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S: Knit 1 Pray1 Kosovo 2011 Ali Davis

FC: Knit 1 Pray 1 Kosovo 2011 Ali Davis

2: Sunday, 9 January 2011 Casting On The countdown is on. I'm leaving in 3 days and most of you have seen me for the last time until at least April. This might be a tough week for you but try and hold it together. I've not really got much to say at this point but I wanted to give you the chance to get into the habit of remembering to check this blog at least once a day. So well done, add me to your favourites bar and prepare to be entertained. Actually, the knitting thing - I'm taking mine with me, planning to create a bundle of mittens and gloves and jumpers in between all the teas and coffees and cake and bible study. I've perfected the cable stitch and I'm excited! Also, thank you SO BLOOMING MUCH to everybody who has sent their hard earned cash in my direction. You have all be extremely generous and I feel very honoured that you're trusting me with your money. I will do my very best to spend it wisely and prayerfully. Sorry, turns out I did have a bit to say. Or that when allowed a free reign, I will just keep talking. You can skim read from now on, I won't mind. Or know. Posted by Ali at 19:24

3: Tuesday, 11 January 2011 Are you a soldier? Yesterday I went into the bank to tell them that I was going away for a bit and after I'd told the nice lady where I was going and for how long she looked at me and said "Are you a soldier?" The first and last time (probably) that anyone's looked at me and thought "that girl must be soldier". I said no, but on reflection if I'd been more on the ball I'd have said "Yes, I am a Christian soldier" and then sung a verse or two of Onward Christian Soldiers. But I didn't. But anyway, the point is that I'm leaving tomorrow. I'll be travelling with two other women who are working with BMS, Eileen and Leah, who I'll meet at Gatwick bright and early in the morning. I'll be living with Eileen and helping out at the school for children with special needs that Eileen has set up. "Helping out" is a loose term, mostly I just watch Eileen and Carol (another BMS volunteer working at the school) in amazement as they negotiate some serious special needs with a lot of love, compassion and patience. For those of you who are of a praying disposition, here's where you can start: for safe travel and quick learning of Albanian. I'll keep you posted. And a lot of thanks in advance. See you on the flip side! Posted by Ali at 16:36

4: Thursday, 13 January 2011 On Arrival So I made it, pretty much event-free, other than taking off, flying, and landing, all of which are crucial for air travel. And for those of you ever travelling from the Bromley area to Gatwick, I recommend taking the 119 to East Croydon and then the train to Gatwick - I was checked in 90 minutes after leaving the house. Leaving before 7am might help also. Being here is great, and not even particularly cold. I'm glad I was out for a bit before Christmas, that's helped a lot with feeling like I vaguely know the space and people etc. This week and next will mostly be spent delivering shoeboxes to children at local schools, this week with an American team, and next week with a team from the UK. It's been nice to make some new friends today and only three people so far have tried to mimic my accent. None have done a very good job. That's pretty much it for now. I'll try and do something interesting soon and put up some photos, also of something interesting. Me probably, with a small child and a shoe box. Watch this space. Posted by Ali at 22:42

5: Saturday, 15 January 2011 Off-Roading On Friday we ventured out of the town to deliver some shoeboxes to schools in the villages in the hills. The first school we delivered to was basically two wooden huts and an office, each with desks, a wood-burning stove, a teacher and some pupils. And the hills and mountains in the background. We carried on to the next village which required the transition from road to off-road. The Americans in my truck loved it, apparently they go off-roading in their 4x4s all the time. After about 15 minutes of bumping and jumping up the side of a mountain we made it up to a remote school house with just one room, teacher and a few kids. And the stove, obviously. We did some more deliveries, and admired their view of the snow-capped mountains out the windows. The kids are all very sweet, although quite a few of them look pretty bemused by this bunch of foreigners turning up and giving them a box of gifts. Christmas isn't particularly celebrated here so the gift-giving isn't a common custom. But what kid doesn't love a box of toys? So they generally seemed happy. We were invited to tea in the village, but it turns out that these villages are seriously spread out so it took getting into the trucks to continue the journey. So off we went, embracing the dirt track. Sitting in the back with three others (with eight of us in total in the truck), two facing two was a lot of fun. We were generally shaken around, bumped up and down, left and right. Good times.

6: So after we've chugged along experiencing the lumps and bumps of off-road travel it gets really exciting when we hit a patch of ice. We start to head up an incline, mountain on the left, nothing on the right, when it becomes clear that we're not going any further. Watching out the back I can see the ice being spit out by the wheels just as we lose any grip. As we begin to head backwards down the hill, our driver turns his wheel to the right and we back (at speed) to the edge of the road. I'm enjoying the view of the almost sheer drop down, pretending that this is in no way completely terrifying and putting my absolute trust in the driver. So we're sliding backwards towards the edge, and down the hill. As we hit dirt at the side of the road, the truck moves forwards and down, the driver steers left and before you know it we're gently sliding back down the hill facefirst. I discovered yesterday that Ernie, the driver, was a formerly a trucker in Canada. It makes sense now. So, disaster averted. We decide to take a different route which apparently is a worse road but we're going to try it. So after we've climbed and dipped and jolted etc for another 10 or so minutes, and headed down a hill with the truck leaning several degrees past comfortable to the left (during which time I'm planning contingency measures for when the truck rolls and I'm doing something heroic of save the life of the nine year old sitting opposite me), we finally make it to our destination. Thank you Jesus. I think the next hour or so has been one of my favourite so far, except for the trip to the outside toilet. These communities really are the rural poor, they have very little and live off the land with few prospects for their children. We were served traditional food, pickled peppers and tomatoes, bread, cheese (from the local cows), rice with paprika and chicken, and then tea. Tea comes in little glasses with sugar and lemon and no milk, and is refilled nice and quick. I was happy. But best of all was giving out three more shoeboxes to the three children. It was great to sit around and get excited with them, they really don't have very much and watching them receive new hats and gloves, a tennis ball, a harmonica, colouring books and pens and the rest was really special. It got really exciting and felt a lot like Christmas Day at home. It was so lovely to be a part of that delivery. The other highlight of that trip was the 104 year old man we encountered on our way. Check out the photos. Posted by Ali at 21:02

8: Wednesday, 19 January 2011 Do you know Justin Bieber? Another week of shoebox delivery is well underway. The British team arrived on Monday and the last two days have been spent in schools around town and out in the villages. It's been great to see the final stage of the whole shoebox project, having seen boxes made up at home, delivered and displayed at church, and driven off to the distribution point in Eastborne. The boxes we're delivering here were made up in the UK and Ireland so we can really say that these gifts have come from our home for the children. Here are a few pictures:

9: When you start thinking about shoeboxes for next Christmas, feel free to make up boxes for older children (10-14) as there are never enough, especially for the boys. Hats/scarves/gloves are usually a winner, along with some chocolate and a ball. Yesterday at one of the schools a group of girls of about 11 got very excited and asked if I knew Justin Bieber. (For those of you who aren't sure, Justin Bieber is a 16 year old popstar/singer type person. Look at his pretty face: I told them that I didn't know Justin Bieber but that apparently didn't translate very well and they asked me to please tell him that they love him and that he should go to Kosovo to sing for them. I promised I would when I next saw him. Is that bad? They really do love him (including the boys, I checked) and they show their love through graffiti on the main school door: | 11 year old girls are the same the world over apparently. I've been to Kid's Club, church and bible study since being here but as these are weekly occurences I'll come back to those at a later date. For now you can just know that I'm loving all of them! If you're an attendee at Bromley Baptist, there should be some prayer cards around on Sunday morning, destined for your fridge doors. And if you've been praying for me, please know that you are being heard and answered. Posted by Ali at 22:21

