August 28, 2006

This is Snoopy. I saw him up there in the sky a few weeks ago in Tirana, the captial of Albania!

an open road

I've been here for a month or even more now. I have settled into my apartment in the northern city of Shkodra. It was old and dirty and broken - but I'm getting to know it well and I like it - it's home. When the fuse blows I know to run down to one floor below where there is a metal box that I can pry open with my key and flip the fuse. I know that after I flush the toilet, I let it fill up and then lift the top and rearrange the mechanisms so it doesn't keep over flowing! I know to unplug the water heater when I have a shower so there isn't electric current charging round the bathroom!

But I'm glad that all those sort of things aren't mattering so much anymore... I want to have a house that people will enjoy coming to - where kids will have games to play or crafts to make. I need some creative ideas! I've been out for hot chocolate with a friend from church - I'm settling in with local believers at a church that is alive and full of love and servant hearts. It's like I'm ready to start living creatively in this town.

God has good plans for those who are open to His purposes. God has kind intentions to people of this world, to people in this neighbourhood and I'm so fortunate to find myself landed in small community of believers who feel the same. They want to live for others - live beyond their own small worlds. They have been an example I have needed to see. I am settling in and God is beginning to give me his joy and strength here - I'm beginning to forget myself!

August 18, 2006

life is beautiful, life is curious

I was in the village the other day - down in Sheqeras in the south. I know it's poor and problematic in so many ways - but I like it so much, and it really is beeutiful. Life is like I imagined it to be back in my granny and grandpa's time on the Isle of Lewis, north western Scotland. There are carts and horses, always children and men and women walking up and down the dirt roads in and out of their own and their neighbours houses. I stayed with an Albanian girl and her mother at their house over night and had to go and fetch milk from the neighbours house before dinner. I walked along their coulorful flower lined path that led up to a sweet farm house. In the outhouse barn a lady was milking the cow, there was a little puppy chasing chickens in a chicken coupe that was outside in the yard alongside the haystacks. The young daughter in law invited me in the house and showed me her new clothes from Italy that her uncle sent over. They were all old friends. And afterwards we meanderd home. I thought to myself that this picture of life really is beautiful.

We travelled back the high mountain roads to Tirana. We got into a very small foogon that was heavy laden with a big barrel and all sorts of other curious contraptions. So Margaret and I squeezed in to the front with the driver and we whirled along - the driver told us he could get to Tirana in 3 hours and Margaret said - oh take your time we are in no hurry. It wasn't long before we stopped for coffee and the driver began filling up big bottles of water and putting them under the car. We carried on - and half an hour later stopped again - this time the whole front seat was lifted and the water poured out over the mottor below our seats. Turned out that the motor needed cooling down every 30 minutes and the car could go no higher than 50 kilometers and hour. We chugged up the high hills with heat and steam rising beside our seats! One stop I decided to look under our seats and saw a motor steaming hot with pipes and clothes and a big sponge on top of it and the water flowing on to the motor from the hose pipe the driver was splashing around! Along the way when it was really struggling the driver shouted "Janie, Janie!" to his wife and she took out this contraption and hosed in water to the engine while we were driving! Gosh - life really is curious! Took us 7 hours to get to Tirana but we enjoyed all the stops along the way - talked to the kids selling hazelnuts up on the top of the hills, enjoyed the fish swimming around in tanks at the foot of natural springs, we sat and looked out on a lake, ate at a cafe stop, almost burst out laughing so many times seeing the driver make a pile of metal and bolts work to its maximum. He worked hard! Once the junk pile wouldn't even start - so we rolled backwards down the hill as he hot-wired his own car! Little did we know what we were getting into at the road at the end of Sheqeras. Life is curious. There was a man in the back with Janie - and his young son. It turned out that he was visiting his wife who has a tumor. She is in the hospital in Tirana - awaiting an operation that they had no means of paying for. Margaret handed him the money as he jumped out the car, saying all the goodbye greetings. Margaret doesn't give out money like that - but no doubt God prompted it. Life is curious and good. Praise God for his care in everything.

August 10, 2006

foogons, apartments and internet cafe's

My friend Catherine emailed the other day asking for more news of what life is like out here for me - she said it all seemed to be jumping on foogons (the minibuses that take you anywhere you want to go!) looking for apartments in the hot sun and being in the internet cafe's! That's quite funny and not too far off the truth! It's early days yet. I've been doing some reading about Albania - practicing my language everyday with people I meet - and there are always people here - its a bustling place, people are out and about - children, adults, old people altogether, walking, talking, going about their businesses. I've made friends with a family down the road from me - Maria and her four children. They love Jesus and talk about him all the time. I went round to theirs for lunch last sunday after church and they laughed at me because I didn't know when the right time to go or stay was - so ended up wandering in and out of the house while they did their work - like washing the floor or hanging up the laundry. I asked them - "oh, is it time for you to sleep?" Thinking I could find out when they wanted to have their rest, and then I would leave - and they laughed saying "do you want to sleep!" and began making a bed for me to sleep in! I decided I would wish them well and go home. They were lovely! I have made friends with Vera and her two children, today I went to tell them I am going to move to Shkodra. I sat out with them on their veranda and drank turkish coffee with them while it rained and rained outside. It was really nice. I think we will stay friends and I can phone and see how they are all doing. I gave Vera a little card with the verse Isaiah 41:10. She seemed to treasure it. So all in all - life is made rich by the beginnings of relationships here and otherwise looking for apartments - going in and out of Tirana on foogons and getting to internet cafes to set up a good way of keeping in touch with people back home. I just sent out my first prayer letter - and realised the font is different on different computers - so it won't come out all nice and in place as the original - but a bit all over the place! Oh well - as the Muslims say - "only allah is perfect!"