Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happen until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun--which has happened every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes."
--Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

you're welcome

We have neighbors who blast music in the mornings, often on repeat, and since I'm usually gone in the afternoon/evening, I get to freely partake in their musical adventures. Lucky me, right? Actually, the thing is, their choice of music is sometimes so bizarre--or, rather, unexpected--that it's mostly just a good source of equal parts laughter and bewilderment. Besides the manele, here's a random sampling from the last few weeks for your reading pleasure:

I Will Survive--Gloria Gaynor

War is Over--John Lennon and Yoko Ono

La Gota Fria--Carlos Vives

Danger Zone--(no idea who sings this, just know it from Top Gun)

I Believe I Can Fly--R Kelly

I Will Always Love You--Whitney Houston

I Have Nothing--Whitney Houston (they seem to have the soundtrack from The Bodyguard)

(and, I kid you not)

Every Breath You Take--Sting

(and my personal favorites from their playlist--if this sounds sarcastic, I promise I'm being completely sincere)

River of Dreams--Billy Joel

Stand By Me--Ben E. King (YES!!!!)

There are lots of others I recognize from really vague memories of the stuff my mom liked in the early 90s but wasn't able to look up in time. However there is one song that would make this list complete and that is Yakety Yak. Kind of awesome, no?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the strange and the wonderful

It's been a day for new experiences.

First, the strange: I went downtown today to get something for my
ingerasul (secret Santa) and while walking, a little girl came up and tried to sell me something. I wasn't really paying attention so it wasn't until I was about ten feet away that I turned around to see what she wanted, at which time I discovered she had a little piglet in her backpack. Did a double-take, realized it was actually a baby goat. Life continues to be strange.

But let's be clear here. It wasn't weird that she was selling a goat in the city center. I get that. I mean, where else are you going to go to do your selling except to the center of commerce. Fair enough. But I never expected it to be so clean and cute and hanging out in a little girl's backpack. Which was purple on the front. (**UPDATE** Apparently this is a New Years' tradition I was completely ignorant of. It's explained in the comments, but you touch the goat to have good luck in the new year.)

And tonight we went caroling, and let me tell you, having never done anything like that in my life, it was really really wonderful. We were out four or five hours and it rained (lightly) all but about ten minutes, during which it got cold enough to turn to almost-snow. The carols here are wonderful. Some of them are the same tune as ones we have but with entirely different words, others I'd never heard before. But they're beautiful. Some of the words from my favorite:

Cant Osana, cant Osana,
Cant Osana rege-al regilor
Cant Osana, cant Osana,
Cant Osana lui Isus
Parasiti turma voasta-n campie
Alergati uimiti la el
El va e singura bucurie

Which means:

(They) sing Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna, king of kings
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna to Jesus
Leave your flock in the countryside
Run amazed to him
He's your single joy

At first the whole thing reminded me a little of Halloween because after you sing people give you fruit or candy. Or money, but we didn't take any. But people seemed so happy to hear it. We'd climb to the top floor in a bloc and then as we went back down to leave, other people would open their doors, cry sometimes even. Actually, funny thing--one old lady was so insistent we take the money and we were so insistent on not that she ended up sticking the money inside one guy's clothes. Oh, and also! It seems wherever I go in Romania, whether it's hiking or this, there's always a dog that appears out of nowhere and accompanies us the whole time. So this time as well. I baptized him Petrisor :)

So I have come to discover that caroling, even in the rain, even in the cold is just about the greatest thing I've gotten to do here yet. (The oranges they gave us aren't so bad either.) And we're going the next two days as well. So hopefully there'll be more to write about...

Monday, December 19, 2011

romanian sky

This was a good week. And I'm immensely grateful for that. Today it was colder than it's been these last few weeks and the sky was the sort of blue that is dark in regard to hue but otherwise bursting with light. I didn't expect it, so waiting at the bus stop for a maxitaxi that never came and watching the sky shine out of puddles on a filthy street, my fingers turned stiff and it woke me up fully.

But if I had my way, winter would be like this every day. Let the biting cold come if it means a sky like that one, all those hard straight lines and clear bright light. It makes me miss the mountain. Thankfully, we will be on it in February, in my favorite place in all of Romania: Ebe's cabin outside of Rasnov. When I first went there, it was mostly cloudy the whole time, but one morning I stayed behind while all the students went to ski. And sitting there writing and praying, the sun coming up from behind the mountain behind the cabin, in front and who knows how many miles away, these jagged mountains I hadn't even been able to see before just lit up. I called them the morning mountains until I found out this summer that it's actually Piatra Craiului. It could have been Middle Earth.

Most days aren't like that though. It's so overcast and it amazes me how much it affects my mood. But here is something to be thankful for: I live on the 4th (5th) floor. So despite the fact that I sleep on a mattress on the floor and the only space I have here that is mine, that isn't shared with two other girls, is a space equal to the size of a small box, I can stand by the window in the kitchen and see sky. And it is a good sky. It's been surprising me with its sunsets on the days that aren't overcast since I moved here.

And the coolest thing is that being this high up, both in regard to being on the top floor and being farther north than I've ever lived before, is watching how the sun moves across the sky. It doesn't get very high these days and I can see where it comes up and goes down from my window (well, coming up it's hidden behind a building, but if not for that I'd be able to see it). And the place where it sets has moved what to me is a dramatic amount since the beginning of October. Before, it was pretty far to to the right of the building in front of us and now it's starting to come out from behind it on the left side.

So there's that. Reminding myself that there's that. And I get to watch it, if not from our living room/bedroom, if not every night, then at least from the kitchen when I'm home and it's clear. And if you'll believe it, I think it's keeping me here. Today I went to look at another room for rent, and while there are lots of other pros and cons, one of the cons is that it's on the ground floor and instead of windows there's a laundry room. No sky. Little light, even on such a bright day.

Anyway, related in no other way except for that I am especially thankful for it, there's this beautiful verse:

"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."
--Isaiah 12:3

Saturday, December 17, 2011

fake english and other language fun

A quick post to say that I just heard the Albanian language for the first time and good gracious it just confused the heck out of me. It was playing in the background and something caught my attention and for a split second I thought I was hearing Spanish with a weird accent, but then I realized I was also recognizing words I know from Romanian. And for the life I couldn't figure out what this language was and why it seemed like I should be understanding it but couldn't.

Wikipedia tells me that Latin was a big influence on the language and that in the 9th and 10th centuries, Romanian borrowed a ton of words from Albanian. Good to know!

A similar thing happened for different reasons a couple of years ago. I remember listening to a song in Greek and feeling my head was about to explode because, hey, that sounds just like Spanish but that is most definitely not Spanish. I couldn't understand at all why I couldn't understand it. Really disorienting until I figured out what was going on.

