I was on a 4-day trip to Albania this weekend and got back yesterday evening. I went with my mom and a friend of hers to a conference in Tirana, the capitol of the country. It was a great an inspiring time, one I didn’t see coming at all at the beginning of the year. Sometimes things happen that you didn’t expect, and occasionally those things are unexpectedly good :)
We were mainly there to help out at the conference, but we got to see the beach, the National Art Gallery of Albania, and some of Tirana’s landmarks. I hope I can come back to Albania some day :)
one of many communist monuments
at the beach in Durris
these were all over the beach. I assume they are rolled up fibers from the palm trees, but I’ve never seen anything like them before!
houses in Tirana are often painted in all sorts of colors and patterns. The mayor studied art before taking office and encourages people to renovate their run-down buildings by painting them. This makes Tirana one of the most colorful places in Europe
despit many renovations and new constructions, Albania still has plenty of unfinished, abandoned buildings
this pyramid is a famous communist monument, visited by many, but equally hated. It is in very poor shape, and its future is uncertain
Yesterday my rentor dropped in to see if everything was ok, and he gave me a bag of fresh lemons, grapefruit and pomogranate. The lemons are still green, but they smell so intense already! I made some fresh lemonade this morning, and the flavor is great!
My rentor brought me a bag of lemons from his garden
The sun apparently got so hot that it melted this tourist map!
The Light House at Faros Beach
The moon over Faros Beach
Today I visited with some of the interns at a restaurant down the road from where I am staying. It’s a nice place with a great view of the sea. We just hung out for a while and then went on our way back home. Some got a ride with one of the interns, I and Dan decided to walk. But while we were walking, the skies turned from a few clouds to a downpour-thunderstorm. We were lucky, though, because a woman drove by in her white van and gave us a ride.
I had some of the interns over at my house on saturday. We went for a swim in the ocean and built a bonfire at the beach. While we were standing around the fire we met some guys from Israel, Gideon and Yah-Li (Hebrew for “God to me”). They were visiting a Cypriot friend for the weekend (Israel is only a 40-minute flight away) and left that same night. We talked especially to Yah-Li, at chips and some nuts that they brought and sang some old 60s songs with him. Then the guys from Israel went inside, and another hour later we went in, too.
Inside we relaxed on my balconey, sang some songs and played guitar and cooked a simple lentil soup for dinner. Then the interns went home.
Today I hadn’t planned on doing anything, but I was spontaneously invited for lunch with the family who rents the appartment to me. They are a very nice couple in their 70s, and they had their daughter and her 2 kids their, too. The food was simple and delicious. The lemons are from Andreas’ own garden in Nicosia and “barely in season” as he says it. They still are sweeter and fresher than any lemon you would get in Germany, so I’ll take it! We talked for a while and then I got to look around their garden. They have canna flowers that are over 2m tall (7-8 feet) almost all year round! Our cannas in Germany make it to maybe 70cm (3-4 feet), weather does make a difference!
In the end they gave me some lemons and pomogranates from their own garden in Nicosia. I thankfully took them :) Cypriot people are very hospitable, and a visit never is short. I was there for 3 hours, with people I hardly knew, but that didn’t matter. I enjoyed it, the perfect thing to finish off this week.
I was invited for lunch at my rentor’s house. Their food was delicious!
Andreas, the owner of the appartment, proudly prepares the salad with his home-grown lemons
I haven’t been posting many updates because it’s really busy here. I can’t share everything (that would be too much!) but here’s some news:
Among many other things, I’ve been leading some art and music in the House of Prayer. The “art stream” is once a week, always on Tuesdays. We encourage people to allow themselves to be creative, to express what they are feeling in prayer and in life. Many people that come say of themselves that they aren’t creative. Still, doing something “creative” turns out to be very therapeutic for them. Helping in these sessions is very encouraging.
My song is done! It’s called “Face to Face” and talks about how we can only really achieve the “big things” if we have a relationship with God. Of course many people would disagree, and that’s fine, but I’ve experienced that knowing God as a person makes a huge difference.
One of the staff members was given a black summer dress, and since it didn’t fit her, she asked me if I wanted to try it on. I don’t usually wear skirts/dresses, but I decided to try it. The dress is beautiful and I actually like it! I also let one of the interns braid my hair (which is also something I don’t usually do) and she did an amazing job! She was happy to make me happy with something she is good at. And so she did!
Today we had lunch together and I got to cook the food for everyone. Since we have several allergies in our group, it was like a game of “Taboo”: I couldn’t use egg, wheat, milk, garlic, vinegar or hot spices. But it worked out well. I made baked zucchini in tomatosauce, stuffed with rice, meat, veggies, onions and garlic. To top it off, I added orange juice, cinnamon and honey. Actually the cinnamon and honey were Maike’s idea, she helped cook the food on thursday. Everyone enjoyed lunch and just hanging out together.
I can see the ocean from my balconey, and the other day I could also see some windsurfers! They looked like they were having a good time :)
So much for the updates, I wish all of you a nice weekend and warm greetings from sunny Cyprus :)
After going to Salamis and Varosha (the ghost town), the rest of the week was spent with hearing and participating in teaching. I got to know some of my interns and support the art workshop session on Friday. Also, I went on Friday evening to visit two of my interns at their appartment and cook dinner with them. We made a lentil-curry soup, simple but effective!
Today I am resting from an intense 1st week: cleaning, cooking, going to the beach and writing a new song. Some songs take ages to write, some don’t turn out, but I think this one will be good…
The week of staff training is over, so I’ve got some time on my hands. This won’t be happening again anytime soon, so better make use of it:
I started the morning off by doing some much needed “deep cleaning” of my appartment. This basically meant sweeping, wiping down surfaces and mopping the floors. Cyprus is a dusty place, so the mop-water was quite grey after I was done with it…
On Wed evening I made a delicious barbecue chicken dinner with some rice. Since it was enough to feed 2-3 people, I had some of that for lunch today. And as it is with other types of foods: it tastes better the second (or third) day!
I also tried to use some chalk pastels (something I don’t usually do). My attempts to use chalk have often failed because of it’s tendency to smear, but I decided to not be defeated just yet. So I sat down and did a chalk painting of the cacti in the back yard…
eventhough I see definite room for improvement, it turned out better than expected :)
It’s the end of the school year, which means that we’re getting ready for the summer exhibit!
Today we emptied out our studios to make room for the exhibit. And on Monday we determine which art to put into the show. Then, next Wednesday, the show opens and is there until Sunday! I chose 4 paintings as potential entries: “Two Fishing Boats”, Texel Noon”, House at the End of the Road” and “Coast Guard Tower after Sunset”.
The exhibit is free and open all day from Wed-Sun. If you’re in the area, feel free to check it out! My studio is on the 2nd floor on the back side of the main academy building (not the sculpture garden or the U-shaped building). It’s the first exhibition room as you come up the stairs. There will be postcards of my painting “The Fish Hatchery” laying out to take away.
Today I was able to finish a portrait commission of Martin Dietrich’s 4 beautiful children. Portraits are a big challenge for me, but to see the result is also rewarding. I had a good starting point, though, since Martin is an excellent photographer and gave me a great photo to work from. Check out his work if you’re interested in photography: www.augenblickbewahrer.de.
One picture done, on to the next! Here’s the start of a 97x97cm (3′ 4”x3′ 4”) painting. It’s the view of changing rooms on the coast of Holland. I am not sure of the title yet, so if you have ideas, let me know!