Friday, December 13, 2013

December rose...

Living in Tirana has it's wonderful a beautiful rose blooming in December. This rose is in the garden where I live...

Thank you Lord...for this precious gift...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...there will not be a turkey on our table...but chicken.  Remember, that Thanksgiving is not a holiday here...but the American missionaries get together, and some Albanians join us for the food.

Turkey is very expensive here, and not easy to find until the first part of December. Fresh turkeys can be found in the in this picture, sitting...waiting for someone to buy them.  These turkeys are purchased around the first part of December...taken home and fattened up for New Year's dinner.

The price...1400lek per kilo.  Ok... so here is the conversion:

  • a kilo is 2.2#
  • 1400lek is about $13.58 USD
  • so...about $6.30 a pound. 
  • these fresh birds are about 5-7 kilos
  • one fresh turkey>>>$69.30-$97

Chicken it is....

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.  

“I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,  And will call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:17

Where's the beef...???

The weather has turned cold here, -1C and -3C are forecast for the next few nights. (It is unusual for the temperature in Tirana to dip below 0C...which is of course freezing)   Our winter rains have snow, but still chilly.  I thought some beef stew with biscuits sounded really good.  I bought all the fresh vegetables...but NO BEEF.  I have gone to the stores where I have bought meat in the past and all they have right now is pork.  I was told it is too early to have beef.  Is beef seasonal...?  Why is there only pork in all the markets?  There are some smaller meat markets, but I am not sure of the quality of the I didn't look any further. 

Why when my heart was set on beef stew is there only pork available?  

Hmmm....carne adovada might work...I have the red chile pods, and pork. I could make tortillas... 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Smart phone tutor...

As I was trying to figure out how to use my new "smart phone"...I just started pressing buttons to see what I could find, I even "googled"  several how-to took me an hour to figure out how to turn off the prediction feature on my phone. Sometimes I actually send text messages in albanian...and the prediction feature puts up really strange words. 

I have a friend and I knew he was a computer/web set up I called him.  I met him for coffee...and what a blessing. He helped me set up my phone, with the icons that I will use, and he removed the ones I won't use. He set up my GPS map to Tirana, Albania...and showed me how to use it. He helped me understand between when my phone uses wi-fi and "data" and installed an app to help me know how much data I have used each month, so I don't go over the limit.  I know what the difference is between an "app" and a "widget".  

So now...I feel that I can use my smart phone and understand some of the features it has to offer.  What a blessing it was to have someone sit down with me what I needed to know and understand...and now be able to use my cell phone with some understanding of what I am doing.

Yes...I know how to make calls, send messages, and even add photos of my granddaughter, Hannah, to my wallpaper.

Life...always an adventure....!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smart phone...ok Smart phone user...not ok

For those of you that know me well, I prefer to have a cell
phone that rings, and sends messages.  Nothing more...

I have had to upgrade my current cell phone, it does not have the ability to "roam" when I travel outside of Albania.
Which leaves me without any phone when I travel to Kosova or ???

Ok, so I shopped around. I didn't want an expensive phone. (plus I rec'd a 30% discount!) This phone had good reviews, and was hailed as a good starter phone for teenagers.  (nothing was said about older missionary women who are technology challenged!)

I got my new phone yesterday. The owner's manual is of Albanian. But wait, there is an English version on the internet. It is basically written with the assumption that the person reading the manual knows what all the terminology means.  What is the difference between an app and a widget...?

So far....I have installed the SIM card, charged the battery, all of my contacts transferred to the new phone, YEA...!!!, set the date and time, and it seems to be connected to my gmail, though I am not quite sure how that happened.

There are other features that would be nice to have...if I can figure out how to use them.  For example, it has a GPS app on it, but the map is for the US...that doesn't really help me much here. I am going to ask around to see if some of the younger missionaries, or missionary kids would be willing to give me a "tutorial" on how to use my new phone.   I am pretty sure that there are no "classes" at the Vodafone store.

I think if it rings...I know how to answer it.  Haven't tried a text message yet...maybe tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I told you so...!

