December 27, 2014
Celebrating Christmas with Family

Christmas--one of the two holidays around which Christians gather worldwide to celebrate God coming to Earth in human form--is a special time for young and old, family and friends, and visitors among us.. This year, with my unplanned for but not unexpected return to the Harrisonburg, VA, for hip replacement surgery, Elsie and I were given the gift of spending Christmas 2014 with family and friends in the US. But what we have missed, and which we so much wanted to be part of, was Christmas time in Lezhë, Albania.

Below are a few photo reminders of our recent Christmas celebrations in the US. I begin with a photo of a tree ornament symbolizing the wonder and joy of knowing Christ Jesus as God among and with us.

a tree ornament on Heidi's and Holdlen's Christmas tree 

Christmas Tree Ornament at Heidi's and Holden's Home (25-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On Christmas Day we had brunch with Heidi, Holden and Sydney (our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter). We gladly savored that slow start to our day as we shared with each other and watched Sydney be very energetic. Apparently three-year-olds can bounce from place to place like Tigger of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. Originally created by A. A. Milne (author) and Ernest H. Shepard (illustrator)  in the book, The House at Pooh Corner, the description of Tigger on the Disney site fits Sydney to a "T." "Boisterous and exuberant, Tigger is wonderful and one-of-a-kind. He eagerly shares his enthusiasm with others—whether they want him to or not." (Diosney

Come to think of it, all three of our youngest grandchildren at three, three and a half, and four years old (Sydney, Luke and Naomi) fit this description exactly! 

Sydney enjoying singing and directing others on Christmas morning 

Sydney Takes a Break from Directing Her Own Singing (25-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Not quite a week earlier (Dec. 20 and 21), we went to Pennsylvania (Lancaster area), US, for our immediate family's Christmas and my extended family's celebration. The photos below are from our immediate family gethering.

Elsie is helped by two grandchildren to open her gift 

Maya and Naomi Watch and Help Grandma Elsie Open Her Gift (20-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Our oldest son, Todd, will be remembered by some people in Lezhë from when he and his wife, Maria, lived there for six months in 1998. Here he is as he looks 16 years later.

our son Todd who had briefly lived in Lezhe in late 1990s 

Oldest Son Todd Listens Intently to a Child (20-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

And here is my dad who at 86 is still very spry and my mentor in how to love and care for others and how to live as a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

my dad, Leroy, who at 86 is still my wise man 

My Dad Enjoys Life and His Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren (20-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

So we have had some enjoyable times while we wait for my hip replacement surgery and while my pain levels increase almost each day. But I'll trust that God knows what is happening.

December 21, 2014
Our Days of Transition

On Wednesday morning December 10, Dini picked us and our two suitcases ands four carry-on bags up at our apartment and took us to the Tirana Airport for a noon flight to Munich, Germany. In flight we saw the Adriatic Sea to our le4ft (west) and passed not too far from Lezhë and then Shkoder on our way.

in the air from Tirana to Munich

Looking Toward the West and the Adriatic Seas We Flew over Albania (10-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After arriving in Harrisonburg just after midnight (about 18 hours after leaving Tirana), we got up the next day in time for Elsie to have a late morning doctor's visit. After that we stopped at Wendy's for a "fast-food" lunch.

next day at Wendy's in Harrisonburg, VA, USA

Elsie Enjoys a Baked Potato and Coke at Wendy's (11-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

And I even was able to photograph a train in Harrisonburg later that afternoon. When I can get to it, I'll put some more train photos on my train blog. 

a Norfolk Southern locomotive in Harrisonburg

A Norfolk Southern Locomotive in Harrisonburg, VA, USA (13-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On Saturday morning we visited our own house, which we are renting to some friends, Matt and Crystal Trost, and took a look firsthand at the debris left from the fire that demolished the small barn at the back of our property.

some remains of our burned out barn

Two Kid's Toys that Were Lost in the Fire (13-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Saturday was my birthday, so our daughter Heidi and her husband Holden and their three-year-old daughter, Sydney, hosted us for a very good birthday meal and a birthday cake.

Sydney helps with my birthday cake from Heidi

Daughter Heidi and Granddaughter Sydney Help Me with My Candles (14-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Sunday we attended Mt. Clinton Mennonite Church and the Sunday School class we usually are part of. It felt strange (because we wanted to be back in Lezhë) but we also were happy to be among friends. 

our Sunday School class at Mt. Clinton Mennonite Church

One of the Adult Sunday School Classes at Mt. Clinton Mennonite Church (14-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

That evening the congregation has a Christmas program with lot's of music by children and adults. Again there was that strange feeling of belonging and not-belonging. 

Syndney leads her group of girls in their recitation at the Christmas program

Sydney and Two Other Girls Sing and Recite (14-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

I have had a couple of doctor's visits this past week and some more to go, so we hope and pray that all will go well in the days and weeks ahead as Elsie and I find some solutions to our medical problems.

