I made this blog to let you know what's going on with me in Albania!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Teaching Albanian Teachers

Hello again!

On the same day as the accident occurred, I had the opportunity to teach Albanian teachers in the village of Laç (about an hour north of Tirana).

The director of GDQ and I taught a seminar on classroom management to eighteen Albanian teachers in the city, Laç.

This seminar was part of a collaboration with World Vision in an effort to provide an opportunity for Albanian teachers to learn new concepts and receive more training.

Much of the information that we presented is drastically different from the cultural norm, especially in relation to discipline. However, the teachers received the information well and actively participated throughout the seminar.

Not only was it a great opportunity to pass on information and ideas that I have, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to build relationships!


On Saturday, April 15th, there was a horrific accident that occurred here in Albania. Let me fill you in on some of the details.

Albania has about 100,000 tons of ammunition stored in former army depots across the country, and on Saturday a team of specialists were dismantling about 40,000 tons in a village about 8 miles from Tirana.

No one knows yet exactly what happened, but people are speculating that human error was to blame. Safety procedures were said to be so lax that gunpowder was stored in unprotected containers. There was speculation that the first of six blasts could have been caused by an explosion of gunpowder that accidentally caught fire. Five blasts followed this initial explosion, and were so strong that they were felt 190 miles away in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. Houses more than a mile away were damaged while in Tirana, eight miles away, windows were shattered and the international airport was temporarily closed.

Nearly 300 people were injured, and at this point eleven people are known to be dead. The government said that more than 300 buildings in the area have been completely destroyed.
Please pray for all the of the people who are effected by this tragedy— injured, lost their homes, or were killed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kosovo Independence Day

An important event in history occured on February 17th, Kosovo announced its independence from Serbia.

"The proclamation sent thousands of jubilant ethnic Albanians into the streets overnight, where they waved red-and-black Albanian flags, fired guns and fireworks into the air and danced. One couple named their newborn daughter Pavarsie — Albanian for "independence."

People stopped to scribble names and messages on a sculpture spelling out "NEWBORN" in giant iron letters across from the U.N. headquarters in central Pristina.

And the republic's new flag — a blue field featuring a yellow silhouette of Kosovo and six white stars, one for each of the main ethnic groups — fluttered from homes and offices.

'This is the happiest day in my life,' said Mehdi Shehu, 68. 'Now we're free and we can celebrate without fear.' " (William J. Kole and Nebi Qena, Associated Press Writers).

Kosovo is made up of 90% ethnic Albanians, so celebrations were also happening in the streets of Albania. In the center of Tirana, there were street concerts, fireworks, and dancing - celebrating the victory! I went down to see what was happening and snapped a few pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Hiking Pictures!

Albania is about 75% mountainous, and over the past few weeks I've been able to go on a couple different hikes - one up a mountain with snow (Mali me Gropa - mountain with holes) and another without snow. Here are some pictures of the adventures!

The steep climb up, me with my friends Louise and Tim, and a hut along the way

My friend Sarah and I and a view from the mountain

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Been a while....

Hello! I hope everyone has been doing well. I apologize for the long delay since writing last...I know, my usual thing to start off with! It's definitely been a busy past couple of months, so let me see if I can break it down into sizeable bits!

I faciliated the end of term play, so a lot of my time the last month of school was focused on that. The students were in charge of the production - the script, props, etc. They ended up doing a great job and everyone enjoyed it (or were just making me feel good :))! The term ended, report cards went out, and we started out break!

My body decided that after school was over, it could finally let down, and in doing so, I got sick. It was very unpleasant - a bad cold where I couldn't leave my house for a little over a week. Susan was a good nurse, and I had a lot of reading time, which is always good!

At the very end of being sick, our team left to go to our field conference in Tunisia. The conference was great - studying the life of Jeremiah. It was also a great time of relaxing and getting to know people better. On our off days, we were able to see El Jem Coliseum, the port, the Old Town Sousse, and go on camel rides! Now, I'd been on a camel before, but this was a five mile journey! Let me tell you, my legs were a bit sore after that!!!

