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