December 17, 2014
Our Last Week in Albania (until March 1)

Our last few days in Lezha before flying to Harrisonburg, VA, USA, gave us a sampling of the usual and the unusual. On Friday, December 5, I captured some of us in the teachers room doing what we do there--prepare for our classes, grade assignments and tests, and have good conversations.

teachers room with busy staff

Anyeza, Justin, Silva, and Josh in the Teachers Room (5-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Due to the kindness of Lois King, the expatriate teachers and staff had an early Christmas dinner at My Bar Restaurant   on Saturday, December 6. Since the particular types of lights used in this new eating place made the color balance of my photos to be wacky, I changed them to black-and-white pictures. I kind of like this in its own right. It takes me back to working occasionally with my brother Jim in the darkroom in the basement of one of the men's dorms at Eastern Mennonite College in the late 1960's. 

dinner at  the new My Bar restaurant-1

Justin Rittenhouse, Dini and Klementina Shahini, and Katrina Schmid (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

dinner at  the new My Bar restaurant-2

Rachel Klassen, Justin Rittenhouse, and Dini Shahini (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

dinner at  the new My Bar restaurant-3

Klementina Shahini, Katrina Schmid, and Josh Kirkman (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

dinner at  the new My Bar restaurant-4

Melanie and Justin Erb (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

dinner at  the new My Bar restaurant-5

Josh Shows His Artistic Skills! (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)


Melanie Show Her Origami Skills (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

While we were going to the restaurant and coming home again, I saw the Christmas lights put up by the city of Lezhe. Here is the tree an with a star on top.

Christmas tree at square in Lezhe

The City Christmas Tree in Lezhë (6-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

I am always excited to be at the Sunday church service, to worship God, to share with other believers and to watch the antics of the young children. The pastor's children, Sophia and Paulo, are well known by all who attend the church.

Baby Sophia and Evianda at church

Evianda Holds and Talks to Baby Sophia (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Paulo observews the interactions at church

Paulo Checks Out the Surroundings in Church (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Armelda singing along with the congregation

Armelda Sings in Church (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Elsie, Xhilda, and baby Sophia at church

Elsie Talks with Xhilda Holding Sophia (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Late that Sunday afternoon after Elsie and I had a nap and some relaxing time, I walked to the closest byrek shop to buy from their remaining stock. As a light supper or lunch, three "byrek me qepe dhe mish" (byrek with onions and meat) are excellent choices for Elsie and me.  And at $0.50 apiece, they are also a very good buy. 

byrek shop in Lezhe

Patrons Gather at the Byrek Shop (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

woman packs the byrek I ordered

Our Byrek with Meat and Onions Are Packed for Carrying (7-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After Thanksgiving when we were talking about acids and bases in my chemistry class, I introduced the students to a lab using red cabbage juice as a pH indicator (the chart I find most useful is about halfway down the page). So as we were cleaning out our refrigerator before flying to the US, I put some of the indicator into soda (sodium bicarbonate) water. And its slightly-green blue color shows that the soda water has a rough pH of 10. (It is a base.)

red cabbage juice as pH indicator

An Example of Red Cabbage Juice pH Indicator at Work (8-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

My recipe for this indicator is very simple. 


1/4 head of red (purple) cabbage, chopped but does not have to be too fine.
Place into a kettle with 1 cup of water
Boil for 5-10 minutes; drain and save the dark purple juice; cool it in the refrigerator.

To try using this solution as an acid-base indicator, pour samples of household chemicals (two to four ounces) into clear glass jars or tumblers and observe the color change when one to two teaspoons of the indicator is added. Good chemicals to try include clear ammonia cleaner (base), white vinegar (acid), tonic water (acid), baking soda solution (1 Tbsp, sodium bicarbonate stirred into 1 qt. of water) (base), lemon juice (acid), tap water (slightly basic), and distilled or dematerialized water (neutral, pH=7). 

On Tuesday morning, December 9,  we went to the school at 8 a.m. so we would be included in a whole-school photo. Rachel Klassen, a volunteer who is visiting LAC for a few weeks ands helping out as she can was the photographer for that event. Melanie Erb was main person behind the day of photos. She will be working on construction a yearbook for the school from these and other photos. 

Rachel gets ready to take the whole-school photo 

Rachel Klasser Prepares to Take the Whole-School Photo (9-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

students milling around after the school photo 

Students Chat after the Photo until the Beginning of School (9-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Later that morning, Rachel or Melanie used my camera to capture me working on my laptop computer.

I am concentrating on my work on the coomputer in the teachers' room 

With a Cup of Black Tea and My Laptop, I Work in the Teachers Room (9-Dec-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On Wednesday morning, December 10, Dini drove Elsie and I to the airport in Tirana for our trip to the US. I write more about that in my next post.

--©2014, Richard L. Bowman

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