Friday, August 07, 2009

Jaji's garden

As promised, here's a picture of Jaji's garden. The church office
building is the two story building on the right.

In my first Albanian language lesson, I learned, or tried to learn,
the 36 letters of the Albanian alphabet. Jaji is technically spelled
"Xhaxhi" and while the letter "gj" also seems to make a j sound, the
Albanians insist it is a different sound entirely. The "j" makes a y
sound like in "your."

At the end of the lesson, they made me read sentences by sounding out
words. This proved embarrassing of course, mostly because Tejuta said
I pronounced every word like I was very excited and had a lot to say,
but couldn't get my words out fast enough. It was a spot on
description, actually.

Today we'll be going on a hike up to a restored orthodox church.
Also, we should load our truck for the mountains so tomorrow morning
isn't crazy busy.

More Dust

To keep you from knowing the horror of the dusty storage areas, here's
a pleasant picture of Erin from our coffee break at Don Cafe this
afternoon. Three double-espressos and two sodas=$3.50. We love
Albania. Did I say this already?

Anyway, here's the best story of the day. Erin and Kaiser had to clean
out a tool closet filled with dust, rat poo, and rat poison.
Eventually, I replaced Erin in this job. Kaiser found an old pouch of
rat poison and walked out of the closet pretending to eat from the
pouch of poison. Arnold and Simon freaked out and tried to grab it out
of his hands yelling, "yo, yo, yo!!!" This, in Albanian, is "no, no,

Kaiser said he did it as part of an ongoing lesson to convince our
fifteen year-old bosses that Americans should not be left alone for
more than five minutes at a time.

Also, tonight Erin got hugged by an 11 year-old boy we know from
church volleyball. This was poor behavior in Albanian. But we laughed
about it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Kitchen View

We live in a big house with two kitchens. The Stoscher house is big
because it was originally purchased to be an orphanage. The orphanage
didn't work out so it serves as family and guest quarters. The photo here
is from the downstairs kitchen where we gather for meals and where I
make the coffee every morning.

Look closely and you can see the family gardens of each property.
Albanians are amazing gardeners, and they need to be because of the
vast quantities of tomato and cucumber salad served.

Across the street, adjacent to the church, is a massive plot kept by
the savagely impressive "Jaji". Jaji means uncle, but that's what
everyone calls him. To his friends, he might be Jajka. Jaji also works
at camp and has been working harder than all of us despite being older
than Sam (maybe) and much shorter than Erin. I'll take a picture of
the garden and Jaji.

Today felt like more breaks than work as we waited for instruction.
Then we were asked to sweep in the attic. Even after wetting down the
concrete I kicked up so much dust I was reflecting on the disastrous
health consequences I might be incurring in the future by sweeping.

This afternoon we lost to Albania 2-1 in volleyball. I had to pick
George and Schroeder up off the court because they broke down into
tears after the emotional last game. Sam was so upset he kicked the
ball over the fence. Erin swore like a sailor and Kaiser just stood
there. What else is new?

We did actually lose. We reacted differently, of course.

Tonight we went back to camp and sang "I've got peace like a river,"
"if you're happy and you know it," and "lord I lift your name on high"
in Albanian, among other songs. The words change, but the hand motions
stay the same.

On our way back, Schroeder apologized for his tearful outburst by
buying us ice cream sundaes. Total cost for five sundaes with mixed
fruit? Five dollars. We love Albania.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Until 2 weeks ago, I hadn't played volleyball in several years.
Volleyball was my main sport in high school and college, and when I
played on the beach in Santa Cruz two weeks back, I realized how much
I missed it.

Then God provided a camp where I'd get to play an hour a day for a
week on a low net against less capable opponents. It makes my
extremely rusty skills look good.

Even Sam and George are getting into the volleyball games, while
Kaiser and Schroeder have become monsters on the court. No surprise,
Kaiser likes to trash talk. But the kids do, too.

Yesterday, America beat Albania 2-1, and it was intense. This is six
tall adults vs six Albanian jrhi and high school kids. No one on the
Albanian team was taller than our shortest player. I'm glad they took
a game on us, but still can't believe it.

Old and New Roofs

This photo shows the difference between the new roof sections and what
they once looked like. Our attic is in the arched ceiling building.
The main building at camp (kitchen, dorms, large meeting room,
computer lab and office space) is maybe 80 yards long.

