Monday, December 22, 2014

Mudslide...road closed

A small town near Tirana, Ibe, that I travel through to visit one of the orphanages in Elbasan has suffered a serious mudslide. Actually, there is new road construction in the area and either the entire road collapsed, or the mountain was not shored up. Either way the road is closed.  I forgot to mention, this is our "torrential rain season in Albania"..for December the rainfall average is ~6".

The interesting part about all of this are the options that are in place to travel to Elbasan.

  • The first option is to drive to the coast, and enter Elbasan through old, narrow highways from the east. It is 120km vs 45 maps says 1 hour 40 minutes...add several hours to that figure.
  • The second option is to take a small commuter van up to one side of the mudslide/debris...walk for about 5 minutes through the path that has been made, and get on another commuter van and continue to your destination.  I have a friend that was told..."this detour trip increased my prayer life."
  • The third not travel to Elbasan until the road is open...maybe sometime in January.  (the year was not specified).
Always an adventure....!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Miracle in Tirana....!

While I was in the US, I ordered some new long sleeve t-shirts to replace the 6 year old shirts I was using.  One color, a forrest/teal green, I splashed with grease...two huge spots right on the front.  I tried everything I could think get the stains out.  This shirt had become a favorite...and now I had ruined it even before getting back home to Tirana.  I decided to take the shirt with me...I could still wear it under a sweater or if I had a really messy job to was already stained. 

A friend from Portugal once told me that Fairy liquid dish soap gets every stain out.  Even if it left a white spot on my shirt...I had to try.

The stains are gone...completely. After 4-5 washings in the US with all the "best products"...the everyday dish soap, Fairy Liquid, did the job.

Now...I have my favorite shirt to wear again...!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

IKEA..."meatballs' in Greece

Many times since I have moved to the mission field, I have heard about the shopping adventure at IKEA.  I have owned some furniture from IKEA...that comes apart and goes back together easily for moving...which is the nature of life on the mission field.  The only problem was...the stores were not located in Kosova or Albania. Recently, I was driving back to Tirana, and stopped at a new IKEA store in Ioannina, Greece.

Wow, it is a huge collection of "everything" you could ever imagine, and have never thought of before for your home. (and a lot of things you really can live without!) There are arrows to direct you through the you have to experience and see every department...even if you are only looking for a few specific items.  I got lost a few times...the signs were in Greek, of course, but never felt like I would still be in the store come closing time.  IKEA workers were everywhere and very helpful.

Of course, before I went there, 2 different people on 2 different continents asked me about the IKEA meatballs.  I was looking for a down comforter and floor lamp...what are you talking about "meatballs?"  Some friends who frequent IKEA told me that the meatballs were in fact really sure to get the sauce and the jam with them.  WHAT....?

So...after I finished shopping, put my purchases in my car...I went back in the store to experience the "meatballs"...complete with sauce and jam.  They were really good, sorry no photos of me enjoying the food.  I did however purchase 2 bags of frozen meatballs, some packages of sauce and a jar of jam to have when I returned home in Tirana.  I plan to invite a friend who had never been to IKEA, and thought the "meatballs" were only an urban legend...over for dinner.

Now I can mark this off of my "bucket list"....who would have thought that really yummy meatballs were in the same store with really cool home furnishings...?!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Automobile visa required in Greece...???

I was traveling to Corfu, Greece today, when I was met with a new and interesting requirement for international travel.  There was not a "visa stamp in my passport for my car".  Being an American citizen I did not require a "visa" stamp for myself, just a stamp for my car from when I visited Greece back in October 2013.  I had the international car registration papers, international insurance papers with me...but did not have a stamp in my passport for my "car" from my previous visit.  I was able to prove that I entered and exited Greece in 2013, but did not have any documents for my car.  I had never heard of this before. 
After 45 minutes of discussion and trying to understand the situation, I provided my Albanian residency documents and my business card from ABC Health Center, and the border police finally allowed me to enter Greece.  
Yes, I now have a document for my car, and I will make certain that I obtain the correct stamp when I return to Albania in 8 days.  
Each time I cross an international border, I am not sure what to is always an adventure!
One more thing:  my car was thoroughly searched again today as I was leaving Albania...everything taken out, all panels inspected, all compartments, every nook and cranny...but the guard never opened my suitcase. I so can't figure this out...why I am pulled aside to have my car searched...and the BMW and Mercedes go right on through...???  Am I being "profiled...?" 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Multi-cultural appliances...

