Wednesday, December 19, 2012

acest har

I wrote this on the plane over here, in Romanian because it felt more private and none of the people next to me could read it. Forgive the mistakes. Anyway, because it's late and I needed reminding:

m-am trezit la 430—cam 3 ore de somn, totusi ma simteam bine, treaza. si cand am plecat, stateam acolo pe langa masina lui mike, si am vazut din nou ce scrie pe his tags: har. in stilul meu de a gandi romangleza, am botezat-o ‘har-mobile’ si mereu cand o vad, ma gandesc la asta, la harul lui dumnezeu. si chiar atunci, dis de dimineata, culoarea portocaliu becurilor, toate nemiscate, asta era adevarat.

ce har am in el. o sa ma duca inapoi prin harul lui—si daca nu, tot e prin harul lui sa raman acolo. o clipa scurta, doar un moment, dar stiu--chiar daca nu sunt eu--sunt convinsa ca dumnezeul meu e neschimbat.

ce sa fac cu asta? un pas, si inca un pas, in linistea diminetii. sa ascult.

sunt recunoscatoare. si m-a prins nadejde, oarecum. nu ca stiu—sincer, habar n-am ce o sa se intample. dar imi sopteste, acest dumnezeu, imi cunoaste inima.

“el imi cunoaste numele, cu tot ce am eu sunt al lui.”

dumnezeule, tata, te laud ca esti bun, esti plin de har, si imi aduci aminte in mod constant de acest har. ma gandesc la un oras luminat, ca ne sustii in timp ce dormim, ca ne trezesti dimineata ca sa auzim vocea ta. am plecat si tot este imaginea asta in coltul ochiului meu, in coltul inimii si oriunde ma duci, esti cu mine.

this is what's up

Also there's another one with our mother and it is so hysterical you will pee. She looks like a cartoon that is about to explode. We're not sure how it happened but we've been banned from ever publishing it.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to get on here to write something before then, but if not: merry Christmas, y'all!

Monday, December 10, 2012

being back, all the strange and good

Sitting back down to this, swung over here across a continent and ocean, I remember that it is Advent, that two years ago this time I was also waiting and wondering. Except I know the answer. "S-a nascut Mantuitorul, Domnul si Izbavitorul."

It's good being back. It smells the same--I'm adjusting already, but Sunday morning breathing in you could tell how close to the ocean we are, the air different altogether. The eggs are really strange, really rubbery besides being what look like unnatural colors. The milk is incredible, though. I have missed the milk.

And it's milder. Warm, even. Tomorrow morning we might get up and see the sunrise over the ocean, all bundled in hoodies because it's fifty degrees out. That's something American I've missed: hoodies. The idea of bundling in one, though, and listening to people say it's freezing at that temperature seems foreign now.

That's it, mostly. Settling back in has been quick and easy, picking up an old life. A lot of good things have come together, mostly in unexpected ways.


This has been sitting as a draft since last week. It was too cloudy to see the sun come up so today, ten days after I got here, eight since I've been in Wilmington, I drove down to the south end of Wrightsville. It's different altogether. The dunes on the left are all gone and the water looked much closer (although it may have just been high tide). I'd forgotten how much wind comes off the water, the constant sound of the whole body of it moving. You don't hear it when you always do, so I walked and listened, mostly, watched the finer sand blow across the beach. It was like watching fog roll in, only sped up. A different set of tides.

Meanwhile it's snowing in Romania. And I am breathing in salt air, the taste of the sound in the back of my throat. And warm enough to prance around without shoes and in short sleeves and chase the seagulls, wind and hair and just about anything else not tied down whipping around. I think even the way we talk was blowing around in it, a hopeful rocking swaying sound. A thing you can catch. Or that catches you. Maybe I just mean the whole thing's caught me.

I think that's enough for now. Last night I had my first group FD presentation. Only four more to go this week. If you're the praying type...

Thursday, November 29, 2012


An illustration of the state of my brain right now:

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, waiting on a skype call, looking for a specific verse, when I decide I'd like some hot chocolate. Not too many better ways to spend a morning. So I put a little pot on to boil like usual and go back to the table. What feels like about ten minutes goes by and while I can hear the stove, I still haven't heard the water start to boil. So I get up and peak around the divider wall thing and see that the water's still not boiling and then sit back down to wait some more. At some point I notice that it smells funny. Three or so minutes go by and when I see it hasn't changed at all, I walk up to the stove and realize, heyo! I've managed to put the pot on the left eye while always use the right one.

Set it on the right eye, sit down shaking my head at how frazzled my brain is with all the packing and getting ready to leave. Then the skype call starts, and I'm all, haha I'm doing crazy people things! Let me tell you this story about how absentminded my last half hour has been. So I begin to tell the story and as I explain about having smelled something, my brain's thinking about why I'd smell something this time when I don't normally. And mid-sentence--

I haven't even lit the eye! The pot's just sitting on it while the gas is wide open. I run over, grab the lighter to light it, and finally, twenty minutes after this story began my brain activates, I put the lighter down and open the window.

In the end I got my hot chocolate. No explosions, no getting gassed.

What's great too is that just a week ago I saw a hysterical Romanian film and one of the (supposedly true) stories in it is about this greedy policeman who gets a pig for Christmas. He lives in Bucuresti, it's during Communism, and I got the impression that it was illegal to cut a pig in the city. But not wanting to get caught or share it with his neighbors, he and his brother wrap it up in a blanket and carry it upstairs, all the while it's squalling.

The family can't figure out how to kill it without waking up the whole bloc and the boy suggests they gas it. They tape up all the windows, unplug the fuse and lock it in the kitchen with the gas wide open. When it's finally dead, in order to cut it up, they've got to get rid of all its hair. So the greedy policeman pulls out his handy blowtorch and as he goes to burn its hair off... yep, exploding pig.

So it seems I'm culturalizing well.

history and memory

Tomorrow I leave Pitesti and then Friday morning, before the sun even comes up, I will be on a plane headed west. All my life, in order to go home, I had to travel east, toward the ocean. Home was toward the sand and the pines, a place as far as you could go. I think of the line of the coast, growing up on the edge of a continent.

Tonight my dad put up pictures of the men in his family on facebook. That is an impossible sentence, one I never expected to write. My French family I never knew, a culture and a language I might have learned if I'd grown up with--this is how he refers to them--["my"] Pepe and Meme. There were eight kids, four boys and four girls. Now three of the four sons have died, both parents, and I don't know the first thing about three of the four daughters except that one has a daughter of her own living in Paris. And from the fourth sister I have a cousin, one I've never met but talk to on facebook, who looks more like me than anyone on my mom's side. And they live in the Bay Area, where my mom was born, a place for more and more reasons I'm feeling more and more connected to.