Anyway, in the same vein, was linked to this video recently, I think through Language Log, and have been meaning to post it. I love listening to the sounds of languages when they're just sounds, separated from meaning, when you're just hearing the music of it. So here's English mostly that way:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

war is over

A strange thing happened tonight coming back from Mioveni. We went there, five of us in a small group, to have dinner together and walk around and look at the Christmas lights. For those who don't know, Mioveni is a smaller town outside of Pitesti and, let me tell you, their Christmas lights are wonderful. They even have some sort I've never seen before that look like melting icicles.

Driving back it was thick with fog. Another thing I've never seen before, at least not before moving here--fog this thick. It's done it pretty often this last month or two in the evenings. Tonight you couldn't see more than thirty feet through the windows and maybe fifteen in front of us.

And then once we got back into Pitesti, all wrapped up in fog, Happy Xmas (War is Over) started playing on the radio. I wondered what it would have been like living in the 60s and 70s and how it was when the war in Vietnam ended. Or what the people in the streets of London were doing at the end WWII or the people in the French countryside. I thought of Sarajevo the most, though. I'm not sure why, but when I think of this sort of thing, I always think of Sarajevo and an image of that city I saw sometime in college of a sidewalk, a crack running through it and up the side of the wall of a bombed-out building.

And suddenly it occurred to me what I read this morning. War is over. Today was the official last day of the war. Finally. Ten years is a long time (I think officially, the Iraq War, I mean, it's actually eight). So I said something to everyone else in the car, chiar este adevarat... cantecul asta. Am citit astazi ca Obama a zis... and so on (it really is true... this song. Today I read Obama said...).

Anyway, I don't want to get political, but it got quiet again after a little bit and in the few minutes left before we got to the apartment, everything all wrapped around in fog and grimy orange glow, I thought about 9/11. I was home from school that day so my memory of it is so much different than most of friends'. My mom was getting ready for work and I saw the second plane crash live.

But now it's all these years later and everything is so different than I would ever have guessed it. It would be dishonest to say that I thought much about the war, that it affected me in everyday life in ways I could point to. But even being here, that weird morning I found out about bin Laden while walking to my lesson, suddenly hearing Obama's voice in the middle of a crowded Tigani market--there is a breathing out. In sfarsit, I whispered in the car tonight and leaned my head against the window. Finally.

Just thinking about how my friends back home are feeling about all this. And the people heading back now from this side of the ocean to the other.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

my brother's keeper

It's strange, but thinking about my brother helps me to trust God more.

I haven't written about him in a while but thanks to Skype, we've been talking a couple times a week. In all the times I've written about him on here I've called him a boy. And he isn't any longer. He hasn't been, but we were fifteen and eleven the last time we lived together, we hardly knew each other, and the image stuck. The boy with skinny legs, bent slightly, standing on a mattress with his hand reaching out. It's the image that came back some three years later when God changed me in regard to my brother through the most unlikely of people.

But things are different now. What I mean is that it's easier, in a way, to write about him as looking back on that boy, to call him a boy, because somehow it made a more poignant description. But it's less true now. I don't just mean that he's older. He is, of course--5'10 and looking thoroughly man-like while still holding on to the few boyish features you see in a nineteen-year-old. Our mom sent me some Christmas pictures about a month ago and in one of them, he looks like he could be thirty with a wife, a job to go to, bank accounts. Someone whose life would grow toward children and having to cut the grass. And I wonder. But don't misunderstand me: these things could be wonderful for him, but there are other good things too, different things.

So now we talk on Skype. Sometimes it's serious but more often we're just talking. In a way we're getting to know each other, sharing pieces of life that are mundane. Just talking. Breathing. It all revolved around such dramatic things for so long, and that's still there at the root of all of it, the main thread, but things are starting to branch out now, being allowed to grow. There are new shoots, little bursts of green, of hope. When he got out of jail, he told me how, after an entire year without seeing sunlight, the sun gave him headaches. And I thank my God for sunlight for my brother. You see? The headaches meant the beginning of some good thing.

And yet there's still so much that could go wrong, that still is so messed up. It hasn't been made right and I don't know if it will. Some days all I want to do is go back there and do what, I have no idea. But be there with him. Pray beside him and with him instead of seven timezones away. Fix things. But I'm convinced God wants me here instead of there, and even though it doesn't make any sense sometimes, there's no way of denying it. It's clear, and it's over and over again. I put my hands up and say, okay God, I don't understand this, but if you say so.

Now I look at my brother and he's so complex. He's not 'a boy who...' and he's not a symbol, a vehicle through whom I can show that there are a hundred unanswered questions or hope for what could be, what God can do. He's not anything I can put in a sentence. I will say that if I ever write a book, and I really hope I will, I'd want it to be about him somehow.

The truth is that, thinking about him, even though there are no answers and there is no sure promise regarding my brother, it is abundantly clear God is at work in his life. And there have been sure answers to prayers. But while I am certain of what God can do, I don't know what will happen. Maybe that sounds like doubt. The funny thing is that while there are a hundred other places where it is difficult not to doubt some or to live in ways that reflect that faith, in this God has made me sure of himself.

I've said already: it is fraught with questions and no certain ending. Another funny thing is that Great is Thy Faithfulness is playing right now. And I'll tell you what. It is good to be getting to know him, to laugh with him. There are lots of big and heavy things, and while I'll pray for him as long as I'm alive, I wonder if I'm not meant to just delight in the fact that I have a little brother who is awesome and gross and a completely typical boy. To be there in the ways God gives me, yes, but otherwise trust those big things with him. My God is my brother's keeper--right?

Anyway, he's a pretty cool guy. Glad I'm getting to find that out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

weird answered prayers

Last week sucked. Let's just be honest. There's something depressing about this place--I don't notice it all the time, but there is a real heaviness here. And plus, I miss my family, I miss my friends. It's all just sort of hit at once.

So sometime last week, feeling miserable and feeling generally sorry for myself, I prayed about playing. About the sorts of shenanigans we took part in as students and how depressing it is to never (should say not often, I suppose) be able to just delight in--in what, life? I don't know. Talking about having fun and playing and being thankful for being alive. Not that they don't do that here. Ah, it's coming out all wrong! Anyway, I prayed about all this and it probably made about this much sense. Luckily God understands me better than I do.

The first part of one of the weirdest answers to prayer here:

We were at a short student conference this weekend and the first night we were playing games. Then we played a new one and, let me tell you, it was a blast. You tie two people's legs together like a three-legged race and they have to run across the room together but only one of them can take the object they're racing toward and that person has to somehow get it back to the other side of the room without the other person getting it from them. Somebody volunteered Horace. For all who don't know, Horace is my stuffed dinosaur. Don't judge. He's a good pillow (and a good dinosaur).