10: Sunday, 23 January 2011 The least of these Friday was the last day of shoebox delivery and the first day of snow! We ventured out for one last time into the hills to deliver a final batch of shoeboxes to happy/bewildered school children. Good times. Here is a picture of me. That is me, in the distance. It's amazing to arrive at a school with bare walls and extremely basic classrooms and discovered that some of the children have trekked 5km in the snow to get there. After emptying the van of shoeboxes we headed off to deliver some food and other aid to a collection of families in an especially poor and isolated part of the country. The missionaries here helped build their houses in the years after the war and have been going back regularly ever since. It's a really tough place to be, life is pretty brutal. The mother of the family we visited is about 45/50 and looks at least 20 years older. She has breast cancer - which she isn't being treated for - and high blood pressure. While hosting us she collapsed and although she came round and continued to make us eat biscuits and drink tea, it was really clear that she's very ill and not likely to live very much longer. The UK team who are here to deliver the shoeboxes had also brought some tracksuits which were going spare at home. They were able to give these out to the older children of the family and we had a great time getting them to strike a pose: These two are 15 and 22 and did a great job of serving us Turkish coffee and tea. They carry a lot of the responsibility, especially as their mum is so ill. I was really aware that they have practically no prospects, there's barely anything to do, and no work. I haven't really been able to shake them from my mind since. Their poverty is so complete but they are just like us, wanting the same as we wanted at 15 and 22, but with almost no chance of getting it. I'm an optimist, I like to find the positive spin on things but I'm really struggling on this one. So I'm praying for them, that they find riches in God, hope in Christ. If you want, you can join me. Posted by Ali at 16:58

12: Wednesday, 26 January 2011 ABC Today I had my first Albanian lesson and, as predicted, it was very painful. But I have a great teacher - one of the girls from the Bible Study - and she only laughed at me a few times. So that was nice of her. Did you know that the Albanian alphabet has 36 characters? You're probably aware that the English alphabet only has 26 characters. That's an increase of 10. This is bad news to begin with. So here they are, my new nemeses: C (except the one with the little squiggle at the bottom like in French. I can't work out how to write it on this keyboard. Let down.) - sounds like CH (nice and easy, although I'd like to say that "c" isn't pronounced "see" it's pronounced TSA, or like piZZA. Who's daunted yet?) DH - sounds like THE (but not "the", more like "thay". Say it like you say THEY) E (with two little dots on the top. Again, let down by the keyboard) - sounds like UUH (kind of, but mostly not when it's at the end of a word because then you don't really pronounce it at all, helpfully) GJ - sounds like J (which is easy. Phew) Ll - sounds like Ll (which isn't the same as L. Apparently. Very far from perfecting that one) NJ - sounds like NOTHING I KNOW (literally we have no sound that corresponds. So just say it like you see it) RR - sounds like rolling your r's (which I have never been able to do and am not much closer to doing even after this afternoon's very painful attempts) SH - sounds like SH (Hooray!) TH - sounds like TH (again, hooray!) XH - sounds like G (as in Germs. Manageable) ZH - sounds like GE (as in beiGE. Obviously)

13: You all need to get practising because I'm going to test you when I'm home. If you're in this with me then you can feel my alphabetical pain too. And in other news: Last night it was a balmy -12 degrees outside and it didn't feel much warmer inside. My saving grace was my electic blanket. And Jesus, obviously. For those of you concerned about the progress of my knitting, you'll be pleased to know that I'm just finishing up the second arm of my current project, a small jumper. I did discover the other day that I've knitted the entire back in the wrong size needles!! But since that's going to be the least of this jumper's worries, I don't think anyone will notice. I think that's it from me today. Stay classy Englanders, and thanks for stopping by. Posted by Ali at 19:30

14: They tested out my first baking adventure using ingredients available in Kosovo. Turns out vanilla essence is a no-no, but vanilla sugar will do the job instead. And it turned out fine, I managed some pretty tasty chocolate chip cookies (no pictures managed before consumption) and also a coconut slice thing, minus glace cherries. I don't think we missed them though, they still tasted pretty good. YUM. The Girls also bravely agreed to let me drive them home... Getting behind the wheel has been in the back of my mind since I arrived, armed with my driving license and ready to go! But driving here is not quite the same as driving at home. For a start, check out my wheels: The truck is a little bigger and heftier than the little Ford KA I drive at home, but I think I'm getting used to it. Even being a left-hand drive hasn't flummoxed me too much yet. The bigger problem here is probably more the general approach to driving by the locals. You will hear more of this in the weeks to come, but for now I will just that the first rule of driving in Kosovo is there are no rules... CORRECTION: Last week I told you that there were 10 additional characters in the Albanian alphabet, but on further study I realised that there's actually 11 and no w. But those of you who read my last post carefully will know that because you'll have counted all 11 that I introduced to you... Posted by Ali at 18:51 | Sunday, 30 January 2011 Here Come the Girls I would like to introduce you to some of my new friends, officially called "The Girls". Yesterday they came over for some coffee, cake and a film. It was good. We watched 10 Things I Hate About You, and they did a great job of keeping up with the English! Significantly better than I'd have managed had we watched in Albanian... It's been great hanging out with them over the last few weeks and I'm excited about spending more time with them. You'll defintely be hearing more about (Floren)Tina because she's my super-patient Albanian teacher, and Norah who runs the Kid's Club (and is my informal Albanian tester).

16: There are six kids who come to the school although not all on the same days. The school runs from 9:15 to 11:45, Monday to Thursday, and on Friday some older children from the special needs class at a local school come for the morning. The needs of the six younger kids range quite widely. Some have autism, some have epilepsy, one has severe cerebal palsy. Their ability to engage with what's going on around them also varies, and none of them are able communicate through speech. Eileen set the school up last May having been here for a few years doing house visits with the children and developing relationships with them and their parents. Carol arrived in August and was supposed to go home in December but she loved it so much she had to come back. Both Eileen and Carol will be leaving for good by May so the future of the school is uncertain. If you are a pray-er, please pray that the right provision would become available. This ministry is quite unique out here and there isn't anything that these children can go on to automatically. But there is hope that God knows what is best and will provide for his special children. | Thursday, 3 February 2011 Time for School As most of you will know, my two housemates, Eileen and Carol, run a school for children with special needs in the basement of our house. It's much nicer than it sounds, it doesn't look like a basement or anything. They've done an amazing job at decorating it and setting it up to be a great place for kids to come to learn. Here's a photo to prove it: That's Eileen in the distance with one of the kids in the red chair next to her. Among Carol and Eileen's many talents is the creation of small things to sit on made out of cardboard, newspaper, flour and water - i.e. paper maiche. They are amazing!

17: Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what goes on. To the untrained eye (mine) it doesn't always look like these activities are teaching the children anything. But it turns out that Eileen and Carol haven't just been trained in colouring and singing - they are pros and every little detail of what they do with these kids enhances their ability to engage in the world around them and be part of something that they would otherwise be shut out of. I just think they're amazing! Posted by Ali at 21:00

18: Sunday, 6 February 2011 Wood You Believe It! On Friday, as I was washing my hair over the sink because there was no water and no power but my hair insisted on needing a wash, I realised that there were a couple of unknown men in the front yard with a few trees on the back of a tractor. After a closer look, I realised this was the much-anticipated delivery of wood to see us through until the end of winter. And of course it wasn't until they were driving away that I remembered I could document this little phenomenon on my camera. So I didn't, but I did remember to document what they left us with. And this is me being useful and stacking the logs up. The sun's out and I'm not wearing a coat but it's actually a lot colder than it looks. | The central heating here is too expensive to actually use so this wood is our main source of heating. It goes from a big pile under the house into this stove where it heats up the front room and then we run from there to anywhere else in the house, trying not to lose as much body heat as possible. The running helps. Most of the time there's a pot of water keeping warm on top. This is in case of a tea emergency when there is no power. The last thing you want is darkness, chillyness and no tea.