It feels like so many things are converging, lines overlapping until it becomes a solid thing. Imagine a city from space, the bright concentrated center, lights spider-webbing outward. Except the motion is inward. Not toward a place, exactly, but some shared, common thing. I can't articulate it yet--I don't understand. And there's more to it that I'm not writing, but I wonder, what's God doing with this?

Every time I sit down to write lately, it comes back to this. The idea of home, I mean. There's this, watching the bones of a history I first saw four years ago fill out. Watching it all connect to so many things that are true now, both new and old, seeing the way history and memory weave themselves into a thing with flesh. (Oooh!, but I don't think either of these are what puts the heart to beating--real, but not living?)
And then there's the fine line between identifying and being identified by--I look at these pictures and we all seem to have the same eyes, the same hands even, and yet it is not in their image that I was made.


I left this off to talk to a friend and by now the thread is gone. So many thoughts, and all of it underscored by the uncertainty of what follows December. Thinking about this place, the homeless man to whom we gave a half-eaten kebab that no one could finish, then realizing what we were doing, spent the next few hours wishing we'd at the very least bought him a new one and had given him that. The woman today who discovered I wasn't Romanian because, she said, she noticed I thought before I spoke. And the way I thought about that on the walk home, how in English you would have said that I needed to think, not just that I thought. Besides the unintended social commentary it made me wonder if I might want to be marked by that, among other things. Being pensive, pausing, considering my words.

Anyway, these are the things I'm leaving with, these are the pictures of Pitesti that will stay with me the next few weeks. Coming back home richer in both the understanding of a history and fuller in the sense of what I remember about where, for now, I'm leaving. Thinking about ten hours above the ocean, rocketing between those two things, wondering what they'll make themselves into.

Monday, November 19, 2012

xkcd ftw!

Pretty much what my Romanian sounds like half the time. Here's the original link. You should be able to look at it bigger over there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

thinking of home and feeling hopeful

Two in the morning and I'm up because I'd had to stay up to skype with a friend and suddenly it seems I've caught my second wind. Tomorrow's a full day but it starts around noon and ends around eleven, so I've got the space to do this. Be awake with my thoughts, sit and pray or write without having to give up anything to do it. It's so easy to be thankful for this thinking back on being a full-time student and working two jobs plus doing a ton of InterVarsity stuff. It's also easy to feel guilty. But I think--I hope--I will sleep in tomorrow and wake up grateful for good gifts, for how differently life can shape itself in different spaces. Living in a part of the world with real calendar seasons has taught me that much.

So there's that. And talking with a friend from such a different part of my life, heading back in two weeks to Wilmington, heading home. But here feels that way too most days, and here's where I've surprised myself: while I'm more excited than I can say, it feels routine somehow. It's the wrong way to say it altogether. But you spend a month in Berlin, you head to Bucuresti once a month and by the end of it flying to another continent, even one you've been away from nearly two years, doesn't seem so big. Exciting, the sort where you count down the days, but not like the bigness of going to a new country.

I realize what I just did there. On the one hand, in two weeks time I may eat every last one of these words. We'll see. On the other, what if it is? Like going to a new place, a new country. Not so new there's nothing to recognize, but the small things. Some things strained by time and distance, other things worn smooth--you run your hand over it, turn it over, hold it up to the light. This is new and old, all at the same time, and no easy place to put it in your mind.

There's something about living fragmented--is that what it is? Is that the right word? That, despite the way the internet draws the pieces into mosaic, I can pause my life here to go back to my life there, the one that's been some ways paused (for me), and other ways moving forward, an image or feeling of all the weight of a train (for others from the perspective of one who isn't moving). But then that's not true either. I am moving, but it's stepping outside of this movement into what's been a fixed point and--

And I could get lost in this, could do this for the rest of the night. I'm thinking of home, of going back to it, of that word I can't quite pin down for all its changing shape. But I am hopeful for the newness of it. And glad that instead of having one place that is surely, fully home (while in all the rest I look back toward it), there are pieces of it here in Pitesti and back in Wilmington and that because it's so mutable I'm as likely to find it anywhere, my heart caught when I least suspected.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

there's a joke in here somewhere about twitterpated>>twitterpation

Many moons ago, knowing the sorts of inane things I am usually inclined to share, I vowed never to get a twitter. If you are curious, this is why.

I caved a little short of two years ago. But I had a good reason. If you connect twitter to your phone, you can basically text people on the other side of the world for the cost of a regular text. (By the way, I realize it means I'm way behind on the rest of the world, but I found out a few weeks ago you can do the same thing between two iPhones without twitter. What do you know.) The short version of what happened next is that last night I discovered some holes in my control over what's visible where and to whom. So between the swing from I hate the internet! to I quit! I'm deleting it all! I never existed!, reason did what it does best and I decided to peruse the privacy options. Instead, I came face to face with two years of... well. You can imagine.

Internet, if I am not careful, if I ever have a legacy, this will be it:

6 Oct 10: thinking about the physics of my bagel not flying away (too heavy?) till i put it on its baggy that made a really good sail.. bye bye bagel.

23 Oct 10: Walking down market, lots of cars passing by, headphones in. Nobody can hear me singing, right?

6 Oct 10: just watched buddy the elf get chased by ringwraiths through central park! how have i never seen this movie?!

29 Jan 11: listening to a song in mongolian and they have this u sound that is so far forward and so rounded it sounds like it's gonna push itself out.

23 May 11: dear gracious, somebody somewhere in berceni is cooking fish.

23 Jun 11: Drinking milk with reckless abandon

12 Aug 11: a car just drove by blasting what sounded like the 80s, nintendo & laser tag. buuuh.

27 Nov 11: doing rly difficult ab exercises w the roomie & she yells at me not to give birth. well. first time anyone's ever said that to me.

28 Nov 11: at a meeting & just said i was yawning (casc) & someone thought i said i was giving birth (nasc). that's twice in two days, y'all.

14 Jan 12: my brother josh: "are you barking?" me: "NOOOO! i'm singing!" man... harsh.

26 Feb 12: still don't have hot water, only frigid, hurts-to-wash-your-hands water. anyone wanna guess how many days it's been since i last showered?

