Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Resealable socks?

I just received 3 packages of socks for Christmas, all in re-sealable plastic bags. Can someone tell me what that is about? Is that to keep them fresh or is it to put the dirty ones back into so you can contain the stench? Especially when some people in the country I live in go a week or more without changing them! Help me out on this one.

Son of a Preacher Man

My friend here in Albania was talking about how her sister married a pastor's son and they made all the guests a CD with various songs on it, including "Son of a Preacher Man". The song later popped into my head, and I started thinking how there are little to no pastor's sons available here in Albania! There are very few Christians old enough to have a son my age, let alone to have a Christian son! Think about a whole generation gap within Christianity! Since Albania has been closed off from the rest of the world by Communism for roughly 50 years, everything stopped advancing during that time. They were not allowed to listen to foreign radio or television stations, and everyone was afraid that their own spouse would turn them in. Please pray for this new generation of believers who will set the foundation for new traditions and mentalities in Albania!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas traditions

Living in Albania has taught me how deeply Christmas is engrained into American culture. Just think of all the Christmas songs that we have to commemorate one day of the year. Christmas is just another day here in Albania--which is a plus when you need to run to the store for that last-minute sack of flour! But it's sad in the sense that this country doesn't even pause to celebrate the most miraculous day in history. Even of the Albanian believers that I've asked, "How are you going to celebrate Christmas?", most of them reply by saying their family doesn't celebrate because they are not Christians. Imagine growing up your whole life not celebrating Christmas! No Christmas cookie bake day, no wrapping gifts and hoping the recipient doesn't find the hiding place, no Christmas Eve candlelight service (my personal favorite), no Christmas caroling (my second favorite), no putting up the tree (or disposing of it, my least favorite), no Christmas shopping with Amy Grant on the loudspeaker, no stockings, and no guilt trip that if you're not good, Santa will bring you a lump of coal. In all seriousness, I grieve that I live in a country that doesn't have that festive, goodwill spirit this time of year. Pray that God would use this time to shine His light upon this people and show them the wonders of His love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Time on my hands

One of the things I love about Albania is the slower pace of life. Albania is a relationship-based society versus our American time-based society. This means it's OK if I'm half an hour late to a meeting because I met someone along the road and stopped to have a coffee with them. But this also means that some people stop their cars in the middle of the tangled traffic to greet someone they haven't seen in a while.

Living in Albania has given me the time and opportunity to try new things or develop hobbies. For example, since coming to Albania, I have learned how to cook lots of things from scratch, I've learned to knit (check out the hat I made all by myself!), sewing myself a dress, I've started scrapbooking, and my newest adventure is learning to play the guitar! I feel adventurous, getting to try new things and enjoy the new creation God is making me into!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Muddy Season

Someone once made the comment that Albania only has two seasaons--dust and mud. We are now entering the season of rain and mud. With the nice potholed roads, it makes walking somewhere without being splashed a big challenge. You kinda have to make a game out of it in order to not get frustrated! We've also been having major power outages (no electricity for 8-10 hours a day) because of the lack of planning. The hydroelectricity plant's reservoir has been nothing more than a puddle for some time now. All these things together makes Albania quite the gloomy place in the wintertime. So please keep praying that God would restore our joy, and that we would still be shining the light to those around us.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ironing out the wrinkles

When I first came to Albania, I lived with an Albanian family for three months. This time taught me so much, good and bad, and I would never trade the experience for anything! One thing I learned is that with the lack of clothes dryers here, they iron EVERYTHING! They even iron their unmentionables, towels, sheets, everything. I have done more ironing here in Albania in the past two years than I have my whole life, hands down. I don't have that nice option of throwing something in the dryer for 10 minutes and throwing it on. It gets a little rough in the winter when you either have to hope they dry before freezing or else find a place inside and hope that condensation doesn't cause mold! So next time you pull those nice warm clothes out of the dryer, praise God for the convenience!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

the bus stops here!

