Friday, June 29, 2007

Lunch With Brane and Margo

Scenes of the drive to Gostivar:

Margo (Margarita) is leaving early Saturday morning, June 30, for a 2-week trip to Northern Ireland. She and Maria, her daughter, are going with another Sheila (her husband, Jerry, works with Brane). Sheila is going back to Ireland and has invited Margo & Maria to take some vacation time with her in Belfast.

This is Margo's and Maria's first time on an airplane, but they are excited about the opportunity to see another part of the world.

Arville, Mary Beth, & I drove to Gostivar yesterday, Thursday, to visit with Brane and Margo before she leaves. Her clinic closed at 3 pm and we drove up in the mountains outside Gostivar for a wonderful lunch together.

Brane & Arville Waiting Outside the Hospital
Others Were Waiting, Too

Margo with Sonja (Brane's cousin) Outside the Hospital

It was so good to be where it was cool. We ate outside and enjoyed the gorgeous view together.

Driving Up to the Restaurant

In English this is "Fish Restaurant - Bigor"

Shelia and Mary Beth at the Entrance

It has been in 100 F. all week in Skopje. We could not believe how cool it was -- in the low 80s F.
What a wonderful restaurant, too!! The owner has made additions every year for the past several years. It started out as a coffee bar, and now it is a "fish restaurant." They raise trout and actually have the trout "farm" on the restaurant property. The man catches the fish with a net and cooks it like you want.

We finished having lunch about 6:30 pm, and returned to Skopje.
Leaving the Restaurant:
Back In Skopje:
Mary Beth to meet up with Sara and Jehona for a concert (Pink) at the stadium. We arrived in Skopje around 7:30 pm and the concert was to begin at 9 pm. However, the concert did not actually begin until 9:45 pm.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Amazement. That is my feeling
as I observe this young woman in our midst.

She seems to change and grow with each
passing day.

Her heart goes out to the people she encounters---
to those who have little of the ammenities
this world has to offer,
to those who experience life in culturally, different ways
than her own,
to those who need an encouraging word.

Strange --- this phenomenon I see playing out before me.
She lacks the language to communicate with everyone and yet, even though she doesn't have profiency of the languages she is hearing daily, people seem to understand her better than some who speak these languages fluently.

I am amazed how honest and open she has been about her experiences, insecurities, and doubts.
Yet, in all of these emotions that she has expressed, it appears she has concluded that she can find a sense of purpose and a "heap" of joy ---even in the times of disappointment.

She may not know where this summer's events will lead her OR how her future will be affected by what she has experienced,
BUT I think she would not trade it for anything.

I know that we would NOT.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Macedonian Embassy in Prishtina, Kosovo
Friday, June 22, we traveled to Prishtina, Kosovo, to get another document (an entry visa -- which you only have to have to apply for a work visa -- not for entry into Macedonia) from the Macedonian Embassy in Kosovo. This stamp will allow us to apply tomorrow (Monday, June 25) for our work visa (the same visa we have been issued every year since 1998). The procedure has changed, so we are trying to follow the correct procedure. The problem is that I think it is like "changing the tire on a car while the car is moving". They know what procedure they want you to follow to get the work visa, but they do not know what that procedure looks like until we go through it first. We all think that we are the first ones that have gone through this new procedure since it was initiated. Therein lies the problem. Tomorrow morning we will see if we have everything this time to begin the process to actually getting the visa in our passports. HA!

Kosovo Countryside

All of the previous was just an explanation of why we went to Kosovo. This is the rest of the story.
We were absolutely amazed at the progress that has been made. I know that 8 years is a long time -- but not when you consider what the Kosovar Albanians faced when they returned to their homeland in June 1999. They returned to the destruction of their homes, the death of SO many family members, the land mines hidden everywhere, their land burned and crops destroyed, a season without planting, and so very, little hope for the future.

New Construction Everywhere in Prishtina

They have picked themselves up (yes, with much help from the outside world, for sure) and carried on in the face of insurmountable odds. What fortitude these Kosovar refugees had! This strength took them through 8 years of rebuilding their lives and making a better place for their families.

Mary Beth & Agim with Two Albanian Men in Traditional Costume

It was a very emotional day as we walked through the same streets as we did 8 years ago. We recalled, in conversations throughout the day, the villages we had worked in and the people we had met. We remembered the old man who sat in the refugee camp with his wife. He was in tears because at the border into Macedonia, his shoelaces had been removed from his shoes so as to make it more difficult for him to walk. We remembered the faces of the children who found joy in having school in a tent so that they would not miss out on months of education before they could return to Kosovo. We remembered the village of women who received tractors in order to grow their own food in a co-op garden (all the men of the village had been killed).

