June 04, 2007

Leaving Isa Boletini

Its been a long time since writing... so I almost don't know where to begin – except I've chosen one place to start writing about. I'm leaving the Isa Boletini neighbourhood... That's a strange thing... For the last month or so I've had all my house packed up – ready to leave – part of me couldn't even face being back in my apartment in the last several weeks, and as I write about it here now – part of me feels pretty sad to leave it all. The funny thing is – I don't even know where I'm moving to yet – I've just had this urge to leave...

Sounds like the Joni Mitchell song!

“I get the urge for going, but I never seem to go. I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown. Summertime is falling down and winter closing in...”

Unlike the song though - I know the reason I'm moving on – and its nothing so adventurous as having a nomadic soul! I came to accept that it just isn't healthy living with a broken down bathroom that shares the smells and leaks of the apartments upstairs and downstairs. It's time to go... its a broken down apartment that I grew to really like and gave my best and it became home – but it was also kind of lonely and kind of smelly! So my bags are packed and I've nowhere yet to go.

Every day I meet the people outside – neighbours that have little shops and nik-naks for sale. They've all grown affectionate towards me. When I see Isa looking out to the mountains in the north and the old apartment blocks – I just feel affection for Albania and wish I knew the country better, wish I was more involved in its life, but as ever I know that it will take its own time, and at least I am fortunate to have a beginning here.

I've travelled around in the last couple of months and been kind of transient – been in different Albanian cities and even to Montenegro. I've been in conferences, on holiday, in language courses, been with my new Albanian and International friends, staying round at their places overnight quite often and even been with my parents for two and a half weeks, I've begun the work of research that I came here for – and I'm growing in my life here – finding an identity in Shkoder, in Albania. I'm longing to be effective. I'm living out the normal Christian life of needing the Lord and enjoying Him and working through a hundred questions about myself and the world! I'm back on blogger and I'm well, and someday soon I'll really be leaving the Isa Boletini neighbourhood....

March 18, 2007

cool kids on the block

I really liked this morning. It was a couple of weeks back. Judy and I had gone round to Margarets house to clean it - as she was coming back after being away for a month. Three boys were down in the yard and at first the older ones were "very cool" and the little one shy and giggling at the foreigners - but in the end after a few smiles and questions from us became good little buddies for the morning. While Judy went to fix lunch I played cards with them - hearing about tricks and games and seeing pictures of 50 Cents and Eminem on their cellphone :)

March 04, 2007

poems, prayers and promises

"And talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in. How sweet it is to love someone. How right it is to care. How long its been since yesterday and what about tomorrow and what about our dreams and all the memories we share...For though my lifes been good to me theres still so much to do, so many things my mind has never known. Id like to raise a family. Id like to sail away and dance across the mountains on the moon."

Good old John Denver!

So the world is as it is - and to care means to really care - but with all the seriousness of how things are, it seems a secondary thing to think of tenderness and love and hopes and dreams - but its foundational. I'm so glad God has put this way before us - to love true and well. The more God teaches me about love the more I see how far from loving others I am - but also how much I long to love with the creative love of God.

"love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

February 25, 2007

road of hope

I don't think too highly of myself at times, and in some ways there is such a validity in these thoughts – and in other ways I need to find truth to replace wrong ways of thinking about myself. At times a highland or coastal retreat seems the closest thing to rest I could find, at other times a deep understanding of my soul by another looks like the only way of completing “who I am”.

But there is only one narrow and secure path that is my only true journey – and it is not selfish, not futile (2 Peter 1:2-8). Though it is not an easy way to take it is life and life abundant not only for myself but for the glory of God and the blessing of others. The only reason I have hope in this path or even being able to walk this road – despite my thoughts of myself – is because God has made a promise to me – that I believe.

He said "You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you” do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-10

February 24, 2007


I saw “Blood Diamond” last night.

I have a lot of things to say – but I don't know how or where to begin – and in all honestly I feel I have no right to say a word – because as one who briefly loved Freetown, I lived without the scars of the war. I just want to see the place again. I wrote a poem about Freetown before the war reached. That's over 15 years ago – the war must have been just about beginning.