I saw quite the site the other day and just thought I would share this one with you. I saw the "Ring road" bus stopped at an intersection where there was no official bus stop, but he still opened the door to let a young, skimpy-dressed girl onto the bus. But afterwards, he slammed the door shut and would not let either an older woman or another young man board the bus. They stood outside the bus pleading with the bus driver to let them on, but to no avail! Chalk it up to lack of laws against discrimination!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

appearance counts!

A hard adjustment to Albanian culture was hearing "You're fat. You need to eat less." Even though the literally means "healthy", they use it with the same connotations. Often, my mental response is "How exactly is that supposed to make me feel?", especially when the comments come from my Christian friends who think nothing of it. And in general, Albanians are not very tall. So needless to say, when I walk down the street, I stick out a bit. And the response is that people strain their neck looking at me, and sometimes making comments like "Mashallah". This means something is really good, and is a saying to keep away the evil eye. But sometimes I want to Mashallah them in the nose when men say it while I'm passing by. Pray that God will affirm to me that my inner is more important to Him than my outer, and that He finds me extravagant.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I'm now a shopper!

I wish I could show you the anguish that would come to my face when my mother used to say "We're going to the mall!" I would groan and grumble until it was time to go home. The only fun part was getting to drive the 45 minutes to the nearest mall when I got my driver's license. But my recent trip to Athens has shown me that I've been transformed! I believe this is due to the lack of Wal-Mart's. It used to be my one-stop-shopping place. But since there's not a lot of variety or quality here in Albania, every chance I get to see something different or just go window shopping is enjoyable. It seems like I take every advantage I can to get the things that I can't find in Albania (or are way too expensive to buy). I think Mom would be proud!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

land of hypochondriacs

As you've probably heard on the news, the bird flu is hitting Eastern Europe, as close as Romania or Turkey. The reaction of some Albanians is not to eat any more poultry products. So it's becoming much more difficult to find eggs and chicken in the stores. Albanians are typically hypochondriacs, and no matter what ailment you have, their response is "You've caught cold." And you had better not drink cold water or you'll get a sore throat. And if you have a sore throat, don't by any means, eat ice cream or anything cold! My favorite is this: if you're a girl and you sit on the cold cement without anything underneath you, YOUR OVARIES WILL FREEZE! Sometimes I just have to chuckle, but sometimes it gets downright frustrating. Especially when you're not allowed to walk barefoot in your own house! I guess 50 years of limited access to the outside world has had its toll on the medical field as well as everything else! :)

bus cram

One of the "fun" parts of living in Albania is public transportation. It's usually not a pleasant experience. Not only do they not run on a regular schedule, but just when you think "There is NO possible way more people could fit in this space", they somehow FIND room! You get to hear them yelling "Move up more so people can get on" while I'm thinking "WHERE exactly do you want me to go??" Sometimes they are literally hanging out of the bus! My favorite bus story has to be when I thought there was no room left so I was standing on the stairs when along came a woman who thought otherwise and helped me out by placing her hands on my buttocks and pushing me up the steps. Talk about invasion of personal space!! And then when it's your stop, you have to push by all the people so that you can get out before the driver decides to slam the door shut. And you have to make sure that you keep track of your things because pickpocketers sometimes work in conjunction with the bus drivers! But today was one of my unusual good experiences where I actually got to use my bus ride as a prayer time and just really thanked God for not being stressed out about it. Praise God for small miracles!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

scribbling away

While vacationing away in Athens, Greece and realizing how different life was just across the border, I realized it would be good to let people know the litte idiosyncrisies that make my life so different here. Feel free to comment away if you have any advice or just find humor in my Albanian lifestyle! For example, a few things I noticed in Greece that it was nice having manhole covers so that I didn't have to worry about falling into a big, gaping hole while walking down the street! In Albania, the gypsies steal them and scrap them for the metal, and then the government has to turn around and buy them back! Crazy!