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!
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