September 1, 2014
More Orientation to Ourselves and the New Culture Around Us 

On Thursday and Friday our time together as teachers focused on getting to know our style of working during conflicts. Justin Rittenhouse used the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory to help us assess our own style and how we interact with others in times of "calm" and "storm."

Justin Rittenhouse heps us undeerstand our styles of behaving

Justin Rittenhouse Helps Us Understand Our Style Under Conflict (29-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On Saturday eight of us teachers took a day trip into Tirana, the capitol of Albania. As Elsie and I walked to Lezha Academic Center on Saturday morning, we saw a busy market, as usual, and this horse cart which we also see often on market morning.

a house drawn cart in Lezhe

A Horse-drawn Cart in Lezhë (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Just before we got to the school lane, we saw these quite a dsiplay of second-hand cloothes for sale.

used clothing for sale

Used Clothing for Sale (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

A bit more than an hour after leaving the school, the small van (mini-bus or "furgon") arrived near the center of Tirana. It left us off not far from the well-known landmark, the clock tower.

the clock tower in Tirana

The Clock Tower in Tirana (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On the green mall on the square is a statue of Skanderbeg on a horse. In 1444, Skanderbeg organized the princes in Albania together under his leadership, and until soon after his death in 1468, Albania was free from Turkish rule. However, the history of the life and times of Skanderbeg (Wikipedia) is full of wars, famine and political realignment.

statue of Skanderbgaggs on his hourse

The Statue of Skanderbeg on His Horse in Tirana (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On one end of the mall area is the National History Museum with a mural on its front showing movement of the people of Albania over the centureis.

museum in Tirana

National History Museum in Tirana (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

close-up of the mural on the museum's outside wall

A Close-up of the Mural on the Front of the National History Museum (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On an adjacent side of the mall, one can find the Palace of Culture with a bookstore at one end and the opera house at the other end. Adelina, a fellow teacher from Lezhë, was our informal guide for the day. Thanks, Ina!

Elsie and Adelina pose inside the bookstore

Elsie and Adelina in the Bookstore in the Palace of Culture (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After leaving the bookstore we headed toward the museum only find out that it is closed for repairs until later in September. On our way back, a TV reporter and camera person interviewed some of our group. In passing, I asked the reporter if it was a slow news day. She said, "Yes." <smile>

TV reporter inverviews group 

Some of Our Group Being Interviewed for TV (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

In this central part of Tirana, there are some nice public green areas for adults to sit and talk in the shade of trees and for children to play on various play equipment. 

people rest in shade and children play in park 

Parks Provide Shade for Audlts and Places to Play for Kids (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

We walked a fair amount that day.

crossing at a crosswalk in Tirana 

Stepping into Our Journey (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

And we ate some American style food at the Stephen House--hamburgers, chicken breasts and mashed potatoes, fajitas, and enchiladas.  

eating at Stephen House in Tirana 

Eating Lunch at the Stephen House (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

While at the restaurant, we met Jonathan and his mother who are studying Albanian in order to be a missionary family in Tirana. Jonathan's father is a physician. The family is from England, and they are working under the European Christian Mission organization.

Jonathan and his mother eat lunch at Stephen House 

Meeting Jonathan and His Mother at the Stephen House (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After lunch we hiked up toward a lake in Tirana. On the way there we noticed this monument to soldiers who had died during World War II in Albania. 

memorial to WW II soldiers who died in Albania 

Memorial for Soldiers Who Died in Albania during WWII (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

close-up of memorial plaque 

Close-up of the Memorial Marker (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Why do humans so often depend upon violence and war to try to solve their problems when in fact it is peaceful caring for each other that makes the most lasting peace. And for Christians we know that Christ, past of God, modeled for us how to live sacrificially. Can we not try to follow his example!

On that hike we were joined by Bardha, her husband (Nikolin) and two children (Dona and Art). Thanks for being with us for this lovely time.

Hicholin adn Art with Elsie and Bardha watching 

Elsie and Bardha Watch Nikolin with Art (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Art, Dona and Nickolin meet a dog on our walk 

Art and Dona Enjoy a Friendly Dog on Our Hike (30-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

We continue to meet new people here in Albania, to get more acquainted with those we have already met, and to see new and familiar places. Elsie and I are looking forward to a very special year.

August 28, 2014
More from Our Trip to Përmet  and Back 

On Friday afternoon as we drove south from Lezhë toward and then passing Tirana and Duress, Lushnjë, Vier, and Tepelenë, and finally arriving at Përmet , we saw a lot of farm land. And we actually passed a passenger train. We saw houses, fields of corn, olive groves and grape vines.

railroad track, houses, and olive trees in central Albania

A Train Track, Houses and Olive Trees South of Tirana (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

a corn field aganst a backdrop of mountains

A Corn Field Against a Backdrop of Mountains (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Various other sights met us on this journey.

sheep along the road 

A Flock of Sheep Meander along the Roadside (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

our van crossing a narrow metal girder bridge 

We Cross a Narrow Metal-Girder Bridge (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Closer to Përmet , we passed the Trebeshina water bottling plant. 