Well, it took about two minutes into the first race and... Horace got his leg ripped clean off. Truth: I never thought I would be happy to see my poor dinosaur dismembered, but I laughed so hard I ended sprawled out on the floor for five minutes. And felt so much better. Currently Horace is being operated on and the hope is that he'll have four functioning legs soon. Here's a picture post-amputation:

And since we're on the topic of shenanigans (some of them part of this answered prayer in that, weird as they were, it just cheered me up; others... well, just weird):

A couple of guys stole my rings Saturday afternoon and sometime later that night I noticed one of them was wearing all three and just generally fidgeting with them. Right after I decided I was going to snatch them back from him, he dropped one on accident. Before anyone could do anything, our general secretary had his foot out of his papuci, grabbed the ring with his bare foot, picked it up and put it on the table. With his foot. Just like that. Almost died.

About an hour later I got locked in the bathroom for twenty-some minutes while the people outside tried to break me out and I hung out the window thinking about how I could get to the next window over (the boys' bathroom) without falling to my death. In the end they rescued me. About five minutes later another girl got stuck.

Then today after the retreat was over we went to the center of Sibiu to walk around and see everything. With us was a first-year student who speaks English so well that when we switch from Romanian I completely forget that I'm not talking to a Romanian. No accent at all. It's crazy. And he just learned from cartoons. Anyway, knowing we'd probably run into some foreigners in Sibiu, I told him that if we found any Americans, I bet the two of us could go talk to them and they'd have no idea he wasn't American. Right off the bat I heard a guy speaking English and went up to him and talked for about ten minutes. Turns out he was from North Carolina too! And I called it--he had no idea at all that my friend wasn't American.

And then the just plain weird. Santa Claus was hanging out downtown and as we walked by, our gensec asked him if he stomach was real and, I kid you not, he said, it doesn't matter what's in your stomach, it's what's below it! Dirty old man winked and everything. Half of us stood there gaping while the rest ducked behind kiosks stifling maybe-I-shouldn't-be-laughing-at-this-but-I-can't-help-it laughter. And then he said something I almost wish I could write just because you would not believe it at all, but it's sort of x-rated, we'll say. Santa is a seriously creepy dude. Kind of horrifying that kids were taking pictures with him.

It was a good weekend, though, in general. Still dealing with some things that are really frustrating, but God kept reminding me how much he loves us, how much he gave for us all, how much bigger that is than anything else. How he runs after us even when we're least lovable. So grateful. And put back on my heels. His love really just changes everything. Thankful for that now.

And just because, here's a picture from Sibiu today:

Monday, November 28, 2011

pretty cool article

This about a guy who was kidnapped by the FARC and almost twelve years later just got released. (It's in Spanish--I'll try to find an English version.)

It says that when he got out he just kept saying that God exists and that he was praying for the guerillas and prayer was his only hope. Pretty cool stuff.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

back in romanialand

So much to be thankful for.

I spent the last three days on the mountain with about twenty five other Americans and everything about it was wonderful. I don't think I've been around that many people from the States since I left, and between that, the mountains and the goodies one family brought from Texas, it was a most refreshing holiday. We went on a hike Friday, I think probably my favorite part, and let it be known that hiking with Americans is something else altogether than hiking with Romanians (meaning I could breathe and converse and didn't wake up unable to move the next morning). Nothing beats Romanian hikes, but this was probably the most pleasant one I've ever been on. And! We found a tree that looked just like an Ent! Cool thing about this place: as soon as you leave the city you feel like you're in Middle Earth. True we don't have Cheetos here, or Sun Drop and we don't get to be with our families for Christmas, but there are other blessings.

In this respect--and especially to do with family--there's been a lot. My Father: I know this, I identify so strongly with this, but there's so much I'm finding that needs to be learned, to be lived until it's real. And what a patient father my God is, gently leading me through these places, teaching me things in the small, quieter places between the things he's led me through once already. I'm missing my mom and brother more than I ever thought I would. And I'm reminded often that I'm supposed to be here, even when it's hard to not be there helping them. And the definition of family has extended in some ways, tightened in others. If you are confident in God as the father, as yours, then the question of adoptive families, people taking you in, becomes something to rejoice in and and thank God for, not to withdraw or withhold from--because you were always his.

And all this turns me toward the sixteen-year-old. The one whose company I enjoy more than I ever thought I would, through whom God is throwing wide open all kinds of things. As much as he's using her, I'm praying he'll use me in her life, all these questions of family. All these parallel lines between the two of us, two lives drawn from such different places but essentially passing through the same things. This is no accident. I want so much for her and it's amazing how God will change your heart--a month ago I was wondering how the heck this would even work.

So now. Back in our shared living room, back from Rucar to speaking all Romanian and all the things that drive me crazy and the abundance of blessings, back to Romanialand. I will say that being on the mountain with all those Americans was a much-needed reprieve for which I am super thankful. Such a good Thanksgiving.

Also, funny thing related to Thanksgiving. Sort of. When I got back last night I skyped with my best friend in the States and she overheard me talking to the sixteen-year-old, after which she told me this: you sound like a turkey when you speak Romanian. That language sounds like gobbling! So coming full circle...

Saturday, November 26, 2011


"This might seem unprincipled cynicism, but in the secular fury of Ataturk's new republic, to move away from religion was to be modern and Western; it was a smugness in which there flickered from time to time the flame of idealism. But that was in public; in private life, nothing came to fill the spiritual void. Cleansed of religion, home became as empty as the cities ruined yalıhs and as gloomy as the fern-darkened gardens surrounding them."
--Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City

Friday, November 18, 2011

video about the chiva

Thought I'd do something different. This is one of many crazy bus stories I have (plus about a minute in Romanian at the end, just for fun). Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

round up

I have been a very derelict blogger lately. Sorry about that. So the last few weeks in turns:

1. About half an hour ago I got back to my apartment with one of my roommates and an American coworker. I've said before that since I've been in Pitesti I've spoken only Romanian but since my coworker is here, as we were walking home the two of us of course spoke English. We split off from the roommate outside the bloc so she could run to the store and my coworker and I went up together, speaking English up five flights of stairs. And the strangest thing happened. As soon as I unlocked the door to the apartment and we went inside, without thinking at all I started speaking in Romanian.

A few minutes later I realized what I was doing and my coworker and I talked about it, about bilingual families who speak different languages in different rooms of their house, things of that nature, and that it made perfect sense since, aside from a sentence or two, I've never spoken English in this apartment. Of course it's much easier to speak in English and anywhere else with an American, good gracious yes please let's speak English, but somehow--especially when my roommate came back--it was way more comfortable/natural-feeling to just speak in Romanian. Strangest thing.

2. It's dark here, guys. By five, already, it's dark and we've still got something like five weeks till the solstice. Besides this week, it's been overcast on top of the sun going down early so if you're inside with the blinds all the way open, it feels like one long overcast dusk. I read a few days ago that we're at the same latitude as Minneapolis and that, not counting the Alaskan ones, there are only four big US cities at a higher latitude. Yep, I'm feeling it.

The light is really interesting though. I think light like this will always remind me of my first few months here. It's a waning light, when the sun shines, a tremulous sort of thing that feels like perpetual early morning. I can see easily from my kitchen window where the sun comes up and goes down in a space maybe a third of the circumference of what a 360 degree view might be.