19: That said, should the unspeakable happen and you return home to find the power's out and the stove's stone cold, we do have a gas hob for boiling water. This is a picture from one such occasion when the British shoebox team were here: In case you're wondering, you get used to the power going off a few times a day, usually for two - three hours. You work out how to plan around it, like boiling the kettle for hot water bottles and putting the heater on beside your bed in advance. Just to at least take the chill off the room.... | So now you're caught up the on the wood/stove/tea situation. And I bet you all feel better for it. Looking forward to the week ahead... Albanian classes continue this week, hopefully I will have fully grasped days of the week by tomorrow and we can move on to more advanced things like "I'm really sorry I hit your car but it was your fault". Although I'm sure I'll never have to use that. We're hoping to start an English class for some of the local girls tomorrow, I'll keep you posted on that one. There'll be various bible studies and planning time for kid's ministry and the like. I'm excited, I think it's going to be a good one. Posted by Ali at 19:22

20: Sunday, 13 February 2011 The Word Many of you will be experienced bible study attendees and I would like you to think about the usual post-bible study chit chat. For those of you who aren't bible study-ers, here's a little insight - "That was really good, what a great passage" or "Man alive, that was so dull". I've said both. However, this weeks post-bible study chat centred on "And the power stayed on the whole time!". Bible study here is a whole other beast.... It genuinely is great news when the power stays on for bible study, just because it reduces the need for torches. There is a generator and usually we'll end up with some light, but it's always nice to not have to shout over the generator noise. And we need the generator because without that we have no heaters and no hot water for post-bible study tea. The group here is made up of several local teenagers and a bunch of random foreigners. It is the believing community here in town, a relatively small group but definitely very lively. They have been working through the book of Luke and this week we reached the passage on giving taxes to Caesar. Most of it goes on in Albanian so I just pick up what gets translated, but the point at which the whiteboard got utilised and tax brackets drawn up, I managed to catch up. Just about. Not really. I did work at the Treasury but that doesn't mean I have any clearer idea on finance. Tax is just confusing. It is great to be a part of this small but passionate community of young believers. It's really brilliant to gather in a cold room, around the heaters, keeping coats, hats, scarves, gloves etc on, just to open the Bible and get involved. It's like the Early Church, simple, basic, fresh. I love it. I am still waiting however for the great movement of Heavenly Power that will allow me to speak fluent Albanian. I wait in faith. Here is a picture of me with my post-bible study cup of tea and AMAZING brownie. I finally remembered to bring my own milk and teabag this week, otherwise I have to drink coffee or fruit tea, neither of which make me particularly happy. But from here on in I will be well equipped to finish my Bible Study evening off in Great British Style. Posted by Ali at 11:20

24: Wednesday, 16 February 2011 A Recipe for Goodness So I recently got to experience my first hands on Albanian cooking class! It was very exciting! Carol, Eileen and myself all took ourselves round to the house of one of the local families to immerse ourselves in traditional Albanian cooking, and then of course eating. A lot of the food here is based on dough and pastry, and the most popular dish is pita (say it like pitta, but more like peeta. Or something). Eileen's tried making it before and I'd watched the making process, but this was our first hands-on culinary lesson. And now I'm going to pass on my knowledge to you. Step one: Get some flour. By "some" I means "lots". Mix up the flour and some warm water until you get a nice dough. Knead. | Step 2: Roll the dough into a long roll and then cut bits off. Then shape them into balls. I tried this, it was trickier than it looked.

25: Step 3: Roll the balls into flat circles and then brush with oil. | Step 4: The fun bit. To open the dough out into a bigger circle, throw it around in the air like when they make pizza. Check me out | Step 5: Where the magic happens. Lay your dough on a low round table (a sofran) on a piece of cloth and then stretch it out so it's nice and big. Probably a metre in diametre. Don't put holes in it. Harder than it looks. | Step 6: Spread out required filling, in this case spinach.

26: Step 7: Lift up either end of the cloth and let the dough roll in on itself, but don't let the two sides meet in the middle. You've ruined everything if you do that. Dramz. | Step 8: Separate the two rolls of dough and spiral them up. Place in dish. Repeat from step 4 until you've used up all the dough. Place dish in stove. | Step 9: A bit later get them out of the stove. | Step 10: EAT. (I don't have any pictures of me eating it - which is probably just as well - but I did and it was GOOD). So there you are, now you can all get out your sofrans and wood burning stoves and cook up an Albanian culinary feast! Let me know how you all get on.... Posted by Ali at 21:56

27: Sunday, 20 February 2011 Independence Day Thursday 17th February was Kosovo's third birthday! Happy Birthday Kosovo! Woo! This means we all got a day off! Woo! To bring you all up to scratch on your Balkan history, here's the deal: Kosovo has been a disputed territory for hundreds of years, with a large ethnic Albanian population, a significant Serbian population, and other ethnic groups (Roma, Turks, Bosniaks). Up until the end of the war in 1999 Kosovo was a province of what we now call Serbia (but most recent incarnations have been as follows: Serbia, Serbia and Montenegro, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia, and The Kingdom of Slavs, Croats, and Slovenes.) From 10th June 1999 to 17th February 2008, Kosovo was under United Nations administration. On 17th February 2008, the Republic of Kosovo was declared as an independent nation. And so we get Independence Day! | We took a trip into Pristina to mark Independence Day with a prayer meeting at church. On the way to church we past this monument to independence, the NEWBORN structure. It's a great monument in my opinion, made particularly good by the grafitti which now covers it. I'm not sure if the plan was to allow the grafitti, but I think it adds something really special to an already very interesting structure. It makes it quite living, quite fluid, which I think is apt for a young nation finding its feet.

28: As is always appropriate, any birthday deserves a cake and so please check out the below. Yes, this is ALL cake. How to make me very happy! And that's Eileen's finger directing you all to Vushtrri, should anyone wish to visit. | Our Independence Day afternoon was spent, slightly randomly, at some Roman ruins. Now I bet most of you have visited some Roman ruins at some point, Lullingston Villa, Bath etc etc. I bet none of you have walked all over Roman ruins though. Well, you should visit Kosovo, where really no one is interested and you can do whatever you like with some ruins that you can find if you divert off the road and walk for about 5 minutes and there they are. As you do. And then you can walk and climb and clamber and fall off to your heart's content! And if you're really lucky you'll find a sarcophagus made of white marble: | You might also find some bones and things, which is less thrilling. Generally a bit creepy to be honest. Gross, in fact. Or you might just find me, grinning foolishly into the camera: It was a good Indpendence Day. But real life kicks in and the long weekend is over. Things to look forward to this week are the arrival of Carol's (housemate) mum and sister, Bible Study, English class, my continuing drivers education, coffee, Kid's Club, lasagne, Albanian lessons (I have a test next week!! Eeek!!), the Rainbow school, more coffee etc etc. You'll be hearing more from me before too long... Posted by Ali at 21:33

29: Thursday, 24 February 2011 Founding Sons and Daughters I've been thinking a lot recently about the Church here in Kosovo. Not just the community of Christians here in town, or the big church in Pristina, but the whole collective of believers throughout this small country. It's a new Church, I think the first official evangelical church was started in 1985 (and therefore is younger than me), the New Testament was first translated into Albanian in 1980, and the whole Bible by the early 1990s. This is very recent history. There were Orthodox churches around before that as Serbia is officially Orthodox, but the evangelical community is still in its very early stages. This has made me think a lot about the role of the young believers that I'm meeting here. In the grand scheme of things they will be some of the early leaders of this Church, given that they are probably only the second generation of "churched" believers in Kosovo. It takes me back to the book of Acts, to thinking about what the Early Church looked like, how the first few generations of Christians who were living post-Jesus went about meeting together to talk about their faith, to worship God, to do what they could to follow Jesus' instructions about living and believing in Him. They were trailblazers, founding fathers (and mothers), pioneers, and it is their example that these teenagers are learning from. I have two prayers for this young Church, from a passage in Ephesians. Firstly, a rooting in the love of Christ; and secondly, unity within the Church: "And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God." "We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father who is over us all and in us all and living through us all." Ephesians 3:17 - 19, and 4: 4 - 6 So if you are one of Christ's people, under this one God and Father, then pray for your Church family here. They have a big task ahead of them and they need to know the support of their brothers and sisters around the world. I am certain that they will achieve mighty things as they reach out and follow Christ, and I'm certain that this is a journey you want to join them on. Posted by Ali at 10:27

30: Wednesday, 2 March 2011 Testing Times I had a test today, an Albanian test. My first language milestone. I was genuinely quite tense about it. We went out visiting a local family during the afternoon and all I could think about was the simple past conjugation of "to work". And when I got home it turned out I had it wrong anyway. But I have a very kind, extremely and stunningly beautiful teacher who was nice and didn't try to catch me out. Except on my vocab, which is poor. How could I think that pen was karrige when it is clearly kimik and karrige is chair. Ridonculous. As it was I did alright, check out the photographic evidenced. Signed by my teacher and everything. The other thing that I know you're all wondering about it how the knitting is coming on. Well, I would like to introduce to my superb handywork. Or at least the gloves I made and the jumper I mentioned before. This is the sorry excuse for the jumper. I just got round to sewing it up and have discovered (inevitably) that hardly any of the seams actually match up properly and so it's not really that wearable. I hoping Knitting Surgery with Mum will sort it. But it may be beyond repair. I'll keep you updated. And here are the gloves. They look that weird in real life. But they fit people alright, some 10-12 year old girl will have warm hands soon enough!

