Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas, from Albania

It amazes me...from this side of the pond...watching what is taking place in America.  Charlie Brown's Christmas has been "edited"...under court order...?!?  Seriously...???

I live in a country that in 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law under communism meant that large pieces of property owned by religious groups were nationalized, along with estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, and many priests were arrested, tortured and executed. In 1949, a new decree required that all religious activities be sanctioned by the communist state alone.

Then in 1967, Albania was declared to be the first "completely atheistic" country in the world, by Enver Hoxha. Hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries containing priceless manuscripts were destroyed. Churches were not spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. The new law banned all "fascist, religious warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda"  Preaching religion carried a three to ten years prison sentance. Nontheless, many Albanians continues to practice their beliefs secretly.

The People's republic was dissolved in 1991-1992, and the freedom to practice religion was restored. Many missionaries responded to the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to Albania.

Look at the "Albanian National Holiday" schedule for 2015. There are 2 national Easter Holidays...!

April 3…Good Friday…Observance
April 4…Holy Saturday…Observance
April 5…Easter Sunday…National Holiday
April 6… Easter Monday…Observance
April 10…Good Friday (Orthodox)…Observance
April 11…Easter Saturday (Orthodox)…Observance
April 12…Easter Sunday (Orthodox…Observance
April 13…Easter Monday (Orthodox)…National Holiday
December 24…Christmas Eve…Observance
December 25…Christmas Day…National Holiday

Vendors in the market where I shop...have all told me, "Gezuar Krishtlindja", which literally means, "Happy Christ's Birth."

Tirana is covered in lights, giant Christmas trees, giant Santa Clauses. Of course they are referred to as "New Years Tree" and "Father New Year"...but it sure feels like Christmas to me. 

The poinsettia in Albanian is called the "Christmas flower".  
 Image result for photos of poinsettias

And I live in a country where you hear the mosques calling to prayer, a country where prison time was the cost for "preaching"...and I come from a country that is perceived by "Albanian nationals" as a Christian nation. 

Merry Christmas from a country that knows what it means to be put in prison for sharing your faith...any faith. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kangoo Jumps~~~ my background in physical therapy had me scratching my head when a store opened up across from the market where I shop. Then I started seeing aerobic classes for adults, and children using these devices. My specialty in the US was "feet and ankles", and understanding gait, loading, and biomechanics of function.

I looked on the internet, and there have been some studies on the "claim" of reduced impact for athletes. In fact this is the claim, "with a lower risk of injury, providing significant protection to the joints, when compared to traditional sport shoes. Consequently, Kangoo Jumps rebound shoes could be considered the world’s lowest impact shoe."  


Really...???  I looked up to see how much these "impact shoes" cost.  In the US...the cheapest version is $179, with available spare parts at $20 and up. With an average monthly salary of $300-400 USD here in Albania,  I wonder how many pairs of Kangoo Jumps this store has actually sold...?  

No...I have no plans to go in and try on a pair...!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

3.3 and 5.0...things are shaking....!

Early this morning there were two earthquakes, like seriously about 2-3 minutes apart.  So this is pretty new for me, no earthquakes in New Mexico.  I was in my living room, heard a commotion from all the dogs outside and then heard a loud rumbling...and the room was "rocking and rolling".  The first one made me what is going on?  Is there some heavy machinery work going on outside?  Then after the second one, I knew it was an earthquake.  I checked with my landlord...she is still probably laughing at me, as if this was just a normal day.  

Apparently, I found a site online that has mapped out the "earthquake risk for the Balkans" and surrounding countries. is always an adventure...!  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to me....!

Since I have been on the mission field, I have had the opportunity to celebrate my Birthday, in 7 different countries:  England, Kosova, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, and of course the US. 

Today I celebrated my 58th Birthday in Budva, Montenegro while attending the Albanian Mission's conference. The conference was an amazing blessing...!

