A Visit from Randy’s Sisters

We were fortunate to have Randy’s two sisters visit us in Albania the second week in September. Carol lives in Oklahoma City and Ellen lives in Springfield, Missouri. They spent a few days in Rome before heading our direction. We are grateful that they took the time and money to come visit for a week!


We picked Ellen and Carol up from the airport on a Friday and headed straight for Apollina, a two hour drive south. I have written about Apollina a couple of other times on my blog when we have taken other visitors there. Just as a refresher, Apollina is an ancient Greek city dating back to 600BC. Julius Caesar declared Apollina a “free city” as a reward for supporting him in a civil war that was fought with Pompey. Julius Caesar’s nephew, Octavius (also known as Caesar Augustus) studied in Apollina in the 1st century BC.

More of Apollina…


After we finished in Apollina, we drove another hour to Berat. Once again we stayed at Guesthouse Kris. The charm, comfort, delicious breakfast, welcoming host and price has brought us back here several times. Guesthouse Kris is located within the castle walls of Berat Castle which adds to the ambience of the whole experience.

More pics of Guesthouse Kris.

Taking a tour of the Berat Castle grounds.


That evening we left the castle grounds and went down into the town of Berat for dinner. Berat is known for the 1,000 Windows which is shown here. Thanks for sharing this great picture with me, Carol!


The next morning we drove along the Albanian Rivera towards Himarë.


Here we have stopped in Vlora at Proper Pizza for lunch. Yum!


The big brother and the little sister with our Himarë hotel in the background.

Putting our feet into the Ionian Sea.


Sitting on our hotel balcony enjoying a gorgeous sunset.


Before we left Himarë we made arrangements to take a two hour boat tour along the coast ending at Pirate’s Cave.


Waiting for the boat captain so we can get started on our tour.


…and we are off!

We visited a few isolated beaches where we were the only swimmers. It was amazing and magical! Every time I think I know a lot about what Albania has to offer, another opportunity presents itself. We loved this experience!

Our final stop was Pirate’s Cave where the boat actually went into a cave and we took these pictures.


We are now driving back to Tirana along more curving, twisting roads. Can you see the road up on the mountain as it zigzags back and forth?

As we drove along we watched a paraglider float along beside us, very cool!

The following Monday I went off to work and Randy took his sisters on a walking tour of Tirana…

…followed by lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC came to Albania about a year ago. Last spring Burger King also came to Albania. There are a limited number of international businesses willing to open stores in Albania because they have a hard time getting clear title. When communism fell almost 30 years ago it caused up to three different groups of people to claim the same piece of land:

  • the people that re-claimed land that the communists had taken away from them
  • the people that were given the land to use during communism time
  • squatters that claimed the land as theirs after communism fell

The government is still working to figure out what land belongs to which people. So when an international company wants to build their business on a piece of land it is very difficult to get clear title so they are hesitant to build.

Randy is becoming very well versed on Kruje because he has taken so many of our family and friends there.


We took this picture of Ellen Wilson standing at Wilson Square in Tirana (no relation). You can see a statue of Woodrow Wilson in the background. Wilson (and the United States) are well loved in Albania because after World War I, President Wilson said the borders of Albania would stay the same even though Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy wanted to break Albania into parts and keep the land for themselves. There are a few schools named after Wilson plus it is not uncommon for people to name their sons Wilson.

Of course a visit to Tirana would not be complete without coming to visit Albanian College.

Carol and Ellen (and me too) were intrigued by the traffic lights that lit up all the way down the light pole. These are not common throughout Albania but do show up on a few streets.

Thanks again to Carol and Ellen for making the effort to get over to visit us. We loved hosting you!

No more traveling until October when we have a week off of school. Our good friends, Sarah and Marty, are coming to visit at that time. We will be headed to northern Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. Looking forward to it!

As always, thanks for reading my blog!

September, 2019


Yesterday afternoon Randy and I were sitting in our 7th floor apartment visiting with a friend who had dropped by. Then the whole room started to shake, the overhead light was swinging back and forth, some empty plastic bottles fell over and the leaves on our house plants started moving. Randy said, “I believe we are having an earthquake.” Randy and our friend seemed quite calm but I was not. I said, “what should we do? This is so scary.” etc., etc. We decided to move to the doorway because we had heard that was the safest place to be. It seemed like the earthquake was going on and on but it probably only lasted a minute or so but that seemed like a very looooong time!

When the movement stopped we left the apartment. We took the elevator down which was not the right decision. Usually our apartment elevator is fast and quiet. As we went down the elevator was really slow and made a lot of horrible sounds but we made it down. If you are ever in an earthquake, don’t take the elevator!

When we got outside, the streets and sidewalks were full of people, some of them crying but no one appeared to be hurt. After standing around for 30 minutes or so we went to a nearby coffee shop where we sat with a group of school friends and exchanged earthquake stories. The police were driving up and down our street using a loudspeaker to tell people not to re-enter their buildings.

After a couple of hours we weren’t sure what to do and everyone else appeared to have re-entered their buildings so we all headed back to our apartments. As we walked up the seven flights of stairs we noticed many new cracks in the walls along with broken plaster on the ground but other than that everything seemed okay.

Last night as I was brushing my teeth to go to bed I noticed the towels in the bathroom started swinging. It was one of several aftershocks that continued through the night. None of the aftershocks was as powerful as the initial earthquake, thank goodness!

Here is a link to some coverage of the earthquake on the Weather Channel.

Weather Channel link

Thank you for all the calls, texts and messages of concern. We appreciate it so very much.



Starting Year Two at Albanian College

My second year of international teaching started on September 3rd with a precious group of 10 grade one children. I was scheduled to have 16 children but as happened last year, they did not all show up. This discrepancy seems to happen primarily in grade one. There is more consistency in the higher grades between the expected number of children and the actual number of children that show up on the first day of school. Anyways, here are my grade one students this year:


Ana Bela



















Aren’t they adorable?!?! This year I only have two non-English speakers. Most of the rest of the students have been at Albanian College for up to 3 years, ever since they were three years old. Since many of them have been at the school for so long they have had plenty of time to become fairly proficient in English.

The children are arriving at school and getting their folders and water bottles to bring into the classroom. It is not safe to drink the water in Tirana so there are no water fountains at the school. Instead the children bring water bottles of drinking water from home each day. The school also has water coolers full of bottled water for the children to refill their water bottles as needed.

