Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Inventors Wanted

If you had a chance to read my last blog, you know that I’m traveling to the nation of Albania this week on a humanitarian aid trip. What you don’t know is that I’ve had a pretty interesting trip so far.

I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that, now that I’m pretty well adjusted to my Cochlear Implant, I won’t really find much that surprises me. Don’t ask me where I get that.

My husband, myself, and my father-in-law departed by plane from DFW airport at about ten thirty this morning. As we were sitting in the plane. Preparing for takeoff, the flight attendants pull out their nifty little safety guides and some lady begins the safety speech over the plane’s PA system. It surprised me that I understood every word of that! It almost made me want to pull out my own little safety manual on front of me to follow along. Almost.

When we landed here in JFK, I kept trying to understand the PA system for the entire airport terminal, bit alas, there are some limits to my hearing comprehension thus far. It’s has such a bad echo to it that I’m just not used to hearing. All in good time, I tell myself. I will try again on the return trip.

Now, you may wonder what I did during my spare time on the flight to JFK, so let me tell you.

I shopped.

Have you ever shopped in the SkyMall magazines aboard an airplane? Let me show you what I found.

Who doesn’t have a pair of these? I wear flip-flops pretty often in Texas, but I doubt there’s much that could entice me to put these on. Maybe if I had a toe fungus. Or maybe not.

This is nearly guaranteed to, and I quote, “Get your confidence back.” If your hairline is receding, I think you might look better just borrowing Mr. Trump’s hairpiece than this. Just sayin’.

Bottom line?

SkyMall. Now hiring inventors.

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My next adventure.

I’m leaving soon.

And traveling to Albania.

I tell myself that I’ve been watching all the Masterpiece Theater versions of Jane Austen’s classics to get used to understanding people with strong accents. Really I’m just a sucker for 18th century everything. But I really am hoping that, because I can watch those movies without subtitles, I will be able to understand the conversations with our Albanian friends.

Why am I going to Albania?

These are the streets of Elbasan, Albania.

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According to the U.S. Department of State, Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe with it’s average yearly income a mere $4,070 in 2009. With an official unemployment rate of 13.9%, many are forced to seek jobs in nearby countries in order to send money home to support their families.

The reason my husband and I are going is to check on the current status of our Mission Base in Albania, which helps numerous children and families across the country. My husband is pastor of Ovation Church, and we’re so thankful to be able to, through the church, send monthly financial support to help so many in this nation. When we go next week, we will take lots of pictures, which enable us to show the many families here in the U.S. how their generous giving is affecting so many lives.

Our history?

My husband’s great grandfather immigrated from Albania many many years ago. My husband’s late mother had a vision to help the nation of her grandfather, and just four days after the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, her and my husband’s father traveled to Albania and began a humanitarian work in the war torn country. Tons of food and clothing have been shipped and distributed over the years, and it all continues to this day, nearly 30 years later.

My husband and I have sacrificed our yearly vacation (to the usual beach destination) for a trip to Albania. Although he goes every year, it’s been almost sixteen years since I’ve been. To say that I’m excited is an understatement. I’m so ecstatic about seeing the local family that has run the Mission Base all these years, and to see all of the people we are able to help. It’s amazing to be able to help someone so far away, and something completely more to be able to experience it. Especially in a place like Albania.

Here are just a few of the faces of people that we’ve been able to help.

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My great hope is that I’m not completely lost to the language. It’s amazing to be able to comprehend more and more speech here at home, but I can imagine the challenges ahead as I attempt to understand individuals with very strong accents.

I’m hoping to be able to squeeze in a few posts while I’m away, keeping you updated on my progress, and giving little snippets of my trip.

Until then, if you’d like to give to our work in Albania, you can click here. All donations are tax deductible, and they go directly to our humanitarian work in Albania.

Denial. Happens to the Best of Us.

My husband and I have a lot of friends and family, probably even more so because we attend church very regularly and know most everyone who attends.

So it goes to say that when we were at church this past Sunday (my husband flew out that evening to Albania), there lots of both friends and family who offered me their support this week if I needed it. The most popular question I was asked was if I was going to miss my husband.

Now I love my husband, I really do. But over the course of our marriage, he has traveled to probably half the states in the U.S. with his work, in addition to the two times he’s been out of the country. My husband hasn’t traveled with his work over the last two years as he did prior to that, but I’ve definitely been left to my own devices on more than one occasion. In fact, when my oldest was just seven days old, my husband was gone for six solid days. So it’s only natural that one would get used to that.

