Saturday, February 27, 2010

First Trip to Gavojdia Orphanage

Here are some pictures from our first trip to the Gavojdia Orphanage, about fifteen miles away from Lugoj. There are about 60 kids at this orphanage and they range from 4-17 years old. A lot of them still see their parents every once in a while but are sent back here because they can not afford to take care of them. Thirty years ago, during Communism and under the reign of Ceausescu, the orphanage was in much worse shape. During that time, the orphans were treated "like animals"; they were beaten, abused, and most of them could not talk before the age of 8 or 9 because no one had taught them how to speak. Since the regime fell about 20 years ago, a huge effort has gone out to help out the orphanages in Romania so things are much better now. It was an incredible experience to be there and we will be going back often, which I'm thrilled about.

Today we went and helped out Manu again at the school, this time moving huge, muddy pieces of lumber in the rain. They're hard working guys and a lot of them were orphans during Ceausescu's time, so they were eager to see what I thought of the orphanage. I found it funny that someone asked me if I knew Russian. After this, we walked home, took off our shoes and dirty clothes, and went to Susani for another children's meeting. This time we went to a further village, Nevrincea, which was probably the poorest village I've seen so far. There were several kids waiting for us, and once we got back to Susani it was clear that we had more kids this time. We sang and danced with the kids, then we were treated to Adina's homemade "sarmale" (a traditional meat dish), and talked while eating sunflower seeds.

Tomorrow, we're doing the Eucharist again with the elderly ladies around the village. I'm excited to see them again. Also, I'll be going to a couple classes this week with Danny and Ruben at a seminary here in Lugoj that they go to, which should be interesting. And next week, we'll be going to a teenage prison to do prison ministry with some people from North Carolina. Things are exciting here to say the least. Take care and have a great weekend.

Oh, and a funny story: I scored a goal while playing soccer with the older orphans yesterday, and everyone on my team started giving me high fives and congratulating me. I had no idea what was going on, probably because they all said that it was "next goal wins" in Romanian and forgot to tell the American on the field. So I basically scored the game-winning goal, which beat the opposing team in which every player was an orphan, and I was oblivious the whole time. Talk about a bittersweet moment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring Is Around the Corner

Spring is in the air, at least it seems like. It seems warmer, sunnier, and greener here the past week, so much so I've made the bold decision to pack up the long underwear. My sources tell me the weather could change at any moment and that it could very well snow later this week, but I'm think they've had too much salami. People are starting to come outside more and do "outdoorsy" things, such as eating lunch in the park, playing soccer, and street merchants setting up their carts in the city center. I know I'm going to jinx it by saying this too soon and with my luck there will be a blizzard this weekend, but I'm betting Spring just around the corner.

Last week we went by the Serbian/Hungarian border to take care of some stuff, and it got me thinking: Can I now say I've been to Serbia? I was five miles from the border, and I know that I wasn't "technically" there, but I'm going to say I've been there because I don't know anyone who's been closer (except for Preston Curry, who lived there). We had a meeting on Saturday in Susani with all these funny, sweet kids who did a bunch of arts and crafts. They'll be some of the kids we get to do VBS stuff with in the summer, so I was glad to spend some time with them. It was weird, all of them looked like we could be related. Ovidiu asked me to speak on Sunday so I spoke on Luke 15, which I thought went well. I felt very priviliged that he would want me to do that and afterwards, like usual, we had some of Adina's heavenly cooking and hung out at the house sharing funny stories. On Sunday night we had a big meeting again in our apartment, which is slowly getting bigger.

On Friday we're going to the Gavojdia Orphanage for the first time, which is something I've been looking forward to for a long time. I'm eager to see what orphanages look like here in Romania and to have an unbelievable experience like that. One thing I love about being in Romania is that every day seems to be a great experience that I've never had before. I wake up every day and know that this isn't just a normal day, but a day in which I'll be living in a culture I never imagined I would ever experience.For instace, when we came in the apartment a little while ago, we saw our old gypsy friend digging through our garbage can for food. We gave her a loaf of bread and some encouragement, and as she was leaving I can't help but think that those type of moments are ones I won't ever forget. Some things just go beyond words.