The children are checking out the toys in their new classroom. Just like my students in the States, the children LOVE playing with the Magna-tiles.

Each day we spend 10-15 minutes using a program called Jolly Phonics to teach the children the letter sounds. Jolly Phonics is a British program that includes songs, hand motions, puppets, rhymes and a book to learn how to write the letters.

Books, books, books, these children love books! Some of the children are already reading and some are on the cusp of learning this skill while some will probably not be reading independently for a couple months. Regardless, they all enjoy our classroom library. You may recognize some of these books as ones that were donated by Dudley School in Fairport, NY.  🙂


Here, the children and I are discussing how to make a chart to show when the classroom birthdays will be celebrated. This would be a difference between how I teach in the States versus using an inquiry approach that is encouraged at ACT. In the USA I would have the birthdays already posted before school started using some type of visual that I purchased from a teacher supply website. Here the chart is made by the children using their ideas of how to note when they have birthdays. I love this way of giving the kids so much ownership over how the classroom looks and is run.

My birthday was during the second week of school so here are the kids singing happy birthday to me in Albanian.

Here the children are working in small groups to sort pictures as we start our first transdisciplinary theme called Who We Are. At grade one this theme teaches the children about the physical, social and emotional characteristics of ourselves and others. After they sorted the pictures they explained to their peers how they sorted and why.

The children are playing a math game called Collect 20 which is part of the math program adopted by Albanian College. The program is called TERC or Investigations, the same program I used in Fairport a few years ago.

Over the past summer all of our administration resigned and one was fired. 😦 I found out through various emails over the course of the summer. Needless to say, the whole thing was depressing. I had such a good year last year and was looking forward to one more year of teaching and living abroad. Randy and I had many discussions in July and early August as to whether I wanted to return to Albanian College. The deciding factor was that I have grown to love Albania, my students, their parents and the Albanian Assistants I work with. I wanted to try to give it one more year and hopefully have at least a small positive impact on the lives of the people I have met here. Another reason I wanted to return is that I love international teaching and the  way it stretches me to think about my teaching in new ways. We decided we would return to Tirana and if I was miserable in my teaching position we would simply come home to Fairport.

I am happy to report that so far school has gone well. We have an entirely new administration who are working hard to make the best of a difficult situation. As you know from previous posts, I have become friends with many of the other foreign teachers since living here so that helps with the transitions. All the teachers have been very supportive of one another which has gotten school off to a good start. Glad to be here for another year.

Next weekend 17 of the teachers (including me) will be attending all day trainings on Saturday and Sunday (a total of 15 hours). The training is being given by a trainer from the International Baccalaureate community who is flying in. Although I am looking forward to receiving the training, I am not looking forward to teaching for 5 days, training all weekend and then teaching for 5 more days. Ugh!!!!!

Hiking from Valbona to Theth

The weekend before school started Randy and I and our friends, Edlira and Aldo, took a big hike in northern Albania. This part of the country is often referred to as the Albanian Alps. We hiked between the small villages of Valbona and Theth. We had heard about this hike for a year and were anxious to try it but the whole trip takes three full days so we could not do it as a weekend trip. Also the hike can only be completed between June and October because of all the snow in the mountains during the rest of the year. We were so glad we had the time to go before school started!


We took the trip with a tour group of 13 people, 10 Albanians, a man from Dubai and Randy and I. We met the bus in Tirana at 5:00AM and drove north for three hours where we walked through this tunnel to Komani Lake to board a ferry.img_7669.jpg


Trying to figure out which ferry is ours…

We were on the ferry for not quite 3 hours and the whole time we were treated to one beautiful scene after another, an absolutely gorgeous ride!


After getting off the ferry we took a two hour bus ride to Valbona where we ate lunch at this charming farm. All the food was either grown or made here.


After lunch we took an hour long walk to our guesthouse.


We even walked with some cows at times, loved it! Do you see the backpack I am carrying? We each carried everything we would need for three days because after we got off the bus for the ferry there would be no cars or buses available until after we made the hike to Theth.


Look at this charming old mill we passed by during our walk.

Putting our feet in the VERY cold, clear, beautiful mountain water.


Randy and Aldo kept us well supplied with fresh wild berries during our trip, yum!


Even though there does not appear to be much going on with recycling in Albania we were glad to at least see they are making an attempt.

On the final road to, and then arriving at our guesthouse.


After we settled into our guesthouse, the four of us went for coffee (or Lemon Soda for Randy and I).


The next morning we were provided with all of this food which we used to pack ourselves a lunch for the hike.


We are at the trailhead and ready to hike!





If you know Randy, you know he NEVER wears shorts no matter how hot it gets. Here he is showing us that he broke down and wore shorts on our hike because of the heat. 🙂


We are headed over the pass you can see in the distance.



Can you see the permanent snow in the distance?


Yay, we made it to the top of the pass!!!


On our way back down the other side of the pass.


Believe it or not there were three coffee shops along the hiking trail!

Remember when I said you had to carry everything you needed with you for three days for this hike? If you did not want to carry your things or if you had too much stuff, you could hire a horse or mule to carry your things for a cost of 50 euros. I was really intrigued with the horses so the man leading the horse let me hold the horse’s lead. 🙂



Continuing down the mountain…


These are some of the people we hiked with, such delightful people! The young man in the foreground is our guide, Endri. He is 18 years old and headed to the University of Tirana to study civil engineering starting this month. Endri leads hiking groups on weekends as a part time job and seemed super responsible considering his age.


Look what we came across near the end of the hike.


Almost to Theth…


One of the people we hiked with sent this screenshot of our trip. We were exhausted by the end of the hike but so glad we made it!


That evening we hiked outside of the village of Theth for about an hour to the Grunas Waterfall.


On the way back from the waterfall we stopped at the Defense Tower and heard this man tell us about the history of northern Albania including blood feuds, the Kanun and his family’s ownership of the Defense Tower.

Before we left he played this tune using a simple green leaf from a tree. The tune is one of the very first traditional Albanian songs.


The next day we took a very bumpy, twisty-turny ride from Theth as we headed for Tirana. One more stunning picture of the four of us overlooking the Albanian Alps. This trip was tiring but so very worth it especially since we could travel with two of our very good friends!