I never realised over these years that the root cause of the war was over diamonds. I believe it was – because that is what Sorious Samura said and I take his word – because he was willing to die for Freetown and for filming the footage of "Cry Freetown" the traumatic real life documentary of the siege in Freetown in 1999. Filmed to show the world what was happening. This brutal war and unrest lasted years.... like other African civil wars. I had always thought there must be a deep cause – some historical deep rooted tribal and international cause – but the pure, selfish exploitation takes its credit and has reigned free and I wonder how the whole world is standing yet when forces such as that have been unchecked. I can't get over it, and I don't think I ever will. And I wasn't even there...

(by Elisabeth Smith early 1990's)

There is a diamond rich, poverty poor country that used to be my home.
Lion Mountain the meaning and Sierra Leone the name:

The roads are covered in holes
Tin roofed wooden houses look like they'll fall down.
Colonial buildings still stand.
A bell on an old church rings.
An Islamic cry sounds throughout the town.

A skinny dog sniffs food in open gutters.
Two young boys run barefoot through the streets.
A lady carries a bowl of peanuts on her head.
A young man chews on a kaola nut as he wanders down the road.

The sun goes down and fills the skies with radiant orange and red.
Dust rises as a little girl pushes her metal wire wheel toy.
She walks towards a now candle lit stall selling candies and cigarettes for a penny.

People are begging. Others are dancing.
Some are hungry while others are high.
A distant tribal drum beats from the mountain jungles.
Does it speak of previous war – or one to come?

There is a natural truth under the African sun.
I laughed and ran with street kids.
Ate fresh pineapple on the beach and watched 13 foot waves.
My journey is now taking me to new worlds, peoples and lands.

Oh for eyes to see and a life of love to bring.

February 17, 2007

miraculous, foundational and simple treasures

Is not the sky and the sun and the wind a delightful truth when they are warm and gentle and clear and blue? That's how they were today. A simple treasure as I carried firewood and swept a yard at a friends house. I enjoyed the work outside when the morning was so fresh. With the same lightness as today's weather I'm grateful for an inspiration of building well upon a foundation. There are so many ways to be faithful to the building up of our lives – faithful in our relationship with God, faithful in our love for one another, faithful in the responsibilities of the works that we are called to do. And in this faithfulness lies a lasting treasure being built upon a sure foundation. This determination can be out of focus at times with desire for other treasures and it holds true that “where your treasure is – there your heart will be also” How grateful I am to know the contentment of heart that has allowed me to see the treasure of the simple and foundational. I have been so aware of “being lifted” like Van Morrison sang, and I know it is not from my own strength. I know that so many people have prayed for me since I have been in Albania, and that in itself is precious, but that God has heard and in His faithfulness has answered – there in lies the treasure of the miraculous.

“No one is able to lay another foundation besides the one laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, the work of each will become evident, for the Day will make it clear” 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

February 13, 2007


You can never really guess what the turns and the tides of life will bring...

I got an email from a friend telling me about the fun in the snow in England at the moment – snowball fights, snowmen, 5 hours spent with friends sliding along in the car for a usually 20 minute journey! And I am here – and I would have been there... and would have loved it! Here – the rain is pouring down and I zip through the puddles on my bike riding one handed with an umbrella in the other. I'm studying a book on “self discipline” and I'm making new friends who speak Albanian and have lived another kind of life. I'm happy – I just never could have guessed this. I've got to live this new life with as much commitment of delight and love as I would have - a snowball of fun across the waters. Is that saying goodbye to a life lived before? I don't exactly think so – I'm just sailing along with the currents and having been pulled far along in an undertow I'm learning to make sense and build new life on this “treasure island” that Gods wind blew me upon.

I have been this way since since childhood never ever wanting to let go of life that in reality was already transpiring away from me, like a vapour, like a tailwind. Its the people who have always been most important - though landscapes and seas, mountains, trees and old houses and dogs all had their weight of glory. My comfort in that is that God is a God of the eternal – and his relationships last forever – I can trust all my true friends of memories and present day to that. And here on the temporary planes they are out there sailing the seas too, and those surfing the same waves, well we'll bump into each other again one day – and I shall offer them exotic teas from foreign fields before once again sojourning on.