Monday, November 27, 2006

Lights out!

I was teaching English this week, and the topic was "Jumping to Conclusions". The students were all given a scenario and they had to come to their own conclusion about what had happened. The scenario went something like this: Carol lives alone and came home to find her TV and radio on. Carol knows she hadn't left them on when she left. One of my students raised his hand and said, "Maybe there was no electricity when she left, and it came on while she was gone." I just had to laugh! That probably never would have came to my mind if it were not for having lived in a country with frequent power outages. :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Personal space"

We as Americans value our personal space. For example, you walk into a restaurant and try to choose a space away from the rest of the people. Albanians are the exact opposite. I experienced this just this morning. I went to a Christian-owned restaurant to work on something that required some peace and quiet. There was hardly anyone there when I went in, so I chose a quiet corner table. About an hour later a couple of girls walked in. I could tell by where they sat that they were Albanians. Out of all the tables, they chose the one RIGHT NEXT TO ME! I've experienced this several times. We like to go into a restaurant and choose a place with no one around, whereas they like to be close to people. Another cultural difference!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

from the homefront

Being home has made me realize how different my two world are! It was so nice to come back to street signs and house numbers when trying to find someone's house for the first time the other day. In Albania, directions involve finding the nearest known landmark, then going close to it and making a ring on the cell phone (just a ring since it's so expensive to use your cell phone) and then the person comes to meet you and show you how to get there. Then you're expected to find it on your own the next time! I've also enjoyed little things, like being able to flush the toilet paper and being able to say the word "car" without looking who's around. In Albania, "car" is a really bad word, so even when speaking in English, we usually still use the Albanian word "makina" instead. I've enjoyed driving so much! I've only driven about six times in the last two years I've spent in Albania, and it's so nice to get in the car, roll the windows down, crank the radio and just drive with the wind blowing through my hair! Two words--air conditioning! I've really enjoyed the green color here. There is very little grass and greenery in Albania, and since Ohio has had two weeks of rain, it's so green here and the trees and grass look beautiful. There are things I miss about Albania, but I'm just really enjoying being home!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

don't forget your change

I love that the majority of stores in Albania usually don't have change to give you. So the simple solution--a piece of gum, a single teabag, a box of matches, etc. You can even buy cigarettes individually here!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

special offer!

So I went to the EuroMax yesterday with my two best friends. This is the newest, best shopping center in Tirana (doesn't even close to a Wal-Mart). While there, I stumbled upon a special offer that was so hard to pass up. They were offering Kraft mayonaise with a free cosmetic kit! Check that out! Or maybe they were thinking of lice removal--mayonaise with the little eyebrow comb??? Who knows!

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Canal

The distinguishing landmark of Tirana is the canal that runs through the middle of it. It's known for its unmistakable smell since a lot of sewage runs off into it. If I could put it on a scratch and sniff sticker and send it to you all, I would! The other humorous? part of this scenario is that it's where the majority of Tirana's men choose to relieve themselves. It's humorous because the road that runs parallel with it (properly named "the ring road", as it's similar to the Campus Loop) is one of the most busy roads in Tirana, and they are right out in the open doing their business. One of my friends even saw someone pop a squat the other day. Another interesting aspect is that there are public restrooms here, but since you have to pay the equivalent of about 20 cents. However, I can't really blame them because I know the conditions there CAN'T be pretty. I guess stage fright is not an issue for them!

Snot rocket

Who is with me that blowing snot rockets should be illegal?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Going for a visit

Albanians are very warm, hospitable, social people. I love that they are very affectionate and loyal. When you go for a visit to an Albanian, you have to take something with you like a kilo of fruit, something sweet, a fruit juice or a bottle of Cola. You have to greet in this order: men first in order of age, then women in order of age, then children. They'll ask you how you are in about 4 different ways, and you're supposed to answer "Good" no matter how you're really doing. Then you can set into normal conversation. You always have to have something in your house ready for guests because it's "turp" (shameful) if you don't. And you never serve what people just brought to you. If you know guests are coming, you usually pull out al the stops (put on the dog, as those southerners say I guess). My outgoing, hospitable personality goes well here!