September, 2019

Driving Through the Balkans

Randy and I arrived back in Albania from the USA the second week of August so we could spend some time traveling before school started for me on the 26th. We rented a car for nine days and drove through the countries of Kosovo, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. We stayed in each country for one to three days depending on what we wanted to see. We only had one long driving day of 8 hours, the other driving days were between 2 and 5 hours. The unknown was always how long it would take to cross over the borders. At each country’s border we needed to wait in a line to leave the country and then wait in another line to enter the next country. Sometimes the total process only took about 15 minutes but sometimes it took up to 2 hours.


This picture was taken as we were driving into Kosovo. We have used Google Maps to navigate our way all over the USA, Albania, Greece and several countries in western Europe. When we tried to use Google Maps to navigate through Kosovo the app would not work properly. I immediately blamed the problem on my weak technology skills and kept wondering what I was doing wrong. When we arrived at our hotel in Kosovo I asked the reception clerk if he knew why Google Maps would not work for us. He said Google Maps will not work in Kosovo because the country of Serbia has made the app unusable in Kosovo. He also pointed out that the weather app that we have used all over the world will not work in Kosovo for the same reason. Up to this point in the trip I had no pre-conceived ideas about Serbia but this was the first example of why we left the Balkans feeling like Serbia is not a friendly country.

Since Google Maps was unusable in Kosovo we depended on another navigation app called Waze. After leaving Kosovo we used a combination of the two navigation apps and usually ended up having very few problems driving through the Balkans.


Our first stop in Kosovo was Prizren considered to be the cultural capital of the country. Here is a picture of the Old Stone Bridge built in the 1600’s. Kosovo and Albania are closely tied since 90% of the population in Kosovo is ethnically Albanian. Both the spoken and written language used in Kosovo is Albanian.

This is the Sinan Pasha Mosque, the oldest and one of the most beautiful mosques in the country. 95% of the population in Kosovo is Muslim. Prizren has more than 20 mosques, many more than Tirana has because almost all of Tirana’s mosques were destroyed during communism time. This destruction of mosques did not happen in Kosovo.


Do you see the fortress on the hill in the background of this picture? That is where we are walking to next.


Up, up, up the hill…


We made it to the Kalaja Fortress which was built in the 11th century.

A beautiful, panoramic view of the city at sunset. In the picture on the right you can see the Old Stone Bridge lit up.

fullsizeoutput_f240 We were headed back down the hill when I took another picture of this gorgeous mosque.


On the following day we drove an hour and a half to Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo. We passed a car flying the Kosovo flag. The people of Kosovo love and are proud of their country.


When we arrived in Prishtina we went to the meeting point to take a free walking tour of the city. We have found this to be a great way to get to know a new city. The tours are usually about two hours long and are often given by young people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their communities. Another part of the tours we have enjoyed is getting to know the other tourists. They come from all over and it is interesting to compare notes of where people are going or where they have been. I had conversations with people from Germany, Romania, Canada, Russia, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and others over the course of our trip. So interesting!! Love it! One other interesting part of these free walking tours is that Randy and I are usually the oldest people on the tours by about 25 years. 😮 Not sure why that is…

Anyways back to the picture above, our meeting point for the Prishtina, Kosovo tour. In the city center was a statue of the Albanian hero, Skanderbeg. There is a similar statue at the city center in Tirana. This was just another reminder of how closely Albania and Kosovo are linked.


This banner was also in the Prishtina city center. We found out through our tour that people from Kosovo love Americans because the USA and NATO forces stepped in to stop the genocide by the Serbs in 1999 at the end of the Kosovo War. Also the US was the first country to recognize Kosovo as a separate country after Kosovo withdrew from Serbia.

Touring an Ottoman home owned by a wealthy family from 300 years ago.

Although only 2% of the population in Kosovo is Catholic this gorgeous cathedral was recently built in Prishtina. When our tour guide was asked how it was funded he explained that donations from outside of Kosovo made the building of the church possible. The cathedral is dedicated to Mother Theresa.


The Kosovo War was fought because Serbia did not want Kosovo to be an independent country. They wanted Kosovo to remain part of Serbia. This monument was built after the Kosovo War as a tribute to the 20,000 women who were raped by the Serbs during the war. The Serbs were not being successful militarily so they decided to try to break the spirit and family ties within the Kosovo community by raping the women and murdering 3,000 young children under the age of four. All of this happened in 1998-99! Absolutely horrible and sickening! The USA had stayed out of this conflict until this information became public but then became involved in stopping this genocide.


This is a close-up of the monument from above. Each of the 20,000 medals represents the rape of a woman during the Kosovo War.

Onto a  lighter subject…

Our final stop in Prishtina was visiting a bear sanctuary. Up until 2010 it was common for restaurants in Kosovo to have live bears in cages in front. The restaurant owners did this as a way to attract customers. It was decided that this was inhumane and so in 2013 this sanctuary was opened to house the bears. It was a beautiful facility that houses 19 bears.


Serbia does not allow tourists to enter Serbia through Kosovo since they do not recognize  Kosovo as a country. So we had to drive out of Kosovo to Macedonia and then enter Serbia through Macedonia. This was about a two-hour drive out of our way.

Our first stop in Serbia was to visit the Red Cross Nazi Concentration Camp outside of the city of Nis. It was used to detain as many as 35,000 Jews, Serbs and Romanis between the years of 1941-44. The concentration camp is best known because of the escape of 105 prisoners from the camp. The largest number of escapees from any concentration camp. During the escape 11 German soldiers were killed. The Nazis then murdered 100 prisoners for each German soldier that was killed as punishment for the prisoner escaping.


The tall building in the background is our hotel. It was lovely hotel at a very reasonable price. The only downside was that smoking was allowed in the hotel restaurant and lobby. Yuck! This was the only place on our trip where smoking was allowed inside, thank goodness!

The next morning on my run I came across this fort that included Nisville, obviously a play on Nashville, Tennessee.  🙂  I immediately thought of our friends. Sarah and Marty, perhaps you need to plan a trip to Nis, Serbia. 🙂


These are two maps that we saw as we toured Serbia. Both maps show Kosovo as part of Serbia. The maps have no indications that Kosovo has been recognized as a separate country by 154 of the 193 United Nations countries.


95% of Serbians are Christian, primarily Christian Orthodox. This beautiful church is in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.


This is Belgrade’s city center which we thought was similar to many other European city center’s we have visited: vibrant, lots of good restaurants and shops, great people watching. We found the people of Serbia to be friendly and welcoming. We did not get the opportunity to talk with many Serbs but on our walking tour the guide made it clear that he thought Serbia was the best country in the world and that the mention of Kosovo was taboo. Serbia seems to be a bully to other countries: Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia. To me it seems like Serbia is wanting to claim as much land as  possible after the break up of Yugoslavia.