I recently needed to replace one of my room fans...and to my surprise this fan had a lot of international connections.

As you can see, the brand name is German.

The box is in English.

Made in China.

Directions in Greek, all of them...except for the safety precautions...which were in English. (note: the safety precautions were not for this appliance...a fan, but were for use of an iron.  i.e. don't let children touch the iron when it is hot, etc)

Luckily, I have put this type of fan together before...and the pictures, work in any language.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Going home from Vajta....

The Foundations conference ended on Friday, June 20th, and at 6am on Saturday morning the four of us, Lirak, Suela, Urim and I were once again on the road...headed back to Kosova.  (I would drive back to Tirana on Sunday...)  There was not one single "car search" at any total, all 4 border crossings took a total of 45 minutes...combined.  Like that some kind of a record...???  Not one person even asked us if we had anything to declare.

I was very nervous as we approached the Gjilan, Kosova border crossing. A week earlier, Suela and I were not allowed into Serbia at this border...would they let us out of Serbia at this same crossing???  What if they separated us again...allowing the "boys" to cross and making Suela and I drive to Macedonia? I was too tired to add another 4 hours to our trip, Suela does not drive.

But GOD...!

We crossed without any incident...!  What a relief...!  

The return trip took us 13 hours total driving time...including borders and a sit down meal for about an hour.  We arrived at Lirak's apartment at 7pm.    

20 hours to get to Vajta...13 hours to get back home.  Hmmmm....???

I much prefer the shorter version. I can't really explain the 7 hour difference covering the same distance...but if you are driving in eastern Europe...don't count on the time that "google maps" tells you the trip will take...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Searched....! TWICE...!

On our way to Vajta, Hungary, to attend the Foundations conference at CCBCE, Suela and I had to cross into Serbia via the Macedonian border.  That was not in our plans.  Neither was the 40  minute, total car search by the 5 Macedonian border patrol men.  They pulled us out of the line to cross the border, and I thought why us?  Did Suela and I look suspicious?  Did they see an older model Toyota Yaris and think...."drug/gun smugglers"?  We drove into a special building that had a long pit, deep enough for men to stand under the seemed too wide for my little car to drive over without falling in.

Everything was removed from the car...and every panel, every nook and cranny, even the gas tank was inspected. They used a small micro camera and looked into everything. They were nice...asked us where we were going, we showed them the map, they asked us about our faith...they joked around with my "mace spray" they found in the glove box.  We had the "boys" luggage with us, but they didn't seem concerned.  At one point I asked them, "why did you pull us out of line".  All I was told is that I ask too many questions...then another border guard told me that they had to search 15 cars a day.  They put everything back in place...and sent us on our way.  (We were leaving Macedonia when this search occurred...would we be searched again in 50 yards trying to go into Serbia)  Thankfully no...!  ;-)

Then, after crossing the entire length of Serbia, as we were leaving to cross the border into Hungary...we were once again pulled out of the line and the car was searched.  35 minutes by 4 border patrol. They were not so nice or careful...they kind of just threw our stuff around, and insisted that we watch what they were doing. Again, the gas tank was inspected...this seemed really strange to me.  

Later, as we were finally in Hungary, and back on the road to Vajta...after taking one full hour to get across the border after being searched...we talked about why my little Toyota was searched TWICE!  

It had Albanian license plates....and there has been a lot of drug trafficking from fact the borders where we were searched have stopped many large shipments of drugs and guns.  

Now I know what "profiling" is all about.  I am thankful that these men are doing their jobs...and I was purposeful to thank tell them so...even though I was tired of being searched.  Lirak thought we should tell them that we had already been searched...and that would give us a "pass"....probably make them more determined to "detain us".  

It is always an adventure to drive through eastern never know what will happen at the border crossings.  

Road Trip to Vajta, Hungary...#2

On June 14, 6:15am, Lirak, Suela and I left Prishtina, Kosova, headed to Malishevë to pick up our other passenger, Urim. We headed to Gjilan, Kosova to cross the border into Serbia.

Last year, on the same trip, we drove to the border with Macedonia, as we were told that is where we needed to cross. The two young men from Kosova, could not cross there, and we were directed to the Gjilan border crossing. This year...we thought that we all needed to cross at Gjilan, so we drove directly there. WRONG THINKING....!

