The Kariye Museum (Chora Church)

On Monday we met our friend Andrea Lemieux, a former IREX, colleague for lunch and a visit to one of her favorite places in Istanbul. The Kariye Museum (Chora Church).  Constantine built it outside the walls of Constantinople, although this version of the church was erected by Justinian.  The Turks made it a mosque, plastering over the artwork, but in 1945 it became a museum.  … Continue reading The Kariye Museum (Chora Church)

Kitties of Constantinople

Istanbul (not Constantinople) loves cats. According to Andrea some neighborhoods have free cat clinics where vets care for strays. Some folks take their pet cats to the clinic for free care.  People leave bowls of water and people keep kitty kibble in their pockets to leave little piles. At the cemetery by the Suleymaniye Mosque water bowls sit discreetly behind headstones.  We watched a kitten enjoy … Continue reading Kitties of Constantinople

Thanksgiving in Serbia, 2010 and 2011

These are two letters from Serbia I wrote about Thanksgiving from 2010 and 2011. 2010 (Suzi is in Egypt, I am in Belgrade, Serbia) Thanksgiving morning was the first cold, clear day of the season.  Some of the lights in the flat worked, some didn’t work.  So I called the landlord.  By 9:15 I had an electrician.  It appears a trolley bus jumped the lines … Continue reading Thanksgiving in Serbia, 2010 and 2011

Thanksgiving in Albania,1995. With Bob Dylan

1995, Tirana, Albania The Rogner Hotel in Tirana had a big Thanksgiving feed this year.  We took our neighbors Vera, Syri and Eda with us.  They often express curiosity about this hotel, so we saw our chance. No one understands why Syri, Vera, Suzi and I have become such good friends.  They don’t speak much English, we don’t speak much Albanian.  We communicate in a … Continue reading Thanksgiving in Albania,1995. With Bob Dylan

A 1993 Albanian Bus Adventure, Tirana to Vlora and back

It’s Throwback Thursday. This is a letter from November, 1993.  I edited out the middle of the letter, where I talk about our time in Vlora, for reasons of length.  But I remember we went swimming in the Adriatic Sea on the last day in October.  The return bus trip was on Halloween night and there was a full orange moon.  At least that’s what … Continue reading A 1993 Albanian Bus Adventure, Tirana to Vlora and back

A Trip to Northern Albania, 1993

This is a letter from 1993.   I pulled it out of my digital files because an Albanian friend posted pictures from this area on Facebook.  I got into a Facebook conversation with several Albanian friends about the pictures and this trip.  I decided to post it on a “Throwback Thursday.” Here is the letter.  Since I first posted this I have found more of the … Continue reading A Trip to Northern Albania, 1993

Albanian Municipal Election Day, 1996

  This coming Tuesday is primary election day in Alaska.  I’m beginning my “Throwback Thursday” posts with my family letter about being a municipal election monitor in Albania.  Albania was a new democracy and people took their newly won privileges seriously, including dressing up in their Sunday best to hike an hour to get to a polling place.  I wrote this letter on: October 29, … Continue reading Albanian Municipal Election Day, 1996

Belgrade, Easter 2001 (continued from post before)

This is continuation, from the same letter I posted from yesterday.  It is early for Easter but I thought the two posts should go together. Easter, 2001 In front of St. Marko’s church are stalls selling Easter candies and beautifully painted, decorated and, in some cases, bejeweled (probably with zircon) eggs.  Nearby kids ride battery operated cars wearing their Easter wreaths.   An old woman approached … Continue reading Belgrade, Easter 2001 (continued from post before)

Lent and Easter in Belgrade

April 15, 2001(Easter Sunday) Belgrade, Yugoslavia Dear Friends, Religion in Serbia is struggling to find itself after 45 years of official atheism followed by 10 years in which being a Serb, Croat or Bosniak was defined by religion since appearance or language really didn’t separate the groups.  Religion never died under Tito.  We celebrated Easter in Croatia in 1972 with the family in whose bed … Continue reading Lent and Easter in Belgrade

Carnival Lisbon, Apres Carnival, Belgrade

Carnival is over.  In some places it continues into Lent with the funeral of Vaal (Carnival) which starts penitently enough but becomes a second bacchanal.  We experienced something different in Belgrade.  As an excerpt from this letter from May 2009 shows.   Saturday morning Suzi and I were having a late breakfast in the outdoor café Via del Gusto.  This Saturday the café music seems … Continue reading Carnival Lisbon, Apres Carnival, Belgrade

Carnival in Dubrovnik

This is Fat Tuesday: Carnival.  I went back through my files for stories about Carnival and came on this letter from Dubrovnik written in March 2000. Dear Friends, Polka, not samba, not calypso, not second line, not even “Carnival in Venice,” but polka.  The carnival in Dubrovnik is about polka, punk polka, polka rock, Mexican polka and even traditional polka, played by a young band … Continue reading Carnival in Dubrovnik

Old New Year, Serbia

This is a second look at Old New Year.  If you want more background please look at yesterday’s post. 2001, In Belgrade right after the fall of Milosevic: We’ve been dropped back into the holiday season after it has ended in the States.  The stores are still decorated with greens and Christmas balls, the kiosks have that “glass wax” type of snowflake stencil design and … Continue reading Old New Year, Serbia

Old New Year, Macedonia and Montenegro

This is Old New Year’s Eve, January 13.  Today and tomorrow I’m posting about this strange holiday from letters I wrote between 1996 and 2011, today 1996 – 2000. 1996:  “Old New Year” sounds like an oxymoron, but in Macedonia it’s a party.  Last weekend we packed up our toothbrushes and went to Macedonia.  The celebration wasn’t the reason we went.  It was a happy … Continue reading Old New Year, Macedonia and Montenegro

New Year’s Eve, Albania — Anchorage

New Year’s Eve is not my holiday.  I’ve attended New Year celebrations in lots of places, but mostly as an observer, not a celebrant.  The forced gaiety makes me uncomfortable.  This year I observed New Year’s celebrations in Anchorage.  Each year the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sponsors Anchorage “Fire and Ice.”  It includes a carved ice playground with rides made of ice that … Continue reading New Year’s Eve, Albania — Anchorage

Albanian Flag Day, 1993.

This is Albania’s National Holiday, Flag Day.  On this date in 1912, 101 ago today, the Albanian Flag was raised in Vlora, Albania, marking the nation’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.  Albania is one of the countries I can call a second home.  It was our first posting as aid workers.  We lived there a total of 22 months between 1993 and 1997.  When I … Continue reading Albanian Flag Day, 1993.

Albania Flag Day, Letter from 1995

November 28 is Albania’s Flag Day, marking its declaration of independence in 1912.  The Albanian Community in the US is celebrating Flag Day on November 27 so it does not conflict with Thanksgiving.  This is from a letter I wrote from Tirana about Flag Day in 1995.  November 28 is Albanian Flag Day, the day the republic was declared in Vlora and the red double … Continue reading Albania Flag Day, Letter from 1995