More pictures from Belgrade.


As many of you know, I LOVE ice cream. This was my favorite treat in Serbia!  🙂


When we checked out of our hotel we were given this form. They said we might need it to prove that we had stayed in Serbia and to allow us to exit the country. We were never asked about it at the border but it made me feel a bit unsettled about being a tourist in Serbia.


As we drove through Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria we passed by fields and fields and fields of sunflowers. Beautiful!



As we drove into Romania the first thing we saw were the two images above. Romania is one of the most religious countries in Europe as evidenced by the cross. 92% of the population is Orthodox Christian.


When we were trying to figure out where to visit in Romania, our reading suggested that Transylvania was in the heartland and specifically recommended two villages. We settled on spending two nights in Sighisoara and were not disappointed. This charming well preserved Saxon town was full of cobbled streets and architecture that reminded me of Rothenburg, Germany. Our hotel was located on the right at the top of these stairs.


Look how very German our hotel in Romania looks! During our visit to Sighisoara we learned that in the 11th century the king of Romania wanted to increase the population of Romania so he went to the Saxony part of Germany. He offered free land, no taxes for 50 years, freedom of religion and self rule to anyone who would resettle to the Transylvania part of Romania. They had to agree to help defend Romania from the Barbarians. This explains why so much of Transylvania has a German feel to it.


More German (Saxon) influence…



We visited the small village of Biertan with it’s fortified church. In the 13th and 14th centuries many small villages did not have castles to protect them so they fortified their churches as places for protection. This church had three walls built around it and eight towers as a defense against invaders. It was known as the strongest fortified church of Transylvania and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We visited another beautiful Saxon village called Malancrav where Prince Charles visits twice a year to enjoy the peaceful, natural surroundings.

The village included this Saxon Fortified Church with frescoes dating back to 1350.


We climbed to the top of the Clock Tower, the centerpiece of Sighisoara.

When we sent some of our pictures from Romania to our kids, Elizabeth sent us the picture of the puzzle on the left. Wow! We are standing in the exact spot where the puzzle picture was taken. Elizabeth said her family had just finished putting together the puzzle so easily recognized where we were.


This Romanian woman with her marionette was performing outside of the Clock Tower. I loved watching her!

Our final stop in Romania was Bran Castle. This was really our only disappointment on the whole trip. It was extremely crowded with loooooong lines to get in. Our guide was very marginal with limited English and it was obvious that she was an inexperienced guide. We went there because this castle is known as Dracula’s Castle and since Randy read the book and saw the movie he wanted to see what it was like. When we got into the castle we found out that the castle had very little to do with Dracula but instead was owned by Romania’s royal family specifically Queen Mary, daughter of Queen Victoria.


As you can tell from the picture, we are now headed into Bulgaria. As we were leaving Romania the toll collector wanted us to pay 150 euros to leave the country. We questioned it and the toll collector became frustrated and ended up throwing our passports and rental car paperwork at us and waving us through. A big part of the problem was a language barrier. There was no signage indicating this type of toll was due. We never could figure out if we really were supposed to pay this large amount of money as a highway tax or if the Romanian woman was just trying to “line her pockets.” Who knows?


As we drove through the countryside is was common to see horse drawn wagons carrying people, hay or some other crop.


We have arrived in Plovdiv, Bulgaria which was one of my favorite cities we visited. It was clean, had a good combination of a charming Old Town and a bustling New Town and delicious food. Plovdiv claims to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. I wish we would have had more time to explore this city and it’s surroundings.


Here is a model of a stadium built by the Romans in the first century. The stadium was large enough to seat 30,000 spectators! It was not until the 1960’s that this stadium was found in the city center of Plovdiv.

IMG_7517If the entire stadium was to be unearthed then many of the city’s buildings would need to be destroyed so Plovdiv made the decision to uncover only part of the stadium which is pictured above.


We were told that if we went into the H&M Store we could see more of the stadium. Sure enough, as soon as we entered the store there was part of the ancient stadium. So interesting!


At the top of the city was this ancient theater which seats 5,000 people. It was also built in the first century and was not discovered until the 1960’s. Plays and concerts are frequently held in this theater where the acoustics are perfect.

IMG_7539 The cover to this menu made me smile. The food in Plovdiv  was excellent!


About 60% of the Bulgarians are Bulgarian Orthodox with the next largest sub-group being 20% of Bulgarians who are undeclared about their religion. This orthodox church is named Church of the Holy Mother of God.


Another beautiful sunset in another beautiful city. Plovdiv is often referred to a city with seven hills. Here you can easily see three of them.


As we are headed out of town the following morning, I snapped this picture to show how in Bulgaria two written languages are used, Cyrillic and Latin. Both languages are taught in school and Bulgarian citizens can easily move between the two. This was true in Serbia and Macedonia too.


We spent the last night of our trip in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. Up until a few months ago North Macedonia was simply called Macedonia but because of ongoing disputes with Greece the name was changed.


Look at our hotel! This ship/hotel was in the city center and the price was right so we decided why not. There is no historical significance to the ship or it’s location plus the river that it sits in is much too small to ever accommodate a ship of this size. It all seemed so random but fun at the same time.

Skopje is a city of statues.  They are everywhere with little information about their significance. It seems overdone at times.


There were also huge beautiful buildings like this throughout the city. We found out that many of them have a faux front and the building is actually only a few feet deep.


This was probably the most imposing (and beautiful in many ways) statue. Our walking tour guide said she was to call the statue “warrior on a horse”. It seemed obvious to us that it was a statue of Alexander the Great. This scenario also has it’s roots in disagreements with Greece.

Visiting another fortress on top of a hill…

My favorite part of Skopje was visiting where Mother Theresa’s home originally stood. In the picture on the right you can see the brass cornerstones of the home. Mother Theresa was born in Skopje to parents of Albanian descent.



This museum was built within the last few years as a tribute to Mother Teresa.