Today, as I was returning from a short trip of errands, one of the young boys that plays soccer in my neighborhood asked me a question in Albanian.  Translation: "Can you get my ball that went into the yard where you live...?"   I told him sure, unlocked the gate, gave him his ball. He immediately ran to some of his friends and said..."I told you she understands Albanian!"


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Goats and Sheep...

Goats, just hanging out on top of an old truck
 in the mountains of Corfu, Greece

              Sheep grazing below  my balcony in Kassiopi, Greece.  You can hear the "shepherd" talking to them

Friday, October 11, 2013

A little taste of Wisconsin in Greece...???

Today...I was in one of the small markets along the coastal road of Corfu Island, Greece.  I found Wisconsin Cheddar was $13.00 a kilo...I purchased 200gr.  I have been craving cheddar cheese...even trying to figure out a way to have someone bring me some from the US. There  are many really good cheeses to be found in the Balkans, but nothing tastes the same on a bowl of red chile as cheddar cheese.

I never would have expected to see cheddar cheese in Corfu.  I am sure the man that served me was wondering why I was so excited to see "cheese". 

One of God's little surprises...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On the Corfu, Greece...

I left early this morning from Tirana, headed to Corfu, Greece, for a time of "retreat", and to attend a conference for missionaries serving in Albania. I did not know that this trip would be a test of my driving "skills"...

To start with, I practiced many u-turns, and multiple trips around "round-abouts"...I got lost several times going through Durres...and I was only a hour into my day of driving.

I took the route that was suggested, leaving the coastal road and going inland through the mountains. There was a stretch of road, 45 km...that was literally "not a road"! It took me nearly 2 hours, and I had to stop often and practice my make sure I was still on the correct road to Gjirokaster. I was very grateful to finally be on pavement again...!

Non-paved road to Gjirokaster, Albania

The next test in my journey..was the winding, hairpin curves of going over the mountain to Iguomenitsa, Greece, where I was to take a ferry to Corfu. (I missed the turn off to the new highway and the tunnel through the mountain.) I have never driven a road with so many twists and sharp curves...there was no other traffic as everyone else was on the new road.  But...the scenery was beautiful!
Mountains near Iguomenitsa, Greece

Mountains near Iguomenitsa, Greece

The next part of my journey...was the easiest...a 1.5 hour ferry ride to Corfu Island.  It was dark with heavy rains...but I didn't have to drive...just sit and enjoy the ride

Once on Corfu, the biggest challenge was before me. Heavy rain, narrow winding roads, hairpin curves, dark, and I was getting tired.  I followed the road, praying that God would provide a "sign" that I was even on the correct road.  I saw a family getting into their car in a small village. They spoke English...yes, correct road, 8km more.  When I got to Kassiopi, I called my hotel, and they sent the father-in-law to meet me so I could follow him to the hotel. Thank you Lord...! I would have never found this place in the dark with heavy rains. 

The trip took me 14 hours...much longer than I expected...but it was a beautiful adventure...and God provided each step of the way.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Dance ~~~

August 28, 2013...the celebration of the marriage of Lirak Gjoshi and Suela Bega, two very precious young believers.  I am their "American mother", and I have been greatly blessed to see the Lord work in their lives and be at their wedding. The wedding was very special, glorifying God, simple and elegant. 

Suela and her father

Suela...absolutely beautiful...

 Lirak and Suela...their first dance as husband and wife...

Z. dhe Znj  Gjoshi
(Mr. and Mrs. Gjoshi)

Their adventure in life is just beginning...

Monday, August 12, 2013

No OSHA in Albania...

 Last Tuesday, I had a new heating/air conditioning unit installed in my apartment. Remember I am on
the second floor of a 3 story house. These two workers were very flexible and agile as they took out the old unit, the large condenser unit is attached to the outside wall, then they re-installed the new condenser just below the window you see in these photos.  No safety belts, just great balance and trust.  There is concrete and a few bushes on the ground so it would not have been pretty if this young man had fallen.  I asked if they had insurance...everyone just laughed.  

My landlady, Lule...served the workers apple juice, and if you look closely there are 2 shot glasses of "canadian whiskey"...she actually gave it to them before they were done.  I provided cold water...I guess my hospitality skills need some work.