But without going into great detail, how do you explain to someone that you’re not really going to miss your husband? That sounds kind of tacky, doesn’t it? My husband left Sunday, but on Monday my son started five days of Vacation Bible School (for 3 hours each day) and Tuesday he started having 30 swim lessons every day too. We had a lot planned for this week, although I’m now wondering what I was thinking when I signed up for swim lessons and VBS all in the same week. I certainly couldn’t have been thinking rationally. But we were busy and had so much to do, that there wasn’t really time to think about much else, right?

Today, Wednesday, marks day number three that we have completed without my husband and today, day three, is when I finally admitted to myself that I was in complete and utter denial to think that I wouldn’t miss my husband.

At about three o’clock today, I used our phone and called the Mission Base in Albania so that my kids could speak to their dad for the first time since he left. The first couple seconds that my son was on the phone, I could tell it was one of the Albanian family members because he couldn’t understand what they were saying. I told him to ask for his dad, and in all of the sudden my son’s face turned from incomprehension, to the biggest grin I have ever seen on his face. It was at that moment, that I just knew. I missed my husband so crazy much.

And after my son talked a few minutes, he handed the phone to my daughter, who promptly told her dad that she “peepee’d in the potty”. It’s very important to her that we are supportive. She’s two and has this potty training down pretty good, and she does deserve a big high five. She actually was much more conversational (in her 3-word way, of course) than my son. It made me cry buckets.

So for those of you out there who wonder if wives get used to the absence of their husbands? The answer is no. Definitely not.

Looooong week up ahead.

Happy Monday everyone.

This week will fly by in heartbeat. I can feel it. But next week? I have this feeling that it’s going to last a lifetime. Periodically my husband decides to leave me for long periods of time to do humanitarian work. Or that’s what he says he’s doing, but when I look at the pictures it sure does look as though he had way to much fun for it to all be humanitarian work. Although who says that helping people has to be a drag? I guess it doesn’t. Or isn’t.

This is my very handsome, patient (with my hearing problem, but not in traffic), incredibly goofy and just flat out irresistible husband. Scratch that, he’s only irresistible when he’s not tired, cranky, and worn out. At that point he’s pretty resistible. Moving on.

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Next Sunday, which happens to also be Father’s Day, my husband is leaving for ten days. Which means that for ten solid days I have uninterrupted time with a two year old girl and a three year old boy. Now I love my children, but ten days can be a long time to be with them without a whole caboodle of help. Trust me on this. But actually I will admit that I am sending my son to a Vacation Bible School program, meaning I will have three solid hours for five days straight with just one child. This can be a life-saver. Since we’re not discussing my sanity-saving techniques, but my husband’s travel, I shall continue with the previous topic.

Ten days. He’s going here. Elbasan, Albania.

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I’ll try to cram the story into a few paragraphs as to why, but bare with me. This could take a while.

Most people look at my husband and think he’s Hispanic, but I doubt he can count to ten in Spanish. Seriously. My husband’s great grandfather, Fahimeh Mamet (don’t even try to pronounce it), escaped from the poverty stricken country of Albania at just fourteen years of age and immigrated to the United States (don’t worry, we’re all legal).

Decades later his granddaughter, also my husband’s mother, had this huge desire ingrained in her (I tend to think it was God-inspired) to begin a humanitarian work within the country of her heritage. So in very early 1990’s my husband’s father and mother were some of the very first Americans allowed entrance into the post-Communist government of Albania. His parents established what we now call the Mission Base, or a base-camp for all of the relief aid that they would send over the course of many years.

In the year 2000 my husband and I got married, and about a month later his mom passed away after a long battle with cancer. For about eight years following her death, my husband’s father continued the work at the Mission Base , but two years ago he handed the reins to my husband. Note that my husband definitely doesn’t do it alone. His brothers and many other friends and family who have traveled to the nation over the years still give generously to ensure that the Mission Base is a place to give to those who need so much.

Take a look at this guy and his daughter.

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This is Irfan and Fabjola Toska. Irfan is the guy who my husband’s parents coordinated all of this humanitarian work with from the very first trip. So many things have changed since day one, but this man has remained dedicated to helping the people of his country for nearly two decades now. His wife makes the best baklava I have ever tasted and his daughter is the interpreter. Obviously we’re seriously lacking in updated pictures of the Toska family, something we hope to remedy when my husband travels there.