The museum included several copies of letters Mother Teresa had written over her lifetime. I was surprised to see that they were written in English. I then learned that when she left Macedonia at the age of 18 she went to Ireland to become a nun. It was in Ireland that Mother Teresa became proficient in English. She then went from Ireland to Calcutta, India. Since Mother Teresa is considered a saint all of the original documents, letters and paperwork from her life are housed in the Vatican.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip around the Balkans. At times, it was hard to keep up with the different types of money in each country: Kosovo Euro, Serbian Dian, Romanian Lei, Bulgarian Lev and the Macedonian Denar. We came home with lots and lots of coins! One of the overarching themes we discussed after our trip was that the Balkans have a long history of turmoils, wars, border disputes, some of which are still continuing. When a country has to put so much of it’s time and resources into settling these disputes then they can’t put those same resources into developing their countries. After this trip we now have a better understanding of why western Europe is more developed than eastern Europe. The people we met throughout our Balkan travels were wonderful. We wish them a peaceful future in this beautiful part of the world.

I am a bit slow in making this post because school has started. Yikes, all of a sudden I have limited free time again. We took one more weekend trip before school started which I will post about and then I will update you on Albanian College.

Thanks for reading my blog!

September, 2019


Reflections After Teaching Abroad for a Year

Now that I have completed my first year of international teaching I want to share some input about the experience. A year ago when we were getting ready to leave for Albania, I remember thinking, what if I don’t like this?, what if it is not what I had expected?, what if Randy is unhappy with our choice? A year later, I can say that overall this was a wonderful experience that I am glad we took a risk on. There were ups and downs throughout the year but Randy and I are happy that we took on this challenge.

I was scheduled to have 15 grade one students but only 11 of them showed up. Half of my students spoke no English at the beginning of the year and the rest of them spoke English in various degrees from a few words or phrases to being able to have a simple conversation. My Albanian Assistant, Edlira, was assigned to me on a full time basis. She was wonderful not only because of her help with translating but also because she did so much to help me understand the culture of Albania.

I have never taught children whose first language was not English so I was not sure how to go about it. Our Deputy Head of Primary and PYP Coordinator, Joe, did an excellent job talking us through the opening of school and answering our questions. One of my first questions was to ask if when I said something in English, was Edlira then to translate it all into Albanian. I was told that this was not how it was to be done. Joe explained that Albanian College is an English immersion school so teaching should be done in English. He said that I would know when the children needed to have something translated and I could then ask Edlira to translate. At the beginning of the year I had Edlira translate fairly frequently but by the end of the year I only had her translate if I was teaching a concept with more complex vocabulary. Also, I had her translate if the children were having behavior issues and I wanted to make sure they understood the expectations. My students who started the year with no English were very quiet at the beginning of the school year. I remember wondering what their voices sounded like since they could not yet talk to me. Joe had told us that by the middle to end of October the children would start talking.  It takes the children about that long to develop their receptive language to a degree where they can express themselves using language. Joe was right, the kids did start talking by the end of October. It was so exciting to witness! By the end of the school year all the children were not only speaking English but they also were doing well with reading and writing in English.

After this year of teaching, I really do believe that kids are kids no matter where they live. For the most part, I taught these children using many of the same methods as I do in the States. As many of you know, I have many years of teaching special education so my teaching includes structure, repetition, multi-sensory experiences with clear expectations. This may have helped when teaching children for whom English is their second language but overall I think the kids picked up the language so quickly because they are young and young children are the perfect age to be taught a second language. I have been asked a few times about the behavior of these children. I do not think there were any more or less behavior problems than what I had in the States. Once again, kids are kids.


Some people have asked what a typical day’s schedule was in my classroom. This picture shows the schedule I had posted in my classroom for the children. Every day the schedule changed slightly depending on what single subject classes we had. Here are a few more details:

  • 7:45 children arrive in my classroom
  • 8:00 read aloud and morning meeting including reading the daily message, looking at the calendar and discussing the day ahead
  • 8:20 all children go to the canteen for a breakfast provided by the school
  • 8:40 math instruction
  • 9:20 writing instuction
  • 10:00 recess
  • 10:20 literacy centers- this was the time of the day where I met with the children in small groups to provide differentiated reading instruction
  • 11:00 Albanian class taught by an Albanian teacher (this was a planning time for me)
  • 11:40 all children go to the canteen for a lunch provided by the school
  • 12:00 recess
  • 12:20 more literacy center time
  • 1:00 performing arts- a combination of music and drama (this was planning time for me)
  • 1:40 recess
  • 2:00 snack provided by the school
  • 2:10 inquiry time which was time spent focusing on the current transdisciplinary unit to go with the international baccalaureate program
  • 3:20 children go to their buses or are picked up

This school day is an hour longer than my school day in the States but I also have more release time than I had in the States.

Did you notice that the children have three 20 minute recesses? In the States my students only had one 20 minute recess a day. In the States I was constantly providing extra movement time with activities like Go Noodle but I found that this was unneeded at Albanian College. By providing adequate recess time the children could focus better in the classroom.

I was required to supervise one lunch, two breakfasts and four recesses each week.


This is the inquiry board from my classroom. It changed every 6 to 8 weeks throughout the school year. This was always my challenge. I feel very confident teaching children math, reading and writing but when asked to incorporate that into an international baccalaureate (IB) curriculum I felt overwhelmed at times. I knew that with an IB curriculum the children are given much more choice. Usually when I start the school year I have assigned seating for my children at tables, in their cubbies and on the rug. Since IB meant more choice I decided to do away with all these assignments. After the first day or two of school I felt like things seemed out of control too much of the time. I talked with our PYP Coordinator again, Joe, and he explained that IB means more choice but not less structure. The next day I had the children in assigned spaces and it all went much better. That was my first lesson about teaching IB.

Going back to the picture above you can see that I have posted the most current:

  • Transdisciplinary Theme: How We Organize Ourselves
  • Central Idea: Public spaces give people opportunities to make connections and establish community
  • Lines of Inquiry:
    • the characteristics and purposes of public spaces
    • the reasons people use public spaces
    • people’s responsibilities when using public spaces

The above was the structure I used to teach that unit. All of our activities and lessons came from this. Every 6 to 8 weeks the theme would change.

As the year progressed I became more and more comfortable with teaching in an IB curriculum. Joe was helpful but also I was assigned a buddy teacher, Kelly, who was fabulous! She had graduated from an IB high school and then previously taught at an IB school in another country. She really stretched my thinking and helped me use a more inquiry based style when I taught. I learned how to give children a choice on how they learned new things. I learned to give the children a choice on what type of field trip they wanted to go on to learn about a topic. I learned to let the children lead discussions while I simply facilitated those conversations when needed. The best part about teaching this way was watching the children’s excitement. They really were taking ownership with their learning and it was exhilarating to be a part of it. My IB teaching was not perfect but I definitely think I learned a whole new way to think about how children learn and am blending that new knowledge with how I have taught in the past.