31: Other recent excitment includes the visit of Carol's mum and sister last week. It was nice to have visitors and we got to do interesting things like day trips to Peja. The only problem I have found with being a tourist here is that I spend most of my time trying not to fall over in the snow/ice instead of looking at all the interesting things around me. But during our day in Peja we visited the 14th century monastery which really did look lovely in the snow. It was nice to experience snow as its supposed to be - beautiful and white, rather than town snow which just goes black and causes chaos. The monastery is really old, and as it's Serbian it's protected by international troops. When we arrived Eileen asked the nice Italian soldier if we could visit it and he said "Speak English". She had, just Scottish English. Turns out they don't teach that to Italian soldiers. And finally, today I discovered that, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, I can listen to the cricket!! I spent this morning watching the snow and listening to Aggers extol the virtues of the England team. Happily the power went out during the afternoon which meant I didn't have to listen to the Irish turn up and win. Embarrassing. I've had a few conversations with the Americans here about cricket - they really do struggle with a game that can be played for hours and hours (or days and days) and end in a draw. It's clearly a refined art cricket, best left to the Commonwealth. So you are brought neatly up to date with my world this week. Jolly good. Posted by Ali at 21:15

32: Friday, 11 March 2011 End of Term For you avid readers of my blog, you will know a bit about the school for children with special needs that Eileen and Carol (that's Carol in the picture) run from the basement of our house. I mentioned last time that I think they are amazing and that the work they do is beyond brilliant, so I thought it was time for a better description of what they get up to. For children with very severe disabilities school like this is pretty much unheard of over here. Most will be completely uneducated and will spend most of their time at home, some never even leaving the house. For Eileen and Carol to come here with all their training and skill is a real blessing and they provide a very unique learning environment for these children. | I am continually amazed at the way they are able to teach and encourage development. This picture is of a science lesson Eileen taught about taste. It's really science like you've never seen it before but the kids seemed to like it. They tasted various types of food to learn about sweet, sour, bitter etc. It was good!

33: They have also put together a sensory area which the kids retreat to during most lessons. There are music and lights, and various programmes which have been developed to encourage sensory awareness. One programme Carol uses includes (gentle) patting with spatulas, scrunching with pot scourers and flicking with mops. To the unitiated like me this seems very weird, but it's good especially for children who spend a lot of their time lying on their backs or in one position. There's probably a lot more technical stuff to it than that, but that's my limit of expertise! I just trust the experts. Carol is going back to England in the middle of April and Eileen is going back to Scotland at the beginning of May. They have established a really good work here and while they have been looking for a replacement, nothing has been found to carry this work after they leave. They have been working really hard to establish some kind of provision for the future and are working with the parents of the children to try and put in place things that they may be able to do amongst themselves. Carol and Eileen are beginning to work out how to engage the education system here in their duty to educate these children, but it's a bit of an uphill battle. While by law these children have a right to education, the training and resources are limited. God has used Eileen and Carol mightily in this field but their time here is now almost over. If you like to pray, please pray that the work that has been started here would be just the groundwork for something much greater. I think that it is important for the parents to begin to demand and fight for the education that their children have been promised by the state and it may be that with this school leaving, and with the support of Carol and Eileen while they are still here, they will begin to establish contacts and networks and will flourish in their goal of getting their children into school. Posted by Ali at 18:32

34: Saturday, 19 March 2011 Rules of the Road One of my favourite past-times here in Kosovo is to observe general road/driving behaviours, and I have decided that it's time to share some of my observations with you. Fasten your seatbelts (ha, oh man, who saw that one coming??!) Rule 1: The first rule of driving in Kosovo is there are no rules. However, here are some general guidelines: Guideline 1: do not feel obliged to use your indicator. The orange flashing light at the front and back of your car is only for use "should you feel like it". Do not in any way feel that this may help you or other drivers in understanding what is happening around you. Should you decide to use your indicator, do not feel that if you are indicating left, you should actually turn left. Indicating left and turning right is not a problem. Guideline 2: overtake whenever you feel like it. Do not concern yourself with considering whether or not oncoming cars will be in your way should you wish to overtake a vehicle. You can cross that bridge when you come to it. Guideline 3: driving the wrong way down a single lane track is perfectly acceptable should it allow you to reach your destination two or three seconds quicker than using the official alternate route. Again, please do not feel the need to take into account oncoming vehicles. Guideline 4: if you do generally observe road guidelines, do feel free to take Sundays off. That's just a little taster of the joy and privilege that it is to drive here. I am thoroughly enjoying the chance to drive in the dark down busy main roads with no street lights or pavements, the challenge of seeing the road ahead and missing pedestrians is really enhancing my driving skills. Also, I really enjoy the relaxed approach to road maintenance and the fact that a road does not need to be laid to be open. And my absolute favourite bit of the main road here into Pristina is the bit where instead of the outside lane of the road there is a man's front garden. Apparently he wouldn't sell the land so they just built the road around him. Why not?

35: And lastly, I would like to share a story with you from this last week. While driving around a busy roundabout, a car emerged from in front of a bus which was just to our right dropping off passengers. The car was indicating left so we slowed down to let the driver do whatever the driver was thinking he (further observation - very few women drivers around here. That's the reason people look at me while I'm driving, nothing else) would like to do, and we watched as the car drove round in front of us. And we watched and watched and watched until Eileen said "there's no driver in that car". And she was right, the car was in fact driverless. There was no driver. So the car continued to roll out into the middle of the roundabout causing mayhem and chaos and as we extracted ourselves and headed off down the road I looked back and watched a man running across the roundabout yelling and waving his arms. Bless. I wonder if he will begin to employ the handbrake any time soon? Posted by Ali at 20:18

36: Monday, 28 March 2011 English Class In a country of whose language you really only have a very basic grasp, it's really nice to have the excuse to spend every Monday afternoon repeating "in English please!" Hence why teaching English is a great idea, for purely personal reasons and nothing at all to do with equipping local girls with an international language. So for 90 minutes on a Monday afternoon between 8 and 14 11-15 year olds turn up at our house and get ready for a fun-filled afternoon! Or at least an opportunity to hang out with a native English speaker, which is apparently a winner in these parts. Teaching English has been a bit of a challenge for me, teaching isn't one of my most natural giftings. But I am enjoying working out ways of introducing conversational English to a varied bunch of girls with varying levels of English. Some are really good and can rescue me from a pit of repetition and misunderstanding, some continue to look at me with eyes that say "I want to understand you, but really you are just making noise". I'm assuming that since they come back week after week, they are either learning something or just really enjoying watching me drown in a sea of grammar, nouns and adjectives.

37: Today, as you might have gathered, we were thinking about food. We did a couple of work sheets categorising food into fruits, veg, meat and sweets and developed our vocab to include sweet, sour, chewy, crunchy and more. It was good, I think most of the girls picked something up. I encouraged them to describe their dinner to their parents this evening, whether they did or not I suppose I'll never know. Most of the girls who come are from the local(ish) area. They go to school during the morning, have some lunch and come to English class. I'm generally amazed by most of their grasp of the language, and continually apologetic for the crazy ways which we pronounce things. In a country where you pronounce every letter of the alphabet the same in every word, our continual mixing up of pronunciation is a bit mind boggling. Today we encountered "sausage" which from the Albanian mouth comes out something like sa-oo-ss-a-gg-eh. Which obviously isn't really correct. Apologies all round. I'm really enjoying being able to get the know the girls, even through the language barrier. Teenage girls really are the same the world over and there is plenty of chat and giggling to move the afternoon along. Hopefully they are also learning something about the English language, and mostly are growing in confidence of their ability to speak it. As I'm learning, a second language is really a useful skill, as well as a real challenge. I'm excited that they'll be fluent in perfect conversational English by the time I leave in June, just as I am fluent in Kosova Albanian. I am certain of it. Posted by Ali at 20:02