Agim & Arville Remembering As They Walked In the Village
We remembered the loss of lives as we toured the memorial cemetery near the border of Kosovo and Macedonia. We remembered as we walked through and read each name out loud --- how could you read just a few??? We remembered.


So this was a day for remembering, but also a day for rejoicing. Rejoicing in life, in smiles, in hospitality, and in greetings given so freely.
We rejoiced in the cool interior of a cave that Agim took us to --- well, maybe we didn't rejoice so much when the lights went out after we were already inside the cave. We groped our way out of the darkness back to the entrance where we learned that this sort of thing happens all the time. That is when Arville went to the car and got a flashlight. HA! We went back in the cave and completed the tour. It was a diversion from all that we had seen and remembered.
There is "a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing"--- and we did both in just one day in Kosovo.
Shpella (Cave) in a Village Near Agim's Village of Smire

Thursday, June 21, 2007


One evening this week, Habibe and I were walking through the Bit Pazare (Market area) in Skopje. It was dark so it was difficult to see where we were walking. We wandered through several small alleyways, when we came to a place that seemed closed off with bundles of clothing and merchandise.

When we walked around the bundles, we realized that there were people sleeping in the middle of the stacks of cloth. There was a mother and two children. Habibe and I looked at each other; neither of us could speak. I realized that we both had tears in our eyes. Several minutes past, we said nothing. Then Habibe said, “Shelia, what do you do? There is no way either of us can help everybody”. Then she said, “You and I are so much alike. There are many people that pass this mother and her children everyday. Why does it bother us so much?”

It was a rhetorical question because I know that Habibe has the tenderest heart I have ever known, and she is always reminding me of the people that Arville & I have helped over the years since we have known each other. Habibe knew why it bothered us so much. Both of us want to DO something about the problems we see all around us. Our personalities are so alike that we have wondered often if we really ARE sisters. HA! Every time there is a child who goes hungry, a father without a job, a mother who dreams of a better life for her children, or an elderly person who is forced to live on the equivalent of $30 a month, whole families are affected.

For the past few days, I have been thinking about our conversation that evening (and many others along the same lines). I told Habibe today that I think she has given me the answer to how we handle this dilemma in which we are placed.

Habibe had recently told me about a young woman that she had met in the doctor’s office several months ago. The young, 32-year-old mother of two small children, had a problem with her eyes, but did not have the money to buy the medication that the doctor had prescribed. She had a medical card to get the reduced price at the pharmacy, but she did not have enough to pay even the reduced price of $1.25. Habibe took her over to the pharmacy and paid for her medication. The mother was so grateful. This meeting was the beginning of a friendship between these two women.

On another occasion when Habibe had been given some clothing to distribute to families that were in need, she thought of this young mother and her children. Then one of the mother’s parents died, and Habibe went to the home to pay her condolences. They visited back and forth over the next few months, and the friendship grew. About a week ago, Habibe told me that they young mother had died suddenly of a heart attack.

I told Habibe that she was my answer to that question: “What can we do?” We can do what Habibe did. We can befriend those that God brings to us. We cannot help everybody, but we have to be sure that we do not harden our hearts to the ones that are placed in our paths.

When I grow up, I want to be like Habibe. She has God’s heart for people, she cares for those that have nothing to offer her in return for her caring, and she inspires me to want to do more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Sara, Mary Beth, Jehona, and Kaliopi Before the Performance

One of our favorite things about summer in Macedonia is eating outside in the cooler part of the evening. Tuesday evening, June 19, the Iseni family, Mary Beth, Arville, and I attended a concert in a the courtyard of the Sofra Restaurant. While we waited for the concert to begin, we ate a meal of salad & pizza.
Afterwards, a pop/jazz singer (former Macedonian opera artist), Kaliopi, performed, along with several other bands and solists. We ate at 8 pm and the concert started at 9 pm, we stayed until 11 pm and she only sang one song. We were a bit disappointed that the one we had come to hear only sang one song in 2 hours, but it was a lot of fun anyway. Yet another cultural experience that we have not had before!
Here are a few pictures from the evening:

The Band Setting Up

Another Restaurant Across the Courtyard from Ours

Agim Working a Word Puzzle While Waiting on the Performance to Begin


Alan's birthday is June 23 and we wanted to wish him a very Happy Birthday. He will probably dislike this blog entry, but he was SO cute that I just couldn't stop myself. He also called us to tell us the good news that the day after his birthday he will be promoted from GS11 to GS12 status.


Love, Mom & Dad


Home from the Hospital

With Shelia's Paternal Grandparents

Alan is wearing Arville's army uniform that Shelia's mom tailored to fit him

When Amy Was Born

Pictures of Furlough Years

When Alan & Layla Met

With Anna at Shelia's Niece's Wedding

Alan & Layla
Alan & Layla at Stone Mountain, GA - Dec. 2005