3. Got robbed for the first time in Romania, sort of. Someone sent me a letter from the States and it arrived in our box without an envelope. There had been nothing in the envelope except the letter so it wasn't a big deal. Torn between being thankful they were kind enough to leave the letter and annoyed by the fact that someone would do that. We don't mail money, people!

4. An observation: there are four clocks hanging on the walls in our living room/bedroom--the woman who owns the apartment loves clocks, I guess. They all look almost exactly the same and only one works, and the other day it finally gave out. So we replaced the battery and the next day the clock in the kitchen died. I feel like there's some sort of symbolism in that, our walls covered in clocks that don't work.

5. A few more tidbits: I would just like to add that I love discipleship. It really is the best part of this job. And also--but this is for another post--that I'm having a hard time dealing with having basically no personal space here. And wondering what sort of implications this kind of thing might have on being married one day. Just thoughts.

6. Forgot one, but this is the last. Regarding the post about the significance of names, thanks to my friend Jamie who is a much better googler than I am, this is the verse I was thinking of but couldn't find:

"The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give." Isaiah 62:2

Baller verse. Anyway, here's to returning to real blogging soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

an addendum

to the recent post about bezna and light and meaning. This, from a novel that takes place in Congo (The Poisonwood Bible):

"Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word."

Now I don't know much about the Kikongo language, only what I've learned from this book, but here we are again.

Once more from John 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

In the paragraph above the quote from the book, it talks about various words with the stem -ntu, which means something like being. Actually, I'll just quote it for clarity:

"Muntu is the Congolese word for man. Or people. But it means more than that. Here in the Congo I am pleased to announce there is no special difference between living people, dead people, children not yet born, and gods--these are all muntu. So says Nelson. All other things are kintu: animals, stones, bottles. A place or a time is hintu, and a quality of being is kuntu: beautiful, hideous, or lame, for example. All these things have in common the stem word ntu. 'All that is being here, ntu,' says Nelson with a strug as if this is not so difficult to understand. And it would be simple, except that 'being here' is not the same as 'existing.' He explains the difference this way: the principles of ntu are asleep, until they are touched by nommo. Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word. The rabbit has the life it has--not a rat life or a mongoose life--because it is named rabbit, mvundla. A child is not alive, claims Nelson, until it is named."

I should should say clearly that I'm not trying to make a theology out of all this. Not trying to fit it into something else, make a sort of New Age anything. But specifically that part tying the word and being together, that part of that language having nothing to do with the writer's philosophies and beliefs--and then, without the word nothing was made that has been made.

I'm just thinking out loud here, following the rabbit trail, but I wonder what significance names really have. Of Abram being renamed Abraham, father of many nations. Simon becoming Cephas--Peter, meaning Rock.

Just thoughts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

how an entire hour disappeared from my life

It's been a weird week. Although it seems that's sort of the baseline, something fantastic generally happening about once a week, in this regard it's been a quiet last month.

Last Saturday I lost an hour of my life. I'm still not sure how it happened. Friday night we realized that it was the weekend we were to switch back the clocks, but after some searching on the internet, my roommate (the one who's my age) determined that they didn't change until Saturday night/Sunday morning. Saturday morning I was planning to catch a 7:15 train to Bucuresti so in order to pack, walk to the train station and buy a ticket with a little spare time, I set my alarm for 6:00. Now, that isn't entirely true, because I don't ever set it on an even number--I set it at 6:03, decided I didn't like the idea of it being after six, preferring to hit snooze at least once, and then set it again at 5:59.

Fact: I am a master at going back to sleep for two or three minutes at a time. Sometimes I'll set my alarm an hour earlier than I plan on getting up just to hit snooze for that hour. Crazy vivid dreams. But it's a really controlled sleep, meaning I never ever oversleep when I do this. Another fact: since usually my Friday nights are designated for movie-watching and writing once I get home--and I got home late this particular Friday--I ended up staying up till about 2:30 in the morning. But I knew I could get up in time. Double checked the alarm and then went to sleep.

So, 5:59 rolls around. I grabbed the phone, looked at it, read that it said 5:59, set it for 6:02 (which killed me but I wanted three minutes, not two) and proceeded to try to fall back asleep. But it just so happened that this particular morning it half-woke up my other roommate who started thrashing around noisily in the bed. What this means is that I sat there for three minutes thinking
shut. up. (I know--I'm really not very nice first thing in the morning...) And what that means is that I did not fall back asleep, I am sure of it. So I grabbed my phone again to turn the alarm off before it actually went off and got up, but suddenly it read 7:02.

Jumped out of bed, thinking somehow that the clocks in fact changed a day earlier, then thought maybe my phone just changed, checked another clock and realized it had too. Rushed through everything (and didn't forget anything!) and made it out the door and booked to the train station. It didn't occur to me until an hour later than even if the clocks had changed, I wouldn't have lost an hour--fall back. Anyway, when I got to the train station the first thing I asked was what time it was, was further confused because I always mix up the numbers six and seven in Romanian, and finally discovered that it was in fact 7-something. The end of the story is that I basically sprinted to the nearest place you can catch a minibus and took my first ride on one of those since we flipped the last one over a guard rail (and hey, still alive!). (By the way if you click that, be warned that it's pretty much an hour of introspection but there are pictures.)

I've gone over it a million times but the only thing I'm not 100% sure about (and I am 95% sure of this) is that maybe--maybe--when I changed it back from 6:03 to 5:59, I accidentally changed just the minutes, so to 6:59. But I saw 5:59. There's really no way. So, I've resolved to chalking this one up to another of the great Romanian mysteries, the other being that time it felt/sounded like a truck hit the house we were in and we never discovered its cause (not an earthquake).

There's so much more, but this is long enough already. To end, I had a most wonderful conversation with my family a few nights ago that's been making me happy thinking about. Below is a screen shot plus one of me pasted in plus I-didn't-know-what-else-to-write to fill in the empty space.

Friday, October 28, 2011

cool linguistic discovery of the day

Last night I watched a (fantastic) film called No Man's Land and it's mostly in Serbo-Croatian. There are a lot of shared words between it and Romanian so as I was watching I'd catch words I'd understand, all ones with Slavic roots.

One of them was
bezna, which in Romanian means complete darkness, the kind where you can't see anything, pitch black, no light at all. DEX tells me that figuratively it means something like ignorance. But of course! And I heard the word in a context where there was clearly some underlying shared sense, so I looked it up and it turns out the word means meaningless.

Once again, but of course! We see that in words like
lucid. So the same kind of thing is happening not only in Latin, in languages rooted there, but also in Slavic-based languages.

I'm thinking of John 1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." (bolding mine)

So we see how our languages reflect this--that light represents something life-giving and darkness maybe a lack of that. Let's say the word here (Jesus) does what regular words do for us everyday: they reveal meaning. Jesus reveals God, comes down to earth as a man and we start to understand what this God is all about, Jesus as friend, as savior, defender of the poor, as the just one who will make all things right (this being very far from an exhaustive list). And life, the light of all mankind.

