Coffee


I made a lot of visits to catch up with people and they always revolve around coffee. 3 years ago, I’d say about 80% of my visits involved coffee in the home. Mainly because going out for coffee wasn’t as common since most places were for men only. This time around, most of the time I’d go out with my younger friends. And they all took me somewhere different! They even have a few coffee shops now (as in more than one) where you can get things like cappuccinos or lattes!

Fireworks, Sparklers & Noisemakers


In Albania, there are no rules. Everyone buys their own fireworks and people set them off all the time leading up to January 1. Noisemakers are very popular with the boys. I got picked on with a few myself. And of course sparklers. I thought they were a fire hazard inside. But they’re not. And then the fireworks display on New Years, when everyone goes up to their roofs and set off what they have left…it’s magical! 

Baklava

Baklava is a New Years tradition for Albanians. Most everyone makes it themselves and it’s only served at New Years. When you go on visits, you’re always served baklava. My final count for the week was 14 pieces.

New Years’ Dinners


I was lucky because I got to eat 2 big dinners. One with each side of the family. The food was on point for both dinners with – you guessed it – baklava for dessert!

Warming Up

In Albania, houses are concrete with no insulation or central heating. Which means it gets cold. Most of the time I could see my breath inside. Most Albanian homes have at least one woodstove in a room where everyone gathers. They keep the door shut so it will stay warm but it also becomes the only warm place in the house. So naturally, not only would I get warmed up with the family, I would get to hang out and chat with them too.

Sleepovers


My Albanian brother gave up his bed for me for the week and took the couch. He shares a room with sister so when one of the other missionaries came over to spend the night, we pushed the two twin beds together. Only they didn’t exactly touch because the draws on the bottom got in the way. So we stuffed couch pillows down in between. I somehow ended up in the middle. It wasn’t that bad. But the second night we had a sleepover, somehow, one of the girls ended up in the middle of the two beds – pushing me and the other girl together basically sleeping 2 in a twin bed. I didn’t get as much sleep that night.

Being a bad influence


I brought New Years gifts for the kids: nerf guns. Just small ones but they were a hit. And in typical fashion, the youngest lost 2 of his 3 bullets within 5 minutes while the older brother lost 1 of his in that time frame. I also gave one for my Albanian brother and sister to share so they could defend their house. However, the 2 younger kids started shooting them in the house and got in trouble. Of course I didn’t. But they also didn’t know at the time that the guns came from me. But by the end of the week, even the adults were shooting each other with them.

Hanging out with the other missionaries


Of course being able to hang out with all the missionaries, old and new, was great! Catching up, playing games, just like old times! (Aukermans are featured because this was the picture with the most missionaries in one photo!)

Games


Speaking of games, I love playing games with these folks because they like to trash talk and love to win. But don’t take it personally when they don’t. I introduced them to Pit which I chose based on the fact that it was simple enough I could explain it in Albanian. However, I will say a lot of feelings were hurt with some of those last minute bull exchanges though.

Dancing


Doing Albanian dances are hard and it’s one thing I never learned. But as luck would have it, Grace was visiting and loves to dance. She didn’t want to dance alone so I basically shuffled my feet as she danced. I would post the video but this one frame is pretty much the only time in the whole dance where I was doing what she was (from the ankles down).

Snow 


It snowed for the first time in many years in Durres so everyone was having a blast! There were lots of snowmen, snow ball fights & forgiveness. We even ventured out into the city for lunch. I was glad I was able to experience the snow with everyone. The snow even got the kids an extra week of vacation from school! Unfortunately, all the water pipes have frozen so no one has had running water for almost a week now. 

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