Monday, April 26, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

I wanted to put a post up that didn't have anything to do with Iceland, which hopefully will give me some closure. Am I still bitter? Of course. And word on the street is the neighbor volcano, Katla, could also explode. No matter what happens, I'll never forget "Iceland Volcano Ash Cloud of Terror and Mayhem 2010."

As for Romania, things are going great here. Our meetings on Fridays with the teenagers from surrounding villages in Susani have continued to grow. Our meetings on Saturdays with younger kids from those same villages has really, really grown. We have loads and loads of fun, as illustrated by the "crazy, in the moment, totally bananas" picture above. And our meetings on Sunday nights in our apartment in Lugoj have grown and we are really looking forward to moving into the new club that we have rented out. This club will become the new place where the group meets on Sundays, so we have been very busy remodeling the interior and removing the Bailey's, Kahlua, and Smirnoff bottles the past week. My job is to sand the windows, so every day when I leave I look like I've been antiqued.

This week Ovidiu and I are kicking our planning for the group into high gear. We took care of some business in Timisoara and Lugoj all day today, will do the same tomorrow, and have appointments with high-ranking, super important people the rest of the week so we can get everything nailed down pat. Things are very busy here but I'm enjoying every minute of it. The weather has really warmed up and I can almost feel the start of a new tan coming on. Almost.

Funny story of the week: I saw a pig on the side of the road going to one of the villages that probably weighed more than my entire family. It was a Mother Pig and had three little piglets with her. As I drove by, Ruben turns to me and says, "Remember that sausage you had yesterday? That old woman killed a pig just like that and has enough food for a whole year. You're welcome." Let's just say I don't think a movie called "Babe: Pig in Romania" would be the best idea.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So One Time A Volcano Blew Up in Iceland...

...and caused me to be stuck in Europe, alone, for six days. I was supposed to meet Tom Horn, Trent Martin, and Kyle Timmerman in Munich, which sounded fool-proof so I bought a train ticket to Prague the evening of their arrival. I had no idea that a volcano exploded until I heard a woman talking to her friend on the phone on the Munich metro saying her flight was probably cancelled to Chicago. I told her to stop joking with me when she told me about the eruption and that it wasn't funny, and that's when she pointed to a man's newspaper a few seats away that had a huge picture of it on the cover. I walked in the airport and it was complete insanity: there were huge lines everywhere, it was very loud, and there were already people camping out. I would say that's a slight change in plans.

I didn't know what to do, at all, but I figured it would be better not to waste a ticket to Prague than to stay in Munich for another night and that this would blow over (literally). To make a long, long story short, it didn't get better and I bounced around Europe heading east for the next five days. The lines in the train stations were 8 and 9 hours long everywhere, so I had to get creative with how I got around. I met people from all over Europe and the US who were stranded and couldn't get back. Some had work on Monday and didn't know if they had a job anymore. Some were running out of money in a bus station because they didn't plan on staying for four extra days. All in all, I took three trains, three buses, a boat ride, and a taxi in five days to get back here to Lugoj. In those five days, I went from Munich to Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Oradea, and Timisoara to get back to Lugoj by 12:00 AM this morning. Let's just say I'm a little bitter towards Iceland.

And a funny story: Have things ever gone so wrong and seemed so ridiculous that it's almost funny? When anything and everything, and I mean everything, goes wrong in such monumental ways for no reason at all? That's what this entire week was like. I did enjoy such headlines in newspapers that said "Europe under a cloud of uncertainty" and watching news anchors on CNN trying to pronounce "Eyjafjallajökul Volcano."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Love Driving in Romania

Ciao, ciao. Well, it's been pretty interesting since I got back from Motru last Tuesday. I met up some people from Buena Vista, Colorado and tagged along with them a little bit (but only in the afternoon so I could sleep in a bit). They joked that I only wanted to do the "fun" things with them, and they were right. It was good to hang out with some more Americans, though. We've started having a meeting with teenagers from surrounding villages in Susani on Friday and it went really well. Danny, Ruben, and I are leading that, so we're really looking forward to see what happens with it.

However, the main news is that I've been given a promotion here so I can drive around. Once I got behind the wheel of our 2002 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter colossal van, I realized how much I missed the view from behind the steering wheel. Taking trains is great and walking places has its perks, but after three months of no driving I realized something's missing in my life without it. Not anymore, though. Maybe it was the autobahn a couple weeks ago that's made me all nostalgic for driving, I don't know, but I'm grateful that I get to drive to pick up kids from a couple villages outside Susani on roads that are covered with chickens, roosters, flocks of sheep, and even some horses. I feel like a rebel behind the wheel.

Also, we've officially started work on the House of Joy property in preparation for the Pioneer group. The picture above is from the site the day before we started work with a lot of the children from the meeting. We've bought a boat-load of iron that will be cut and will be used in the foundation. We're planning on getting the hole dug and concrete poured for the foundation within a couple weeks, which will be great because it will allow the Pioneer group to start working on the first floor in June. Also, Ovidiu has rented out an old bar/club in Lugoj to have Sunday night meetings to reach out to the city of Lugoj. My roommates and I have been working there the past couple of days cutting dry-wall, removing insulation, and consequently getting black lung. I'm meeting a couple of college roommates of mine in Munich later this week so I'll be gone for a while, but I wanted to put a post up before I left letting everyone know that things are going great in Romania not just with me, but with the House of Joy as well.