Since it's been a while, I have two funny stories of the week: 1)My friend Raul told me on Sunday that he had a pet lamb one time. I thought it was funny because it was so random, so he tells me the story (without any pauses at all), "Yeah, it was great. I walk him on leash all the time and he pull me around and he was my friend. He was so cute and awesome, I loved it. But my Dad killed it and we ate it for dinner." That's a story twist for the ages. Raul's the man.

2) I was in the shower yesterday and about to start to get the shampoo out of my hair, and all of a sudden I see solid brown water all over my feet. I thought it was something in my hair so I started washing my hair to get it all out, but looking down I see Nesquick-colored water running down arm. The maintenance crew was working on the water pipeline outside and all this dust and dirt had gotten into the pipeline, so the water looked like Austin Power's coffee in "The Spy Who Shagged Me." No worries, though: early yesterday afternoon everything was back to normal. Danny and Ruben laughed at me and said they'd never seen it so brown in their life. No matter where you are in the world, brown water is never natural. Have a great week friends.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Straja Recap, Etc.

It's been quite a week since my last post. We got back from the weekend in Straja really late on Sunday night, but it was a great time. We took about 25 people to Straja, a mountain resort place about four hours from Lugoj. We stayed at the "Sissi", a cabin about 2 km from the mountain. We got stuck big time getting up to Sissi because of the snow and slush, but after an hour we finally got there. We had long, exhausting snowball fights, Bible studies led by Ovidiu, intense games of Rummy, and mici (Romanian meat). We went sledding on the mountain on Saturday afternoon, which was amazing. Unlike Colorado or New Mexico, all of the hotels and rentals were on the top of the mountain, so it was like a big Romanian party up there. There were skiers, but we preferred to sled on plastic sacks and cheap sled rentals. It was great to get to hang out with some Romanian students, who taught me some new hilarious phrases such as, "Shut up, I'm the boss." We also played charades in Romanian, which was great for everyone except the American in the room. All in all, great trip, great people, loads of snow, and beautiful scenery.

The rest of the week looks pretty exciting. Ovidiu came to our apartment today and showed us the blueprints from House of Joy, which looks really impressive. It's going to be a great building and they definitely have big plans for the future. We'll be going to Timisoara tomorrow to do "business", and early next week I'll be going to Gavojdia to the orphanage for the first time, which I'm really looking forward to. This orphanage is one of the sites that Pioneer will be working at when they come over in early June. Everyone is incredibly excited about having the group come over in June and about having me here for the next five months, so that's a good thing.

I want to put a funny story on every post, so here it is. Danny and I were walking through the city center in Lugoj this afternoon, which is basically a big row of shops and stores, and saw a massive pile of snow fall on this high school guy from the roof of the building. It almost felt like a scene from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, except no Macaulay Culkin. I almost felt bad for the guy, but I felt worse because I didn't have a video camera. Adios and have a great week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Straja Snow Shindig 2010

First order of business, congrats to the Saints, but especially to the city of New Orleans. I can only imagine how epic of a party that must've been down there in the French Quarter, which probably won't stop until after Mardi Gras on the 16th. It's great to see that city having something to celebrate after everything they've been through in the past five years.

But unlike those in New Orleans, they won't be able to party it up in Straja this weekend like this guy will. We'll be going to Straja, which is about four hours southeast of Lugoj, to stay for three days and play in the snow/mountains. My sources tell me that we might even be sledding...for real. We'll be taking some youth down there, around 25 or 30, and having a grand ol' time. Ovidiu has asked me to speak on Saturday night on hope, so that's something I'll be looking forward to and planning for today. We'll be playing in the snow, eating some food I assume, and having Bible studies, so I think it should be a great time. I'll make sure to take my camera and snap some photos so everyone can be jealous of Romanian snow.