I wonder then if all our languages don't point to this reality: that meaning (perhaps by extension, our purpose) and life are bound in this Father of heavenly lights, that without him, there isn't any. (That reference comes from this baller verse: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17) I wonder if maybe on some level we know this, intrinsically.

Well then, maybe it's just common sense, but that doesn't that bring us back to the question of where that common sense comes from? And what makes it true? And by extension the whole old argument about where our sense of right and wrong comes from? Of course that opens the doors to relative morality and a whole slew of questions. Good conversation--by the way, Tim Keller's book _The Reason For God_ is great if you're interested in that. So is Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis).

Anyway, the point I'm getting to is that I think this sort of thing is in us already, this idea of the light being related to meaning and life. And if we recognize that, I wonder if it's not worth asking where it came from.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


This from rereading Perelandra this past week:

"As he stood looking down on her, what was most with him was an intense and orphaned longing that he might, if only for once, have seen the great Mother of his own race thus, in her innocence and splendor. 'Other things, other blessings, other glories,' he murmured. 'But never that. Never in all worlds, that. God can make good use of all that happens. But the loss is real."

And this (instrumental), from one of the soundtracks I love:

They both remind me of the other.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

wherein i drop a little girl on her head

I've been around families a lot since I've been in Romania, especially in Pitesti. It's a change, for sure, especially after four years of college where everyone was around my age or older. Not a lot of families, certainly no kids and mostly just young people. But here I get to hang out a good deal with my pastor's kids, four of them and all under ten.

Here's another change: things feel like they're falling in place. There's a settled feeling. I'm doing my job and am able to be involved way more now, am learning an enormous amount. My kitchen feels like my kitchen (I think it's because I finally own some cooking utensils, mostly a spatula that assists in making fantastic omelets) and I feel like a grown-up when I'm in it. The truth is that I've been doing this for five or six years now, living on my own and feeding myself and paying all my bills--being an adult. I don't know why it should suddenly feel more like it now. Anyway, there's another aspect to it.

It's being around all these kids, these families. My peer group is now not just college students and singles but families and little kids. And there's a maternal side that's been coming out that I was afraid for a long time I was just too awkward to have. But there it is, and the other night I was at a birthday party for the most charming, wonderful five-year-old you've ever met. And while playing with them, I started dancing with his four-year-old sister.

You should know that their floor is hardwood. Or some kind of hardwood mimicker with a very slippery surface which makes dancing quite fun if you're little and someone bigger is spinning you. Or if you're bigger and you're sliding across playing bowling for little kids. (Kidding, but that could be fun, no? I know a certain nine-year-old who'd love it, especially if you were really good at missing but almost not.) Anyway, we're dancing and I'm spinning her, and all of a sudden she slips. Didn't think this one ahead very well. My hand was around her wrist so I had to let go of it or else it would have twisted and, I don't know, very possibly could have broken. So I let go (right hand) and with my right hand (no idea what my left hand was doing, probably just hanging there forgetting it existed) grabbed the upper part of her other arm, the higher one. And I have no idea how the physics of this are even possible, but she somehow managed to pivot around her other arm and fall in a way that gravity took no part in and then land on her head.

I tried to look ha-ha surprised so she wouldn't cry (look at those dance moves!) and she didn't but mostly because her mom rushed in and saved the day. So I say to these settling down feelings, this playing mom and wondering if I'll have a handful of boys one day (just wrote that 'wonday'--ohf, my brain), to the 'logical next step': okay, but I'm watching you. Sometime, not now, but sometime. You are good preparation, and for that I appreciate you--I'd like to not drop anymore kids on their head, if I have the choice, but I guess even that's good practice.

For now, though, it's nice just to be around other people's families. And not to have to worry about the logistics of getting to the point where mine might happen. Just being now, an awesome job and friends and good community, watching that turkey of a five-year-old and his brother and sisters light up the room.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

quite possibly the best thing i've read all week

"I love how people who are having babies describe it as 'expecting.' Gives an air of uncertainty.
'We're expecting a baby but it could be a velociraptor.'"
--source unknown (meaning it's probably a meme floating around the internet--anyway, awesome awesome awesome)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

fall in my sweet carolina

About this time, I'd be on a haybed being pulled behind a tractor, all the straight lines and clear carrying voices of fall in the rural South. We'd be at Mike's Farm--with Nicole, maybe, Alicia, a few others--and there'd be teenagers in hoodies laughing loudly, kids from local high schools dressed up to jump out and scare you as part of the ride. The sudden breath in the cold, a white half-gone shock of a breath, and then empty sky above the trees.

At Mike's Farm, when we were kids and went there on field trips, we made apple cider from apples we helped gather. That one time I nearly stepped on a snake. Hayrides, a haunted theme for Halloween and the Christmas light show all through December. That's what I remember--lights in the dark and cold air that cuts, that wakes you up from the inside, a whole throng of ten-year-olds with red noses.

It feels like fall now here. It is fall, but it feels like it too. I walk home from the sediu at night and if I closed my eyes, I could almost be there. It's different in the city, though. One thing I've appreciated since coming here from Bucuresti is that it's smaller, it's slower, there's more of an open feeling. But it's still not the country. It's not the hard frosted earth, it's sidewalk.

Fall is so much more of a physical season, I think. Surely you'll think of summer as being the most physical--you're outside, you're playing volleyball, you go to the beach, but the heat blurs things. Makes you hazy. You're there and you're not there, a sort of half-awake dream under the thick blanket of humidity. Spring wakes you back up, but it's a slow thawing and you start off numb, the coming-alive part the kind you look back and realize. But fall--those edged cold nights, close enough to summer to feel like reprieve, to wake you up from its sleep, and not cold enough to close yourself inside from it.

Something about being here: I miss being able to walk at night, to go outside and walk out my thoughts. You're outside, but there's a half-inside, constantly public feeling of it when you've got blocs rising up on both sides. I miss going down to the south end of Wrightsville and walking barefoot on the cold sand, hearing the whole expanse of the ocean rushing up to the shore, a sound you can see in the darkness. Space to think and pray. Even just space.

I keep coming back to this: leaning against a dune at night, burying my feet in the sand to keep warm, a whole stretch of the world we live on. A place you know and don't know, that's yours and utterly not yours, so much bigger than you. Room for thoughts and prayers and conversations to float up. Get stuck up there above you. Or how they blaze above you at the fair--you're all at the fair these days--red and yellow and music and shouting and the wheeling of the tilt-o-whirl, somebody eating a caramel apple or a fried Snickers bar.

Hard ground, the way hay feels under your feet, the way the air makes you want to jump and run and laugh loudly, alive.

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.
--Ryan Adams

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

limba romana, for lack of a better title

Since we're on a language-related roll...

