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...!