No injuries...and I am enjoying my new air conditioner. It works great.

Always an adventure...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August Heat

When I first visited Tirana last September, I heard stories of the heat in August and how the city empties out for the entire month.  Now...into the first week of August, I am getting a taste of August heat.  Our weather had been mild for here up until the 22nd of July, highs in mid 80's, lows at night into the low 60's.  Then...we went straight into the high 90's and low 70's. Today, we are forecast to be 100 degrees.

I have learned something about the effect of humidity on temperature. In the early mornings, when the temperature is about 70 degrees, 40% humidity makes it feel like 80 degrees, with 40% humidity it feels like 90 degrees, with 40% humidity makes it feel like 91, and when it tops 100 degrees, with 40% humidity it feels like 109.  Some mornings the humidity is 60% or more, and by noon the humidity is down to 25-35%, and then in the evening back up to 40-50%.

I use the BBC weather link for forecast for Tirana.  This coming week the forecast for each day is 103-111 max temperature.  How ever you look at that will be hot!  Does it really matter after it tops 100 degrees?

Tirana is empty...the center of town that I dread driving through, see earlier post in January, there is absolutely no traffic, no pedestrians...I almost feel strange driving through this area...I have the road all to myself...and that was at 5pm on a weekday.  The nearest beach is about 1 hour away, and August is the month that the majority of Europe take a vacation.  It is not unusual to see stores closed, with a sign that says they are on vacation, be back September 1st.

Something Pastor Alex said this morning really  made me smile.  There is no air conditioning in our church building...2 small oscillating fans and open windows.  It is pretty warm in there.  It feels great to raise your arms during praise God, and to cool off a little too!. (just kidding). Anyway, Pastor Alex said, "... people tell me they won't come to church during the summer because it is too hot"  He tells them,  " do you know how hot it is in hell?"

Always an adventure....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Golf anyone...???

On a recent adventure driving through Serbia to attend a mission's conference in Vajta, Hungary, I encountered a hail storm that was clearly a first for me, as well as for the other young people with me.  On a major highway,  with no place to get under cover, we experienced "golf ball" sized hail. All we could do was stop along the edge of the highway, and seriously pray for God's hand of protection.  It was a very long 20 minutes, and the storm was not moving, we were finally able to slowly drive out of the path of the hail stones. 

As each hail stone hit the sounded like an explosion. My prayer was the windshield would not break. There were other drivers trying to cover their cars with jackets, towels, or whatever they could find...I was not brave enough to get out and be hit with these hail stones.  My car has a few new "character dimples"...but it will always be fun to tell the story, and show the photo.

To be honest...I was was seriously intense...!

Did you know where the term "FORE" comes from? It is Scottish in origin, and was used to warn anyone standing or moving in the flight of a golf ball.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Road trip to Vajta, Hungary~~~

June 23, Lirak, Suela, Urim and I headed for Vajta, Hungary, to attend the Calvary Chapel Leadership /Eastern European missions confernce