16 Mar 12: weird things you find cleaning out your bookbag: a squashed subway cookie from orientation in aug (in england) and a $2 bill.

17 May 12: unable to move this morning from: sleeping on a bench last night at petra, falling on my head, boot camp booty blaster or all of the above.

26 May 12: after narrowly avoiding it this morning, i realized the only thing worse than stepping in dog poop is stepping in rained-on dog poop

27 Aug 12: taking off a wetsuit: probably the most un-ladylike thing i'll ever do apart from giving birth.

7 Nov 12: as long as we're sending out tests, 'every year you grow, so shall i'--my butt says to me. apologies to cslewis for my irreverence.*

7 Nov 12: why stop now: war! HUUNHGH! what is it good for? absolutely nothaaaaang! (anyone else think abt throwing up at the HUNH! part of that song?)*

(Not the slightest clue of how to end this.)
(*These will be familiar to one of you... I had to send out a few test tweets to figure out the privacy options and all that came to mind were those snippets from this week--not sure whether to apologize for the repost or thank you for all the whack things that come out of my mouth when we talk. But having a blast. Thanks for that.)

Actually it's clear now that the only possible way to end this is to point out that if you include the one about the u sound pushing itself out, there is very disproportionate number of tweets represented that have to do with giving birth. I feel like my head just exploded.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(other people's) thoughts on writers

Despite the fact that there's not much writing going on around here these days, two of several interesting quotes from this article (translated--feel free to correct me):

"For the Spanish writer and journalist Rosa Montero, the key is in the necessity to write. 'I've come to learn, with time, that a writer is, in reality, the one who needs to write in order to live. That is to say, to face the darkness of life, to be able to get up each morning. One is a writer because he can't not be; because of this, most novelists, for example, began writing in childhood: it's something that's part of your basic structure. So that necessity is what makes you a real writer, but that's not to say that it would make you a good writer.'"

"A writer is a strange thing. He's a contradiction and he's nonsense. To write isn't to talk. It's to be quiet. It's to wail without sound."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

from my notebook

It seems appropriate somehow that it was a year ago that I first moved to Pitesti. Alicia put up a picture this morning of us in October 2006 dressed up for Halloween and to think about that, that it's been six years since that moment--what do I write in response? I think about the fullness of that friendship, what six years has held.

Sometime back in March I told someone that I was going home for a little bit in December and they responded by saying mai e ceva, still a ways to go. And I said then, no, I think it'll fly by and now here we are, two months away, all those years from a place I wouldn't have guessed one thing that's true right now.

I say it seems appropriate to write this first thing in a new notebook--it usually seems to happen this way. I filled up my first one and started the second right as I came to Romania. And it feels like something new these days, some new season. And as I look back on six years--not just as a whole, but even on each of them--there is abundance of abundance, my cup running over even out of the empty places.

It reminds me of the other day, of reading this in Ezra (and it's been in my head since then):

"And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sounds of joy from the sounds of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away."

And in response: "Something about this. It settles deeply in my heart, in a place already carved out for it, in a place shaped by the knowing of this thing. I don't know what it is. But I know this, my heart is pulled toward its truth."

That sounds much sadder than I mean for it to. I look back and rejoice, I really do. I look forward and rejoice. And wonder what even the next year will look like. 10,000 roads, indeed.

(pictured above, two babies otherwise known as sarawr the dinosaur and the colombiana. also, that's the girliest halloween costume i've ever worn--the following years i was a bag of jelly beans and then juno.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

posted as a promise for a real blog soon

"You can't just make up random racist s*** and pretend it's true. What if I said white people's eyes turn red in photographs because they're part devil?"
--Hari Kondabolu

Monday, September 24, 2012


Just a handful floating around in my head from things I've been reading lately.

Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone):

"We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation."

"Wasn't that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?"

"Years later, when Idi Amin said and did outrageous things, I understood that his motivation was to rattle the good people of Greenwich mean time, have them raise their heads from their tea and scones, and say, Oh, yes. Africa. For a fleeting moment they'd have the same awareness of us that we had of them."

Dinesh D'Souza (Godforsaken):

"There is something a little off key about Western academics saying, 'I have lost my faith because of the suffering of the Rwandans,' while Rwandans are saying, 'Our faith draws us closer to the only one who can console and protect us, which is God.'"

David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle):

"Just when normal life felt almost possible--when the world held some kind of order, meaning, even loveliness (the prismatic spray of light through an icicle; the stillness of a sunrise), some small thing would go awry and the veil of optimism was torn away, the barren world revealed. They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. There was no cure, no answer, no reparation."

Tash Aw (Map of the Invisible World):

"In those days he did not understand yet that Home was not necessarily where you were born, or even where you grew up, but something else entirely, something fragile that could exist anywhere in the world."

Miroslav Volf (Exclusion & Embrace):

"The account of creation as 'separating-and-binding' rather than simply 'separating' suggests that 'identity' includes connection, difference, heterogeneity. The human self is formed not through a simple rejection of the other--through a binary logic of opposition and negation--but through a complex process of 'taking in' and 'keeping out.' We are who we are not because we are separate from the others who are next to us, but because we are both separate and connected, both distinct and related; the boundaries that mark our identities are both barriers and bridges. I, Miroslav Volf, am who I am both because I am distinct from Judy Gundry-Volf, and because over the past 15 years I have been shaped by a relationship with her. Similarly, to be 'black' in the US means to be in a certain relationship--all too often an unpleasant relationship--to 'whites.' Identity is a result of the distinction from the other and the internalization of the relationship to the other; it arises out of the complex history of 'differentiation' in which both the self and the other take part by negotiating their identities in interaction with one another. Hence, as Paul Ricoeur has argued in Oneself as Another, 'the selfhood of oneself implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one cannot be thought of without the other.'"

Friday, September 14, 2012

another day in the life

In today's episode of Life in Romanialand, Sarawr goes to give money to the administrator of her bloc (his apartment is about ten feet from hers). He answers the door in nothing but his boxers.

Sarawr realizes this is the first time she's ever made a financial transaction with a nearly naked man. Hoping not to do it again.

As the say in the dirty South: "Lord have mercy..."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

one happy sarawr

Just got back from a surprise get-together for my birthday with a bunch of girls. I can't remember, but it might be the first time I've ever had something like a surprise party. We just hung out and talked and drank lemonade and hot chocolate. It was lovely.

And I got letter from a boy in Turkey today.