I received the following video from my daughter Elissa and Sam, and my granddaughter Hannah, and grandson Ezekiel:

Then later in the day I received an e-card from my dear friends, Lirak and Suela Gjoshi in Prishtina, Kosova.  The front of the card said, "it is not proper to ask a woman her age.", then when you open the card it says, "so how much do you weigh?"   This so made me laugh, and I shared with my friends here at the conference... dinner, I checked into the front table entering the cafeteria.  Just as I was sitting down with my food, a waiter brought me some red flowers and a candle for the table wishing me a Happy Birthday. (I think he spoke Montenegrin or Croatian?)  As I finished my meal, the waiter brought me a birthday cake, a knife and plates.  So I cut pieces and shared with my friends, it was about 8 inches square.  It was very cold, I thought it might be an ice cream cake. There were very thin layers of cake, with a tart strawberry filling and whipped cream in between, topped with more real whipped cream and walnuts...and delicate chocolate hearts on each corner. Sorry, no photo was was wonderful and not at all like the regular cakes/pastries in this part of the world.

The staff at the hotel looked at my passport when I checked in...this is a treat the hotel does for their guests, no one at the conference  told the hotel it was my birthday.

As I passed out cake to my friends, they sang Happy Birthday to English of course, in Albanian, and in Spanish.

I will always miss "the chocolate cake" with my daughters in the US...but what a precious treat this was for me today. 

God's surprises...make me smile...! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Road side signs...

During my travels exploring Montenegro recently I saw these two road side signs.  This first sign was just along side of the road, no crossing stripes on the highway, no stairs anywhere to be found.

This second sign was about 100 yards away from the first sign, no school any where, no real evidence of a residential area, no playground, no soccer field.

It is interesting to see signs, that you think should be "universally" understood to their meaning, and the warning they are presenting.  I really don't know what they mean...another one of the mysteries of traveling in the Balkans.  

By the way, in case you don't know where Montenegro is, find Italy on a world map, go east across the Adriatic, it is located between Croatia and Albania on the coast. It used to also be a part of former "Yugoslavia". 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Baby it is hot outside...!!!

Today is the last day of August. We have had a record setting hot summer, punishing heat and humidity, with evening lows only into the 80's.  The last few weeks have been much cooler, well only  into the 80's with lows at night into the upper 60's.  

Today...we hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38 Celsius,  with 40% humidity.

Just plain hot...everyone is ready for cooler fall weather...!

I think I will go have some ice cream...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Meet George...!

It took a lot of creativity, extra $$$ funds in my support funds, and a team willing to bring a full skeleton to Tirana.  George arrived two weeks ago...many thanks to the SBB team from CC Wildwood for bringing George in a bin.  It was very easy to put all together, and I think for the first time in my PT career, I have seen a skeleton with all the parts intact. 

George will be an important part of the Practical Anatomy class I will start teaching in two weeks.  It is for physical therapy students, medical students, doctors, or whoever wants to come. 

When George was first put together...the following comments were heard:

  • Our nurse at ABC Health stated how good it would have been to see a skeleton like this while in nursing school. She had never seen a full size skeleton, only pictures.
  • One of our medical interns stated that he also has never seen a full size skeleton, no such thing is available in medical school. He is a licensed doctor, and he has never seen a skeleton before.  I can not grasp that...and I hear it over and over. This intern will be attending my class. 
  • Another medical intern wanted to know if it was a male or female...?  This intern will be attending my class. 

So starting September 5th, I will start teaching Practical Anatomy, to Albanian PT and  medical students.  I will challenge them to take all of their "rote memorization" of bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, etc and put it all together. So they will better understand where each bone is, how the muscles function, and how does that help us provide better care to our patients. It will be a challenge for the students, and the teacher.  I took anatomy in 1984, and I have never taught it before.  But...I have George to help...!

Always an adventure~~~

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Air Conditioner, ice chips, and $10 ~~~

The summer heat has been brutal, even by Albanian standards it is hotter than normal for July.  I have a wonderful A/C-heater unit that works very well, I purchased it jointly with my landlord almost two years ago.

Three days the evening, small ice chips started flying out from my A/C unit.  I turned the unit off thinking I had it running too cold...I keep it on about 80 degrees because electricity is crazy expensive here. The next evening, the same thing happened, only the pieces of ice were much bigger.  I spoke with my pastor, Tom Grimes, and he had never heard of anything like that before. I am pretty sure he wondered what was really going on in my apartment..??? 

