Monday, November 19, 2007
The rain rain rain came down down down and washed away poor kidlets. It has been a week of rain and about five of the shacks of people we know were flooded. One woman told us she woke in the night to find her children crying while floating on their mattress towards door. We decided that we needed to do something, though our resources were limited. Dave got together with a friend and set out to find sand bags. Can you believe it, there are no sand bags in Albania! Dave tried the Red Cross, European Union help organizations and every other help organization that we could think of. No luck on any of them. Finally, they came up with the idea of using flour sacks.
You should have seen him covered in flour from the 200 used sacks he had gathered. Unfortunately there was no camera handy. A local church heard a rumor of what was going on and offered to finance the bags and materials and helped with the bagging.
So after two days of foot work, getting everything together, and a full day of hard labor in calf depth sticky mud...
...a sandbag....oops, flour bag wall was created around five homes. Sadly it's not really enough and their yards and the inside of their shacks are still covered in mud, but perhaps they will be able to sleep without the fear that the river will carry away their children.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Those lovely dark beans, to die for.
The ritual of coffee drinking here in Albania is an old one. 500 years of Ottoman rule has left it's mark. Here, drinking nuclear powered cups of pure caffeine is more than just drinking coffee, it means relationship, friendship, connection.
First there are the beans, but beans must be ground. Not the rough grind that we can get in the States, but like fine talcum powder. Through the centuries the muliri, or coffee grinder, has been used for this purpose. Generations of kids grinding away as their mothers ponder the questions of the universe and what they are going to make for lunch.
After the grinding, the process of the brewing can begin. You will need a xhezve, a small cooking "pot". They come in a variety of sizes and materials from the beaten copper one shown here, to practical everyday kind.
Fill the xhezve with enough water for however many demitasse cups you are planning to make. Add a coffee spoon of sugar for each cup. Boil the water and the sugar and remove from the heat. Add and stir one heaping coffee spoon full of the coffee powder for each cup. In some countries they add cardamon and orange blossom water. Here in Albania we just drink the pure stuff.
Put the xhezve back on the heat and let it begin to froth up. This is the delicate part. If you don't leave it long enough you won't get the foam. If you leave it too long you won't get the foam. A coffee without the foam, or cream as they call it here, just isn't coffee. So you leave the coffee on the heat just long enough for the foam to form, but take it off before it boils.
I'll never forget my first experience of drinking Turkish coffee. The taste was exquisite, but that last sip was a loo loo. What nobody had informed me of was that the last fourth of the cup was filled with coffee grounds. That was an eye-opener.
Everything for the Albanian people revolves around relationship. Their lives depends on it. Everything here is boiled down to who you know. The ritual of coffee is one of the more important rituals cementing the society together.