Next Sunday, June 20th, my husband makes his second trip to Albania, nearly 16 years after his original trip with his father. I’m so excited that he’s able to return and refresh his memory of how important this humanitarian effort really is. I’d love to think that I’m dreading next week because I’m going to miss him so much (and I will miss him), but mostly I’m just wishing I could go with him. It’s one thing to be able to give financially, but completely something else to see the faces of the people whose lives are being changed. Let me stop before I cry.

I know there are lots of you out there whom I don’t know personally in this virtual meeting of minds, and if you would like to be a part of what we are doing in Albania, you can click here to give. One hundred percent goes directly to Albania (minus the 3% fee that our lovely American banks claim for credit card use), and all of it is tax deductible.

Dear Handsome Husband: I know you’ll fall in love with Albania all over again, but you must return to your wife. For sanity’s sake.

Postponing Life

I feel like I keep postponing everything in life for my surgery.

For the last entire year, I’ve been working with a government assistance program getting approval for funding my surgery to receive a Cochlear Implant. I’ve been approved yes, but my caseworker has yet to request the actual funds, nor has the surgery been scheduled. Heck, I doubt they’ve even looked at the calendar.

It’s frustrating because I want to just feel sorry for myself. My caseworker sitting at her desk (who is busy doing…..what?) doesn’t seem to understand that every day I don’t have my surgery, is another day that I can’t work. It’s another day I don’t hear my daughter or my son, and another day that my husband and I go through extremes to be able to adequately communicate with each other.

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This place is just breathtaking, isn’t it?

My husband and I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary on September 23rd of this year. Our plans for the past year have been to visit England. My husband isn’t much of a museum fanatic, and while we do plan on visiting a few, we want to have a big adventure to celebrate our milestone. We’re renting a car upon arrival (scary, I know), attempting the whole drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road ordeal, and we’re really going to see England. Think road trip!

I’ve been so excited for so long, but I’m fairly certain now that the whole trip will be postponed.
*Big sigh*

Maybe I’m being a little selfish, but I want more than just a trip for us. I want us to be able to talk and laugh with each other with ease for the first time again in years. I want to be overwhelmed by not just all the beautiful sights, but the unending sounds too. I don’t want to have to work so hard to enjoy myself and understand the things going on around me. I want to just be able to relax and take it all in one moment at a time.

I know all I hear is Me, Me, Me. I guess it’s a conversation I’ll have to have with my husband whether we postpone or not. But I think I know what he’ll say.

Three years ago when my little boy was just a year old, I remember being in my large master bathroom, putting make-up on, getting dressed, about to go somewhere or another. My husband was standing at his sink, messing with his hair, and I was telling him I had made the decision that it was time for me to get hearing aids. I couldn’t hear my son laugh anymore, I couldn’t hear my newborn daughter cry, and it just broke my heart.

Being the quick-witted person he always is, my husband makes a jab saying, “What? You didn’t think about me?”

We both laughed, he made a few more quick jokes, but it hit me in the gut. Have you ever tripped and fallen to your bottom so hard that it knocks the wind from you? That’s kind of how I felt right then. My husband is a joker, always the life-of-the-party type of guy, and although he made light of the issue, I felt like it actually smacked me in the face. We had been married a full five five years before having my son and a six years before we had that short conversation, but I wonder in all those years if I had ever thought about the effects my loss of hearing had on not just myself, but on him too. How much could it affect a male ego, especially his, to live for making people laugh, only to have to say a comment three times before your wife understands it? Maybe I’m making a bigger issue of it than it actually is, but I remember that day in our bathroom as a turning point for me. I do what I can to be aware of how much this affects my family as a whole, how much it affects my marriage, and not just how it affects me.

But this beautiful place?

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I find that I want to share it with my husband in a time in our lives when communication with each other will be easier. I want us to talk and laugh and revisit those few care-free times at the beginning of our marriage when conversing with each other was easy.

I heard just the other day that a couple who had been married for forty years were separating and I just can’t imagine that. I think about my husband and I, all the momentous difficulties we’ve had, but I see how much we’ve both grown from it. Only I see that we’ve grown together and not apart. And that’s what I want this trip to celebrate. It’s not the ten years of still being married that matters. Anyone can survive numbers. It’s that we’re still enjoying each other after ten solid years. No matter what has hit us, we’re still together pushing through it.

So whether it’s October when we we’re planning to go, or next spring, England will still be around when we celebrate a new beginning to our togetherness. And I plan on understanding every word of it.