The building and land around the camp was originally purchased so the
church could serve 1000 Kosovar refugees that made Erseke a temporary
home during the crisis in the late 90's. When they found the right
building, the price tag was $15k and they didn't have that kind of
money so they said, "let's go home and pray about it." That night
Mark received a call from a church that had taken a special offering
for the Kosovo crisis and they wanted to give it to him. The offering
they'd raised was $15,000...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Attic

Last night we learned a little more about our attic. Once upon a time,
all the top floors at camp had arched roofs. About six years ago,
money came in to redo a section of roof and remodel the top floor.
Then last year the next section of roof was completed. What we're
clearing out will become a new large meeting room, and it will also
become insulation for the floor of dorm rooms below, thus making the
bottom floor open in winter. That will allow for the number of
students in Bible school to nearly double, I think.

During the summer, "the camp" is a summer camp. During the school
year, it is a bible school for college students who want to study with
international students and do mission/ministry work in Albania. About
half the students are from Albania, the other half from all over the

As you can tell, we have a long way to go before the attic is cleared,
and God has to provide the money to do it, but trust me, the
difference is pretty sweet!

Our Taskmasters

Today was much the same as yesterday on the work front. We moved stuff
from here to there. Translating, helping, and generally telling us
what to do are (from right to left) Simon, Arnold and Cleo.

Simon is supposed to be the best English speaker but he's the quietest
of the three. This afternoon, I learned he is quite good at volleyball.

Arnold works non-stop and is the biggest jokester of the three. He
also takes Erin's stuff and carries it up the stairs for her. This is
not her choice. Arnold is my go to guy for "how do you say this?" type

Cleo is a slight, wiry little guy that makes me feel better about
wearing a baseball cap. I was worried I was sticking out because of my hat
(I forget that I tower over everyone just about everywhere), so when I
noticed him wearing a hat, I was relieved. Cleo is way stronger than
his size would suggest and I have learned this by lifting something up
to him. When he takes it, he looks less strained than I feel.

Our friends are seated at the far end of the outdoor pavilion where
campers eat and where George and Sam like to take breaks from the
sun. All three are in high school and go to church at Mark's church.
Simon and Cleo never seem to break a sweat, while Arnold is a regular
old Eli Burnham. That means he is an artesian spring.

Tomorrow we "get" to go make several runs to the dump. That should be
an adventure.

Monday, August 03, 2009

More Exhaustion

Today we began our work project which is really just clearing a huge attic and moving it 75 yards down the road to another attic. Eventually, this attic we're emptying will have the ceiling knocked out and the whole thing will be remodeled. I just asked George for an estimate on the size of the attic. He says 40x100 feet, and imagine a hot, dusty space that size filled, FILLED, with useful and not so useful stuff.

We moved desks, bunk beds and at least 100 doors. Not hard except when you have to lift all these things up 12 feet in the air over the banister and half if it goes up another flight of stairs. My height got me a permanent job as a door lifter and I don't know how long its been since my shoulders have felt so sore.

Soreness was relieved by a gyro we'd been dreaming about all morning. We got back from lunch and some kids had arrived for camp. Hours of soccer, basketball and volleyball ensued, and I was playing until I could barely stand anymore. I made many new 12 year old friends.

Around five o clock, I joined everyone else from our crew as they had all run out of juice already. We sat exhausted for an hour until dinner where I ate with 7 Albanians who couldn't speak a lick of English (unusual, actually). Kaiser, George and Schroeder all ate at tables that wafted laughter at my depressing table. I was ashamed for not being more entertaining and annoyed at them for winning the "other English speakers" lottery.

After dinner, we returned home to the Stoschers. And we've been lounging, but not sleeping, ever since.

I know I'm not explaining everything all that well, but perhaps the good reader can fill in the blanks...or ask questions.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

We made it, but we're tired!

The PCLG Albania team made it to Erseke, Albania about 24 hours ago
and we've been having fun/recovering ever since. We haven't done any
"official" work yet, but we did spend today playing with the Stoscher
kids and helping in the kitchen on preparation for a wedding. Ruthie
Stoscher was quite stressed today. It was hectic. We escaped to
playing four square when we could.

The picture shows Schroeder and Kaiser on the five (no make that
seven) hour drive from Thessaloniki, Greece to the homefront in Erseke.

I am tired and I told Jane I was going to sleep an hour ago. Shhh. In
the end, she told me to blog (sharing my phone with Sam is what really
took up the hour).

So in brief, our team is: Sam, George, Steve, Kaiser, Erin &
Schroeder. Oldest to youngest.

The Stoschers are: Mark & Ruthie, parents; Abby, Becca, Jamie &
Stephen, kids.