Last night those of us on the coordinating team for OSCPi (said something like ohs-che-pee) had a meeting on Skype, mostly to do with the budget and other related financial things. And I don't think I've ever done anything harder in Romanian. Add to the fact that you're discussing a topic which is already generally a stressful one and do it without being able to see the people and in not-your-language, and you surely have yourself a task. One in which you will become very agitated very quickly.

But this isn't to complain about the language or to bemoan the fact that I wasn't bam! fluent in two months. Rather, I've observed some surprising things happening with regard to it and its effects on my equal parts stimulated and turned-to-toast brain.

Since I've been in Pitesti it's been all Romanian all the time. Over the summer more of my work was with fund raising and conferences, most of the students being gone, so except for a few weeks at camp or at church, I spoke mostly in English. Three months of plateau. But then here, no more American family, no more English with the roommate. However, a curious thing happened in September at Formacion.

I always expected that when you finally get to the point where you can communicate only (or 90+%) in another language, after a full day or week of it, you'd have a strange relationship with your own language. By that I mean that there'd be some gap, some lack--I'm missing it completely. I thought it would feel different to be totally in another language in some way I'm failing to explain at the moment--imagine speaking yours and everything is green, but speaking theirs everything is red. But I realized it really doesn't. The thing is, for so long this language was (and barely) just in my head. It never made it to my heart. It felt removed, dry meaning filtered from significance in the deeper sense. And then suddenly it occurred to me that now that I can finally do it, being all in Romanian feels exactly the same as all in English. Which raises lots of questions to be asked and addressed later.

Anyway, since being here, it's like a switch has been flipped on--there are off days, for sure, stumbling through halty sentences, and bah! What's the word? Want to guess how many times I've said n-am inteles, ever :) ? But then there are good days, or rather, good parts of the day, and it feels like I get to participate in some dance I'd only been watching. Imagine an ensemble all dancing together, fluid and graceful, one big movement seen from above, and I get to be part of that, an arm or a leg of a body.

That said, for those who love to laugh, there's plenty cause. A few of many mistakes as of late:

--"Am scorat!" I wanted to say that I'd scored. Cat e scorul means 'what's the score,' so I figured, well if it's a cognate, borrowed, anything like that, it should go as the verb as well! Nope.
--Porumbel, porumb, porunca. Pigeon, corn and commandment and I never get them straight. You can imagine.
--When you meet somebody, the proper thing to say is imi pare bine which literally means 'it seems well to me' but is something like 'pleased to meet you.' Without thinking, Sarawr the Dinosaur said imi pare rau: 'it seems bad to me,' or basically I'm sorry.

The worst though has come from the lack of spoken English. If I'm by myself, I think out loud, and after spending a whole day only speaking Romanian, a strange thing happens to the way sentences are formed. Basically they keep their English structure for the most part. But I always substitute Romanian verbs (I would love to know why this happens). However, since we like to -ing everything (see what I did there?) (I'm doing homework, I'm eating eggs) instead and Romanians do homework and eat eggs, you get sentences like this: I'm fac-ing homework acum (I'm do-ing homework now). Except fac is pronounced something like fock, so you see the predicament.

And also, I've come to realize that if you learn these, used in abundance here, you can do practically anything: a face, a da, ma, to do, to give and something kind of like yo or man. We'll make a verb out of any noun (I'm vacuuming the living room), but here, if you just put a da in front of it, you're good (dau cu aspiratorul). And ma, well I don't know that it's quite as useful grammatically as the other two, but you do hear it every five seconds :)

Anyway, always an adventure.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

more language: american dream

Sort of in the same vein as the post about Turkish. This song, actually, to me is really sad. A lot of the Romanian music I like usually is. Just as an aside, for this reason I like good hiphop, I like how it's political, its observations of the state of things, its social commentary. True for this as well.

Anyway, here are some verses and their translations from the song below. (Full lyrics here.)

Acum nu te mai duci la munca, te duci la job
You don't go to work anymore, you go to the job

Nu mai avem cartiere naspa, avem ghetou
Raperii au flow, sunt underground yo
Totul este cool, nimic nu e misto
We don't have crappy neighborhoods anymore, we have the ghetto
Rappers have flow, they're underground, yo
Everything is cool, nothing's misto*

Tre' sa fii in trend, altfel nu e de gluma
"Is this the life" nu suna asa bine-n romana
You gotta be in trend, otherwise (?)
'Is this the life' doesn't sound as good in Romanian

So if you go through both you see that half the song is English (if a little bit Romanianized) and so it is with how people talk. I mean, I suppose it's exaggerated if you're talking about regular conversation with young people. But there are so many borrowed words that you really can talk like this. And is it really Romanian? Some kind of weird hybrid?

I like to watch how languages evolve, I like to think about how English is changing. It's fun, it's interesting. But I'll admit that the Romanian in this song is not pretty the way the language normally is. Whether it's really changing that much, I have no idea. The sixteen-year-old I share a room with doesn't talk like this (although she doesn't know English either). Nor do most people I know.

But then I don't think that's really the entire point of the song. And there's a ton that could be said about it. Maybe I'll write about that soon... Anyway, a large part seems to be summed up here:

I can be what I want to be
Losing my dignity**
Cause I gotta lot of life in me
Let me live my American dream

*from what I understand, misto actually comes from the language Gypsies speak?
**sounds more like they're saying vanity to me, but all the lyrics I read say dignity

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

multi ani inainte

I had a whole twenty three things I haven't done yet but would love to do one day post planned for my birthday last month, but never really got around to finishing it. There's a list with five things hanging out somewhere in my drafts here that I'm hoping to add to, with time.

Just about thirteen months ago now, someone wished me happy birthday and they said, just think, next birthday you'll be celebrating in Romania. And I hoped, I really hoped so, but I wasn't sure. This birthday I was in the Bucegi mountains with forty students from all over this country singing La Multi Ani, celebrating it with the other four people who had birthdays that week. And in that week we ate a fish somebody caught with their hands in a river, told jokes about people from Oltenia (okay, I just listened), watched Jupiter rise above the mountain, prayed together, laughed at one skinny white Romanian do a spot-on impression of Michael Jackson ("What kind of music do you like?" "Well, Christian music... and Michael Jackson! I do impressions in my spare time!") and wondered at a whole lot of really wonderful things going on in our cities, at our faculties.

(And then I got to do it again with one baller family in Bucuresti :))

Here's a post to say: look how God answers prayers and look at how it is different than I thought it would, look how good a thing it was. We have a God who is great, my friends.

Below: three of us with birthdays. And cake, really good cake.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"later: the face of prescriptive language??"

From "Turkish and Fakelish: Foreign terms and the words that replace them"

"The more enduring suspicion about the new language revolution was the accusation, voiced widely by the press in the wake of Atatürk’s death, that it had produced an “artificial and synthetic language.” The words that were suggested as substitutes, Lewis notes, were archaic words which had long fallen out of use in Turkish, or composites of ancient Turkic roots which were said to equivocate to undesirable Ottoman terms."