Thankful. And surprised. There is an abundance in these small things, and it is really, really good.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Y'all. The title says it all. Also, I hate pigeons.

[In case you didn't watch the third video, I am not a pigeon terrorist. I am in fact a daily victim of pigeon terrorism.]

This was meant to be a quiet morning on my day off... anyway they haven't come back. I can still hear them but I think that's it for now...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

wholeness, home, palestine and a mess of questions

I spent a few days last week at a conference in the great land of Anglia, that blurry-edged place that makes me feel like I've mixed my English-speaking home with Middle Earth and the United Nations. It's true that it feels like a surrogate home in different ways, a step toward the one I'm an ocean away from and a step toward the one I was made for.

It was lovely and full and set my head doing circles around itself (as it is wont to do). I know I'm forever writing about the sky, but there's this: driving back around dusk, the sky a Chinese watercolor, I thought, this could be Wilmington. I know this place. And so I said something, only because I'm nostalgic, only because the lines constantly draw themselves to other places. (You see what you end up with? It's a tangled mess, but it's a mess in which you can have your heart stretched between places, on and between so many continents, and yet have it whole.)

The person I was riding with surprised me by saying that the sky there is actually different than it is over continental Europe. This is an Atlantic sky, he said. A wet sky.

I'm back in Pitesti now, the place where the sky was the first thing I loved, and for a while, the only thing. But this place is teaching me about willful love, about the decision of it. How many opportunities have I had to practice this in these last six years? How many more will there be? I think of Abram, of God pointing him toward the stars: "if you can count them." This is a loose idea, one I'm writing as I think, but there's the idea of that too being an inheritance.

My mind is wandering now, landing somewhere near a conversation I had a few hours ago with two students from Palestine. You come back to the question of home and place, of being pulled asunder. Could there be wholeness? I have a place I've grown from and another I'm growing toward, and meanwhile there are roots shooting outward, everywhere. But this, what they are saying, this is something altogether different. What if you believe there is a hope for both home and reconciliation, that in fact there is a great reconciler? That "if you can count them" is a promise fulfilled outside of yourself?

But living it--that is something else, isn't it? For me, the hope of a true home and a way to persist in love only come together. They come out of the words it is finished; I am reminded of them as I turn, surprised to see across Pitesti to the hills in the north, a teeming sky above Rasnov, tekhelet. But I wonder. These answers are easy--they are true, yes, but they're also easy. And living it, knowing it in the face of much harder things--it's something beyond having a right theology. And how on earth do I point people to it?

The thread is gone now, I think, all frayed out into more questions. And they keeping coming.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

pericol de cadere in gol

It's the first morning in many many months that it's been cool enough to drink hot chocolate and here I am, a head full of thoughts, a wide sky opening onto the promise of new things. Yes, my head is full, some good things, some hard and some that honestly scare me to death. But there is room for it this morning, sitting in my balcony, a sky big enough to hold it.

On the way back from camping the other day, when we stopped at the dam, I saw a sign that said: Pericol de cadere in gol--Danger of falling into emptiness, into nothing. Maybe it's my English ear that makes it sound more poetic, that double took at the sight of this rusty, bent sign bolted into concrete.

But gol here is the perfect word if you've ever seen this place. It just opens up. You're leaning against the equivalent of the concrete guardrail the runs down the middle of the interstate--it comes up to your lowest ribs--and then: opening onto gol. Romania does this to me sometimes. Often, even. The surprise of poetry in places just getting on with life, with the business of the mundane. Between a greasy shaormerie, a middle aged man with his shirt pulled up over his beer belly, scratching it, and a dirty, tiny girl running around barefoot, her skirt brushing the ground--there is this sign. I think it was yellow, but faded, a dull mustard seed. You might not have seen it, and certainly there are bigger things to behold there.

I think of this, Musée des Beaux Arts, probably my favorite poem:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

I can't get this out of my head. That sign, this poem. I'd typed it in Courier and had it taped beside my bed when I lived in Pinewood in college, that ghetto that constantly surprised me.

It's a different sort of surprise, it's a different thing altogether, a cool morning and a bright sky after all those months of heavy heat, but every time the weather changes, gives way to something new, it catches me. I know how it would feel right now, right this very moment in Pinewood, the little girls who'd offer to take out our trash for a dollar knocking at the door. The things they said. The between-the-lines of the way they talked--this juxtaposed with a city that will be beautiful, whatever you do to it, sprawling between the river and the ocean.

There's this, too, by C. S. Lewis:

That is the real explanation of the fact that Theology, far from defeating its rivals by a superior, is, in a superficial but quite real sense, less poetical than they. That is why the New Testament is, in the same sense, less poetical than the old... That is the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man; what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in a dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid--no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowboat on the lake of Galilee. You may say that this, after all, is a still deeper poetry. I will not contradict you. The humiliation leads to a greater glory.

Monday, August 13, 2012

bunnies and bears, oh my

This weekend we--the student/high school leaders for OSCPi--were meant to go camping on the mountain, talk about the vision for the movement, make plans, etc. And let me tell you. It was from top to bottom Romanian in every way possible, and that includes bears.

So we woke up Friday morning when we were supposed to leave and it was pouring and it was forecasted to for the rest of the weekend. The heat had finally broken the night before which meant I spent the night watching it storm like it was the last thing it would ever do and also not sweating. Glorious. Except that it wasn't done when we got up so a couple of phone calls were made and it was decided that we were canceling the trip and instead would meet together in town for the day.

An hour later we get a phone call saying, okay, we're un-canceling, but we'll just go up for the day and then come back. Just bring a few things. And be ready to come down when we call to pick you up at 11. Two hours go by, and at noon I get a call saying, actually just kidding, we are going! And we're staying! But just for one night so pack for that and we'll be there in half an hour. A good Romanian start.

We get there, we camp, we discussion vision, we grill, we pee in the woods, hang out around the campfire and look at the stars. Lots of fun. We also joke a lot about bears coming to eat us--we're joking because it's a distinct possibility that a bear might come and wanna hang out with us and what are you going to do? But we're careful, we put all of our food in the car, all the necessary precautions. And then bed, in the tents, five girls in one, three guys in another.

Around four in the morning I wake up because a dog is going crazy in the next camp over. I fall back asleep. Wake right back up again because one of the guys in that camp is setting the alarm on and off in his car. And every time here turns it off, he starts making car alarm noises with his mouth and clapping. Well there's only one reason he'd be making that much racket at four a.m. So I'm lying there in the dark just listening and I could hear a couple of the other girls shifting around and dude with his car noises starts to get funny to me so I decided to say something:

"Mama, parca vorbeste cu masina..." (Good gracious, it's like he's talking to his car.)

