August 10, 2014
We Are Here! 

OK, we have always been here, wherever that has been. But since 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, we are now in Albania. And "here" is actually the city of Lezhë, about an hour north of Tirana, the capital.

Searching for the size of the population of Lezhë gave several dramatically different numbers. The City Hall of Lezhë web site gave the number as 35,000, but it did not list the source for this info. The Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) in their interactive map lists the population of Lezhë as 15,510 persons. My guess is that the national institute uses more narrowly defined political boundary. 

The INSTAT lists the results of the 2001 census of the country as giving a population of 3,069,275 and the 2011 census giving a populating count of 2,800,138 persons. Well these figures give us just a bit of feel for the size of our city and the country.

To remind us all of the geography of where we are living, I'll re publish the map I modified slightly last spring to show the relationship of Tirana and Lezhë to each other and in the context of the whole country of Albania. The map is originally from the UN.

map of Albania with Tirana and Lezhe marked

Map of Albania  (UN; modified 24-Jan-14, Richard L. Bowman)

Back to our trip to Albania, we left home in Harrisonburg about 11 a.m. on Monday, August 4, with our daughter Heidi Byler (married to zHolden) and their daughter, 2-years-and-9-nibts-old, Sydney. We took off on a Lufthansa Airline plane at about 3:30 p.m. from Dulles International Airport (Washington, DC, USA) arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, in just over 7 1/2 hours.. Following this was a one-hour hop to Munich and then a two-hour flight to Tirana, Albania..

All of this was not bad. However, it takes a week of more to get all of the lost sleep and jet lag taken care of and our body aches back under control. So we are glad to be here several weeks ahead of the arrival of the other teachers and the start of school.

Lufthansa plane at Tirana airport

The Lufthansa E95 Plane after Landing in Tirana (5-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After our drive to Lezha Academic Center, we were warmly greeted by staff persons we had known and by studetns who had been in my classes. Here are two students Armelda and Klejdia who will be juniors this year. They were at LAC that day preparing the classrooms by creatively made and placed posters and banners.

Armelda and Klejdia at LAC

Armelda and Klejdia, Two Who Welcomed Us at LAC (5-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

One  of the Albanian staff persons to greet us was a dear friend, Bardha, her husband (Nikolin, who like me is a physics teacher) and their two children (Art and Dona).

16-mmonth-old Art

Sixteen-month-old Art (5-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

4-year-old Dona

Four-year-old Dona (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

When we arrived at LAC, Mrs. Shahini, the director, was occupied with some school issues in her office. After that we had a joyful reunion and lunch together at Kristi's. We greatly appreciated Klementina's choice of Kristi's since that took into our oldl neighborhoodi including the apartment we had lived in and the church we were part of. And, as always, the conversation was enjoyable and flowed easily.  

Klementina & Elsie walking past the Guri i Themelit church

Klementina and Elsie Walk Past the Cornerstone (Guri i Themelit) Church (5-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The hotel Klementina had arranged for us to live in until our apartment was ready is the Ambassador Hotel. It is just off of the main thoroughfare between the school and the church, but the garden in front of the hotel provides an oasis from the clamor and the dust of a city street.

Ambassador Hotel 

Elsie Approaching the Ambassador Hotel (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Even on our first day back in Lezhe, I had to photograph one of the two species of birds which are ubiquitous in Lezhë, that is, a House Sparrow.

a female House Sparrow

A Female House Sparrow (5-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The next day, after more than 12 hours of sleepng, we had lunch at the Food Net in the Net Center. 

Food Net fast food in the Net Center

Food Net, a Place for Suflages and Other Fast Food (6-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

When we arrived at Klementina's office, we had a good chat with her and Mrs. Xhari, Irena's and Armelda's mother. Later we were joined by Masimo, his father (Mr. Picaku), and Amo who shared the good news that the two young men who had graduated in June from LAC had just received their visas to enter Candad for four years of study at the Canadian Mennonite University in Manitoba. We celebrated by going to the Net Center for coffee.

Masimo, Amo, Mrs. Shahini, & Mr. Picaku  at coffee together

Masimo, Amo, Mrs. Shahini, and Mr. Picaku (6-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Elsie and I had cappuccinos that were tastefully constructed--pun intended! 

cappochino coffee at coffee bar in Net Center

Cappuccinos at the Coffee Bar in the Net Center (6-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Then on our way to the Net Center for a late lunch the next day, we met four more graduates of LAC--Ermelinda, Evi, Arilda, and Roxsana. They were eating lunch with Masimo before their paths diverged for the next school year. We eagerly listened to their plans for further education in Tirana, LCC International University (Lithuania) and in Canada.