Another friend told me that they had their A/C unit worked on yesterday, using a man from one of the local churches.  This afternoon the A/C repairman and his two sons came to look at my A/C.  

Enter my landlady...!  (and more drama than was needed)

She was not happy that I called this man to look at "our" A/C unit.  Finally she gave in and left us alone.  The filters were rinsed off in my bathtub, put back into place and that was it. The A/C guy looked over everything else, gave me some tips for best results with this type of A/C...and I paid him $10.  

If you hear someone laughing really loudly...that would be my landlady...she started laughing when she found out that I paid this man $10.  He was here for about 35 minutes...he did a service for me, taught me how to clean my own filters, and I learned something my mind $10 was a bargain. How much is a service call in the US...even if they don't fix anything...???

I guess the $10 was worth hearing my landlady laugh...she and her husband have been really stressed out lately. 

Yes, life in Albania still makes me laugh...!  ;-)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

marrëdhënie ~~~

The last few months I have started Albanian language lessons, again.  I felt I was at a place in ministry that required me to take my language skills to a higher level.  My current teacher is very encouraging, and she is pushing me to take all the "stuff" I have learned in the past, and putting it all together and using it correctly. This is still the most difficult part of ministry for me, but I am trying and working at using my Albanian language skills more often, more consistently, more confidently.

Two weeks ago my teacher shared with me a very cool word...

marrëdhënie is an Albanian word, translated it is the word for "relationship"...


when the word is broken into it's parts, marrë means "take/receive", and dhënie is a form of the verb "to give".  

Isn't that such a wonderful word for relationship? Relationship is about giving and taking, but the order of the words is very interesting..."take" is first, and then "give".  That is how it is with our "relationship" with God...we "receive" from Him first, and then we "give".  In any isn't about giving to others first, it is about receiving and then giving. 

When I come across this word, or use it in a conversation, it makes me smile...! Such a wonderful reminder of my "relationship" with my Abba Father. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Feeling like "Queen for a Day"...!

Sometimes patients or mothers of my little ones bless me with special gifts. Often it is fruit or something from their garden or their pantry.  I understand that this culture does not understand "grace"...a gift of helping with no strings or expectations from the receiver.

Last week I saw a new little girl in Elbasan at the Catholic orphanage. Amalia is 10 months old and she has some serious developmental issues, and she is blind. The mom carried Amalia, the huge fuschia plant in the photo below and a huge bouquet of flowers she bought for me.  I gave the bouquet to some friends to enjoy, and took the fuschia plant to my home.

Today...another surprise.  The mom brought me another huge bouquet of flowers. In the package was: 2 hydrangea, 10 roses, 3 tiger lilies, many dahlias of all shapes and colors and a gladiola.  I cut a plastic 2 liter bottle for one vase...both vases are packed full of flowers.   I asked the mom to save her money...that she didn't need to buy me flowers each week...the therapy is my free gift to her and little Amalia.  

Carrying that huge bouquet into my apartment...I felt like a "queen"...or like I had just won a beauty pageant.  

I love God's surprises...

Friday, May 29, 2015


Well, this is definitely a first.  I just received a telemarketer call on my cell phone in Albania...!  The caller was trying to sell me online shares of gold  as an investment.  The man on the other end spoke English, and then asked me what country I lived in.  I told him..."you called me...and I am not not call me again!"

I have blocked this number on my cell. shares of gold...???

Anyone have a bridge they would like to sell...? 

Even my friends that were at my apartment at the time thought it was very strange...
only in Albania.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Good Morning....Spring....!

Today...I have the balcony 
door open, first thing in the 
morning.  It is so wonderful 
to have the fresh morning air, 
and the fragrance from some 
of my flowers...especially the 
"stock" smells so sweet.  

This is a sign that Spring is here...
and it won't be long before the 
Summer heat and humidity arrive.

But for this I sit in my favorite spot on my couch...with my Bible, and other books...and a cup of coffee...I enjoy the freshness of the Spring morning. 

Thank you Lord....! 

