Thursday, July 12, 2012

On June 4, 2012 we all worked together to clean the Old Beach in Vlore.  This was designated a "Helping Hands" Service Project and was sponsored by the Church Humanitarian Services Department.

                                                      Most of the volunteers were from our branch in Vlore.  We had about
52 who came to help, including some of the neighborhood boys who live there.  You would not believe the kind of clutter and garbage that literally covered the beach. 

                             It was a day of really hard work, but it was great to see the results. 

After the work was finished, our boys had a really fun game of soccer, or Football as it is called here.  It was wonderful to see the beach clean and safe for families and kids to use.  We'll do this again--

May 4, 2012- Our 10th Wedding Anniversary

 Our 10th anniversary was different and special because we celebrated it here in Albania.  We decided to spend the whole day together, and that was easier said than done!  Our seminary age youth had other ideas.  They had planned an elaborate surprise for us, but didn't think to ask if we would be available to come!  We talked about this for awhile, and finally decided that on this day, we just wanted to celebrate our anniversary together.  We made arrangements to be with the kids the next day for their surprise.

We chose a restaurant in Fier-just about 45 minutes drive north of Vlore.  We had heard that they could serve a real steak!  We were really looking forward to that!  Mishe Vici, or Beef Meat, is really veal here.  The calves are butchered very young and it just doesn't taste the same.  So--on to Fier!

We started our meal with a Greek Salad and Bruschetta.  The vegetables are fresh and so tasty here.  The beginning of the meal was all that we'd hoped for.  The service was great, and since we came early-we had the whole restaurant to ourselves!  Everything was going according to plan, but we were both waiting for the steak--would it be like the steaks at home in America?
It wasn't long before we knew the truth.  The steak was attached to a bone, which was promising, but the steak was only about 3/8" thick.  After only one bite I felt sure that this steak had come from a very old milk cow, not the yummy beef we enjoy at home. Oh, well.  It was a great night anyway!

Once home, we enjoyed our nightly view from the balcony.  In the foreground you can see the idle port area.  Across the bay, the lights and the cars moving slowly along are always beautiful.  All the light reflects on the water and we have a stunning view.  On this night,  a full moon made it especially nice.  Our 10th anniversary was one we'll long remember.

April 20,2012 Personal Day At The Beach

 This is about one of those activities that is repeated on an 'as needed' basis.  The beach is called 'Zvernec' as far as we can determine.  The Smith's shared this location with us before they left us in Vlore.  We have returned many times for a peaceful break from the work.  For our missionaries this has also become a favorite spot.  We usually take a P-day out of each transfer to go to the beach.  The young missionaries are not able to go into the water, according to mission rules-but we find other fun things to do there.

 We were so happy when we saw this grill on our apartment balcony!  It may look a little bit worn and old, but it is wonderful to have it for cooking out at the beach or at home.  On this day, it was hot dogs over a charcoal/wood fire.  We all loved it, and it reminded me of home and so many wonderful occasions with family gathered around us.  We especially love doing this at our cabin when the kids all come for a weekend.  For now, these are the kids we have near us and we love them too.  They keep us young (er).

 This is our district for April-June.  From left to right you'll see Motra Gebhard from Colorado, Elder Knight from Texas,  Motra Atkin from Idaho, Motra Volz from Michigan (me) and Elder Barnard from Idaho also.  Elder Volz is the camera man.  (someone has to do it!)  We had a great time with this group. They are wonderful, dedicated missionaries.  On July 3rd, 3 of them were transferred to other areas.  Elder Knight remains with us in Vlore, while Motra Gebhard moved to Tirana, Motra Atkin to Durres and Elder Barnard to Macedonia.  We miss them, but stay in touch by email and at meetings.

This was our Pday on April 30th and the weather was beautiful.  Elder Volz initiated a 'stone skipping' contest which has become a tradition.  He almost always wins!  We draw a scoreboard in the sand, and everyone counts the number of 'skips'.  We add them up and declare a winner each time.  Albania is a hard mission, and sometimes a little break helps us keep our cheery nature!  Traditions are good, and memories like these will stay with us long after our 'boys' and 'girls' have gone on to other areas or home.
 We'll try to catch up on some of the many experiences we've been having while we've been here in Albania on our mission.  These pictures are from a Couples Conference that we attended in Budva, Montenegro.  There is a good chance we would never have seen these sights if it were not for this conference, organized by Ian and Sue Preston, who returned home from their mission about 2 weeks after the conference.  We drove up from Vlore with our friends, the Casady's, who are serving their mission in Fier-the next major town north of Vlore.

The picture above is the view from the top of Kotor Castle in Kotor, Montenegro.  This city boasts the oldest, inhabited walled city in Europe.  We don't know if that is true or not, but we do know that it is beautiful.  Clark hiked to the top of the mountain with Elder and Sister Eliason, Elder Casady and others, and brought back some amazing photos.  Nora stayed behind with Sr. Casady and Sr. Stacey, and thoroughly enjoyed shopping and exploring the shops and businesses within the walled town.

When we first arrived in Kotor, the parking lot designated for the castle
 was right next to the marina, so of course we had to investigate and see
all of the boats.  This was our first opportunity to see boats like
this, so we were in 7th heaven and remembered our many walks by the marinas at Lake Michigan.  The boats were beautiful and the harbor is amazing.  It is not deep enough for cruise ships, apparently, as we saw one approach and then turn around and leave.  They were probably just giving the passengers a moment to view the amazing walled city, which sprawls up the mountain from bottom to top, with the castle at the top.

 This picture to the left shows all the couples at the conference.  These have become our dearest friends while serving here.  It is just great when we get together for a conference like this.  We always share news of our families, and everyone is aware and concerned about everyone else's family--does that  make sense?  in English?  The longer we're here the more I worry about my English!  Anyway--it's a great group.  Missing from the picture are the Willis's from northern England.  They were in the middle of an Humanitarian project and could not be with us.

This is Clark and Nora in Budva, Montenegro on our last day there.  It is hard to imagine being cold enough to need a jacket! This was in April.  Now, in July, temperatures linger near 100 degrees every day in Albania, and the humidity ensures that you are always moist, if you know what I mean! 

We treasure this time on our mission.  We are grateful for our family's support and we miss them so much-but these are experiences that we would never have had any other way.   Our friends who are also serving here are a great support and wonderful examples to us.  What a wonderful blessing it is to be here.