Life is going very well! It's definitely been a rainy week, and I've been enjoying the water proof trousers that my parents sent on my bike rides! What a difference!!! The electricity has also been MUCH improved recently, so hopefully that will continue!

Please let me know how you all are doing and what you are up to! And here are some pics to enjoy as well!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! This was my third Thanksgiving away from my family (a few years ago I was in China). It's always sad to be away from family during this season, but by no means did I celebrate the holiday alone! We had a Christar dinner and a group of friends got together for a meal as well! Well, I've always sad that the best part is the mashed potatoes...but I never expected to make them for that many people! Yup, mashed potatoes for 50 people!! Well, it's tough to judge how much to make for so many people...so I thought 21 kilograms (45ish pounds) would be about right! So, Susan, her mom, and I cooked ALL those potatoes!! Here's a picture of the bag as well as some others from that day!

Monday, October 29, 2007


My mom sent some headbands and candy from the States....so here you have it, Halloween in Albania!!

Friday, October 26, 2007


Hello! Last week we had a week off school for our half term break, and Susan and I used that time to go to Poland. My great grandparents on my mom's side are from Poland, so we went to see where they lived as well as some concentration camps (my great grandparents and great aunts on my dad's side of the family died in Auschwitz, and we are not certain about the rest of our family).

Of course, along the way there were many adventures, which is to be expected with my travels!
First, before we went to Poland, we spent the weekend in England with Susan's mom (or mum - we'll be British :)). Well, the airlines ended up losing our luggage, which wouldn't have mattered so much, but we were going directly to a wedding! After speaking with the airlines, they said that Susan and I would each have $100 to buy clothes. So thanks to them, I now have a new outfit! We had a great time in England though and were able to spend time with Susan's mom and grandma.

The first city we went to in Poland was Krakow. We chose this city because it's the closest big city to Auschwitz and Birkenau (concentration camps). We stayed at a very nice hostel and the city was very beautiful. It was definitely a lot colder than I had expected though. Susan and I, by the end of the trip, had purchased a scarf, hat, gloves, and coat (for Susan)!
On our first full day in Krakow we signed up to go with a tour group to Auschwitz and Birkenau (an hour and fifteen minutes away). On the tour of Auschwitz you were able to see a lot of things because all the 28 buildings were still standing, as well as the barbed wired. Each building has been turned into a museum, displaying different aspects of the camp and the prisoner's lives. You could see luggage that had been taken away from people, seven tons of hair that had been shaved off people after entering the camp, the empty cans of the Zyklon B (gas), the gas and cremation rooms, the torturing cells, the execution wall, and much more. It was very horrific.
(outside a gas chamber and crematorium)
After the tour was over, before we took the bus to Birkenau, we had fifteen minutes to use the bathroom, get coffee, etc., so we told our guide that we were going to go to the archive building to look up information on my family but that we would still meet them. Well, Susan and I were TWO minutes late to the meeting point, and no one else was in sight, nor the bus! Yup, they had left us. After looking unsuccessfully into other options (walking, taking the city bus, etc.) I only saw one option - going with another tour bus. So, seeing a group walking to their bus, I went up to the tour guide and asked if we could go with them. He agreed, so we stepped onto the bus with the other passengers, who turned out to be a very elderly group of Italians! We blended right in! We arrived at Birkenau only to find that the tour had just ended. Thankfully we were given a few minutes at the end, and Susan and I were able to look around ourselves in that time.
After spending 2 nights in Krakow, we went to Warsaw where we stayed another 3 nights. Our first whole day in Warsaw, we went had decided to go to the town where my family is from, Wegrow. All of the Polish train websites are in Polish, but we found it surprisingly easy to navigate through and find the trains we needed to be on, or so we thought! Two stops showed up when we typed in "Wegrow" so we decided, since we didn't know which would be the center, to get a ticket to the second stop, but get off at the first and walk. Thankfully, the train doors shut too quickly and we couldn't manage to get out in time, because all that was around us at that time were forests!!! At that point we assumed that the second stop must be the center of town. After getting off the train on the second stop, we had quite a shock. Wegrow, from looking on the internet, was supposed to be a town of 12,500, but what we saw was a town that had a population of 10! The land was very flat, and in the distance as far as our eyes could see, we could only see 5 houses!! We thought that we still must not be in the center of the town, and we saw a bus pull off when we got off the train, so we started walking in the direction of the train. We walked a good ways, but to no avail - all we saw was more forest.