Here is a serious and silly picture of my students near the end of the school year. They are getting ready to perform in a talent show that was their idea as part of our unit about public spaces. I thoroughly enjoyed being their teacher. As with many teachers the end of the year is bittersweet. I am happy to have time off for a few weeks but sad that I will not have these children as my students next year.

I feel like I have done a lot of blog posting over the last month. If you are still reading, thank you! Right now I am in the States for about three weeks, enjoying time to get caught up with family and friends.

I signed a two year contract with Albanian College so am headed back for my second year. My school district in the States very kindly granted me time to pursue this dream of international teaching. After this next school year I will definitely be headed back to Fairport to finish my teaching career there. On August 9th Randy and I fly back to Albania. I do not need to report to the school until August 26th but we we are going back early so we can do some traveling before school starts.

Now my only hope is that the upcoming year goes as well as the past year…


Reconnecting in Belfast

When our kids were younger and lived at home we spent many summers hosting kids ages 10-14 through the Irish Children’s Program of Rochester. The Irish kids were from Belfast and would come to visit for 5-6 weeks. The program was timed so the children would not be in Belfast during the Troubles (conflict between the Catholics and Protestants) which always escalated in July. The first young woman we hosted was Lee-Ann who stayed with us when she was 13 and then returned to us for two more summers when she was 16 and 17. Later we hosted Daniel starting when he was 11 years old and then again when he was 12 and another time when he was 16. They were wonderful kids or we would not have continued to invite them back summer after summer. We have been fortunate to continue to keep in contact with them. Both Lee-Ann and Daniel returned to the States for Elizabeth and Ben’s wedding in 2007. Lee-Ann was one of Elizabeth’s bridesmaids. When Randy and I were planning our trip back to the US from Albania we decided to stop in Belfast for a few nights so we could reconnect with Lee-Ann and Daniel.


Daniel’s mother, Jayne took us out for dinner the first night we were in Belfast.


The next day we headed to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and on the way stopped where a scene from “Game of Thrones” was filmed. This tunnel of beech trees is called Dark Hedges.Image result for cerek a rede bridge northern ireland images


Daniel was so kind to take time off work and drive us all over to see the sights. We are at the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge which was originally built 350 years ago for salmon fishermen to get from island to island.



The next stop was the Giant’s Causeway which is a group of 40,000, mostly hexagonal, columns that were the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. This is such an unusual UNESCO World Heritage sight. We really enjoyed it.



That night Daniel took us to listen to some live Irish music which we loved!!!



The following day Lee-Ann and her long time partner, Alan, took us to visit the Titanic Museum. We really enjoyed this well done museum. Not only did it give us lots of information about the Titanic but it also helped us to understand some of the history of Belfast.



That evening we went to dinner with Lee-Ann, Alan, their two teenage sons and Lee-Ann’s mom. Lee-Ann’s aunt and uncle were visiting from Liverpool so they also joined us. It was good to meet many of Lee-Ann’s family after all these years.

Lee-Ann drove us around Belfast the next day so we could see some of the murals. As you can see some of the murals are politically related, some are about Belfast history and some are about sports.


Outside of Lee-Ann’s house with her son, Jay.


Later that day we met Mark, a former Irish Children’s Program chaperone for lunch and then ice cream. The little girl in the picture is Daniel’s daughter, Naomi. She is a darling six year old who we enjoyed getting to know. Mark’s son, Micah, also was able to join us. So great meeting everyone’s kids!


On our last night in Belfast, Daniel’s granda took us for a lovely dinner. Daniel’s brother, Anthony also joined us.


We believe we have lifelong friends in Daniel and Lee-Ann. We loved hosting them so many years ago and are so proud of the adults they have become.

After our four day stay in Belfast, we flew to the States and are here for a three week visit before heading back to Albania so I can teach for another year.

July, 2019

A Wedding in Vienna

Several years ago our family hosted a young man from Germany in our home for a year. His name is Peter. Over the years our family has kept up with him with visits to Germany and Austria and with Peter coming back to visit in the States. Twelve years ago Peter started dating a lovely young woman named Julia. Over those years our family has become very connected to Julia too. They are a darling couple. On July 6th, 2019 Peter and Julia became husband and wife. Our whole family was fortunate to be invited to the wedding and even more fortunate to be able to attend.

It was such fun for the nine of us to fly altogether from Tirana to Vienna on a short one hour and 40 minute flight.


We all stayed in an Airbnb located very close to the subway and not too far from Peter and Julia’s apartment.

There was a fabulous park right around the corner from the Airbnb that we visited several times. I liked this park because it lent itself so well to imaginative play. There was more then one way to play with every part of the park. Also I loved the simplicity of the park and how the colors blended in well with the natural surroundings. Really liked it, can you tell.  🙂


On our first day in Vienna we took a short subway ride to the center city. While there we visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is one of the city’s most recognizable symbols. The building of the cathedral began in 1137 and was completed in 1160.

We decided to climb the 300+ steps on the inside of the steeple. Everyone did a good job climbing including Juliet which is shown in the video.


From the top of St. Stephan’s steeple we can see the church where Peter and Julia will be married.

After we came back down from climbing the steeple the church bells started to ring. Loved it!


That evening we met Peter, Julia and their families here for dinner. This restaurant is Peter and Julia’s favorite place to eat schnitzel. Schnitzel is a meat dish that originated in Austria and is delicious.

As we are walking to dinner Juliet has a big conversation with me about her time at the park that day with Grandaddy.


One difference between Vienna and Albania is that vehicle traffic yields to pedestrians in Vienna. Also, in Vienna it is safe to cross the road when the traffic signal tells you to while in Albania that is not always true.


Waiting for the subway…


Meeting Peter’s dad, Bernardo,  before going into the restaurant.

Delicious schnitzel with a wonderful group of people.


David arrived in Vienna on our second full day. Yay, we are altogether now!  We went across the street from our Airbnb to Prater Park which is an amusement park built in 1897.


I was the typical tourist who fell for the photo op before riding the ferris wheel. After all, how often to all 10 of us get together.