Trebeshina water bottling plant near Permet 

The Trebelene Water Bottling Plant (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The Vjose River flows through Përmet . It has a blue-green cast to its water which reminds me of copper sulfate but for which I have no definitive source. This river begins in Greece and has most of its distance in Albania. It is part of the See River Project. Below is the view of the river from our hotel in Përmet  at about 7:30 in the evening.

Vjose River flows thrugh Permet 

The Vjosa River Flowing through Përmet (22-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The next morning we headed toward Bënjë Thermal Waters (warm springs) in the Bredhi i Hotovës (Hotova Fir) National Park in the Përmeti District. On the way there we intersected with more farm animals and equipment.   

cattle taking the right of way on the road 

Cattle Being Herded along the Road (23-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

a tractor and baler 

A Tractor and (New Holland?) Baler (23-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

At the Bënjë section of the park, we enjoyed the warm sun and some of us the warm waters of the springs. Here is an arched bridge for pedestrians from where the cars can park to where the warm springs are. 

arched walkway bridge at Benje 

Arched Bridge at Bënjë for Pedestrians (23-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

In the evenings in Përmet, at least one street is blocked from vehicular traffic so that people can walk around and visit with each other and enjoy that vendors have to offer.

waalking the streets at night in Permet 

Walking the Streets of Përmet in the Evening (23-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

After a breakfast of fried eggs, cheese, olives, bread, candied jams, etc. at the hotel, we boarded our van for the return trip home to Lezhë.

Please notice that the van is for sale (shitet). And while trying out some rough Albanian phrases, I learned that it is a 2003 Mercedes Benz Sprinter van with a 2.2 L engine. Anyone want to buy it?

packing the van to leave Permet 

Repacking the Van for Our Return to Lezhë (24-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On our return trip we took a short side visit to the old town of Gjirokastër. It is built on the side of a hill with a castle at the top of the hill. The streets are paved with stone "bricks" that must be slippery when wet or when it snows. They do get a light coating of snow from time to time in the winter.


Old Town Gjirokastër (24-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

For most of the trip, I kept seeing tall stalks of something growing quite often in the ditches alongside of the road. Klementina confirmed that it was planted by persons on purpose and that it was bamboo. 

bamboo growing in the drainage areas along side of  roads 

One of Many Stands of Bamboo We Saw on Our Trip (24-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Back in Lezhe on Monday morning, it is time to wash clothes. And Tuesday and Wednesday are also times to wash clothes. Given that our water is off for two hours every four hours, washing clothes can become an all-week activity. 

Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) is wash day for us 

Monday (and Tuesday and ...) Is Wash Day (25-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Our Albanian language lessons continue, too. And I need practice and more practice. 

Besjona teaches us Albanian 

Besjoona Is Our Up-front Teacher This Week (25-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

and we gtry to learn Albanian 

...And We Are Her Students (25-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

Back home, let me give you a small tour of our apartment.

First is the kitchen converted from the original balcony. So it is rather narrow, but Elsie says that the wall of windows helps her to not feel so claustrophobic. 

our kitchen converted from a balcony 

Our Small Kitchen That Opens to Our World Outside (26-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The living room is truly our living room--for eating meals, for reading and working on computers, and (for me) for taking naps. 

Elsie ponders financial reports in our living room 

Elsie Ponders Some Financial Reports in Our Living Room (26-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

The whole bathroom is the shower stall. But a squeegee used on the tile floor helps get the water down the drain fairly quickly.  

the whole bathroom is the shower stall 

The Bathroom in Our Apartment (26-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

To show myself that I am learning some Shqip, I photographed this sign for the electrical appliance store in the Net Center. Note the slogan, "Cilësia është kursimm." I knew that the middle word is Albanian for "is." When I looked the others up using Google Translate, I interpreted that slogan as, "Quality Is Saving." OK, I have a lot more to learn! 

Globe electrical appliance store sizn 

Globe Store's "Quality is Saving" Slogan (26-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

On Tuesday as we went to order our lunches at the Food Net counter, three American's heard us talking to each other. So they stopped us and wanted to know about us. They are part of a World Race ("11 in 11") team serving for a month in Albania. at a Christian camp outside of Lezhë.

three volunteers from World Race eat a meal in Net Center 

Three Members of a World Race Team Serving in Albania (26-Aug-14; © Richard L. Bowman)

I was ready to engage the two women and one man in a deeper discussion of the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of short-term Christian missions. However, Elsie has the good wisdom to remind me that I could not get into such a discussion for only 15 minutes; I would be energetically discussing the topic for much longer.

Here are two resources by sociologist, Kurt Ver Beek, at Calvin College. He urges caution about how short-change missions have changed participants and recipients.

I admit that I am biased against an advertising slogan of "11 countries in 11 months," which sounds more like a world trip rather than an experience of sharing the Good News of God through Christ. 

--©2014, Richard L. Bowman

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