The streetcleaners here are gypsy ladies with brooms made of twigs! Just a glimpse of my daily giggles!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Watch out for the manholes!

Two of my team members have fallen into a manhole while walking within the past few weeks! And another friend fell into one while riding his bicycle (slowly, praise the Lord!) and his bicycle literally snapped in two! The "iron"y of it is that the gypsies "steel" all the manhole covers to cash in for a pettance and then the government has to go buy them back! So there are rarely covers on the manholes here, which causes you to have a bit more focus when you walk or ride your bike, or the bus (I also saw a man step off the bus directly into a manhole and had to have help getting out!) . Just another one of the daily challenges of living in Albania! :)

Friday, March 03, 2006

TWO years today!

Today is the two year anniversary of getting on the plane to come to Albania! I arrived on March 4th and set out on my new adventure. It's been tiresome and hard at times, but to be honest I wouldn't trade it for the world! God has taught me so much about trusting Him because He's stripped me of all the comforts I could possibly rely on instead of Him! I just talked to my friend AMI at NUMC, and I was shaking because I was so excited just thinking about seeing all my fam again! I love you guys so much and have missed you in ways I can't even describe. Thank you all for being a part of it. May God get ALL the glory!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The infamous plastic bags

One thing that cracks me up about living in this crazy place is the use of plastic bags for everything under the sun! Their packaging skills are a little limited. For example, go buy a kilo of butter, they slap it into a plastic bag and off you go. A dozen eggs (wait actually 10 eggs because 12 is just a weird number to use!), they go into a plastic bag and it's your responsibility to not let the knock together on the trek home. Herbs, plastic bag. Ground meat, plastic bag. Olives, plastic bag. Now, the quality of these bags is not very high so they also make for wind catchers when people "dispose" of them and they flutter into the wind and land on the nearest tree branch. The slightly higher quality ones also double for a shoulder bag or backpack when you have numerous things to carry from one location to another. I am assured that in heaven there will be no asking "Paper or plastic"!

INSIDE clothes!

One of the things I quickly learned upon moving to Albania is this part of the culture where appearance really counts. But the humurous part to me is the concept of "inside clothes", which we Americans would call "bum clothes", you know the ones you wear to bum around in. The only thing is, there is a limit to how far you can go in those bum clothes here. I think it's the equivalent of a block. You can run to the corner store in your bum clothes, but if you're going any further, you must put on your "strolling clothes", which amount to our "church clothes". Of course that depends on your church nowadays. And the first thing you do when you get home is take off the nice clothes and put on your inside clothes. Does kind of make sense though when you're cooking and don't want to get oil splattered all over that new shirt you just bought! That's food for thought!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Power to the People!

Imagine your world for a moment without the following: copyright law, Food & Drug Administration (you worry about what's in your food when there's someone checking it!), Worker's compensation, welfare, even simple traffic laws that are enforced (my favorite is turning right from the left hand lane regardless of whether there is a vehicle in the other lane!). Sometimes I find myself going, "Wait a minute! That's not legal!" And then it hits me that I'm no longer in Kansas anymore! A simple bribe that amounts to $2 can get you out of just about any situation with the traffic police, and corruption still runs rampant in this country. There are students in university that are having a hard time getting their diploma because they refuse to either sleep with their professor or pay a bribe, so the prof just keeps failing them regardless of the grade they deserve. I tell you all this to appreciate the democratic society you live in, as well as to pray for justice to come to Albania. God is the only one that can solve the deeply ingrained mentalities of this country, and a lot of people say it will take the current generation to die off before change will truly happen. Let's pray that God will do amazing things because nothing is too big for Him and He rewards those who seek after justice and righteousness!