Okay, not literally but I sure felt like I was in a Wal-Mart today when we took a trip to the mall. The QTU (Center for Shopping) opened three years ago on the outskirts of Tirana, nothing like it had ever been seen in Albania. It is a mall in the sense we think of a mall with a Grocery store (EuroMax) and an electronic store as the anchors. There were about a dozen other stores so it was a fun place to shop (or at least window shop). The grocery store was about the size of a Walgreens or Long’s Drug store.Today we felt like we had stepped into another country! We had heard rumor of an expansion but could not really see how they were going to make the EuroMax and the mall bigger. They built an entirely NEW EuroMax on the back of the mall and all new stores in between! You should have seen us…. “wow… look at this…look at that…. over here!” We were like kids in a candy store! It is now truly like a super Wal-Mart has come to Albania. The produce section was amazing and the selection of items from hardware to electronics was truly unbelievable!We still recognize, however the dichotomy that IS Albania. For all those who can get to the QTU Mall by car or bus, there remain those who still have difficulty putting food on the table and whose shadows will not cross the door of this new super store or one like it for at least another 10- 15 years. Change is coming to Albania but the gap is widening between the haves and have nots. We were excited to see how many people were receiving training in the new stores today. New stores does mean new jobs and employment for those in need. There is still over 25% unemployment in Albania. Please continue to pray with us that the change that comes is in the hearts and minds of people leaning on Jesus, not just in the availability of things we can buy.
There is snow in Tirana today. Well… there was snow this morning. We woke up to a light dust of snow still covering cars and rooftops around the area. All the kids in the neighborhood were so excited to see snow. This is a rarity in Tirana and we might not see any again for the rest of the winter. What is it about snow that excites kids so much? Even Austin and Tyler were running around with so much excitement – last winter they built tunnels in the snow at my mom and dad’s house in CO. This little sprinkle we had did not even compare!
***Side note: This is the view from our balcony. This house across from us does not look livable but someone does indeed live there. We are finding that it is so common for Albanians to have no regard for the outside of their homes. While we take pride in our homes and our property, Albanians take more pride in their cars and things inside their homes.
We had dinner tonight with friends. There is a great hamburger place we like call the Piazza. They have lived here 3+ years and had never been. We were delighted to introduce them to our favorite hamburger spot. I have been lamenting this week about our electricity and the difficulties we are having. Seems like I blow a breaker every day by running too many things at one time. I can have on one heater, the washer OR the dryer (not both), and one other item running at the same time but more than that overloads the circuits. I feel like I run from room to room to room, turning things on and off all day long. “Sigh.” Well, my lamenting is no more. Melissa can only run one item: a heater, the water heater, OR the dryer. So, if you want to be warm, you can not have hot water or dry clothes. If you want dry clothes, you can not have hot water or heat. If you want to have a hot shower, you can not have heat or dry clothes. Seems crazy, huh? I lament no more! Now if I could only run the vacuum cleaner in more than one room I would be thrilled! The electrical current is too low in the rest of the house to run it… alas, only one crumb free room!
10. How long it takes for jeans to dry on the line in summer and in winter (summer= 2 hours, winter=3 days).
9. How to cook by candle light.
8. How to manage 3-5 electrical items on one circut before it will blow
7. How to take a shower, run a load of laundry and wash the courtyard without running out of water. It’s harder than it sounds!
6. How to have a conversation while saying only “Po, Jo and mire!” (Yes, no, good!)
5. How to direct a taxi while saying only “Right, left, straight, HERE!!”
4. How to keep from gasping while riding shotgun with my husband driving. (I am really gasping at other people, not him!)
3. How to shake my head when saying yes… I mean “po” and how to lift my chin up and click with my tongue when saying no… I mean “jo.” And how to do all that like I really know what I am saying.
2. How to gesture wildly to explain what I mean in a conversation.
1. How to follow a brave Albanian across a busy intersection, carefully placing them between myself and any oncoming traffic, all while dodging cars in a stop and go fashion!