38: Sunday, 3 April 2011 My Mum As today is Mother's Day I've decided to be topical and write about my mum. Let me say now that this blog has nothing to do with goings on here in Kosovo so if you're only interested in the activities of a hardened missionary you should feel free to skip this one. This is my mum, Helen Louise Davis. I'll be honest, this isn't a new photo. That shock of dark hair has long be replaced by her "crown of splendour" (check it out Bible Buffs - "Grey hair is a crown of splendour, it is attained by the way of righteousness" Prov 16:31). This was taken a really long time ago when they still thought the world was flat and when they made nurses wear those crazy hats. Here she is as a fresh-faced Nightingale nurse, newly minted from the St Thomas' school for girls who like to look after people. She's retiring this year, I think in order to spend more time nursing... | And here she is with my dad, Stephen Davis. This is them in 1992 wearing HIlarious t-shirts that say "I'm in love with a married man/woman...my husband/wife!". No joke. There is a plethora of other photos of serious fashion faux pas, particularly from the 80s. Apparently having children means you don't have time to keep up with fashion or something. Try telling Victoria Beckham that. | Anyway, the point is that today is a nice opportunity to honour the Mums in our lives, so indulge me, I'm going to tell you about mine. As I'm now officially grown up I've been thinking about the things that Mum has taught me. There are some practical things, the tying of shoelaces, the cleaning of teeth, and the making of a cracking Bechamel sauce, but there have also been some more important things.

39: My mum taught me about being a "strong woman", and it turns out that it doesn't mean being loud, obnoxious, demanding or unemotional. She showed me that being "strong" means having a core of steel, an internal commitment not to waver but to face the storm and ride it out. My mum is quiet and gentle, but she's super-strong and when I really grow up, I want to be as strong as her. My mum taught me that I am enough. She and Dad never asked me to be anything other than what I am, always helped me to fulfill the potential I was showing, never undercut or undermined me, always encouraged and nurtured me. They always let me know that who and what I am is all I should be. My mum showed me the power of prayer. Legend has it that when she had four daughters in various stages of child/teenage-hood, she would stand outside our doors in the evening and pray for us. When we were so annoying she couldn't be in the same room as us she waited outside and committed us to God. I've watched my mum cry in prayer and laugh in prayer, pray for people who are hurting and people who are being blessed, pray through births, deaths and marriages, and I've watched her do it consistently for 26 years. | My mum showed me Jesus. In the twenty years since I made the decision to put Jesus on my Friends list, Mum has been one of the clearest examples of who and what Jesus is. She has this seemingly unending supply of grace and love, which she has poured out on me, my sisters, my dad, and so many of those around her, year on year. Her compassion, which has fuelled a lifetime of nursing care, has repeatedly reminded me of the compassion Jesus has for me and for the poor, the broken, and the lost. So basically Mum, I'm a big fan. And in your words, I am the richest of women. Me, Lou, Jess and Char are the richest of women because we have you, and because you showed us Jesus. How could we be richer? Happy Mother's Day Mum. I love you. Posted by Ali at 17:30

42: Sunday, 10 April 2011 A Week in the Life Since I've been here for 3 months now and I've got something of a routine going, I thought I'd just do a nice simple week in the life of me. So we'll start at the beginning. Monday mornings I spend helping to home school one of the children of the missionary family. This is generally fun/exhausting/intense/educational for me as well as my pupil - I recently learnt how to do long multiplication, which I think I must have learnt a few years ago but I'd totally forgotten since. Monday afternoons are filled with English Class which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Last week was Spring Break so we had a extra special class which we spend painting our nails, knitting and putting on face masks. Good times. After English is my first Albanian lesson of the week, which is usually interesting... I'm getting there slowly I think, although by "there" I mean the very basic conversation. But it's more than I had in January so it will do! Tuesday mornings I help with the school for special needs children, which you're all familiar with. There are only two more weeks of school left so I'm not sure what I'll be doing with all my free time after April! I'm sure I'll find something. Tuesday afternoons are usually free for language study and baking or cooking for the evening. Before Bible Study we share dinner with the other internationals in town, alternating where we have dinner. If we're not hosting dinner, we're baking, or vice versa. It's good, I like honing my culinary skills and I think my team mates don't mind... | Sunday, 10 April 2011 A Week in the Life Since I've been here for 3 months now and I've got something of a routine going, I thought I'd just do a nice simple week in the life of me. So we'll start at the beginning. Monday mornings I spend helping to home school one of the children of the missionary family. This is generally fun/exhausting /intense/educational for me as well as my pupil - I recently learnt how to do long multiplication, which I think I must have learnt a few years ago but I'd totally forgotten since. Monday afternoons are filled with English Class which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Last week was Spring Break so we had a extra special class which we spend painting our nails, knitting and putting on face masks. Good times. After English is my first Albanian lesson of the week, which is usually interesting... I'm getting there slowly I think, although by "there" I mean the very basic conversation. But it's more than I had in January so it will do! | Tuesday mornings I help with the school for special needs children, which you're all familiar with. There are only two more weeks of school left so I'm not sure what I'll be doing with all my free time after April! I'm sure I'll find something. Tuesday afternoons are usually free for language study and baking or cooking for the evening. Before Bible Study we share dinner with the other internationals in town, alternating where we have dinner. If we're not hosting dinner, we're baking, or vice versa. It's good, I like honing my culinary skills and I think my team mates don't mind... Wednesday morning I go back to my home-schooling role, usually sticking around for some lunch before coming back to the house for some more language prep before my lesson in the evening.

43: Friday is officially my day off, but since the pace of life here is pretty gentle I don't usually feel the need for an actual day off. It is nice to know I don't need to get up for anything though so I usually appreciate that bit of the day. In the afternoon, the leaders and helpers of the Kid's Club meet to prepare for the meeting the following day and I go along for the ride. It all happens in Albanian so I don't really know what's going on, but I like to go if I can to support what they're getting up to and spend some time with them all. I do still owe you a Kid's Club blog, coming soon... Saturday is cleaning day so I do my bit of the hoovering and dusting. Fun times. Then it's Kid's Club for a couple of hours and later on in the afternoon the girls and I do Bible Study together. We finished reading Ruth a couple of weeks ago and last week we watched The Blind Side. Next on the agenda is Esther which should be interesting. I'm enjoying working out how the girls here see the world differently from me and how that impacts the way they interpret the Bible. Something surprising usually comes up! | Thursday mornings are spent at school again, and then Thursday afternoons are free. Carol and Eileen play on the music team at church so they go in to Pristina for practise in the evening. I'll either go with them for the fun of getting out the house, or I'll stay in and occupy myself some other way. The exception to the Thursday rule is the first Thursday of the month when the female missionaries in the country get together for lunch or a trip out. Last week we visited Prizren which is a couple of hours away by car. It was a really nice day out, the weather was cracking and it was good to spend some time with other people and in a new setting. This is me standing on the wall of a Fort up a hill. It was good exercise getting up there that is for sure.

44: Sunday is church, obviously, so that's a trip into Pristina for the morning. Here are Carol (clarinet) and Eileen (piano) doing their thing. We usually go out for lunch after church and today we went to a restaurant on a hillside in the beautiful sunshine and spent a few hours eating and drinking coffee. I will be completely outraged when I get home and can't get a coffee for 1 euro. Shocking. | So that brings us back to Monday and the cycle begins again. Actually things are changing a bit around here so the routine probably will be changing too. On Tuesday Carol is leaving and returning to England which will be sad for us, and I think for Carol too. But my sister Jess is coming in on the plane that Carol leaves on so we're doing a swap. I'm excited that Jess is coming, she is bringing me creme eggs! Woo! Here are some other pictures of various weekly activities. Enjoy. Posted by Ali at 20:30

45: Monday, 18 April 2011 Copy Paste My sister Jess is here! Woo! She arrived on Tuesday on the same plane that Carol left on. So it was a bittersweet day. If you don't know my sister Jess, here is a picture of her and me. I have had a fun time introducing her to my new friends, most of whom have worked out we're related before I've managed to get out "Kyo eshte motre ime" (this is my sister). I don't know why. Oh yes, actually I do, we look a bit alike. In fact, we look so alike that when I introduced her to one friend he said without missing a beat "Yes, copy paste". Accurate and to the point. I've relinquished control of blog for one week only and allowed Jess some freedom to share her thoughts with you... I have spent a week with Ali and here are some things i noticed: People: Man takes cow for a walk, looks at US funny for looking at him funny. Rules: Don't look at boys. Definitely don't SMILE at boys. Roads: Why walk on the pavements when you can walk in the road? Who are you? A car. I DON'T care. Power cuts: Man, i love this show, ooo, it's the one where...oh. Hanging out all week with Ali: Are you married? Do you have children? Are you tired? Are you twins? Conversation with new friends: -Do you like Kosovo? -Yes. -Do you like Kosovo? -Yes. -Do you like Kosovo? -Yes i love it. -Ok. Accommodation: I'm going to build a MASSIVE house. And then i'm going to live on the ground floor and just put the stairs in on the other floors. Forget ceilings or walls, who needs 'em? Jesus: He's around, and being appropriate. And the last thing i noticed is that i don't want to go home.