(of course, I still hear the turkeys, but there are more birds "chirping" also, and the "busyness" of life in Tirana) ;-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When I was working with my babies at the Catholic orphanage in Elbasan yesterday, Tanja, (my wonderful missionary helper that lives in Elbasan) and I began noticing that the little girls fingernails were all painted.

My first comment was, "Mother Faustina would never have allowed the babies to have their fingernails painted.  I wonder who came in and painted their fingernails without her knowing it?"  

Before we finished working with all the babies, we discovered that even little Ervjol, a little boy with Down Syndrome, had his fingernails painted.  Hmmmm....?

Then Mother Faustina came into the play room, and we asked her about the fingernail polish. She was the one who painted all the little ones' fingernails.  Tanja and I just laughed and laughed...the Mother Superior was the culprit, when we were trying to figure out how someone did this without her knowledge.

I love the times when things just make you laugh, so good for the soul....! Precious God surprises...!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Easter Monday, twice...!

In this part of the world, living very near Greece, Easter is celebrated twice...according to the the Western Christian Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.  The thing that makes me laugh in all of the "Easter Monday" holiday...I will get to that in a minute. I looked it up on the internet to get a better understanding why there are two Easter holidays.  

So  here are the 3 reasons:

     The first factor, the calendar, has to do with the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church, continues to follow the Julian calendar when calculating the date of Easter. The rest of Christianity uses the Gregorian calendar.

 The other factor at work is that the Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the  First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, that requires that Easter must take place after the  Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion.

 Finally, it must be on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is a fixed date, March 21. 

In 2011, Easter took place on the same date for the Western Christian Church and the Orthodox Church...but that won't happen again until 2034. 

Now for the Easter Monday issue...!

I live in a country that is 70% muslim, although not all are practicing their faith.  There is a law in Albania, and in Kosova, that if a holiday occurs on a Sunday, the following day Monday, is a national holiday.  Banks, schools, ABC Health Center are all closed.  So for the last two weeks, Monday has been an extra day off.  

The one blessing from having two Easter Celebrations is that the Orthodox Church behind my apartment, plays "All Creatures of our God and King" on the chapel bells, it is so special to hear that hymn being played.  (and I don't hear the mosque...and the call to prayer!) 

Even in the US...there is no such thing as Easter Monday, and it would never be allowed to happen twice...!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Turkeys and Church bells...

Image result for photo of turkey

Recently I have noticed new sounds in the mornings as I wake up....bells from the Orthodox church...and turkeys.  In the past I could hear roosters and ducks...but is turkeys.  Consider living in the middle of New York..high rise apartments and office buildings...and hearing turkeys "gobbling" each morning...?!  

You have to live here to appreciate how unique this culture is....
Always an adventure...!  I love it here...!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ezekiel new grandson....!

My new little grandson, Ezekiel James came into this world on January 13, 2015 at 11:54pm.  He weighed in at 6#6oz, and 20" long.  Elissa is doing well, tired after a long labor...and Sam is doing well also.

There are tears of joy...for this new little precious life...and some tears of sadness that I am so very far away and not able to hold him.  I believe he will have so many people wanting to hold him...and just pinch his cheeks. over this little life you have blessed Sam and Elissa over him as he grows each day. Give Sam and Elissa wisdom in caring for their Hannah to love her new brother. Thank you for Your blessings and care...! amen

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gezuar Vitin e Ri ~~~

 Happy New Year from Tirana...!

Each year on New Year's Eve...I am amazed at the fireworks display put on the by the people of Tirana.  These are not "corporate" displays...they are individual people that buy these fireworks in the street        markets and launch them from the streets, or  their yards.  I wanted to stop and see what some of these "aerial" fireworks cost...there was such a large intense group of men around the vendors...I changed my mind. They have to be expensive...considering that the average monthly salary is about $300USD.  

New Year's is a very important celebration in Albania.  It is like combining Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, and Christmas into one holiday.  Family is the central focus...everyone goes home to celebrate with their family...that is not optional. 

Last night the display was spectacular, and loud...there was a lot of fireworks set off just below my bedroom window.

It is always an adventure...