The other girls who weren't already awake wake up then. We hear our guys talking with the neighbors and hear that, yes indeed, a bear has come to visit. One girl gets scared. It's quiet for a while and then the dog starts barking again. And the car starts alarming. And the dude starts talking to it. If the bear came back, he never got close enough to us to hear him. So we all go back to sleep, snuggled up and toasty and crammed all in our tent. Happy ending.

The next day we got to do more retreat-y stuff and the rain held off until a little after we left. We were pretty close to Balea Lac, this lake way up on the mountain that you get to by driving along the world's curviest road (see here) with eight people squeezed into the little car. Super pretty. We took pictures, left, drove until the gigantic dam in Vidraru with all eight of us in the pouring rain. Once we got there, it stopped, so we let three out to hitchhike back and went on our way again.

So there we are, speeding along in the dark, when our general secretary slams on the brakes. We skid around a little (the road's still wet) but stay on the road and finally stop. He then backs up about thirty meters because apparently we hit a bunny, which, yes, he had tried very hard not to hit. (The girls next to me are squealing iepurasule! iepurasule!) And here is the best part:

He gets out of the car to look at. He then picks it up by its little bunny ears--it's definitely dead--and holds it in the headlights so we can see it. Then he puts it back down, gets back in the car, asks his wife if they can take it home to eat it, they can wrap it up really well and put it in the trunk. She refuses, says he's making her sick! I mention how Alaskans harvest fresh moose roadkill and donate it to the poor. The girls next to me start to hyperventilate. And then. Then. He gets back out of the car and says he wants a picture with it. So there now exists a picture of our general secretary, one hand over his heart, the other holding up a run-over rabbit whose (sorry) insides are dangling about six inches below it, still attached of course.

In the end we all get back in one piece, minus our rabbit friend, plus our hitchhikers. Always an adventure. Love this place.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


A few things on my mind as of late...

"We know that the seed of the Word of God is a very growy thing."

"We are, in the end, conflicted creatures--about all our relationships, God included. Our deepest longing is to be known and loved and yet it takes more courage than any of us has to enter into relationships of true knowing and loving."
--Alex Kirk

"If a writer is to tell his own story--tell it slowly, and as if it were a story about other people--if he is to feel the power of the story rise up inside him, if he is to sit down at a table and patiently give himself over to this art--this craft--he must first have been given some hope." [especially that last part]
--Orhan Pamuk

"Could the hope for the inner cities lie in part in the retrieval of the doctrine of justification by grace? How could dead streets receive life from a dead doctrine? Imagine that you have no job, no money, you live cut off from the rest of society in a world ruled by poverty and violence, your skin is the "wrong" color--and you have no hope that any of this will change. Around you is a society governed by the iron law of achievement. Its gilded goods are flaunted before your eyes on TV screens, and in a thousand ways society tells you every day that you are worthless because you have no achievements. You are a failure, and you you know that you will continue to be a failure because there is no way for you to achieve tomorrow what you have not managed to achieve today. Your dignitiy is shattered and your soul is enveloped in the darkness of despair. But the gospel tells you that you are not defined by outside forces. It tells you that you count--even more, that you are loved unconditionally and infinitely, irrespective of anything you have achieved or failed to achieve...Imagine now this gospel not simply proclaimed but embodied in a community that has emerged not as a "result of works" (Eph. 2.10). Justified by sheer grace, it seeks to "justify" by grace those who are made "unjust" by society's implacable law of achievement. Imagine furthermore this community determined to infuse the wider culture, along with its political and economic institutions, with the message that it seeks to embody and proclaim. This is justification by grace, proclaimed and pacticed. A dead doctrine? Hardly."
--Miroslav Volf

language craziness and what the heat's really doing to us all

One more reason learning a new language is an adventure:

This past weekend I was at a wedding and was one of the greeters/lead-you-to-your-seat-ers at the reception. After spending half the day in heels, my feet were hurting, so before anyone really got there, I took my shoes off. And once they did get there, I kept doing what I was doing without putting my shoes on. My gensec rebuked me later, barefooted pagan that I am, and made me go put them back on. And so I was telling this story to a(n American) friend last night over skype and got to the part about my gensec coming up to me and this is what came out of my mouth:

"Yeah, and then he came up to me and rebuked me for running around naked."

NOT SURE WHERE THAT CAME FROM. Barefoot! Not naked! Really red Sarawr.

There is a logical explanation--one I'm not fully convinced of--but there's this: in Romanian, for barefoot, you say picoarele goale. Bare feet, naked feet. If you were naked, you'd say gol--the plural feminine then is goale. (If anyone else wants to geek out with me about etymology here, feel free--although apparently our word goal comes from Middle English... and the sense of empty, like an empty goal, like a place you put a ball has nothing to do with bare/empty... kind of a stretch I guess but it's what my brain put together and made a lot of sense until I looked it up just now.)

The only thing that leaves me unconvinced is that when I'm talking about being barefoot in Romanian, I don't think 'being naked footed' or anything--I think not having shoes or socks on. I expect this is a good thing because it means I'm not translating in my head.

However that still leaves us with no explanation for why I said naked. Theories abound, some about American expressions, others more speculative. Powers of analysis. We'll get there.

But let's be real, y'all. It's hot here. And I have a deep love for pantslessness (and descriptivism, zing!). And my poor roommate and I are surviving the 100 degree days and 85 degree nights and no AC or fan (which is totally fine except that the apartment is not built for keeping cool), so this is clearly about a) brain addled from the heat and b) brain's suggested solution to relieve heat and prevent addling.

Well then. Suggestion noted. Will take into consideration.

Monday, August 6, 2012

writing again?

Been thinking a lot about writing the last couple of weeks, and between Bible and Culture, the several people who've told me to get to it and reading Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, sitting here in the heat tonight, in the last half hour this just sort of came out:

The heat is bringing me home--100 degrees today, 104 tomorrow, the heaviness of it settling into everything. I've moved back out into the balcony, the only place in our apartment the air really moves. So here I am, windows above me flung wide, sprawled on this box spring. It's sluggish in the day but oppressive at night, radiating back out from everything that absorbed it all day. This balcony gets direct sunlight all day long so even now, at nearly eleven, the tiles on the walls next to me are warm, holding it like sand, like stones.