46: Sadly for me, Jess is returning home on Tuesday, even if she has joined the ranks of Davis' who love Kosovo. And on the plane she leaves on, Eileen's dad arrives on. So another day of goodbyes and hellos! And for those of you who are finding that just reading about me is no longer enough of an Ali-fix, you will be happy to know that I'm home on the 26th for 10 days in order to attend a VERY important wedding. See you all then! Posted by Ali at 20:50

47: Sunday, 24 April 2011 Weddings Weddings Weddings So two things: 1:- It's Easter!! Gezuar Pashke! Jesus is back, the rest of your life starts today! 2:- I'm coming home on Tuesday! Whoopie!! I case you haven't already picked up, there's a major wedding happening next weekend which I am honoured to be attending. Yes, I will be attending the joining together in holy matrimony of Miss Joanne Crowe and Mr Jonathan Fagg. Who else did you think I was talking about? Hahahaha! I'm so funny! I will of course be brushing up on wedding etiquette on Friday by watching the Royal Wedding (which apparently requires Capital Letters), although I expect Saturday to be a much more lovely affair! And, courtesy of online shopping, I think I know what I'm going to wear, which is just nice to know. | Happily, this little break of mine is well-timed. I'm ready to come home for a bit, to see the people I love and miss, to be surrounded by English, and to stock up on proper chocolate. I'll be around at Bromley Baptist next Sunday, sharing a bit about what I've been up to so if you're around come and say hello. The less happy news is that while I'm home, Eileen will be leaving Kosovo to go back to Scotland to be Scottish again and get a job. Despite everybody's best efforts to keep her here, it is time for her to leave Vushtrri which means that we will obviously no longer be house-sharing together. I'm sad to say goodbye to Eileen, she's a total legend and has been an excellent instructor in the Albanian way. Here are some pictures of her during some of our various adventures.

48: Here are some pictures of her during some of our various adventures. | So, I'll see a lot of you in the next couple of weeks I imagine, and if I don't see you this time I'm only back in Kosovo for 8 weeks after that. It'll be July before you know it! Posted by Ali at 17:20

49: Since I've only been back two days, not too much has happened to report on except to say that the discovery of Turkish Total Wipeout on TV made my afternoon today. People falling off things into water is funny in any language. This week will mostly be about getting back into the swing of things, English class tomorrow and an Albanian lesson. My lovely Albanian teacher gently reminded me yesterday that I'm due another test so I managed to persuade to postpone it to Wednesday. That'll be fun, since most of what I had learnt slipped quietly out of my brain during my visit home. Time for some serious revision. And of course the other usual bits, Bible Study, Kid's Club, Church, girls Bible Study etc. Let the good times roll! Posted by Ali at 19:05 | Sunday, 8 May 2011 Guess who's back?? ME!! Did you miss me?? This time I brought Mum and Dad Davis with me, although to be fair it's more that Dad's finally brought me and Mum with him. Well actually this is Mum's fourth visit so I suppose really they've brought me back with them. Know what I'm saying? Anyhoo, we're all here at the moment, living in my house and enjoying guessing what the weather's going to do. Yesterday hot, today cold and wet. You Brits know the deal. Here is a picture of us yesterday evening, savouring the truly Kosovan experience of a Saturday night spent in the dark. Mum was chilly, Dad was confused. Again.

50: The big news of this week has been the arrival of my new roomie, Kayla Richardson, of Happy Valley, California. Here she is: Kayla is a graduate of Cosmetology school (I didn't know Cosmetology was a word either, but apparently it is) and is in Kosovo to cut hair and educate me on my colour wheel. She'll be working with a local lady who runs a hair salon from her home (not an unusual occurance here) and has a busy season of prom and wedding hair ahead. So far, Kayla appears to be American in the best way and I'm enjoying her company. And the possibility of a hair cut in the not too distant future. | Thursday, 19 May 2011 Prom Queen I'm sorry that this blog is so overdue. May I suggest that you send all letters of protest to KEK, the national power company who have failed miserably this week in their role of providing power to the people. When there's no power, there's no internet. When there's no internet, there's no blog. You see what I'm saying? | The other big news of the week has been the start of Prom season. On Tuesday, my Albanian teacher Tina was packed of to Pristina looking beyond amazing, due to her natural beauty to which Kayla applied her skillz. We had to wait until the power came on at 6pm before the curling iron could called to action, so the make up went on first, with nails done by yours truly. Tina's friends gathered while she got ready and performed important tasks such as holding the overhead light so that it shone on Tina rather than away from her (ingeniously held by tying a scarf to the fixture, allowing the holder to sit down and have a chat and a coffee.), and holding the curling iron plug in the socket on the wall because it wouldn't stay by itself. And after the make up and hair is done, the dress goes on and everyone gets stuck in to help. This was before the mothers and aunts and cousins turned up to help with tucking and tying and spraying and the like.

51: And here she is, the finished product: Hotness. It was a really brilliant afternoon, it's a lot of fun to get ready for a big evening out and really, girls are the same the world over. In lots of ways it was a real privilege for Kayla and I to be able to be part of the preparations, and to be allowed into the family home to pimp and preen. I think it's going to be one of my lasting memories of my time here. That or the hair cut Kayla's going to give me sometime in the future, or our possible experience with going for the Balkan platinum blonde look. I'll keep you posted... Posted by Ali at 08:22

52: Wednesday, 25 May 2011I Want to Ride My Bicycle ...and so I will, because I am the proud new borrower of a shiny, not very new, bike! Woo! I'm looking forward to breaking down some walls (metaphorical, not literal) since grown up women don't ride bikes around here. But then, since I am unmarried and without children I don't really count as a grown up woman anyway in these parts, so I'm just playing them at their own game. One day I hope one of the men who watches me in amazement as I either ride a bike or drive the truck falls over his own feet. I'm just saying. Anyway, the nice German missionary couple who live locally gave Kayla and I a couple of bikes because they had them and thought we might enjoy them. We did on the way home, and I managed to actually stay on it which was nice. It's true, you never forget how to ride a bike. | And what made the journey home even more exciting was the storm brewing on the horizon! It looked a lot more dramatic in real life than it manages in this picture (that sky is grey, not blue). It had been REALLY hot all afternoon and the storm clouds gathered and there were rumbles of thunder in the distance and the wind got up and it was all really dramatic! And then we rode home on our new bicycles and the dirt roads threw up dust in our faces and my sunglasses got winded into my face and it was SO DRAMZ. And then we got home and battoned (battoned? buttoned?) down the hatches (the outside table and chairs. And I bought my washing in.) And then the sun came out and nothing happened. Disappointing. I like storms. Although I do prefer sunshine.