Lirak and Urim needed to cross at Gjilan, Suela and I had to cross in Macedonia. The boys hitch-hiked to the nearest Serbian town, Bujanovac. Someone told us a place to meet near the bus station, we had no phone service in any of our phones.  Suela and I drove the long way around to Bujanovac...taking 4 hours. We found the boys...out exploring the town, the waiter at the restaurant told us where they were.  

We were all together again...and headed to the conference center in Vajta.  I had made arrangements with the staff at the Bible college...they called us at 6pm to see where we were on the road. We had sent an email already explaining the "detour"...and they provided us with a code to open the gate, and where our room keys would be.

We arrived at Vajta...really tired, at 2:15 and a half hours faster than last year.  20 hours of travel total.  (and two really tough border crossings...see "searched" blog) 

We didn't get lost this golf-ball sized hail...just a really long detour. 

It is always an adventure...God kept us safe...and  we were excited to be at the conference...!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mirësevjen television interview~~~

"Mirësevjen", 22 maj 2014

Emisioni do të vazhdojë me një temë mjaftë të veçantë dhe të ndjeshme për të gjithë, fëmijët me aftësi dhe nevoja të veçanta. Të ftuara në studion e \"Mirësevjen\" janë Dr. Kathy Scott, fizioterapiste nga Qendra Shendetësore \"ABC\" dhe Oreada Kita, Drejtore e Qendrës \"Xhonatan\".

(translation): The show will continue with a very specific topic and sensitive to all children with disabilities and special needs. Invited to the studio of \ Mirësevjen \" are Dr. Kathy Scott, physiotherapist, from Health Center "ABC" and Oreada Kita, Director of the Centre "Jonathan".

Ada Kita and I were invited to be interviewed on a live morning show here in Tirana, about working with children with Down Syndrome and other special health care needs.

I was very nervous in considering whether to do this or not...but I rec'd some encouraging words, and a few "pep talks"....being interviewed on "live TV" was never on my radar...!

The moderator, Kozeta, was very good and made it easy for us. She spoke to me in English and translated for me.  It was a great opportunity to share the needs of the families and children with special health care needs, and the work of the Jonathan Center. 

 It turned out to be fun...yes...I am definitely laughing...!  When the YouTube link is posted, I will attach it to this blog so you all can watch it. 

always an adventure...!

Monday, May 19, 2014

I felt it...!!!

Early this morning at 2:59:19am there was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake here in Tirana.  The epicenter was south of Tirana.

It woke me up, and I thought "why is the bed moving and my light swinging from the ceiling...?"  

Am I thankful that I didn't rent that apartment on the 7th floor...!!!  

I haven't heard about any fact the first person to mention it during the day was another american just visiting for the week.

oh well...I guess it is just another day in Albania...

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Balcony garden...

 Those of you that know me, know that I love to garden. There is something therapeutic about having dirt under your fingernails.  I started collecting plants last spring/summer, and have added a few new geraniums in the window sill box. Some annuals that were a gift of seed last spring from friends in  NM, overwintered very well and are blooming now: the nasturtium and the snapdragons.  

At the end of the balcony is a is just now blooming and smells so wonderful in the mornings.  It has grown now so that it is hanging well over the when you climb the stairs into the can smell it.  I can also enjoy it when I am inside with the balcony door open.  

Also at the end of the balcony is a strange succulent type plant...that has hundreds of little starters that fall off of the branches...those are my "weeds"...I am pulling them from my other pots all the time. 

Our Spring has been cooler than normal, and I am will give my plants and the new starts a chance to get some strong roots before the summer heat arrives.

One of the girls from ABC Health was in disbelief that I purchased a "bag of dirt...!"  to pot all of my flowers. Wait until she learns that I used to buy bags of steer manure...!  Americans...we are a strange group...!

So...enjoy my little garden...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You go girls...!

The city of Albania is in the process of planting trees along our street.  Yesterday as I was walking to ABC Health center I noticed many new piles of dirt on the sidewalks...and then  I came across a group of women that were responsible for digging the holes for the trees to be planted.  They agreed to allow this  photo. The gentleman standing there...he was giving them orders.  There was some laughter as I took the photo, it made me smile that these women...aren't really dressed for this kind of "labor"...but they are doing the work...! The Albanians are not afraid of hard work! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A little bit of Mexico in Tirana...

Look at the items on this actually says
Santa Fe...the sauce was good, but
Definitely not spicey.
Look at item number 8...don't know what that is.
We had a lot of fun and laughter just reading the
menu...the Santa Fe spring rolls were very good,
but of course could have used some "heat" in the

Our waiter, had the facial hair added with a marker,
and he spoke no Spanish. 