Elizabeth and Ben really enjoyed the ferris wheel.  🙂

More fun at Prater Park, the amusement park.

For the rehearsal dinner, many of the guys (including David and Josh) decided to dress up in traditional German lederhosen.


Heading for the rehearsal dinner.


Jacob in the subway station.


Peter and Julia’s families worked very hard preparing a delicious spread for all of us to enjoy at the rehearsal dinner.


The bride (dressed in a traditional German dirndl) with one of her flower girls.


The groom with one of his groomsmen.


Don’t they look great!


This is the absolutely charming church where Peter and Julia were married.


The inside of the church


The program for the wedding was so nicely laid out so that even the English only speakers (like me) at the wedding could follow it. I was honored to be asked to do a reading at the wedding. This was the schedule for the day of the wedding:

  • 3:30 wedding ceremony at the church
  • 5:30 appetizers at the reception venue
  • 8:30 dinner is served with toasts happening between each course
  • 11:30 dancing begins
  • 4:00AM reception ends

As you may know, most American weddings end at midnight so this was a big change for us. The Chervenaks stayed until after midnight. Randy and I made it until 2:00AM but many of the guests and other family members were there past 4:00AM. Wow! From what we understand, this schedule is common for European weddings. We enjoyed ourselves so much that it really did not seem that late to us.


The ring bearer, the two flower girls and the page boy are ready. A page boy is a child who carries a sign saying “Here Comes the Bride”.


The flower girls have their baskets of flower petals that they will put down after the ceremony, as the bride and groom walk down the aisle to leave the church.


Juliet doing her flower girl job.


The bride and groom leaving the church…


…and walking down the sidewalk outside of the church.

And they are off to the reception.


Walking through the streets of Vienna from the church to the reception venue.

The reception was located at the top of the middle building in the group of three skyscrapers in the picture on the left, gorgeous setting!



The 5 of us,,.


The 9 of us (Juliet has gone home to go to bed).


The silly 9 of us.


Josh and Jacob strutting their stuff…

Bennett turned 5 at midnight so we needed to celebrate!

Peter and Julia’s wedding and all the festivities leading up to it were such fun. This was the type of wedding where you could easily feel the love between the couple and amongst the family members. We were honored to be included in this wedding celebration!


The day after the wedding we went to visit Schonbrunn Palace which was the summer residence of the Habsburg rulers starting in the 1500’s. Beautiful, beautiful!

Renting and riding electric scooters was a big hit throughout the weekend.

That evening we gathered one more time to share a meal and say our good byes.


One more picture before we all go our separate ways. David is headed back to NYC for work. The Chervenak Family is headed to Germany to visit their former au pairs. Randy, Josh and I are headed to Belfast to visit some friends in Northern Ireland. LOVED our time together and feel very torn about living internationally so far from the ones I love most.

July, 2019

Elizabeth and Her Family Visit Albania

We have been very fortunate to have all three of our children visit us in Albania. Elizabeth, her husband, Ben and their four children arrived the last week of June to spend a week with us. Some of the grandchildren stayed with us at our apartment and the rest of the family stayed at an apartment a short walk away. As is typical in Albania, the price to rent the two bedroom apartment for a week was very reasonable.


It was a 10 hour overnight flight from Johannesburg to Rome. This is how the kids felt after landing in Rome and waiting for the hour long flight to Tirana.


So exciting for the Chervenak Family to see Tirana on the departure board at the Rome airport.


Jacob just could not keep his eyes open any longer and fell asleep on the taxi ride from the airport to our apartment.


I absolutely LOVED walking down the sidewalk in front of our apartment, showing our four grandchildren where we live.


Eating a bit of lunch across the street from our apartment on a super hot day.

Grandaddy and Uncle Josh have just returned from a trip to southern Albania and everyone is happy to greet them.


Whenever someone comes to visit us in Albania the first dinner we take them to is at a zgara. A zgara is a restaurant specializing in traditional Albanian food particularly various grilled meats. It is very inexpensive to eat at a zgara. The menu also includes foods like tzatziki, grilled vegetables and some yummy bread called simites. Juliet looks like she is ready to enjoy some dinner!


Because I am who I am, I cannot help myself when it comes to planning. My family always teases me about making so many plans but it works for me. These were my sketched out possible plans for our week together.


The next day while I went to work, Randy took the Chervs to Djati Mountain. Here they are walking to the city center to catch the bus to the cable cars and then up the mountain.

Taking the cable car up, up, up…

All kinds of interesting things to do at the top of Djati Mountain.


Later that day we took a city bus to the park to play.


We met some of my students and their parents at the park so the kids could play together.

The next day I took the Chervs on a tour of the school plus the kids had some time to play in my classroom that is mostly cleaned up since it is the end of the school year.


The family is now on a bus up to Kruja to visit the castle and the bazaar. I love not dealing with car ownership while living abroad: no insurance, car maintenance, registration, gas bills, car payments, etc. It is a nice change to be dependent on walking and public transportation and not a car.


A windy day at the castle for Bennett (age 5), Jacob (age 9), Ella (age 6) and Juliet (age 2).

After the castle it is always fun to explore the bazaar for some souvenir shopping.

After enjoying Chinese food with Dana for dinner we stopped for ice cream at Ciocclatitaliani, yum!

Next up was a carousel ride. I think we may have been spoiling the grandchildren but since we only get to see them for 12 days this year, spoiling is what we do. 🙂

Running through the fountains at Skanderbeg Square followed by light up balloons is always fun!


Elizabeth and Ben made a big effort to get to Albania with their children to visit us. We love and appreciate them so much!!


Elizabeth worked for President Bush when he was in the White House so I had to take this picture. There is a street named after him in Tirana because President Bush was the first and only American president to visit Albania.


Josh and I took Elizabeth and Ben on the free walking tour of Tirana and then stopped by here so they could taste the raki and experience this communist themed coffee shop.

The five adults went out for dinner sans children one night. Edlira and a friend of hers kindly agreed to watch the kids. Thank you, Edlira and Klaudina! The kids had such fun with both of you!


Bennett and I have just bought tickets for the family to enter the castle in Berat where we will spend the night. Berat is a two hour drive from Tirana.


We stayed at the Guest House Kris where we had stayed the previous October. Charming, inexpensive and they serve a delicious breakfast the following morning.

Touring the castle grounds.

We hired a tour guide to help us understand the history of the castle. As part of the tour we were able to enter two of the churches that included original frescos. Amazing!

