Albania: Pilgrimage to Korçë

Now that we've made it to Albania, we need to make our way to Korçë where we will be teaching English for the week.  

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After arriving in Tirana Friday evening (July 17th), we made our way to the hotel we were staying at that evening. 

Yet again, we had to play Tetris with our luggage to fit everything and everyone in the bus. It's a good thing we all like each other.  

Yet again, we had to play Tetris with our luggage to fit everything and everyone in the bus. It's a good thing we all like each other.  

The hotel was very nice and right in the heart of Tirana.  

The hotel was very nice and right in the heart of Tirana.  

Bill recognized the receptionist from last year's trip and made sure to say hello and thank her for taking such great care of our teams (the team from JFBC who teaches in Vlorë also stays at this hotel when they are in Tirana. We even left them a note since they were staying there Saturday, the day after us, as they travel back to the States).  

Bill recognized the receptionist from last year's trip and made sure to say hello and thank her for taking such great care of our teams (the team from JFBC who teaches in Vlorë also stays at this hotel when they are in Tirana. We even left them a note since they were staying there Saturday, the day after us, as they travel back to the States).  

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Once we were checked in, we walked down the street a few blocks to a little restaurant called Big Bite. We were able to meet up with 3 Albanian students that Sherry & Jim have met before on various journeys to Albania. 

We love any restaurant that has pictures of menu items. :) 

We love any restaurant that has pictures of menu items. :) 

Ela (Ay-la): Ela became aquainted with our groups in the summer of 2013 at an English camp in Vlorë. She became a Christian during camp that year and has grown in her faith ever since, bringing friends to other camps and sharing the Love of God with those she meets. 

Olti (ole-T): Olti attended a CRU Fall outreach in Tirana in 2012. He then attended an English camp in Vlorë the summer of 2013 where he made friends and grew in his faith. Now Olti brings many friends to camps and various outreach ministries. 

Visi  (vee-see): Visi also went to the Fall outreach in Tirana in 2012. He received a magazine the CRU and American staff passes out, his first encounter with New Life Institute. He came to the outreach activities and met others who continued to explain and express the Love of God, and Visi gave his life to God sometime in 2013. He is now good friends with Olti and they are roommates in Tirana. 

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From left to right: Kimberly, Olti, Visi, and Ela

From left to right: Kimberly, Olti, Visi, and Ela

It was a long day, so once we were done with dinner, everyone went back to the hotel and crashed for the night. The sleep was well-deserved.

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In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel where Parks and Sue were able to connect with an Albanian couple, Kedjis (Kay-dis) and Rudina (Rue-dee-nuh) Bekalli (Ba-kah-lee), they have been sponsoring for over 10 years but had never met. It was a very nice experience for them and for the team.  

Rudina, Sue, Parks, and Kedjis

Rudina, Sue, Parks, and Kedjis

More of the team enjoying breakfast in Tirana. Trying to stay cool under the shade.  

More of the team enjoying breakfast in Tirana. Trying to stay cool under the shade.  

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After breakfast, we had devotion and prayer time as a team. Then Iraj left with Genti (g-en-tee) a CRU team member, to go to the hotel and pick up Jimmie and Zoya who were just arriving from Munich after their choir/orchestra trip to Romania. We even made Iraj a sign for them.  

The whole team was finally together at last as we met up for lunch just around the corner from the hotel: Restaurant Meduza, an "Irish Pub"

 Not exactly sure what was so Irish about it, but the food and people were great! 

 Not exactly sure what was so Irish about it, but the food and people were great! 

 Sherry and a CRU staff member Savana (Savannah) excited to be together again. Savana was recently in Marietta trying to raise support to go to Turkey, something she is still working towards. 

 Sherry and a CRU staff member Savana (Savannah) excited to be together again. Savana was recently in Marietta trying to raise support to go to Turkey, something she is still working towards. 

The whole team having lunch at Meduza.  

The whole team having lunch at Meduza.  

After the multiple courses of lunch (the restaurant provided us with some appetizers and salad in addition to what we ordered), we finally loaded up into another bus (some of the luggage went in a car with CRU staff members heading to Korca as well since it wouldn't all fit in the bus now that we had Jimmie and Zoya and their luggage) and we left for Korca. 

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The bus was quite hot, but we survived and were finally in Korca!! 

Our hotel: Hotel Kocibelli

Our hotel: Hotel Kocibelli

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We had our own CRU staff welcoming committee. It was so encouraging and a great opportunity to meet staff members we didn't know yet. Anila and Zamir were there, and Anila had sweets!! Much appreciated after the long drive.  

We had our own CRU staff welcoming committee. It was so encouraging and a great opportunity to meet staff members we didn't know yet. Anila and Zamir were there, and Anila had sweets!! Much appreciated after the long drive.  

The best part of our welcome to Korca was when Iraj's adoptive granddaughter (from last year's trip) came by the hotel. Everyone was in tears for the precious moment. 

Iraj and Asja (ah-see-uh)  

Iraj and Asja (ah-see-uh)  

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Once everyone was settled into their rooms, we all went to dinner as a team (both American and CRU) to a very new restaurant in the area called Secret.  

Located on the second floor of the building, Secret has only been in Korca for about a month.  

Located on the second floor of the building, Secret has only been in Korca for about a month.  

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Bruschetta  

Bruschetta  

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Local fish.  

Local fish.  

It was a lovely dinner and fun evening to end a long and tiring journey. Once we were done eating, everyone went back to the hotel to sleep. Sunday would bring a busy day and our first opportunity to interact with students and begin the work we came to do.