Faruk Kadri Timurtaş, a professor at İstanbul University and one of the most vocal opponents of language purism, spoke out against a language that he believed could not be categorized as Turkish any more than German nor considered any more natural than Esperanto. He pejoratively termed the new language uydurmacılık, or “fakelish,” declaring that the aim of the association was “to degenerate and ruin the language, to bring upon anarchy in our culture.” The most persistent argument of opponents to the TDK was that every language contains foreign words. “Every language has foreign elements, the only exception to this rule are the languages of the world’s most isolated tribes,” Timurtaş, declared in 1974."

Interesting stuff. By the way, the title comes from this most excellent comic:

Friday, October 7, 2011

(more) change

There are four drafts sitting in my Blogger now, each an attempt over the last three or so weeks to write about change. If I'd only guessed what was coming. But despite the unexpected, I'm finding myself settling in quickly and well, starting to love things about this small city.

And the truth is I love change--or, rather, I love big change. Every time I go to Subway (or wherever), I always get the same thing. Same-ness in the little things, creature of habit. But moving to another city, another continent? New language and weather and sky. New start, even. I wonder, now, how much that has to do with it. I moved so many times when I was little. Or maybe it's being able to look at all the same things in some new frame. The last night of Formacion, a handful of us stood in the dark below the mountain picking out the constellations and stars we knew. Vega, the double star in the Big Dipper, Andromeda, Pegasus. I don't know this sky, fall in Romania, half of it waiting to wheel from behind the mountain. But I know this piece, and this one, and standing there in the cold, so far north, I thought about the first time I saw the sky differently. Three years earlier, a balmy Colombian summer night, holding in my hand some things old, some things new.

And why not? I am a creature made new--"the old has gone, the new has come." And now everything looks different.


It is one of those nights. I want to run away with words. I want to get caught up in language and stay there for a few hours, but all the immediate and present are tethering me here on a bed which is not my own behind a borrowed closed door. And I'm praying now for patience and grace, mostly to not be so selfish. That's another thing about change: it pulls you apart, sprawls you, has no space for dark places. And in the end you find yourself piecing yourself back together with bits of the old and new, a patchwork of life made new again and again.

I am certain I'm in the right place--why here and not South America, not North Africa, I don't know that I'll ever know. And for how long? What of the next change? But even that changes. Now it looks like place: apartment, city, nation. But even it has its different faces. There's nothing but to see.

For now, all of this has got me firmly rooted in the moment. The trafficked girls we met with tonight. Trying to quiet the part of me that would make stolen milk into something much more bitter, the part of me that would use the word stolen. And I'm praying for change within myself toward grace and gentleness and love. But more, outside myself. Those girls tonight. And the students we've been praying for that we haven't even met yet. Bobociada on Thursday and the girls we'll be discipling. Sowing change, sewing it, having been stitched so together ourselves: something that will endure. Surely this is what you make of so many pieces from so many places.

Lord, help me to do it well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


"This," she said, "I have always--at least, ever since I can remember--had a kind of longing for death."

"Ah, Psyche," I said, "have I made you so little happy as that?"

"No, no, no," she said. "You don't understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine... where you couldn't see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Pysche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home."

--C. S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I realized I just posted, but I got on the computer this morning to check the magnitude of the earthquake we felt last night (5.1, article in English) and saw that I used you're instead of your in the previous title.


Can we blame that on Romanian? It messes with your head, speaking all the time in not-your-language. And especially if the grammar is really different, because then every once in a while the sentences in your own language come out in structured like the other language. And I find myself forgetting how to spell words sometimes.

Anyway, whoops, corrected. Can't believe that happened.

Monday, October 3, 2011

adventure or the circus, your pick

Sorry for the radio silence as of late. It's been a busy last few weeks between Formacion and preparing to move to Pitesti. And as of Saturday, I'm here now, but as per usual, life is a circus.

Saturday morning I left my apartment in Bucuresti, went to the Yorks' to pack everything in the car and move. The plan was to move into a garsoniera (studio apartment) because it was pretty cheap (except I wasn't sure how I felt about living alone and turns out it was in a really sketch neighborhood--not normally a big deal being used to that, but without roommates it's more problematic). It's a long story, but about ten minutes before we packed the last of the things in the car, we got a phone call saying the apartment was no longer available. Meaning, hey, I'm moving to Pitesti today but we're not exactly sure where.

So I stayed a night with the general secretary and his family and last night I brought myself along with all my stuff to another girl's apartment. However, I'm sharing a room (and a pull-out couch) with a sixteen-year-old girl. Anyway, I don't want to say too much because it's the internet but it's interesting already how God is working things. I'll say that she and I have similar backgrounds. And that I really wanted a room to myself--fellow introverts, you understand.

There's so much about this place that's perfect. All of it, really, except for sharing a bed and room with someone. I don't say this to complain, and not because beggars can't be choosers, but because I wonder what my God is doing, at what he is doing. And I already I'm being stretched, but this is a good thing. Difficult, I'm expecting, but in addition to the good things I'm thinking will come out of it are all the other awesome things about living here.

So there's that. Pitesti is nice so far. Completely different from Bucuresti (much smaller, for one). And student work begins tomorrow. Today I met up with a girl here and we walked around a bit, something like the calm before the craziness. And this morning I was reading my Bible--I've been in 1 Kings--and came across this (17:2-6):

"Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 'Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.' So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook."

Pretty fitting, no? Our God surely provides. When we got the news Saturday morning, I don't know what it is but I felt really relieved. It's a good reminder that there are bigger things at work here than I can see.

And this is how these last stressful few days ended:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

pictures de la munte (bucegi mountains)

Spent the last ten days at a student leadership conference called Formacion. Halfway through we took a day to go on a hike through the amazing Bugeci mountains. To be clear, by hike I mean something like thirty kilometers and thirteen hours, lots of really sweaty-stinky people and some of those beautiful things you can see in Romania. Don't believe me? Keep reading, captions below each picture. :)

About an hour into the hike!

The bear-dog who someone baptized Balu, like from the Jungle Book. That dog followed us all the way to the top and back.

Somewhere around hour four, I think. Starting to get tired.

It was really clear nearly half the hike (although once we got to the top lots of fog rolled in and it got really cold).

Such an incredible place. And hard (at least for me) to climb but completely completely worth it. If you look closely, you'll see that I'm already getting help up the mountain at this point. But I did make it to the top and all the way back down!

In the valley. If you look at the top middle, you'll see a narrow slash in the mountain that goes up to the top--we climbed up that (see below). Also, for more scale, zoom in and you'll see somebody wearing red and you'll also see that most of the boulders are bigger than the people around them.

I don't think it's in this picture, but to give you an idea of how enormous everything was, there were rock faces hundreds of meters tall and there were people climbing them that you could barely make out because of how small they looked against it.

In the valley sometime after Cabana Malaiesti.