Thank you all so much for your prayers...We knew that we were bathed in prayer the entire trip. We left Prishtina at 6am...drove to Malishevë to pick up Urim and we were on our way at 7:30.   We got lost in Macedonia...and lost 1.5 hour of time...but we were not discouraged.  An angel in a small red car said..."follow us"...we will show you to the Serbian border. We stopped to pray for God's favor.  At the Serbian border...Lirak and Urim were not allowed to enter...they are from Kosova and they can not cross into Serbia there. So...we turned around and drove back to try another border crossing from a smaller town.  Road construction in Gjilan...and we were lost a maze of winding narrow Kosova. Another angel in a small red car...said..."follow us, we will show you the way" (the angel did stop for bread ;-))  We stopped for lunch, sent an email to CCBCE in Hungary for prayer and that we were now 5 hours behind schedule.  We prayed all the way to the border...that Lirak and Urim could cross.  Out of problem. At Serbia, the border police told Lirak and Urim to come out of the car and follow him...Suela and I were told to park and wait.  We prayed for the boys...God's favor, the mighty name of Jesus, that the Holy Spirits would flow out of Lirak and Urim.  Then Suela and I looked over and Lirak and Urim were laughing...what...???  The border police asked Lirak if it was true that men from Gjakova wear red underwear?  Lirak said yes, there was a comment about being searched to see if it was true, and Lirak replied "only by a female officer"...and Suela and I were praying thinking they were being detained.  They were each given a special document so they could cross. 
Right after crossing into Serbia, we could see a big storm ahead of us.  GOLF BALL SIZE HAIL...ON THE HIGHWAY...NO PLACE TO HIDE.  But the wings of God's angels...kept the  hail from breaking the windshield. Each time one just sounded like the windshield would just explode. There are some new "character dimples" on the roof and hood of my car.  We were able to drive after about 20 minutes...then were in heavy rain. We saw on the news about an hour later when we had to stop and get out of the car...there were cars washed away with the rain....and hail stones larger than we experienced.  As we got close to the border...we were not certain of the signs and stopped to ask again for angel in a green van..."follow me".   (all of these angels, spoke either albanian, or serbian or english)  We finally made it to Belgrade at 9pm...We were hoping to be in Hungary by 9pm.  At the Serbian took 30 minutes to search my car...taking out all the mats, looking under the car, in the engine, door panels...everywhere.  We were allowed to pass. At the Hungary car was really searched again, all bags out, searched through, interrogation as to why we were going to Hungary...note to self..."Bible conference" makes no sense in this part of the country...even if the guards speak English. It took us over an hour to cross this border area..but we were finally into Hungary.  We had great signs...until we were in the smaller rural area. We made it to the small town that CCBCE was very close to, and were lost.  2:30 in the morning who do you ask...?  Another angel walked by, 2:30 in the morning...and he gave us directions to the school.  We made it to the gate of the school. LOCKED...!  21.5 close but so far away.  We rang the gate buzzer for 15 answer. I told Urim...honk the horn. Lirak replied..."ms will wake people up"  I replied.."do you want to sleep in the car...?"   Even with the horn...nobody came. Lirak climbed over the fence and pounded on a door in a house next to the gate...finally someone answered and asked him if he climbed over the gate?  Yes...!   At 3:30, we were in our room.  It didn't take long to fall asleep, breakfast at 8.  This was a 22.5 hour long day.  We discovered on Monday...that all the staff, everyone at CCBCE were praying for us.

One very amazing every Serbian border crossing, the man in the Serbian police uniform was an Albanian man...God's favor...!  Every Angel...was able to communicate with us...and led the way to where we were going...!

We laughed...God provided scriptures and we prayed His promises the entire trip.  The motto of our trip..."Continue straight"....even if the road curves...continue straight.  And we are all still friends...! 

Next time I come...we are taking a short cut...!  (anything is shorter than 21.5 hours) From Tirana to Vajta...1500 km...! and 2 tanks of gas~~~70€

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Road Trip~~~

I have been in the planning stages of a road trip to Vajta, Hungary to attend the Leadership Missions Conference at CC Bible College at the end of June.  I have made the trip before by flying to Budapest, staying the night and then taking several trains to Vajta...of course it was an adventure transferring to the different trains. The conductor always provided another passenger for me to follow to get off and get on the next train.

This year...I am driving. The flights and train fares are nearly $400, I can drive 800km in my car for about $60.  From Tirana to Vajta it is about 950km (625miles) each way.  I had to purchase international insurance which was about $25 for 2 weeks, as well as an international permit for my car, about $5.  I will drive to Prishtina the first day, 3 1/2 hours, and spend the night...then it will take another 10 hours to Vajta.  Lirak, my dear friend, will help with the driving.

Now for the route to Vajta.  Initially, I had decided to take the shorter route from Tirana, through Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina into Hungary.  Due to transit visa expenses for my friend Lirak we moved on to plan B...through Serbia.  Lirak, being from Kosova...has to have a "transit visa" for each of these countries, which takes a long time and a lot of money. The new route goes from Tirana, to Prishtina, to Macedonia, the entire length of Serbia into Hungary. In the past I would get out my paper atlas and plan the route. The paper map I have from the US is 7 years old...and to be honest...the roads in eastern Europe have significantly changed.  So...I moved on to Google maps which for the most part worked pretty well.  I received some counsel from other missionaries that travel the route from Macedonia to Hungary often.  Great tips and encouragement for the trip. 

