Monday, March 28, 2011

Folk Tales

Good Morning Readers!

When I come to sit down and write my blog, I never know 'where' or 'how' to start... Usually by the time I've started writing what I'm inspired to write, my beginning paragraph has changed 3 or 4 times.
This morning is no different.

This weekend Shkodera had a Folk Festival up in the castle ruins. Local people dress up in traditional costumes and recreate moments in history through dance, song or poetry.

As a foreigner, you have no idea what's going on, but the expression of dance and song, really help to understand the culture in which we live.
The sound of the music can be quite raw to your ear at first - but there is something sad and somber that the music evokes in you as they dance or sing.

Albanian Traditional Costume

Picnicking unders the Castle ruins

When you live in a culture where there has been much poverty and still reeling from the effects of communism, it's so great when you catch a glimpse of its heritage and the joy in which the people embrace their traditions.
Even the young people were belting out the folk songs as if it was pop music!

Have a good week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steeples, Minarets, an Imam and a Nun...

There is one distinct difference between Albania and Greece- Religion.

Here in Shkoder, within a mile radius of the town centre, there are a vast number of mosques, catholic churches and even an Othodox church thrown in for good measure!

In Greece, you feel there is one dominating presense and that is the Orthodox church. But here, it's quite a different story...

A Mosque.

The Catholic Church

The Othodox Church

One afternoon, on my way to the gym, I walked behind a woman in a hijab, who then proceeded to wave 'Hello' to a nun walking in the opposite direction.

I've met people who tell me they have a muslim father and a catholic mother.

Friendship, Love and Family covers a whole array of factors here.

The atmosphere is broken each morning with calls to prayer from the neighbouring mosques and the bells chiming from the churches. Such an exotic mix of sounds to my foreign ear. And yet, it does make me think.

Within this culture and nation that was once under a communist regime how does religion play its role in people's lives? With minarets and bell towers dominaing the skyline, you can't avoid it!

I guess I ought to find out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cow eats the grass, which makes the milk... for me to pasteurise!!!

Having got back into the swing of life back here in Albania, I thought it was about time I showed you some pictures of us pasteurising our milk!

Its a relatively easy task, and fun at first, but has now become part of daily life here for us. Especially if we want a cup of tea in the afternoon!

Pasterising the milk.
The end result.

Initially we started decantering it into this beautiful urn. But its too big for the fridge, so now it goes back in to the coca-cola bottles it came in! obviously milk is not made to look good!
Living life here, you really have to breath in and slow down into a pace of life that requires so much more of you. Things like pasterising your milk, making your own bread or harvesting your own lemons, are things that people here do on a daily basis, and yet I find doing these things is a way of life that we have lost in the west.

Ingredients going into homemade oliver bread

There's something so exciting about buying fruit and veg, or milk, or harvesting lemons from your garden where you feel intouch with life, nature and things that connect you to people and the earth.
Have a lovely week...

Monday Monday... so good to me!!!

Its been a good weekend here in Shkodra. But I've always loved mondays. Its a way for me to start a fresh with my mind and my week. I have a clean slate every monday morning: the world is my oyster and I can be as creative or as imaginative with my week as I choose.
One way are jump starting me into my week, is getting up and heading out on my bike with Oliver to the Market. Its a chance for me to get my fruit and veg for the week, but also a chance for me to connect with this city and to show Oliver a piece of Albanian life.

The market

On the way through the market

I always like to start by riding through the market to the end, and then working my way slowly back through the stalls, picking up my fruit and veg at the stall thats have caught my eye on the way through.
Oliver and I love the fish stalls. They are still alive and swimming around in these gigantic tanks.
The hustle and bustle of market life keeps Oliver thoroughly entertained. (He's usually picked up some treat from the ladies at the veg stand!!!)

Once home, I get on with some cooking, and because I'm back from the market with so much fresh produce, I'm usually cooking, baking and creating a feast... this will then result in no food at the end of the week and its scrambled egg on toast.

So here's to Monday Mornings, they can be good!

Friday, March 18, 2011

What an Adventure we had!

Well, its been a while since I last wrote. Lots of things have happened for us, so I shall slowly update you with my conversations, experiences, thoughts and procrastinations.

I've been away in the UK visiting family and friends.
There was lots of fun to be had: friends to see, museums to visit, friends to play with and coffee dates to go to!
Such a refreshing time seeing people, but it's also lovely to be home!
There were lots of people we missed (so if you're reading this, we're coming to see you next).

We loved our reunion with friends we hadn't seen in a while, and re-connecting with friends we hadn't seen since christmas...

Pancake day with friends!!!

Dressing up and rescuing the ladies from difficult situations was a favourite!

Cousin Jemimah - a very special little girl in Oliver's heart 

Meeting with great friends.


A blue whale at the Natural History Museum...

Now we're back in SouthEastern Europe, we come back hopeful and full of energy to get on with life, meet people and be family.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Frustrations and Greek Delights!

So far you've seen a very idyllic view of our life! Lots of what I write about are snippets of life through my Blog window!
So I thought I would write an experience that left my heart aching for this nation: Greece.

A lot of my life involves travelling and meeting new people. My desire in life has been to always have an open home in to which people come in and feel relaxed. I've never expected to make 'life-long friends' with everyone I meet, but you know in your heart when you connect with people.

Since Oliver has been born, one of my desires is to show women in Greece that you can be a great mother, be in control of your child's life and not to be pressurised by 'the system'.

Maternal instincts can be natural, and it's our job - as women - to release each other into that potential.

We are not all built for motherhood, but I do know that there is freedom in the choices we make.

This week was Oliver's birthday, I had invited at least 10 women with their children. Slowly but surely they all dropped out with one problem after the other.

By the last day, I only had messages from 2 women saying they would come. But from lots of experience and with my heart aching for Oliver and his own joy, I thought they just wouldn't show up!

Whether its meeting up for coffee, sharing your dreams, going out for a walk with friends, going shopping, or just sitting watching X factor together - community is crucial!

The house was tidy, the cake was baked and Oliver was dressed up and waiting..... ........

1 hour into the non-existent party, just before the emotions welled, our first guests arrived!
Oh how our hearts leaped for Oliver. Within 10 minutes, both ladies had shown up with their beautiful little girls - and a surprise/spontaneous friend arrived ... and the party had begun.

Our life has been a long waiting game. Hanging in a balance...
Will the Greeks show up, won't they...?
Did I invite them too early, or too late...?
Have I cooked enough food, and will they actually eat it...?
Am I trying too hard? Or are we just missing a different flow?

We do feel we've changed, neither Greek nor English...

But we do desire to be a part of something bigger and progressive in this society that appears at this moment to be stagnant.

As the spring arrives, so does hope for the blossoming again...

Thank you for hearing my heart and any response would be welcome!

The masks we wear!

We are coming to the end of carnival here in Greece. So this week, mum decided to host a masked dinner for women here in Panorama.
Once getting dressed up, we all headed down to a lovely restaurant and chatted, laughed and dined our way through the evening.
Mum shared a poem she had written with us all and then we finished by 'setting the world to right' until the wee hours of the morning!

Our beautiful guest!

The poem!

A mask is beautiful, but can also hide who we are as women - metaphorically speaking!
Its wonderful to come together -as women - and be strong for each other, and to not be hiding behind our masks! 
What a wonderful evening we had!