I remember the cable building next to our babysitter's when we were little, the wall of concrete reaching up three stories, the tallest building we'd ever seen. We'd play in the gravel next to it, building nests, pretending to be birds. We were kids who climbed everything, who pushed and pushed against all the lines--and if there was one thing that town was full of, it was lines. On this side are the people who pick tobacco, who live ten to a house; on this one are the lords of small town southern football, who own the town, and here are the people who never root well, who grow up straggly, who get out or are choked out. And those who do root, they grow outward, not downward, drawing even that small place into parts: these are the people you can love, and these you can't.

But what did we know? We spoke their language, it was quick on our tongues. And that wall, smooth, straight upward, was as far as we could go. And so we'd lean against it, palms pressed flat, legs at an angle, drawing out the warmth of the day.

We could follow it back along the length of the house where it never got sunlight, the one place it stayed cool. But beyond that was a mystery to us. We'd wander back, sneak around in the shadow of it, come back with pockets filled with bolts. It never occurred to us what might be weighing us down--we picked up what we found, pocketed it, and never stop trying to find a way over.

I remember one day playing in the yard with my brother and Aaron, a boy my age, our babysitter's nephew who kissed me when we were four. He was a line twisted, his dad a Mexican migrant worker, his mom the sort of white girl everyone called a whore. But his dad settled somewhere on the edge of town so every other weekend my brother and I played by ourselves. And one day the three of us were chasing each other there in the yard and how it happened I didn't see--he ran straight into the wall. A thing that's always there--do you forget? Do you stop seeing it? He didn't turn away; it's just that he didn't stop.

I remember laughing at first, and then he turned, eleven and the biggest, face all twisted and crying. He scared us, a mouth full of blood and eyes wild. We ran inside, to the bathroom and between all the grownups saw all his top front teeth had been broken. My brother and I looked for them later in the gravel, leaning against the wall, orange light from the sun, then from the streetlights, just sifting through the rocks for bone, heat coming off of it all.

After that we weren't allowed near it. Not the gravel, not the wall. We'd run over sometimes, grab handfuls of it, fill our pockets and walk casually to the other side of the yard, never mind the bulges. There was a tree that looked like a bonsai, only big, and we'd dump the gravel there underneath it, little piles of rocks in the dirt and went back to being birds, watching the wall, waiting to realize we would fly over it one day, pockets turned outward, not looking back.

I'm too used to blogging, so it's not quite not a blog, but not quite a story yet. Definitely not done. Except the ending, which is overdone, because it's late and I just wanted to finish it. Anyway, it's been years since I've done this, so we'll see what happens with it. (Writer people, feel free to give advice!!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

wherein the plane probably nearly crashes

(and sarawr tense-shifts and writes the words throw up a lot... sorry)

Been looking forward to writing this one. In further proof that my life is indeed a circus:

It was actually a pretty bumpy flight in general but at first I didn't think anything of it because it was pretty cloudy over Berlin when we took off. And after a late night dancing and saying goodbye to an incredible group of people, all I wanted to do was sleep anyway. And finally I managed it but by the time I did we'd started to descend and by then it'd gotten a lot bumpier.

So a little bit of turbulence, fairly normal, no? Except it was completely clear and not just shaky but kind of roll-y too. You know the feeling when you first take off and for a second there's that weightless feeling and your stomach drops? Imagine that but coming every few seconds because it feels like the plane is dropping and then gliding, back and forth, over and over again. Except it's also sort of pitching sideways, sort of rolling--it's subtle, it's not spinning, but it's there, like you keep over-correcting.

By the time we were pretty low, maybe forty or fifty feet off the ground, all I could think was that it would be better for the plane to drop out of the sky where it was than to be on it while it was moving any longer. I was so sick. And I do get carsick if I read or we're going through the mountains, but I don't ever throw up. But it was coming, I could feel it. Less than a minute later you could see the runway rushing underneath the plane--still bumping/floating/rolling--right at the point you expect to feel the wheels touch down on the pavement.

You know that other feeling as you're taxi-ing, about to take off, and they give it all the power and you're pushed back in your seat? Well the plane did this weird up-down-up thing, kind of pitched to the left and then I guess they gave it full power because it felt just like that and we were taking back off. Only we hadn't touched down. The pilot said something about going around again for another try--that's it. My first thought was it was the copilot landing and he'd never done it before. And then I didn't care because they were turning really sharply and it felt like we were at a forty-five degree angle to the ground and the hairs on the dude next to me's arms were touching my arm and all I could do was say to myself: don't throw up don't throw up don't throw up.

The next ten minutes were even bumpier and pitchier, and what felt like lower and faster so even worse. It was quiet on the plane too--I don't know if anyone was scared or not. Maybe, but if they were feeling anything like I was then they were too busy being sick to think about it. Oh, and I didn't have one of those bags they give out for this purpose. Dude next to me did but I figured if I grabbed it I'd be giving myself permission and how awful would that be--first you throw up and then you have to carry it off the plane in a baggy. And then someone up ahead of me starting throwing up. And let me tell you, twenty minutes later when my stomach forgave the pilot, I could laugh about this: it sounded exactly like a ten-year-old fake throwing up on a cartoon. Or:


But all I could think was stoooooop you can't throw up! You're gonna make me throw up! Stop stop stop! So there I am fanning myself and dude next to me has caught on and starts fanning me with his newspaper and finally we touch down. I am radiating heat.

We finally get off and I've never been so glad to be off a plane in my life, including one that took nine hours spent squeezed between a really huge guy, a hiking backpack and the window. Walking down one of the hallways a few Germans behind me started making fun of whoever was throwing up and honestly they sounded exactly like it.

Oh! I forgot to say! Once we landed the pilot got back on and said what had happened was that as we tried to land a big gust of wind came and lifted us up. Sounds plausible. I told a friend about it and she said that seemed a little suspicious so whether that really caused it or not I have no idea. Do they tell you if it's something out of their control? But once again, whether because I was too busy trying not to be sick or because it takes a lot more than turbulence to scare me, I never felt like we were about to die or crash or anything unsafe. Amazing Lufthansa gets us there safely once again.

And I'm flying them again on the way back home in December. We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

drug-induced rant

Discovery of the day: in a parallel universe the pharmacist lady just became responsible for the conception of my first child.