53: The other thing that I watned to share with you is that I highly recommend living with a Cosmetologist, if you haven't already tried it. This is me getting a pre-pedicure soak in the foot spa which we just happened to have at the house (honestly). I've got bubbles in my hands because we were experimenting with the various settings on the footspa which resulted in some serious bubble action. It was good. And then, after my feet were all done nicely Kayla cut my hair. And for free. Seriously, I recommend proper consideration of any future housemates. Yesterday morning Kayla and I went to the house of the lady that Kayla is going to be cutting hair with. She lives just a couple of doors down the road and has a salon that she runs out of her house. We sat and had some tea and between us with our limited knowledge of various languages we talked about what Kayla can do. There will be lots of hair styling for brides and graduating teenagers, nail painting and fixing, face making-up, and also some interior design, which is Kayla's other passion in life. I have every intention of spending time with them together, experiencing the world of hair and make up Kosova style! And in the midst of it all, we will be doing our best to be intentional in what we speak about, looking for ways to try and share what we believe about Jesus with them. I'm excited! Posted by Ali at 20:55

54: Sunday, 29 May 2011 What would you like to drink? Yesterday evening something groundbreaking happened in Vushtrri, Kosovo. Four young men, in a spirit of servanthood and love, planned, prepared, served and cleared up dinner for seven young women. For weeks in advanced they schemed and plotted, menus were drawn up, ties were borrowed, candles purchased, and music chosen. Most of the young women remained blissfully unaware, only obediently changing the time of our usual Saturday afternoon bible study from 4pm to 6pm. I was in on the plan, and Kayla was brought up to speed when she arrived, so we were roped in to secure attendance. | First things first, what would you like to drink? Our wonderful kamieres produced a variety of drinks and proceeded to fill our glasses, making sure at all times that their ties didn't fall onto a candle and bring the evening to a screeching halt. Along with our drinks came a salad starter which was served up for us at the table and then we were left with the assurance that should we need anything, we should just call. We swiftly took advantage of this promise, calling the boys back to fetch us more water, which although in the same room as us was just too far for any of us to get for ourselves. | And so it was that as we girls arrived we were met by four dashing young men, spruced up to the nines in ties and shirts (seriously, I've seen about two people outside of church wearing ties, and none of them were 16), ready to show us to our beautifully laid table, resplendant with candles and napkins.

55: For our main course we were served what I believe is actually an American speciality called "Chicken Parm". It was good, pasta, chicken, tomato sauce, parmesan. And for dessert, an Albanian dish of chilled cake, banana and sauce, topped with M&Ms. Then came the coffee, although by this point we were so completely plot (full, for you English speakers who don't have much of a grasp on the Albanian language) that we mostly just enjoyed the smell. And that picture of Kayla is her modelling the little favours that we found at our place settings. | And then, to round a lovely evening off, we watched Manchester United be rubbbish against Barcelona. An early sense of patriotic fervour which had led me to lend my support to Man U quickly wore off, although it had been hindered from the start by an inate inability to actually vocalise any support for them. So there you have it, an evening of service inspired by Christian love from boy to girl. It honestly broke cultural stereotypes which exist both here and at home, although it is more deeply engrained here, that the women serve and the men eat. The boys were just so great, so generous and hilarious. I will happily write them all glowing references if they choose to go into the catering business. It's better for me to avoid showing faces on this blog, so you'll just have to come to church for the picture in it's full glory. For now, you'll have to make do with the ties... Posted by Ali at 20:29

56: Saturday, 4 June 2011 Village People One of the really nice things about sticking around in a country for a slightly extended period is that you end up being adopted by local families, and with families come family traditions, and with family traditions come food and travel. So last Sunday Kayla and I were bundled off with Tina (my language teacher) and various other members of her family to take a trip out to the village for a walk and some Fli. More on the Fli later. | So we set off into the hills for a nice day out in the sunshine. We stopped off at a friends house which is right next to a little stream/river which we got to adventure over on what I can confirm is most definitely a bridge. Compared to some of the other "bridges" I've seen here, this one is a feat of engineering genius. Then we were back in the van for the next leg of our journey. | First things first, travel. We got to take the authentic Albanian approach to mass travel which was most definitely a first for both Kayla and I. If you've ever suffered through a long bus journey or a trip in a mini bus, just be grateful you had seats. Because we didn't. Why have seats when you can have mattresses on the floor in the back of a minivan? Here we are, packed in and ready for our countryside jaunt. At various points in the journey there were between 5 and 10 of us, sprawled out on mattresses, getting really comfortable with each others feet.

57: And then there was the Fli. Fli is an Albanian speciality food, mostly made during the summer because you have to make it over an open fire and it takes hours and hours and hours. It's basically lots and lots and lots of layers of a thick pancake batter cooked one at a time and layered up, which is why it takes so long. It's good, especially with some cheese and roasted peppers. We set down some blankets in the grass and gathered around to feed up, still sitting by the river that we'd just crossed again. It was great! And as we were the guests, we got to go first, which I appreciated. | We stopped again, this time because we'd reached the point where the river crossed paths with the road. We all got out, had a nice little look at the river, got back in the van and drove through the river. That was not the plan of action I had been expecting. It wasn't deep, less than a foot, but enough to be slightly concerned that our mattresses might be about to get damp. They didn't, and the crossing-the-river exercise was repeated several more times before we reached our destination. The other exciting thing was that as it had got so hot in the (unventilated) back of the van, the sliding side door was opened as we drove so we got to see the countryside and the river close up. It's not something I've experienced before, or particularly expect to again, but I honestly loved it. It felt so outrageously opposed to all my ingrained health and safety expectations, I felt utterly wild. | After Fli came the walk up into the mountain which was at times beautiful, steep, terrifying, and wet. We crossed the river again, on foot, which was exciting and only a little treacherous. After that we went barefoot which added to the feeling I already had that I was in Lord of the Rings, climbing through dell and over mountain. No shoes complimented the hobbit effect, although to clariy, less hairy. We drew the line at carrying on when I had visions of having to ring my boss to tell I'd fallen into a river and half drowned and needed some medical attention. That's not a phone call I'm about to make. So we pootled back, had another drink by the river, and then all clambered back in to the van for the trip home. The nice thing about sitting on mattresses is that lying down on them is pretty comfy too which means sleep is much easier to come by...

58: But the experience of being bundled into the back of the van made me thinkg quite seriously about another part of the legacy around here - being a refugee. A couple of people mentioned it as they looked in on us, and the stories began to flow of being squashed into small spaces with three times as many people as we had, or of being transported by tractor for the three day journey into the relative saftey of the villages. The family we were with had spent 10 weeks away from their home with various other people all packed into places far too small for so many people. The teenagers who were little children at the time remember sleeping curled up in tiny spaces and being protected by mothers who were leaving husbands and fathers and just hoping it would be alright. The girls who were small but are older now are developing a new appreciation for their mums who spent weeks barely sleeping, sitting up because there wasn't enough space to lie down and because being awake was the only way to protect their precious cargo. It all made me understand better why war leaves no winners. These children will never forget what they were put through, and their children and their children's children will know these stories. And on the other side, the young Serbs who were sent off to fight for no good reason will remember what they were part of, and their children will know and their children's children will know, and they will have to work out how to live with that. I suppose this isn't news to anyone, but war is no good, and it makes me really cross. So pray for wars to end, and pray for the children, and thank God that Jesus is the one who brings peace.

59: Richard lounging and Amelia getting a free haircut | Sunday, 12 June 2011 My Week In Pictures

60: Sorting out the stove for removal | Transporting school and house furniture as BMS will be giving up the property after I leave

61: Me and Kayla, catching some rays. Kind of, if the sun had shown it's little face. | Banana, yoghurt and egg. Going for the curl effect. | Happy Birthday Ani!! Chocolate fudge sundae to celebrate. Posted by Ali at 22:00

62: Sunday, 19 June 2011 My Dad So today is Father's Day and many of you may remember the little Mother's Day post that I featuring my Mum, and so it is only appropriate that today I feature my Dad. This is my dad, Stephen Davis (please note the spelling, Grandma gets really cross if we get it wrong). We like to call him Steve. Here he is as a little blonde bombshell. If you don't really know Steve but you see him around and think he looks grumpy/old/austere, I recommend trying to get him to speak. He's very funny, although he does occasionally go by the name Silent Steve. If you get the chance, ask him a question about politics, or football, or my mum Helen. And then wait for him to respond. You have to give him time, he's lived with women for a REALLY long time now, he's got used to being talked out of the conversation. But he's full of wisdom, wit and interesting facts that noone's interested in. He really is worth the investment. | My dad was a police officer in the Metropolitan Police Force (and yes, that is the Queen. And no, not Helen Mirren), faithfully serving the communities of London for 27 years until the second he could retire, which he promptly did. I don't think that Dad loved being a police officer or loved giving back to the community or seeking justice or anything else like that, I just think that he knew his responsibilities to support his super lovely brood of girls and the woman that he loves most in the world. And so one of the things I like most about my dad is that he is a living example that life doesn't stop at retirement, sometimes that's when it starts.

