana the capital, a 3 hour journey in the heat. Ann and I got out and the team of four speed off to Rinas the airport to fly home. Ann and I have stayed on for a couple of reasons. Firstly we have been invited to a wedding in Kukes. Ida and Sofi and Nadi who come to our church have a family wedding and we are invited. This is an occasion not to miss. Forget English weddings that happen in one afternoon and evening. This is more of a biblical event where the wedding lasts several days and one begins to understand how one could run out of food and wine. After a brief lunch, we boarded a bus, slower than a minibus with soft suspension so you feel youa re on board a boat, with a gentle up and down motion most of the time. The hotel owner comes from Kukes, so when we explained we were going to a wedding there nothing was too much bother. Our suitcase were put in the back of a truck, we piled in the front and we were taken to pick up the bus. Just over two hours later we arrived in Kukes to be greeted by Ida. I cannot explain how wonderful it was. We have known Ida now for several years and like you we see her at church in Bracknell on Sunday, but now we were seeing her for the first time in her home country of Albania. An hotel had been arranged and we settled in. I ought to add that when Ida greeted us she was half-way through getting ready for the evenings event. That means her hair had already done by a hairdresser with like a small lace veil on her head, not covering her face at all, and full make up on. Not the Ida you normally see in Bracknell! A while later we were called and joined the procession from her family's house to the home of the groom. Ida and several of her family were dressed in traditional costume. Ida and her sister wore a Tirana costume, others the clothes of Trepoja or Kukes. We followed the young men who led a sheep, that would later be slaughtered, cooked and eaten, followed by the women and girls some of whom carried trays of food to be eaten and finally brought at the rear by two Romany men playing a drum and clarinet like instrument. Arriving at the house the music continues for several hours whilst mainly the women and girls dance in a circle holding hands. at one point Ann and I are invited in the house, men to the right, women in a neighbouring apartment to the left, to have a drink and a few nibbles of food. Then the groom appeared in a silver suit and wearing silver coloured shoes! He led the dancing for a while and all the women and girls were on their feet joining in the dance. The grooms party of about 12 then left for the brides house. By the time they had retuned in the small hours of the following morning, Ann and I were in bed. Now today, Sunday, we have toured the town of Kukes, had coffee in a restaurant 7 floors up with a good view of the city, and been invited out for lunch. Kukes became known outside of Albania in the Kosovo crisis of 2000, when hundreds of thousands of Kosovan Albanians fled into Albania and were encamped here. As a result, Kukes as a town, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Nadi and Sofi invited us out to lunch with Ida, her sister Mira and other family members. There was a wonderful array of salads, tave, (like a soft cheese cooked with liver), chips, corn bread, a whole variety of different goats cheeses and finally a whole grilled kid (young goat). The setting was fantastic looking across from our table outside to the mountains with the lakes that have been man made damming the river to create hydro-electric power. The hot air blowing from the mountains descended on our table and on us! After all it is only 43C outside!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Our 4th Youth Camp in Albania

Sunday evening saw Liam, Neil, Pauline, Dave and Ann and me head off to Gatwick to fly out to Albania. We have left the wet, wet, wet of England behind and now are enveloped in HEAT, HEAT! HEAT. Elbasan, the city where Ann and I spend most of our time in Albania has been enjoying 40-43C every day for the last month! Arriving at midnight we spent our first night in Tirana the capital. Then after breakfast we boarded an air conditioned minibus to bring us to Pogradec via Elbasan. In Elbasan we stopped off for a coffee break and giving us the opportunity for us to catch up with Ilir Koci who leads the church we know and to have a brief time with Blerim whose apartment we rent when we come here. It was opportunity too for the other four to head off to their favourite fast food haunt and have lunch. Dave and Liam have been here now several times and know their way round Elbasan. For Pauline and Neil it is their first time to Albania and to be thrust into the unrelenting summer heat and a very different culture to our own. Lunch over, it was on and upwards climbing into the mountains until we came to Lake Ohrid and Pogradec. Because of the heat there were far more people swimming and enjoying being by the lakeside than we have ever seen before. Having settled into where they are staying in the Nehemiah Centre, we went to the hotel where Ann I stay for an evening meal together. The setting is almost idyllic, looking out over the flat calm blue lake towards the mountains of Macedonia only a short distance away. The border is just 15 minutes by car. Now today, Tuesday, the young people from 5 churches have arrived, from Burrell, Tirana, Elbasan, Librazhd and Korca. It is great meeting young people and leaders who we know and being introduced to new faces. Already now in our 4th year we have young people coming whose lives were completely changed at a previous Youth Camp and are now firmly embedded in their home church. Our prayer for others is that this time will be a life changing moment for them too, when they become aware in a real and deep way of God' s personal love for them. Registration and lunch over, they will chill out, (how do you do that when everywhere is so hot?)and be ready for our first session this evening when Edi from Korca speaks. A big change this year is that we did not bring out a band, rather Colin Boyle and Dave Betts have been out here a couple of times in the last year preparing, encouraging and teaching the guys here so they are now ready to lead our worship at the Camp. I am sure they will serve us well. Time to go and hear them and worship God! Lots of loves from a very hot Albania, Ken and Ann PS photos to follow