Explanation: y'all, I'm sick. And I never get sick, but I slept in the same bed as a coughing sick French girl last week and Saturday morning upon waking up, lo and behold, swollen lymph nodes. Normally this is the worst of it, thanks to a good immune system, but here I am five days later on the edge of death.

So I sucked it up last night after a rough previous night and lots of insisting on the part of Doamna Flori and went to the pharmacy. What I left with was a lifetime supply of amoxicillin and other goodies. However, since I've never been able to get antibiotics without a prescription I decided to read about it on the internet and make sure I was taking what I needed to be.

Turns out amoxicillin can cancel the effects of oral contraceptives! Heyo! Now of course that is in all ways irrelevant for me but the pharmacist never asked me anything about it and I'm reading it everywhere. It'd be one thing if I were an eighty year old man but I'm twenty-three and a girl. Maybe I'm just used to being given the third degree by American doctors--then again, maybe on the other hand if you can get stuff like this without a prescription here it's your job to make sure it's not going to counteract anything else you're taking. (I'm currently singing the STIM song...)

The short of it is that I don't like taking medicine and the only time ever ever do is times like now. This is partly why. Other than that, it always makes me feel really funny. What I'm taking now is supposedly non-drowsy but I've been weird and dizzy all day. Walking up the hill I live on earlier today I felt like I was just going to tip over the whole time. I have a crazy story from the last time I took Benadryl. Buh feel like I'm on drugs.

Seriously I have no idea how to end this post. I guess it's high time I just quit typing (oh snap).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


"I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express, but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better."
--William Faulkner

Friday, June 15, 2012

the circus: a balcony, the sky, -ward words & dinosaurs

Our proprietara has come from Canada and it's been nothing short of a circus these last days, people in and out of the apartment all the time, Doamna Flori staying to talk for hours--and by the way, she has a favorite word, one we hear every third sentence: dracu and all its various forms :)) For those who don't know, it's kind of like hell but a little more versatile. She's decided she wants the balcony to be properly enclosed (instead of having frosted windows we can't see out but that let all the heat/cold in), which is wonderful for us. When the first guys came to demolish everything to make way for the new, I got to see Romanian 'negotiating' and getting things done at its finest, including lots of Doamna Flori's favorite words and her brother-in-law yelling at the workers' boss on their phone.

I ended up leaving while they were working on things and by the time I got back it was done, everything above the waist completely gone. Because our apartment is south-facing and we get direct light from 11 am nearly until the sun goes down between 9:30 and 10, and it's been hot and cloudless all week, walking into that room felt like standing at the helm of the Dawn Treader. All that light, nothing but sky so it felt like sailing off the edge of the world.

It starts to cool down after 8 so I've been spending my evenings out here, a towel on dirty rough concrete and feet propped against the side of the balcony. And all that sky. I'm really under it--not looking up at a cut of it between buildings, but under enough of it that I can see how it curves, the clouds bending at the edges like a snow globe. And up here on the fifth floor you can listen better.

When I get back a week from now, none of it will be here. There will be a roof and lots of windows--good for looking outward but not also upward--I want to look outward and upward! To reach with all these -ward words, onward, inward and especially downward where I forget to look, where I find the man with one blue eye, the other cataract and milky, a sidewalk full of reasons for lifting my own eyes toward the sky, hope in the form of the son of a poor carpenter, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Hosanna, indeed. You see?

And so. When I return, it'll be enclosed, but especially nice in the winter, I think. Now, and then too, I am thankful for this sky, the cool quiet air as it settles into twilight, all the blocs in a blue-purple glow. That said, it's been less romantic at night. It's too hot to sleep any way but with the door wide open, and so now that the balcony has nothing above it, I'm convinced someone's gonna rappel from the roof and bust into my living/bedroom. But more than that--I'm just gonna say this, don't judge me:

I can't help but notice that I'm at the perfect height and the door's the perfect width for a t-rex to stick his head in. I keep dreaming about dinosaurs, which of course is hardly unusual, Jurassic Park being my favorite movie as a kid. I guess tonight, then, is the last chance for potentially being devoured.

And that sky, which is just about done with its business of transition now. Time for the stars, a different ship, suddenly an image from Amistad, the stars wheeling around a fixed point, Cinque looking for east, pointing homeward.

Monday, June 11, 2012

funny video en espanol

For those of you who speak Spanish:

Saw this today, via here. It's hysterical, but also really sad because it's true.

The best part is in the beginning after the guy is saying it's hard to live in this world because he knows he's in the world, not of it, and that he doesn't want to be "contaminated" by those things, he sees the "la mejor del mundo" on the milk carton and freaks out.

And when he rebukes the switch. So ridiculous.

So to steal my girl Alicia's joke, Lord let this blog be pleasing to you!

Sunday, June 10, 2012



This is what's up.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I bought my ticket back to the States last night--a round trip ticket, putting me in North Carolina for four weeks and St. Louis for another. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to be going back, to smelling salt in the air and being with people I know, who know me. And Cheetos, ranch dressing and stuffed crust pizza.

Yesterday I was skyping with a guy who was on the team with us when we went to Romania that first time in 2009. He's on staff now too, in the States, and talking to him reminded me of something that happened in Brasov toward the end of the trip. We were eating lunch in the city center and the waitress who brought me my ice cream put a little American flag in it. And this guy yelled
America! when he saw it and I got all awkward and annoyed and told him to hush, that people would know we were Americans. Of course they already did, big group speaking English and wearing tennis shoes. And I was all about being quiet, blending in, that sort of thing. And not that I'm not now, but in a way I never thought I'd be, I feel sort of like my friend shouting out because I am going home, and the US, North Carolina is surely that place.

(Note: this being immediately post hiking on the mountain for two weeks and rolling down a mountain in a minibus, not only was I super tired, super dark and super skinny, all I wanted for lunch was ice cream and soda so that's what I ordered. Sadly you can't see the little flag they gave me.)

The other day it occurred to me that Wilmington is the only place I've ever lived that I didn't get the urge to move on from after a certain amount of time. That's not exactly true, because there was a natural ending, a natural transition into something new. But it's been true of every other place I've lived. After a while I start to get restless and I'm ready for something new. Sometimes I hated the place I was living, sometimes I liked it; it usually didn't make a difference. But in Wilmington--while I still can't see myself going back and settling permanently there--it was home. Coming back to the pines, coming back to a place where there was and is true knowing--other people of you and you of other people.