63: After Dad retired in 2003 (I think) he decided it was time to serve God somewhere else and so he led the way out to Kosovo. It's really his fault that I'm here now. And when he came back from Kosovo I noticed a change - the appearance of a New Testament and Psalms which now lived permanently in his back pocket. And soon after that his study bible started turning up on chairs usually reserved for The Economist or a book on something weighty and boring. And not long after that I realised that my dad had turned a corner of his faith, something that I'm not sure he'd ever quite worked out how to live out best until then. His experience in Kosovo changed him and brought him closer to God, and that's just cool. Especially as he was really old, but ready to change. ut even though it took until he retired and was free to take that risk, he was showing me the character of God long before that. Let me be clear, my dad is far from perfect. But for 20 years he worked at a job he did not love to give me the food that I needed, the clothes and shoes and bags and books that I needed, and the airfare to Australia for my gap year. And of course, uni. He has been the most provisional father I could have needed, faithfully and without grumbling giving me what I needed (and sometimes what I wanted). He has shown me the nature of a faithful father, one who isn't conditional, unsteadfast, or flighty, but is firm, solid as a rock, and full of love. And as I see in him what a father can be, I know what my God the Father is. And sometimes I know what He isn't, when Dad gets stroppy and starts muttering and throwing (little) things around. I know that my God isn't like that, and that's ok. So Dad, you like Mum have done your bit to show me what my God is like and I am grateful for that. You are a legend. Lou, Char, Jess and I are all very proud to be Daughters of Steve. I love you! Posted by Ali at 09:20 | Questionable hair/outfit Steve | Married Steve | Grandad Steve

64: For now though, I'm being kept entertained by a team of Americans who are here for two weeks working at a day camp out in one of the villages near the town for school children from year 1 to 9. We're having a whale of a time playing games and making crafts around a recycling/care for the environment theme. The village is really beautiful, you get a much nicer perspective on rural life when you visit during the summertime! And as the school is set on a hill, it's fun to watch the children emerge out of the hillside like a swarm of little hobbits. But less hairy. We're also enjoying some rather fine weather at the moment with temperatures at a pleasant(ish) 30 degrees and expected to rise in to the less pleasant high 30s by the end of the week. Rumours of "33 on Friday but it'll feel like 36" abound. But after the cold winter temperatures, I'm happy with whatever late June produces, and I'm not too thrilled about the prospect of heading home to rainy miserable London. So anyway, if you're a praying person, you can think of me this week. I'm doing my best to end well, English Class will carry on next week and the final week of Kid's Club is this Saturday before the summer break. Bible Study will also happen next week as usual. A couple of weeks ago they were blessed by my guitar "playing" as we sung some worship songs and this week I assisted a much more able member of the American team, but next week we'll just be back to me again. It's a skill in development I think. But yes, if you do pray, feel free to pray for me. That would be ok. Posted by Ali at 23:00 | Wednesday, 22 June 2011 The Final Countdown And so it begins to end. This time next week I will be preparing to spend my last night here in Kosovo, at least for now. I kind of knew six months would fly by, but I don't think I thought it would fly by this quickly.

65: Sunday, 26 June 2011 No Turning Back Today a very good friend of mine took a spiritual swim. She prepared herself, considered the consequences very carefully and took the plunge, literally. She came to believe the truth that she heard, after she received her Christmas shoeboxes and hung out at Kid's Club, and went to camp and heard and saw the testimony of Jesus Christ in the lives of others. She learnt to listen to God, to hear His voice, to let Him guide her in the steps of her life. She read the Word, she learnt to worship, she learnt to pray. She grew, she matured, she experienced. And then, she stepped out in obedience. Once you know the truth, Jesus asks you to declare that you believe it in public, to commit an act of public witness to your friends and family which states "I am a follower of Christ." She considered what that would mean. It would mean that her friends may fall away, that her family may harrass her, hurt her or even reject her. She considered that finding somewhere else to live might be a result of her action. She considered that there is a price to pay when you step out in obedience to something that might bring real persecution. And then today she walked in obedience and followed the example of her Saviour. She spoke out in public that she is a follower of Jesus and then she died to her old life, left her sins in the water and was risen to her new life in Christ. And around her, her family sung "I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back." Posted by Ali at 23:25

66: Saturday, 2 July 2011 The Return Well, dear reader, I have returned. My time in Kosovo has come to an end and I'm back in Bromley. It was an interesting week, not the one that I planned or expected, and not the easiest week either. My last few weeks have been pretty emotional, getting ready to leave a place and people that I've really come to love was really hard. I've got one last blog to write with some proper reflections on my time but that'll come during the next week when I've got some time to think and gather some coherent thoughts together. For now, I'm just going to fill you in on the excitment of the last week. On Tuesday evening Kayla and I arrived home from dinner to discover that someone had tried to break into our house, which was not particularly nice. They didn't get in (which just means they wasted everyone's time and created a mess for me to sweep up) but it did mean that Kayla and I moved out off the house very swiftly and spent Wednesday morning at the police station. Although we did discover that the police station functions quite well, it's just the judicial system that's questionable and overloaded. So it was an interesting little interlude, it just came at a bad time. And then, to compound the drama, I missed my flight home on Thursday. We drove through some really bad traffic and although I could have still made the flight, the BA people wouldn't let me on, even when I stood wailing that it was my sister's birthday and I REALLY needed to get home. But they didn't let me so I had to stay in Kosovo for another (half) night, getting up at 2am yesterday morning, driving to over the boarder to Skopje, Macedonia, taking the 6:10am flight from Skopje to Zagreb, Croatia, and then from there to London. I was in four countries yesterday, I'm quite proud of that. So I did eventually make it in time for birthday breakfast with my sister Jess and the rest of the family. And mildy more importantly, going to see Take That last night at Wembley! Oh yes. Here are the Daughters Davis and a sideways Take That sign. From left to right, Lou, Char, Jess, and me. So you'll understand why it was so important to me to get back in time. That was a night I was not about to miss just because BA are mean and the traffic in Prishtina is rubbish.

67: And so here I am, along with 80,000 other people at Wembley last night. It was wild. And I'm happy to be back. It's not as simple as happy to be back and no longer in Kosovo - I'm very sad to have left, there are some very precious people I have left behind that I will always treasure in my heart. But more on that next time. Stand by. | Also, ps - Dad says I haven't written enough about my knitting. Well, in total I knitted two and a half jumpers (none of which are totally wearable, but some adjustments will do them fine) and a pair of gloves. I'd show you a photo but I left it all in Kosovo because after my flights changed I couldn't take as much luggage. So maybe another time... Posted by Ali at 12:25

68: Tuesday, 5 July 2011 Casting Off So here it is, the end has come. It's been a great journey and I'm thankful to all of you who have walked/read it with me. The last few days have been an interesting time of working out what's really gone on for me over the last six months. I don't think I've come to any actual conclusions yet. I'll probably be doing something at church in the next few weeks, but if you don't come to (my) church then you'll just have to call me up to say hi. But for now, here's the biggest thing that I'm taking away with me: I stumbled across a group of girls, young women, who I will never forget and who I love dearly and deeply, with all my heart. I wrote this about them last week as I was preparing to leave them: I have come to love these girls with a depth and a passion that I never expected. There is a fierceness in my heart for these girls that is burning big and bright for them. I have come to respect them more than they will ever know. I have been inspired in my faith by their quiet confidence in God, their conviction of Him that lets them be drawn away from their family and friends. These girls are women warriors of God because they bring the Spirit of God into homes where He is not welcome, not invited, not encouraged. They stand firm against social expectations and opposition because they are convicted of God's grace and truth. They accept division, pain and rejection because they know that they have died to sin and been raised to the new life of Christ. They are bad asses for Jesus and I love them. I've left them now and my heart is full of aches and pains. All I can really do for them is pray. So I will, that they will grow deeper in love with Jesus and that they will be eternally strong and courageous. I will pray that they will mature, as women and as followers of Christ who do not waver. I will pray that they are changed from glory to glory, until our final glory. And so that's all from me. With all my love and God's blessings.... Posted by Ali at 20:40

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