And a couple funny stories involving little kids: Ruben and I were sitting in a park yesterday eating some shaworma (don't worry, it's delicious), when a little kid riding a bike pulls out a wooden stick while riding a bike and "pretends" to shoot me twice. He then rides off like nothing happened. Twenty minutes later while we're waiting for the owner of the building to come and let us in, a four year old gypsy girl came around the corner with her mom and said something extremely Rated-R to me in Romanian and then giggled. I asked Ruben what she said but he ignored me,so I repeated what she said and he completely lost it. He told me what she said and let's just say when I saw her today again, it was really awkward. Little kids here are nuts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter in Motru, Romania

Ciao, ciao everyone. So after getting back from Frankfurt last weekend and the epic, all-night drive through three and a half countries, two days later I was off again to my roommate Danny's hometown of Motru for Easter. We took a four hour train ride from Lugoj to Severin, and met up Danny's sister Rebecca and her friend on the train. Severin is right on the Danube River, which seperates southwestern Romania from Serbia (so once again Serbia is so close, and yet so far away). After hitch-hiking from Severin to Motru, we spent the next five days (four nights) there and stayed in the apartment Danny grew up in. While his three brothers, two sisters, and two childhood buddies were all great, none could compare to his mother. She's a jack-of-all trades in the kitchen. I swear that woman could make a piece of lard taste delicious; it was like everything she made was the 8th wonder of the world.

On Saturday, we got in a 1982 Ford Sierra and drove to the caves outside of Motru. Maybe I didn't know what to expect from a cave, but it was much colder and darker than I ever expected it to be. And I had a sneaky suspicion that there were bats watching me...or the Count from Sesame Street. After that, we hiked on top of this huge hill, took some pictures, then went back and ate more food. We had Easter service on Sunday and I was asked to share a message, so I spoke on Mark 16 and blew the roof off the place (kidding). All in all, I had a great time and I was glad to see where Danny grew up. I'm pretty sure there was an average of about 11 people in the apartment at all times, so things were always bustling to say the least. And I want it to be known that I successfully nabbed a car for our ride back to Severin, making me a perfect 100% at hitch-hiking.

So what's on tap for this week? Rest. Hopefully. We're starting a program with some high schoolers in Susani on Friday, so we'll be planning for that this week. Also, we'll be nailing down more specifics for the House of Joy site so everyone at Pioneer, especially my bosses who read this blog, will be impressed with my liaison skills. I also met up some people from Colorado today, so I have a feeling I'll be with them often this week.

And a funny story: Danny, my roommate, was telling me a story about how he wore shoes that were way too small one time when he was playing basketball. He said, "It was nuts man. My..uh... leg thumbs were hurting real bad." What's a "leg thumb"? It's a big toe. After laughing about that for a long time, I apologized and told him that a hurt "leg thumb" is no laughing matter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Autobahn Has Changed My Life

Hola friends. Well, it's been very crazy around here lately and I've pretty much been on the go non-stop for a while now. After we got back from Budapest last weekend, two days later we left for Frankfurt to buy an older van we got a good deal on. We were there for four days and stayed at the businessman's house, which was in the city of Weisbaden. We met up some great people who took us around Frankfurt, Weisbaden, Mainz (where the Gutenburg Bible Musuem is), and to KFC (twice). Time flew by while we were there and it was hard to leave, but it was great to spend time with some great new friends. Afterwards, we drove 17 hours home through Germany, Austria, and Hungary during the middle of the night. I vaguely recalling stopping at a German gas station that had a 1950's American theme and 1950's songs playing in the background...and then having to pay 1 Euro to use the bathroom. All in all, great trip, great new friends, Germany is great, but the autobahn changed my life. Who doesn't love no speed limits and watching Porsches, Audi's, and even a red Ferrari fly by you?

When we got back, I realized that everyone is splitting up to go different directions for Easter weekend. I hopped on with Danny and we're going to his hometown of Motru this afternoon until Tuesday probably, which should be a good time because I've heard his parents know how to cook well. Also, I've heard rumors that there's a cave there...maybe. Basically I'm like the Energizer bunny the past couple weeks; I'm just going, going, going. Have a great Easter break and I'll post again soon.

Funny story: I've made a commitment to not speak English until June because my new friends in Germany were skeptical that I could actually do it. To prove them and the world wrong, I decided to make some notecards and write down random words/phrases that could be useful. While doing so, I decided to have an apple because I couldn't avoid how delicious and nutritious it is. I started slicing it and starting to think about something else, when all of a sudden I look down and see a pool of blood on the cutting board. I had sliced my thumb with our "dull" knife so badly that I bled in the sink for ten minutes, then walked to the bathroom (bleeding all over the ground on the way), and bled in that sink for another twenty minutes. Let's just say it was awkward when Ruben came home and there was blood everywhere. Who knew that learning Romanian would be so dangerous?