All I want to do is write and I have no idea at all how to begin. As I'm writing in English, phrases I know in Romanian come to mind: at all--deloc, and I can see in some ways how the changes are already begun. I wonder what God will make of all this, what he'll do, where he'll bring it.
Last week it was Martisor and as I walked to the metro, the streets were even more full than usual with people selling things. One man I saw twice (going in one direction--I don't know how), first when I got off the bus and then again right at the entrance to the metro and he was clearly homeless, selling lighters and tissues. I don't want to write about the homeless people, I don't want to play the poor-Romania card. And I've seen these things before, have been in big cities, but Bucuresti is my city now. I live here, I buy groceries, my room is filled with its light in the mornings.
There's a lot of sitting back and watching, especially when things are so new. And I have seen a strange, eclectic collection of things. My first day I saw a little three year old boy go up and kick one of the sleeping street dogs and an old lady swept down out of who knows where and gave him a scolding even I understood. And the other night, it was late and I was waiting for a bus, hoping the last one hadn't already come, and it started snowing again, fine enough that I could turn my face upward and watch it fall in the orange streetlight. There's the Asta E Romania billboards that say things like Romanian youth are superficial and Romanians don't know how to enjoy themselves and at first I couldn't believe what I was reading, it was so negative. But I've since learned it's part of a campaign about pessimism, and I don't know much but I'm interested to see what they do with it. And of course there are the mountains, the ones that surprised me one morning in Rasnov, this line cutting into the sky, reaching upward in the distance, lit up pink catching high light. That place was so vast.
Here in Bucuresti I spend as much time underground as above, and there are so many people, little snatches of whole worlds for five minutes on the metro. Sometimes it's enough to have me praying and praying, wondering how their stretch of life brought them to that moment. Maybe that sounds presumptious, but I see more here than I did in the States, but it's somehow less accessible. What I mean is that, while back home everyone puts on a happy face, the other day I watched a man who looked like he'd lost his job, and he kept starting to dial his phone and then would put it back in his pocket and hold his face in his hands a while. But what can I do?, the potential presumption being that I feel I should do anything, but my stomach lurches forward and I find myself speed-praying until he gets off or I do, for a man I'll never see again.
I could go on with all this. The people are what kept my heart turned toward this place, and still it is true. I mean the people in church and OSCEB and how they love God, and also the man on the metro, my Romanian professor who spent an hour telling me how fatalistic her people are. Whether and to what extent any of this is true, I don't know for myself yet. I've been told from all kinds of people all kinds of things, but I won't pretend to know this people, this city. It's all still watching and seeing, and there is so much to learn.
There's a verse my old staffworker used to talk about all the time, Jeremiah 29:7: "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." I don't feel like I've been exiled here, and I don't mean bringing 'American optimism' and 'fixing' anything. It's still early on, and of course I think the dog poop is gross, that it smells on the bus in the morning, and I have been cold for three weeks straight. But despite the extent to which I may still be glorifying and romanticising it, the city is beautiful to me, and I hope dearly for it, the same way I hope for my own Wilmington down by the river at night. And it is surely a God of hope we serve.
And I am praying for Bucuresti, for its people. I think of my home in the south, how it is beautiful and also broken, also so dark. I don't know Bucuresti in this way yet, nor do I know its people but I ache to. Why was it so hard for that man to make a phone call? I don't know. It's all just questions right now, and I know God is at work here and somehow my students are a part of that, my friends here and those of you reading this. I'll be in Bucuresti at least six months--the truth is that right now I hope it will be longer--in Romania much longer. Whether God will bring me to a new country after this one as my roommate is convinced, o sa vedem. But that verse spoken to Jeremiah by a God who did bring his people back from exile, who promises to restore and redeem them, is underscoring all the questions. O sa vedem means we'll see, and I really believe we will.