Interesting facts regarding this trip:

  • It is not possible to enter Serbia from Kosova.  Serbia still does not recognize Kosova, and if you are in Kosova without going through Serbia are in the country illegally. So...that is why we must drive south to Macedonia to enter Serbia. But...on the return trip, we can save 250km of travel, because we can enter Kosova from Serbia, not having to go all the way south to Macedonia.
  • There are required items that must be in the car: reflective vest, reflective triangle, first aid kit, tow rope, and safety helmet. I understand all the other in the event you break down on the side of the road.  What is the helmet for...?   Hmmm....???
For the very last part of the trip, Google maps was not very specific about the directions to the Bible college campus.  I asked one of the staff at the Bible college for specific directions from the closest city.  He sent me GPS coordinates.  Really...??? Clearly this is a sign of our technology saturated society.  My cell phone only sends text messages and rings.  My car does not have GPS.  My friend Lirak has been a student at the Bible I will rely on him for directions the last 50km. 

Stay tuned....always an adventure!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Brethren" from afar...

Today at Kisha i Kalveri, there was an international presence: 4 man each from Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia all traveling together sharing the Gospel, and another man from Canada who was a journalist.  The teaching was in Serbian...translated into was about the Love of God and being obedient to His commandments.  

It was a challenge for me to not listen to the "Serbian" and focus on what the translator was saying in Albanian.  I could follow what was being taught, as I was aware of the verses in 2 Chronicles 17:1-10.  

It was a great blessing for our fellowship at Kisha i Kalveri. 

Besides the teaching...God showed my heart that there are Serbian "brothers and sisters" that have a heart to share the Gospel in the Balkans...and were willing to come and to encourage the believers in our fellowship.  From my experiences while living in Kosova, my perspective of Serbians was quite biased. God continues to work in my see people the way He sees them, and to love others in the same way He loves me.  

What an amazing surprise...! 

Monday, June 3, 2013


Since I moved to Albania last November, I have been exploring the process of getting my car registered in Albania.  In my mind I did not even consider the fact that I was now "importing" a car.  This was something new for me.  The first path to registration, through the organization that supports missionary and Christian ministry work, ended with some disappointing news last week, after 10-12 hours of obtaining documents, notary expenses etc.  Since I am serving with a medical ministry my car is not eligible for the waiver of customs fees.  

Last Thursday I went to the customs office, for 3 1/2 hours.  I returned to the customs office on Friday with another Albanian gentleman, and 5 1/2 hours later had my import documents.  There was a nervous moment when the office staff learned that I had moved to Albania last November, 7 months earlier. This meant I would need to pay a penalty fee of $500 USD, above the $720 USD customs fee.  OUCH...! 

But GOD...!

In the process, one of the office workers discovered a passport stamp from Kosova, for Jan 2013...and guess what?  NO Penalty Fee...!!!  Also, when the staff learned I was a missionary...they did not charge me the "foreigner" rate, but the "kosovar" rate.  I never heard what that saved me. 

Today I completed the registration process, paid taxes, had the car inspected and now have Albanian license plates. Another 3 1/2 hours of time.  The fees were very inexpensive...compared to what I had to pay for customs fees, less than $100 USD. 

It is clearly a "man's world" at the customs office and the registration center...I was the only woman I saw the entire time. I am very thankful for the Albanian gentleman that helped me through this process. 

Always an adventure...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sweetness of Spring~~~

This morning I had the door open to my balcony, and I was sitting on the couch reading.  Suddenly, I noticed the sweetest fragrance.  I have never smelled this before...I can not fully describe it.  I discovered the lemon tree in my yard is blooming, and filling the air with the sweetness of spring.  

Wow...what a special gift from God...!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Back to school...

Today I had the opportunity to attend a physical therapy class for 2nd year students. The class was cardiac pathology/physiology...and yes it was all in Albanian. I understood the discussion.  (latin is the same everywhere) The teacher was a cardiologist, and the students only knew him by his first name....Zamir.  