Arilda, Evi, and Ermelinda at lunch 

2014 LAC Graduates: Arilda, Evi, and Ermelinda (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Roxsana, Masimo and Arilda at lunch 

More LAC Grads: Roxsana, Masimo, and Arilda (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

We were not the first expatriate teachers to arrive at LAC, Melanie and Justin Erb came on August 2. Melanie will be teaching art, and Justin will be the guidance counselor for the school.

We glad to have met Alba Thursday at the school. She is an Albanian teacher, and her husband, Tonin, is a medical doctor at the hospital here in Lezhë. Both are frieds of our from the spring semester at LAC.

Meeting Alba again 

Alba Eagerly Awaits the Birth of Their First Child (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Also, on Thursday, I photographed a representative of the other species of birds in Lezhë--pigeons. 

a brown and white pigeon 

A Brown Pigeon Near the Market (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

That evening we went back to My Bar for a coffee, for old times sake. (We had lived above My Bar in the spring.)

Elsie and I drink coffee at My Bar 

Coffees at My Bar (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Aswe walked back from My Bar we saw and heard a lot of birds flying into the top of a tree near the Obstetrics Hospital. So I took a photo of the tree but I could not see any birds.

a tree full of birds outside of the Obstetrics Hospital 

A Treee with Lots of Noisy Birds Roosting in It (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

And sure enough, when I enlarged the photo, I could see at least three birds in this one small section. Anyone see more? One is even flying in for a landing.

a few of the birds in the tree 

Close-up of the Top of the Tree Showing at Least Three Birds (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

We are very eager to more into our apartment (or at least one we can call ours for a year). It will be good to be able to invite persons over for a visit and to make our own meals. We now snack on bread, cheese and yogurt for two "meals" a day and eat one at a restaurant. But maybe God is teaching us more about living transitionally and not getting too attached to an earthly home. Or maybe we just need to learn more flexibility.

Anyway, our hotel room is on the front side of the building, ands as we look out from our balcony we see Rruga Shtraus (Strauss St.) rolling out in fron of us. Here is one photo as eveing sets in and a second one as night falls.

looking down Rruga Shtraus as evening begins 

Evening Has Begun on the Street (Rruga Shtraus) (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

looking down Rruga Shtraus as night falls 

Night Falls on Rruga Shtraus (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

And jsut to see if I can still do it, and jsut to see if the Moon looks the same heere in Albania as it des in the USA (I'm jsut teasing), I took a long shot of the waving gibbous Moon.

waxing gibbous Moon 

Waxing Gibbous Moon from Our Hotel Balcony (7-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Because so many families are on vacations over the weekends during the summer time, The Cornerstone Church has been meeting qt 6 p.m. on Friday evenings. It was very good to attend again and receive so many welcoming back hugs and handshakes.

chgurch begins to fill up on Friday evening 

Church Begins to Fill Up (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Xhorxhina, a spring grad from LAC who will be attending LLC International U. this fall, has been a young pillar in the church for a few years. Here she entertains (or is entertained by) the pastor's four-month-old baby girl. 

Xhorshina with kpastor's baby daughter 

XhorXhina and Rafael's and Solange's Baby Daughterr (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Rafael's and Solange's son seems to be relaxed around the church building and the people. 

pastor's son plays peek-a-boo around leturn 

Rafael's and Solange's Son Plays "Peek-a-boo" at the Podium (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Three young women lead us all in singing praises to God while Pastor Rafael plays his guitar. 

the praise singers 

Three Women Lead Us in Singing (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Pastor Rafael Tautari plays his guitar 

Pastor Rafael Plays His Guitar (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

one of the praise songs we sang in Albanian 

One of the Songs We Sang in Albanian (8-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Elsie and I are very happy to be back in Lezhë, Albania, again. It felt good to come back to our second home. We have been welcomed by many more persons than I could mention here. This year we want to be open to Gd as he brings people into our lives and us into their lives. As a wa of being more effective at that, we are committing ourselves to lean a lot more Shqip (Albanian) language.

--©2014, Richard L. Bowman

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