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.