This week has been pretty relaxed and easy-going. Danny made a homemade recipe in the kitchen, which was definitely something I've never had before and ended up being quite delish. The more I've looked at what I've posted on the internet, the more I realize how much I tell the world about the food I've been eating. At first I was a little embarrassed and wanted to make some changes, but after a while I realized that I'm just being honest: I love tasty food, sue me. Food makes the world go 'round, and without delicious food a person will probably have a lower quality of life. I mean, think about it: Do someone ever purposefully go out and choose to eat food that tastes like dirt? Doubtful. That being said, if the food here is an indication of my quality of life, let's just say I'm good to go.

Like I said, pictures from "Straja Snow Shindig 2010" coming soon. Take it easy and have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Moved (and Broke) A Piano, And Magic Sauce

I'm just going to give a play-by-play of how today went down. I wake up, eat breakfast with Danny and Ruben, and then take a shower. After I get out, Ruben tells me that we're going to go to a school nearby. As we walk towards the school, we see the gypsy woman of a few days ago and she recognizes me. The school is located behind the local synagogue, and as we approached the front door I had no idea what we were doing. Inside we meet four very loud, hairy, and hilarious Romanian men. The main guy, Manu, starts giving orders and before you know it we're moving a ridiculously heavy piano up a flight of stairs. All the men were telling me orders to do, like where to stand as we're awkwardly climbing the stairs. After that is up the stairs, we move an old one down, which was just as awkward as coming up. We then move this one into a van, which we all pile into and start driving down the street.

Everyone was having a merry drive down the road when the piano fell and broke the back window. Nothing scares you more than glass breaking when you least expect it. The entire back window busted out, with a corner of the piano out the window. We keep driving to our location and with every bump we hit, more and more glass gets on the road. I started laughing because of the situation, but nobody else did. Once we got to the house we were going to, we unloaded it and cleaned up the glass. On the way back, a guy next to me starts speaking to me and I have no idea what to say except (in Romanian) "I understand a little Romanian. Sorry, sir." He starts laughing and says, "What, you don't think I know English?" I laugh, he laughs, we all laugh. They told me they thought I was Romanian the entire time (which was why they were giving me orders earlier) but that I was just quiet. They thought I was from Timisoara because of my eyes, but that I look exactly like a native. Manu tells me that all the guys are orphans and are glad that I'm here helping in Romania. Manu then starts telling me how much he loves Manchester United, apparently thinking that if I speak English that I must be from England.

After that, we had a "leader meeting" in our apartment for a couple hours and then went to a local hotel to find a big room for our big meetings to meet at. The room has a lot of velvet. I mean, A LOT of velvet. I loved it, and I think that's what we're going to be using (for a while, at least). After that, we came back to the apartment and made Ruben's famous dish that he calls "Magic Sauce" (pictured above). It was magical, indeed.

Tomorrow we're going to Timisoara again, and next week we're going to Straja on a winter camp trip with the youth. More updates to come. Enjoy watching the Super Bowl, and go Saints.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Service in Susani

Yesterday we had the usual Sunday church service in Susani, so Danny, Reuben, and I took the train. We met up a Romanian friend of ours and took off early in the morning. Besides seeing a woman pull out a 9 inch long silver switchblade out of her purse to give to someone, it was an ordinary train ride. We took the Lord's Supper in the service, and then afterwards we went around the village and took part in it with some elderly women who weren't able to make it to the service. It was an unbelievable experience to see each of these houses, each with a woman living inside no younger than 92, living in very poor conditions. Each house, which were no bigger than 10X12 ft maybe, had a dirt floor, a fire-stove, a bed, and a few pictures. These women were very old but were overflowing with joy and gratitude to have us in their home and to partake in the Lord's Supper with them. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Today we went to look for an electrical part to an oven we just purchased, and on the way we saw an elderly gypsy woman slip on the ice and fall. She started asking for help but several people simply walked by her and refused to acknowledge her. We helped her up and she immediately started kissing my hands and rambling on and on with Romanian graditude. I told Danny and Reuben I couldn't believe that nobody would help her up, and they said that this type of thing happens all the time. Just one of the many life-changing experiences I'll be having while here in Romania.

Hope everything is going well back in the States for everyone.