(So I’ll announce the winners of the contest at the end of this blog.)
So, yeah…. I think the Lord can be quite tricky at times. He can fool you into thinking you are accepting a call to do one thing and then………… We were the first full-time missionaries called on a Pathway mission. (So for those of you who do not know what Pathway is, it is a special church online education program to integrate institute and secular learning, to primarily get you back to school for what ever reason you stopped, or to get you reinvested into schooling, and then to build your testimony of Christ). We were specifically called to head this program up here in Albania. After arriving here the Mission President pulled us into his office and said they urgently needed a Branch President in a small city called Fier and that the Pathway program has been temporally closed off, due to some conflicts with Albanians leaving the country through the Pathway program. Wow. Not what we wanted or had in mind, and if we had know in advance, it might have been a whole different decision. No use in arguing or feeling sorry for ourselves, as I could see by the expression on President Anderson’s face, he was in a tight spot, and we were here to serve.
So we back up our bags again and headed south for approx. two hours and arrived in FIER, a city of approximately 100,000. It has no claim to fame but is a 20 minute ride to the ocean and it has a small oil supply with oil production. It is a small city but it is still city life and 90% of the people live in high rises, sort of.
The necessity of a Branch President in this city was due to the fact that the only other qualified Priesthood holder, who was actually the Branch President at the time, was leaving the country and going to Italy in two weeks. Because of the quickness of the need here there was not enough time to prepare any accommodations for us and so we were put up in a hotel room, while they worked on our apartment which was a newly constructed place. “Hotel Internacional” Shoot, that’s not too bad, we can handle that sacrifice. Maid service! So up we went, 3 flights of stairs and 3 trips with our luggage and stuff, no elevator. What’s all this huffing and puffing. How old are we again? Unlock the door to a somewhat decent room but…….15 X 15 is not the royale suite. No chairs and just big enough for a queen Albanian bed size mattress. What awaited us in the room was a full size lovely painting of a scantly dressed woman lying on her side overhanging the head board. Not that I minded, lol. Just maybe a little difficult to do scripture study hour with her looking down on us. I asked if they would remove their Mona Lisa for us and the bellhop had to go check with the boss. It was ok, phew…… start unpacking.
It wasn’t long before we started listing the pros and cons of hotel living. Who won??? Well you decide. We had a very small fridge but no hot plate and no microwave. Nuts, bread and cereal was the diet of no-choice. By the way, did I mention my wife is “gluten intolerant”. So despite the fresh bread being baked almost on every corner and living in what seemed to be the bread capital of the world, she could only look and touch, not partake. Not me. Ok, I did feel guilty at times. “Man shall not live by bread alone”….. oh yeah, what else was there! Pizza!!! Sorry Honey, Sweetie pie. Pizza in great abundance and clogged arteries. We did find that on Sunday not being able to go out to shop, that we could buy a can of tuna and rice cakes, and “whola” a meal fit for a King, Albanian King that is. We ate out a lot, a whole lot. By the end of the week, I felt done with this. Not to mention that laying on the bed was ok for the first day or so, but then comes the back aches and rump soreness, and when it was time to go to bed I felt like that position was old hat. Also, the 3 flights of stairs (min. 3x daily) and the constant dog barking in the middle of the night, made us feel older and crankier, not to mention doing laundry at the other missionaries apartment across town. Now times that by not 1 week, not 2 weeks but 4, now long….. weeks. Well, i’m not sure what YOU would decide but “as for me and my house……”, get me out of here!…… Despite the maid service, we were ready to vamoose.
Eating out presented it’s own challenges and google translate has much to be desired. Some days we did ok, we manage to get most of what we wanted and could eat, but most of the time we just had to laugh (not aloud) at the things we thought we ordered and what we ended up getting. Once you got it, you could not return it, not gonna happen. We had no way of explaining what was wrong with the food, (YOU try explaining that to your waiter with sign language. The laughable part is we tried). Breakfast food does not exist in Albania. Once I found a lady who was going to scramble me some eggs. I even brought in a picture off my phone. “See this? This is what I want”, pointing at the picture. She shakes her head side to side (which means yes). Boy was I excited, rubbing my hands together in great anticipation. I WANTED BREAKFAST FOOD.!! To this day, I still don’t know how in the heck you could do what she did to those simple eggs!!! I couldn’t even eat them. I could go on and on about the food but it’s a good thing that we like salads and 50% of the time we got the salad we wanted. There were those times, I have to admit, when the food was very good, and we also learned a lot of Albanian food names, so our trials were not in vain. The Bread was incredible, sorry Honey, Love ya.
Ok, so the winners of the contest pictures were Steve Strong, Kathy Layne and Talia Lewis combined. In the first example of the white Mercedes, you can barely see, even when I was standing on top of it, the faint white lines of an absolutely faded non-existing cross-walk markings, that you can’t park in it’s line of direction. (Talia) The second example that some others came close to saying was parking beyond the “Stop” sign. It didn’t matter if you could park three more cars in that space beyond the “stop” sign, as you could see, that was aggravatingly illegal. The completely outrageous thing about that “Stop” sign, is that it has no meaning what so ever as a “Stop” sign. Nobody cares, nobody looks, and NOBODY STOPS. Go figure. And of course as in the picture with cars parked in the exact same positions as I was, probably none else got tickets that month in those places but me!!!! Totally based on the mood of the officer and who you were.
Urime!! Congrats!! to the winners. The prize – Albanian scrambled eggs!!!