I wish you could really get an idea of the size of this place. Just massive.

Hardest part, for sure.

Hardest part is done!

Me with some awesome OSCPi leaders. Note the altitude written behind us--that's 8,225 feet. Also, just for added fun, nothing that you can see that I'm wearing belongs to me and underneath it is another two layers (three shirts and two pairs of pants) because it was crazy cold at the peak.

Unfortunately there aren't any pictures from the hike down (for which my knees did not later thank me), but it was just as crazy looking. And we also saw a capra neagra--six of them actually, but as I do not know the plural--which are wild black mountain goats that are really more brown-colored and leap down the mountain like it's nothing at all.

Anyway, one more reason to love this place.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

a vaccine against hatred

Read an article tonight called "Una vacuna contra el odio," meaning a vaccine against hatred.

It's a good article, one certainly worth reading, from El Tiempo, a Colombian news site. It's about discrimination and how it's more than just a racial thing. There's a law that was passed last July (or possibly that there's another one that will be passed in addition to this one--didn't quite catch that) that they're hoping will help in curbing discrimination and helping people to understand more fully what that means.

And a very interesting quote:

"Sin embargo, no hay que llamarse a engaño. La ley por sí sola no reducirá tales fenómenos, ni transformará las condiciones estructurales y culturales que los generaron. Tampoco llenará los vacíos que han dejado otras normas..."

"But don't be fooled. The law on its own won't reduce things like this, these phenomena, nor will it transform the structural and cultural conditions that they generate. Neither will it fill the gaps left by those standards..."

(Sorry for the clunky translating, my Spanish-speaking friends. I'm kinda rusty.)

And all I could think reading that was a handful of verses through Romans. How the law reveals to us our sin but it can't save us. And the article: the law on its own isn't going to fix things, isn't going to heal the deep-rooted problems or fill the empty places left by them. The hope then is that through this law (and other things) Colombians will be able to understand more fully what discrimination is.

"El aporte más valioso del proyecto legislativo es que define estos actos como lo que son..."

"The most important contribution of the new legislation is that it defines these acts as what they are."

Sounds familiar, no? Check this out: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

The point is that while the law does have a role, that's not where our hope is, that's not where deep transformative work comes from.

The good news is that it's available, that the law isn't the end of the story.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

snickers: a confession

One of the campfire games the last night of our summer camp was called Judgment. They hide you away from the fire, bring you out and then the judge asks you some questions to decide whether you get to go to heaven or you're thrown into the flames. Yeah, sounds kind of terrifying, a little questionable, but it's actually a blast. Especially the ending, which I cannot tell you. You'll have to play for yourself. So the students and I had ourselves a bonding moment that night: when it was my turn I ended up being coerced into admitting that I stole a Snickers when I was seven.

Photographic evidence of a beautiful, hysterical night:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

bidding my farewells

About to leave yesterday and feeling like I was on the edge of death,

Sara: Hey, plec acum. Nu stiu cand ma intorc, dar... sper ca ne vedem. (Hey I'm leaving now. Not sure when I'm coming back, but... I hope we'll see each other again.)

Altcineva: Asta suna melodramatic! (Sounds pretty melodramatic.)

Roommie: [sidelong glance at Altcineva]

Sara: [can't breathe, and at that super high pitch Romanians start their sentences when they're excited/flustered] NUUUUuuuuu! Sper ca ne mai vedem astazi! Astazi! Not, like, vreodata! (Noooo! As in I hope we'll see each other later today. Today! Not, like, ever.)

So ne vedem is like see you later. But in this context... Anyway, despite being on the edge of death, I am still alive. However we haven't yet seen each other.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ministry, messytry

When I was on the plane last week heading to the conference, I almost started crying thinking about how everything would be in English. I don't think we'd even left the runway yet. When we landed in Birmingham and I asked people in the airport for help finding the train station, I didn't actually cry like I expected, but to hear my language, to speak in it... there's a sort of ownership there--there's another word I can't think of at the moment but it conjures up the image of being 'on my turf now.' And to have polite small talk with strangers! I don't know if it was English or England, perhaps both, but it was wonderful.

It's a strange feeling. In one sense, I still wasn't in my culture. The language gave the sense of it being a sort of cousin culture, but on the other hand, there was a feeling of being home in a way I haven't felt in these last six months. It keeps coming back to this, no? Writing about feeling at home. Snatches of it in Romania, in England. You catch and lose it and run after it again, elusive as always. All this longing, and it's one thing I'll never doubt: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." And, from this amazing song:

I am a pilgrim, a voyager
I wont rest until my lips touch the shore
Of the land that I've been longing for as long as I've lived
Where they'll be no pain or tears anymore

But doing this sort of work changes you. I am not Romanian, despite the things I've picked up. And while I'm American, I suspect I won't fit as well when I go back. And so in a group of people who are all living and working cross-culturally, who are learning languages, loving and teaching students, you find people who understand. It's a sort of sub-culture, even, a culture of cultures. And I didn't want to leave.

It sort of hit me the day before we left. We had some extended time to go off on our own and pray and as I sat down to read my Bible, I felt so ornery and aggravated that I was arguing in my head with everything in the passage. So I finally put it down, thought a minute and came to this conclusion: I'm really going back tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be in Romania. And oh man I did not want to.

Weird, right? Sara loves Romania so much, she loves working there and the people and the language and so on. True, but something about it wears on you in ways that are hard to pinpoint. The obvious things--being away from friends/family/more prone to loneliness, the general frustrations of cross-cultural living--all these things are bearable and certainly the life God has led me through has prepared me very well for this sort of thing. And you think, yes, I am handling this well, no? You feel like you are. But it weighs, it is heavy here and it pulls on you in subtle ways and then suddenly you find yourself on a bed telling God you're not ready to go back. Despite the assurance that 'you are in the right place,' despite loving it, even.

Well. I'm back, so there's that. I know this is normal, so there's that too. And the awareness that we have one gracious God, one who waits patiently while his petulant child throws a fit because she doesn't want to do the thing that she really wants to do. So then there's the sucking it up, the shouldering-in even when it's not flowery and easy and even now there's some thankfulness in being back. And enter grace: he works despite the ways we mess it up, despite our attitudes, despite how what we want changes as often as the weather. And there in the mess of it he's teaching us, teaching them, transforming and redeeming and so far it doesn't seem to be any easier but I am grateful. Or I'm being taught to be--a little of both.

One of the people leading at the conference, one I knew was a pastor before I found out just by the way he prayed, led a seminar on grace and he said something that seems to have stuck. He talked about the unforgiving servant, how he had no idea how huge his debt was and therefore just how much grace he had been given. I could write posts and posts on this, but for now I feel like God is showing me in small pieces the grace he's giving me. How that relates to coming back here and doing my job and his work here, well, we'll see.

No neat ending on this one. Just lots of thoughts. The messy work of it all and a God who came down here and got his hands dirty, if that makes sense. Well, if he did, guess we ought to too.