Suela, Lirak and the Mexican restaurant. The food was good,
and flavorful, but I need to go back and
teach the chef the definition of  "spicey " !

The weather was beautiful, we had a  table on the porch...
it was a  nice way to spend the afternoon with friends...! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day...Albania

 I have been a part of  the Jonathan Center since I moved to Albania.  The Jonathan Center provides support, information, medical care referrals, developmental education, counseling and of course, physical therapy (me), for children with Down Syndrome and their families.  

Families from all socioeconomic backgrounds receive services from  the Jonathan Center.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, and the theme for this year is "Let me in, I want Health care".  I had the honor of being in the video for Albania...please go to the following link to see all the countries that a part of this celebration in 2014.

 The phrase on this banner, in translation says... "We celebrate the colors of life behind an extra chromosome. "  

Part of the campaign to bring awareness to Down Syndrome in Albania was the "lots of socks" campaign.  We sold one, brightly colored striped sock, and encouraged people to wear it on their jacket, sweater, or lab coat.  All of the staff at ABC health center joined in on the fun...wearing the socks for two weeks prior to the celebration.             

It was a very busy week for everyone involved...but we were so greatly blessed by the support and energy to increase awareness of the children and their families.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Now that is something new...!

I was recently walking through a park near my apartment and came across this "recycling center".  Wow...! In the Balkans...? If you have ever visited Kosova or Albania, you know that trash is absolutely everywhere, and then out of nowhere there is a "recycling center"? 

There is actually a lot of "recycling" that takes place in Tirana, at least along the street where I live. The dumpsters are constantly being cleared of plastic bottles, scrap metal, plastic bags, wood, and whatever else may be discarded. You will see small carts with huge bags overflowing with crushed plastic bottles and other recyclable items. 

Back to the "recycling center".  I was told by a friend, that there are only a few of these "recycling centers" in all of Tirana...that the government moves them around each week, to make it look like there are a lot of them. There is no way to find out what happens to items that are actually put into the "recycling center", my guess would be that they are emptied into the dumpsters with everything else. 

I guess it is a place to start...???

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How much...???

Here is a glimpse into the cost of living here in Tirana, Albania.  I decided to figure how much things cost in $USD.  So here are things I purchased or paid for in the last week. 

  • oatmeal, bought in bulk, $1.31 per pound
  • eggs, with chicken poop on them, $0.14 each
  • oranges from Greece, $0.43 per pound
  • mandarin oranges, from local growers, $0.43 per pound
  • olives, in bulk from local growers, $1.31 per pound
  • snickers bar, $0.48
  • honey, from local growers, $4.37 per pound
  • rotisserie roasted chicken, from vendor on the street, $4. 33 each
  • filtered water in container, $0.68 per gallon
  • telephone service $ 6.07 per month, free calls/texts to all missionary numbers, and  250mb data
  • internet service, unlimited $5.85 per month
  • diesel fuel, $6.78 per gallon
  • milk, $5.64 per gallon
  • notary public signature, $30.00
I find it always interesting the cost of some items, generally the produce is all local grown, very fresh and very inexpensive.

Then there are other things like phone and internet service, compared to the US standard crazy inexpensive, and the notary signature, crazy expensive.

Also, a gallon of milk costs almost as much as a gallon of diesel fuel. I buy much more milk than diesel fuel...I am so thankful for the great gas mileage I get on my little car.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gëzuar Vitin e Ri....!

New Year's Eve in Tirana, Albania...from my bedroom window. Last year I watched this event from the top of a 9 story building, it was pretty amazing to look in every direction and see amazing aerial fireworks...and hear the constant explosions of intense firecrackers. Last night, it was crazy, almost scary,  from my apartment window...

When I closed the window after watching for about 5 minutes, my clothes and my bedroom smelled like "fireworks that sulfur?"  This spectacle lasts for about 30 minutes...and longer.  It started with great intensity about 15 minutes before midnight...and was still going strong at 12:15am...even this morning...there continues to be some firecracker celebration.  The firecrackers in Albanian...not the mild mannered "cap gun level of noise...firecrackers"...but the ones that sound like something is exploding.  (pretty sure that the firecrackers/fireworks sold on the street here in Albanian...pretty much illegal in the US.  They make me jump...I look out the window and I see kids...lots of kids...laughing with delight as they "blow up" more firecrackers.