The students sitting in the front of the room next to the teacher, came to class late...those were the only chairs left in the room.  Note to self..."don't be late to class!"

I found it very interesting.  Any student that came to class after 9am...knocked quietly on the door, opened it, and asked for permission to enter...the teacher then waved them into the class room.  I don't think I have ever experienced that kind of courtesy at the college level.  At one point this teacher made a comment about a few students that were talking...they were respectful and stopped their conversation.

This class was a review of hypertension and hypotension (high or low blood pressure) and the teacher involved the entire class...there were even a few moments of humor when they were discussing that men could drink more alcohol than women before having an influence on blood pressure.

I was a little nervous that I would be asked a question...what if I didn't know the answer...???

It was fun to meet the students, future physical therapists...

always an adventure...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Good morning...Tirana

This is the orthodox church bell tower near my apartment in Tirana.  Every morning at 7 am...I get to hear the chapel bells.  Later in the day the tower plays another tune...but not near as special as the one first thing in the morning.


Monday, April 8, 2013


Last weekend I was visiting a dear friend in Prishtina, Kosova, she was my first Albanian teacher in Prishtina in 2008.  Her daughter, Lidia, asked me to read her a book....Snow White and the Seven 
Dwarfs.  Of course the book was in Albanian and it was a challenge for me to read to her. I love to read books to children changing your voice to make it more exciting.  I was having trouble getting through some of the unfamiliar words....words like, xhuxhmaxhuxhat.   The thing that made me laugh is that Lidia...3 years old...was correcting my Albanian pronunciation of the words in the story.  I tried to skip a few words, my tongue was in knots already, and she corrected me. She knew the story very well.  Towards the end of the book, Agnesa, Lidia's mother came into the living room, and Lidia asked her to finish reading the book.  To be honest...I was relieved...I didn't think I could say, "xhuxhmaxhuxhat" one more time. 

So...are you curious how to pronounce it...???


xh=j in jaw
u=u in put
m=m in make
a=a in father
t=t in toy

stress the second syllable.  Good Luck!

oh yes...the word means "dwarfs" in this case.

Always an adventure, to have your Albanian pronunciation corrected by a 3 year old.  Still learning...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

House call....

Sunday morning...8 am....I was still in my jammies, enjoying quiet time with the Lord. There was a knock on my apartment door, my landlord was calling out my name.  So, I answered the door, not knowing that she had a man with her to repair the leak in the bathtub faucet. come on in and fix the faucet.

30 minutes later the leak was repaired.

8am on a Sunday morning...really?  I had mentioned to my landlord that the leak was getting worse about a month ago...I had completely forgotten about it.  Evidently, she hadn't forgotten.

It makes me smile...always an adventure...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Traffic in Tirana~

 My first trip to Tirana was an adventure to say the least.  I was completely overwhelmed by  the traffic, and the fact that I was lost just about pushed me over the edge. Everyone was honking their horns at me. My friend that had provided the directions asked me where I was in relation to the canal.  What canal...?

I finally got to where I was supposed to be, and if I was a drinking person (which I am not) I would have had a shot of raki (moonshine on steroids)    
These photos only partially provide the full impact of driving here. This area is a huge roundabout, that is to assist with traffic flow, as you can is flowing in many different directions. Add to the mix...the pedestrians crossing the street, where ever they can find a space. I always try to cross with a increases your chances of crossing safely. Mandatory prison time is the penalty for hitting a pedestrian.

When I got home and looked at my photos, I discovered that I captured this man in a wheelchair, going the wrong way crossing the same road that was bumper to bumper a few minutes earlier.

I am learning to drive here...there is a rhythm. I am thankful for the fact that I have a small car...sometimes I can just squeeze between all the other cars.  I was stopped by the police one morning, 5:30am.  I had made an illegal left turn. I was following 3 other cars that made the same turn.  The police officer asked me where I was from, I told him I was American...he said please don't make this turn again. No ticket. The only way to get to my street where I to make an illegal left hand turn with all the other cars.

Life in the Balkans...always an adventure....