At that point we walked back to the train station, which strongly resembles and old saloon (door squeak and all). We saw a woman and tried to find out if the center was near or far, but to no avail, she didn't speak any English, and we were not able to communicate using hand signs. Then, in came a man in his late 50s/60s wearing all camoflauge (hat and all)...and he spoke some broken English. We asked him the same question and he said he would show us on a map at his house. So we went outside and started walking, crossed the train tracks, and he started climbing over a train! What were we to do but follow! I was sure that Susan was going to fall, but she made it! It turned out that we were 37 km away!! A bus ride later we were finally there.

After we got off the bus in the real Wegow, we weren't quite sure what to do. In my mind we were going to find the town hall and find out where she used to live and all that, but from the looks of it, that was definitely not going to happen. The town was definitely bigger and looked like a town of 12,500 people, but from the looks of it, none of them spoke any English! We went into a bank thinking they might know English, but they didn't...so we walked out, and just looked up like, "what are we going to do now???" And that's when we saw a notice advertising and English class! We followed the sign and went into a building, only to meet a man from Nigeria that taught the class! Very random! He told us that he would take us to the cemetary, which ended up being very interesting.

From that point, we needed to figure out how we were going to get to Treblinka, a concentration camp that most people from that town were sent to. We had looked on the internet and knew how to get there from the wrong town we went to initially. So, the Nigerian man then saw a family that he knew that he said was from Albania driving by, so they drove us to the bus station! So now we were in Poland, with a Nigerian man, being driven by an Albanian family - crazy! Turns out the Albanian family has been in Poland too long to remember any Albanian, but they still managed to get us to the station. We took the bus back to the wrong city, only to get off the bus and see that at the SAME TIME the train we needed just pulled away!

When we had been walking around that city, thinking it was the right one, we saw a sign that said "Taxi" on a tree by someone's house, so we went back to it. A woman and child were inside the gate by the house and immediately after we said, "Taxi", the man was ready to drive us away. The taxi drove us to Treblinka, waited for us while we looked around, then drove us to the nearby city where we could take a train back to Warsaw. Treblinka has been completely destroyed by the Germans so as to destroy any evidence. However, there are now stones in place to symbolize what was there, as well as a huge memorial with a grave stone to represent each country that people were sent from, as well as a gravestone for each city in Poland that people had come from. It was very well done.

In Warsaw, Susan and I were also able to go into the Jewish quarter and see the only synagogue that made it through the Holocaust, as well as see the train station in the ghetto where the Jews were sent to the concentration camp, among other things.

The trip was very educational and interesting to see, but also very emotional. It's difficult to think how something like the Holocaust every happened, and even more difficult to think about how people believe it never happened. One of the quotes on the wall in a building in Auschwitz said this, "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again" (George Santayana). I'll end on that.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Hello! Last weekend, Susan and I went to Vlore, a town about 3 hours south of Tirane. We have friends there that we wanted to see and we also wanted to celebrate her team leader's birthday.

Turns out that I left my bathroom bag in my apartment, not a big deal, all things I could buy at a store, right? Well, the store I found didn't have any adult size tooth brushes, only child size. Yes, I ended up buying one and decided that I had to show you a picture of it!

Besides the interesting beginning, the weekend went really well. We went up on top of the mountain outside of town, and the day was clear enough that we could see Corfu, Greece! We also bought some honey that had been hand bottled in the area, and let me tell you, it is delicious! They only had one size, BIG, so we'll be enjoying it for a while!

We also had lunch at a restaurant on the beach, which was great. The weather was nice, but not swimming weather, so we just enjoyed the view.

Just thought I'd fill you in on what it was like in Vlore! Take care!