That night we climbed up through some narrow cobbled roads to eat a delicious, abundant dinner at Lili’s, an excellent restaurant recommendation from a friend.

Berat, the city of 1000 windows…


Breakfast at the castle the following morning before we get in our rental cars and drive another two hours to the Albanian beach town of Vlore.


We have arrived in Vlore and are waiting for our pizza before heading to the beach. Can you see the beach behind us, across the street?

Beach time! Most of the beaches in Albania have small pebbles instead of sand. There are a few beaches that have sand but that is because sand has been trucked in. Vlore is located where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. If you follow the Adriatic Sea north then you would end up near Venice, Italy. If you follow the Ionian Sea south then you end up in the Mediterranean Sea.


The hotel we stayed in had a rooftop pool which we enjoyed after the beach. Can you see the sea in the background?


Delicious seafood dinner next to the sea at sunset, beautiful!


On the way home from Vlore to Tirana we stopped in the ancient Greek city of Apollina. Can you spot three children at the top of the ampitheater?


Just a boy running on the road Caesar Augustus walked on…


Lighting a candle and saying a prayer at the beautiful St. Mary Orthodox Church in Apollina.


The following day we are at the Tirana airport preparing to fly to Vienna. It is Jacob’s 9th birthday so he was able to buy one more souvenir at the airport gift shop.

It was wonderful to have the Chervenak Family visit for a week. Seeing Albania through our grandchildren’s eyes was different, exhausting but most of all lots of fun. We loved it!

The nine of us left Albania and headed to Vienna for a wedding which I will update you on soon.

We are home now and I am working to catch up on this blog. When seeing some of my friends they have asked about how to respond to my blog without making it public. I think there is a way to do it through the blog but I am not sure how. Anyways, if you want to send a message to me please feel free to use my personal email sarahrw910@gmail.com

July, 2019

Josh Visits Albania

At the end of May our younger son, Josh, came to spend a month in Albania with us. He is fortunate to be able to work remotely which helped make this trip possible. It has been wonderful having him stay with us!


Yay, Josh has arrived in Albania! I was working when Josh got here so I could not go to the airport to greet our son.


On one of Josh’s first days here he came over to school so I could give him a tour and have him meet my students. The kids loved talking with him and peppering him with questions.


I took a personal day off work so we could take a three day weekend and visit Meteora, Greece. As you know from a previous post, I had already been there, loved it and was anxious for Randy and Josh to experience this beautiful part of the world. We stopped in Pogradec, Albania for dinner on the way. Pogradec is on a large lake (Lake Orhid) with a nice beach and boardwalk full of shops and restaurants.


The next morning we were awoken by an earthquake!!! We were spending the night in Korce, Albania which is 19 km from the epicenter of the earthquake. At about 6:30AM our beds started shaking and there was a loud train-like sound. It seemed like it lasted forever but it was probably only a minute or so. There were several aftershocks throughout the morning with an especially strong one that measured at 5.2 also. We were eating breakfast at the time, when the lights started swinging, the refrigerator full of glass bottled drinks started clattering, one door slammed shut and another swung open. It was all a bit unsettling. We never saw any severe damage but we were told that several homes collapsed closer to the epicenter of the earthquake.


The first monastery we visited was St. Stephen’s which is a nunnery where only a handful of nuns live. Unlike the other monasteries, there were no steps to climb to visit here.

That evening we went on a sunset tour which was breathtaking!

The following morning we went on a four hour hiking tour that included viewing a monastery that was tucked into the side of a mountain.

That afternoon Josh and I visited three more monasteries. Our favorite was St. Nicholas because we saw several monks there. Also, we thought this monastery had an especially spiritual tone to it.


St. Barbara’s monastery is a nunnery. There are 36 nuns who live here, more than live in any of the other monasteries. You can really tell that women live here because of all the gorgeous flower gardens, it has a different feel to it.

This is Holy Trinity Monastery. The rope net is how people accessed the monastery until the 1920’s when steps were carved into the sides of the mountains to get to the top. People or supplies were put in the net and then were pulled to the top. We climbed 200-350 steps to visit each of these monasteries.

The next morning we visited Varlaam, the sixth and final monastery. This monastery is named after the first monk to have lived amongst the rocks in 1350.

While visiting Meteora we stayed in a charming little village called Kalambaka. This was the view from our AirBnB.

On our drive back to Tirana we took a slight detour so we could visit the Bay of Bones in the country of North Macedonia. This also allowed Josh to get another stamp in his passport.


Another nice meal with Edlira and Aldo so that Josh could meet our Albanian friends.


While we were eating dinner with Aldo and Edlira, Edlira pointed out that a famous Albanian singer (Jonida Maliqi) was eating dinner at the next table. Josh then asked for a picture and she very graciously said yes.


I wanted Josh to experience an Albanian bus tour so we took a day trip to Holta’s Canyon, about an hour’s drive outside of Tirana.

As you can see we walked through this gorgeous canyon that had water throughout it. Sometimes the water came up to our ankles, sometimes the water came up to our waists or shoulders which means we held our backpacks on our heads. There was one place where we even had to swim for a short distance. Also, there were parts of the canyon that had warm thermal waters to swim in. It was really fun and such a different experience! Randy was not with us for this weekend because he had flown back to the States to attend our son, David’s, graduation from his general surgery residency program. Yay, David!

The following weekend we drove two hours to Berat, spent the night at a charming hotel called Castle Park and then went on a rafting trip through the Canyon of Osumi the following day. The rafting was low key and relaxing with a stop at a waterfall to get wet.

Back in Tirana, we went to this very cool, interesting coffee shop that has the theme of communism. There were several items in the shop from that time period. The shop serves several different types of raki which is an Albanian liquor similar to Italian grappa. I do not care for the taste at all, way too strong!


Josh really fell in love with Albania, especially the outdoors, nature part of this country. He took two trips to the Albanian Alps in the north on his own. Then he and Randy took a trip to the south on the Albanian Rivera where they scuba dived on an Italian hospital ship that was sunk by the Nazis in 1944.

Right now Randy, Josh and I are in Belfast, Northern Ireland visiting Daniel and LeeAnn who stayed with us through the Irish Children’s Program many years ago. I will write a post about our visit in Belfast sometime soon. We arrive back in the States on July 13th. After being abroad for 11 months I am ready to be home for a few weeks to visit family and friends and to be in our own home for awhile.