Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Youth Team to Albania Camp

Liam and the team of nine set off on Sunday evening for Stansted Airport to catch their Pegasus Airlines flight to Istanbul, a brief stay in the airport overnight and then fly from Istanbul to Tirana arriving at 8am on Monday. That was the plan. But the plan was thrown completely when their fight was cancelled. Pegasus, like a lot of budget airlines, don't fly everywhere on their route plan every day. Suddenly phone calls and texts are flying all over the place even if the plane wasn't! Pegasus could get them to Istanbul on Monday after midday but then they didnt fly to Tirana until Thursday, and they could only take 9 not all 10 of them. Um! This is Sunday evening when the church office is closed and some key staff are on holiday! But we all have mobile phones! In the end they all stayed overnight in an hotel near Stansted on Sunday night and then Pegasus flew them to Istanbul on Monday. The onward flight was with Turkish Airlines to Tirana who fly from the main international Ataturk airport, so that meant being transported from one side of Istanbul (Asian side) to the other European side. This was followed by futile attempts to sleep in the airport on Monday night before catching their early morning, now Tuesday, flight to Tirana, Albania.

I met them at the airport soon after 9am, all looking VERY tired. Bottles of cold water all round was the first thing and then all aboard the air conditioned minibus where they could relax knowing they really were now on the last leg of the journey. It didnt take long for most of them to fall asleep. This photo of Olu probably sums it up. No, he is not thinking with his eyes closed, he is fast asleep!

After 90 minutes or so we were in Elbasan the main city Ann and I stay in and a good place to have a break. Liam and others were hungry so fast food was the order of the day. Sufllaques were orderd with a bottle of cold water all for 200 Leke =£1each. It is amazing how food revives the spirits.



Another of couple of hours and we arrived at the Nehemiah Centre, Pogradec where we hold the Youth Camp. Sheer relief that the journey was over. Here we are right by Lake Ohrid and much higher up so the air is fresher and cooler. The team were greeted by Ben and Jack from our church who have been here a week already.
Bags and suitcases put in their rooms and then it was time to eat again. And this is what they tucked into, a hearty helping of a baked pasta dish with vegetables in it and cheese on top, a sausage, salad, potato soup if you wanted it, and watermelon.

Here is one young girl with her tray of food, and Ann in the background.

It was great to go round all the tables meeting the young people and their leaders from the churches represented here. Many have been coming for several years and we have got to know them well.

Finally, to show that Ann is here with me one of her by the lake this evening.

Lots of love from Ann and me, and grateful to God and to many of our staff playing their part for getting the team here safe and sound ready for the Youth Camp to begin.




Life in Elbasan

With the continued heat, 2 weeks of +35C, people were looking for this, the clouds that herald a thunderstorm bringing the cooling rain. And rain it did. Big heavy drops that drenched the streets and cooled the air, bringing a short relief from the heat. But just a couple of hours later the temperature was back to normal!
Sunday morning we worshipped with Ilir and Rudina and many people who are our friends, grateful for air conditioning! Ilir spoke from 2 Cor 5v17, on being new creatures in Christ.
On Sunday evening we made our way to Ilir and Rudina's apartment for an evening meal. In the road nearby is a huge hole exposing work that is being done on the main sewer drain. This hole was here in May when we came with our ladies to their apartment.
Rudina and 2 of her daughters, Sara and Eliada.
As usual the table was spread with food, boiled potatoes, because the English like them, roast chicken, salad,olives, boiled eggs, and pickled aubergine.
On Monday evening Ann had arranged a flapjack cookery lesson with Elsa. One of the first families we met when we came to Elbasan was Arti, Vali and their daughters Era and Elsa. We stayed in an apartment they rent out, and we have been friends ever since. So here is Vali with Era and Ann in the kitchen. First challenge was that they have no scales. Ann had brought with her the oats, golden syrup, baking parchment and a tin to cook the flapjacks in. Now you know some of the things thay go into our suitcases!
And the finished product!! Looks goos to me. We didn't get to taste it but I reckon Vali and the girls would have eaten most of it before Arti came home from work.
And a family photo with Elsa, Era, Vali and Ann with 2 girls from next door.
This was Monday evening and we were already aware that Liam and the team of 9 with him had had their Sunday late night flight with Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul cancelled and they had stayed overnight in an hotel near Stansted airport.
Their journey to get to the Youth Camp is another story.
From a continuing hot Albania.
Ken and Ann



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Elbasan - early in the morning

Saturday morning 25 July at 6.30 and the sun is appearing from behind the mountains to start another day here in Elbasan, Albania. The mist hangs over the river Shkumbini, but will soon disappear in the heat. I cannot say I am writing in the cool of the day as already the temperature is 30C and will quickly rise. Fortunately Ann and I are staying in an apartment with air conditioning else I am not sure what we would get done! Ilir and Rudina told us it has been hot all of July with the temperature reaching 44C on the day we arrived, last Wednesday. Turning my camera away from the sun, you can see Elbasan with its 125,000 people already bathed in sunlight and people are on the move. Many shops and the Post Office open at 7am. The Post Office, Banks and the new small supermarkets have air conditioning, all the others don't have it, so they swelter. Ice cream and water melon sellers do a roaring trade.
We arrived late on Wednesday evening to be greated by Tomor and Miranda who took us to an air condiotined hotel to stay overnight in Tirana. The same wonderful hotel we stayed with Catrina and the team of ladies for the UNIKE conference earlier this year. Surprise, surprise, they recognised us! Our original idea was to go straight to Elbasan when we arrived, but our flight turned out to be 4 hours later than planned arriving at 10.30 pm, so a few quick text messages were sent from Gatwick to Tomor and Ilir Koci and our schedule was changed.
The next morning after a delightful breakfast, we met Tomor and Miranda and had lunch together. They had asked us to bring a whole number of things from "uncle Tesco and aunty Waitose" as they describe it, and Catrina had sent a gift which delighted Miranda. Green and Black's chocolate is her favourite. Naturally we talked about the UNIKE ladies conference and the plans and date for next years conference. Some of you girls will have spotted Miranda has got her hair up. This is because of the heat and one way of trying to keep cool.
8 of their church young people and 7 from Miranda's home village of Kajan will come to our Youth Camp held next week. After much chatting it was time for farewells and we went on our way to Elbasan. Time for a short sit down to escape from the heat and then we walked the 1 kilometre to Ilir and Rudina's apartment for our evening meal with them and their 3 girls.
Rudina provides such wonderful food. Star attraction for me was the aubergines stuffed with onons, (Rudina had peeled 1 kilo of onions and cried for ages) tomatoes and garlic, and then cooked in the oven until really soft. Wonderful, with village sausages and salad.
With the heat, Ilir and Rudina and their girls all sleep in the lounge, on the settees and the floor, in the one room they have with air conditioning. Even so it can be hard to sleep well as the air conditioning is battling with such high temperatures even at night. Buildings here have no insulation, not even the new ones, so they are very warm in the summer and very cold in the winter.
Friday morning we rested and texted. I got in touch with Jorida Doce, who with 2 other girls is with Ben and Jack from Kerith. Ben and Jack came out here last week to spend time with the young people from the churches we know and encourage them to believe for great things at the Youth Camp and in their own town. Having started in Tirana and then having had 2 days in Elbasan, they were now in Librazhd, sleeping in peoples homes at night. The whole time will be a brilliant experience for them and they will get to know the young people, their towns, Albania and God far better. Today they move on to Korca and from there will go to the Youth Camp.
So another day dawns with its plans and purposes. We look forward to what God will do today!
Ken and Ann