Turkish coffee and toilet paper

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Every day, I realize more and more that I need to gain a greater awareness of the situations of others,  both those that I can see and those that are beneath the surface. It is easy for me to live in my own little bubble, dealing with my own perceived problems and never venturing outside of my own little world. This week I had a few opportunities to learn more about some of my neighbors over coffee.  I can honestly tell you that I still have a lot to learn about living simply. (I have been really convicted by some of Shaun’s posts this week on simplicity. Read more here and here and here).

With that said, I was entirely humbled this week when I went to visit my neighbor, Albana for coffee. Drinking coffee is a sign of friendship here in Albania. When someone asks “Do you want to get a coffee?” or better yet, “Would you like to come to my home for a coffee?” it is a way of saying “I like you and want to be friends.” In their homes, Albanians serve Turkish coffee, an espresso like coffee but thicker.  It also has a sort of sediment at the bottom.  Not exactly what we call coffee. I have been wanting to learn to make Turkish coffee so that I can serve my Albanian friends when they visit. Last week, when I bought all the supplies at the market, I happened to see my neighbor Albana, on the road as I was returning home. I showed her my purchases and asked if she could teach me.

It is really much easier than I thought! A little Turkish coffee (almost like a coffee powder that mostly dissolves), sugar and water. Bring it to almost a boil, and voila. Gezuar! (Cheers!) Albana told me I did a very good job on my first Turkish coffee! Later during our visit, I had to use the bathroom in her apartment. Now here comes the humble part…. she brought me a roll of toilet paper from the cabinet in the hallway (it was old and obviously not used except for special guests) because they keep none in the bathroom. There is likely no money to spend on things that are superfluous. How much TP does our family use just in a month? Her husband has a job as a security guard but their monthly income is probably less than $500 per month. It really left me with a humbleness about how rich I am among my neighbors.

Just a few days later, I was able to practice on my neighbor Bona. She and the her children (there are four of them… never a dull moment) came for a visit and I showed her my newly learned skills. She was very impressed that I was serving her Turkish coffee in my American home. We sat at the kitchen table and ate left over crescent rolls (which she had never seen) and I explained how I had made them into the crescent shape. When she visits, she always asks a lot of questions about how I cook and prepare foods. I also had some Jell-o which someone had sent me that I served to the kids. It was a big hit! Again, I was aware of how much we have and how rich we really are.

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