Something else is true, too, though. I realize while thinking of going back home that if it's not true of this city, then it's true of Romania, that I love this country. This hasn't changed. I've got some big things to pray about this summer, the sort of decision with a clear want but not a clear should, no sure direction. What do I do? (It just occurred to me writing this that it probably sounds like I'm talking about whether or not to stay in Romania... nope, that's not it, not yet anyway.) Anyway, the question remains, one I'm sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting to my Father.

But there is this verse, this constant, steady truth: "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." (Psalm 39:7) It's a question, a challenging one, as much as a statement, one sending threads through everything else as I work through this theme of home. That word, that idea, but also something more tangible, more so even than a house or a city or a country.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

typical romanian day

1. Trying on a pair of pants at the second hand store (to cut into shorts), the lady guarding the changing booth stuck her head in the curtain and struck up a conversation with me while I changing.

Romanca: "Are they good? Do they fit?"
Sarawr the Dinosaur: "Yeeees... I think so."

Pause. Assume the conversation is over. Kind of turn around and remove pants.

Romanca: "Oooooh I love your little stars!"

Pause. Wonder if there are stars on the pants. Turn and look at her and wonder if anyone else besides her can see me in my underwear. It suddenly occurs to me that she's talking about my sweaty heathen tattoo.

Sarawr the Dinosaur: "Oh, yeah. Thanks."
Romanca: "Did it hurt? I've never seen one like that! It's so great!"

Don't have the heart to tell her I usually wish I hadn't gotten it. Conversation continues. Dressing resumes.

Sarawr the Dinosaur, fully clothed: "Okay, well have a great day. I think I'll buy these."
Romanca, also fully clothed, to colleague: "Fraaaaate, did you see that girl's stars?"

I'm still wondering.

2. Waiting at the post office the other day, hoping I don't get yelled at again by scary post office window lady (I did, but everything worked out in the end), I look up and see this sign about what to do when an earthquake hits:

Keep yo calm down, people.

3. Just now on the way to the store, I hear a guy making hyena noises and a yappy little dog going crazy. Upon rounding the corner and further inspection, I see a tiny old lady (to whom the yappy dog belongs and is attached, via leash) beating a teenager with her cane. He is on a set of stairs with his legs up fending her off so from what I can tell she is beating the bottoms of his feet. The hyena sounds are coming from one of his several friends standing around laughing at him.

Epic grandma win.

Level: day in Romania: normal.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


A few from recent reading (free classics! woohoo!):

"We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring."
--Joseph Conrad

"'Madame Magloire,' retorted the Bishop, 'you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the useful.'"
--Victor Hugo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"michael meets mozart"

They make some really cool music:

A friend sent me a link to another of theirs, just the piano, called Song for Sara and so that's how I found this one. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you like the piano.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

language, memories and a wide dusty field

It's raining now. Hard rain, the sky and the blocs all the same steel grey. It's strange to live in a place where the seasons exist as we learned them from books in elementary school, from the decorations in the halls. April showers really do bring May flowers. Who knew?

So it's been raining a lot, but a few weeks ago we had a hot week, a summer-without-humidity week. It was perfect. On the first of May--a national holiday here--the student group had a cookout at this place called Platou Trivale. Let me tell you something. It's a big empty field in the middle of a forest/park in Pitesti, and it has been instrumental in the peace-making between me and Pitesti. We played volleyball for a little while before the ball busted, kicked it around a bit, and resumed volleyball once we found another ball.

Standing there in the dusty heat, the twelve-year-old tomboy in me delighting in being a little sweaty and sending a ball that plops rather than soars flying to the other end of the field, and taking pride at the words mama ce form are! and se pricepe la fotbal--words like delighting come to mind and you wonder if you'll write about this later. You run after the ball, kicking up dust, wondering whether you're already that brown this early in the year or if you're just getting dirty, and you think, this is a good day. I will be silly with my students, play volleyball with them, do handstands, get filthy and just generally run and romp about.

The whole day--the wide field and the yellowness of the light--made me think of a short story I read some six years ago in my first fiction class. Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff. It's better than the title would lead you to believe, for this reason:

Then the last two boys arrive, Coyle and a cousin of his from Mississippi. Anders has never met Coyle’s cousin before and will never see him again. He says hi with the rest but takes no further notice of him until they’ve chosen sides and some asks the cousin what position he wants to play. “Shortstop,” the boy says. “Short’s the best position they is.” Anders turns and looks at him. He wants to hear Coyle’s cousin repeat what he’s just said, but he knows better than to ask. The others will think he’s being a jerk, ragging the kid for his grammar. But that isn’t it, not at all – it’s that Anders is strangely roused, elated, by those final two words, their pure unexpectedness and their music. He takes the field in a trance, repeating them to himself.

It reminds me of home, of the many different places and ways that word evokes. Wilmington, two scrappy little kids in our beat up neighborhood, one saying to the other, who's wearing a Fedora, "Yo, let's go throw rocks at some cars." My brother and I as kids, "we was down playin by the ditch," knowing how to say it right but using the correct form selectively because that's not how you talked. 'They is' is my favorite, all its variations, really. Anywhere there becomes they. I love it in hiphop, I love it in little kids, those brilliant linguistics who wrap their minds and mouths around any language you throw at them. A little girl in a home video twenty years old, hiding behind a pine and saying, I coughed on the tree, ah caw-uffed on da tree-uh!

I love my language, its music, its possibilities and innovation. And I thought about that the other day, dry and hot, high sun, wondering at the ways these two languages are merging in me. And standing there, dizzy from hours of volleyball and not enough to drink--struck either by dehydration or surprise that so many things from so many different places had come together on a plateau in Arges, Romania. That a thought can stretch across twenty separate years and make a single succinct thing of it all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

God surprising me like usual

It occurred to me while doing some budget stuff this morning that in just about a month I'll be at debriefing and along with that a whole whirlwind of other realizations. Among them: nine months ago at orientation was another world altogether.

A lot has been happening here in the last few months with my high school students (liceeni). In fact, I have suddenly discovered that we are up to our ears in some really great things. They're not, I suppose, overly spiritual and for the most part they're not dramatic. But they are real and clear, very relational, and such a surprise to someone who spent a little while with her eyes clenched shut.

This is why I'm looking forward to debriefing, and goodness there's so much to debrief. I guess it's cliche or maybe exactly what you'd expect to hear in exactly the way you'd expect it, but out of a whole mess of frustration and disappointment and, in all honesty, having no idea what to do, God has taught me about humility, grace and especially contentedness.

Before anything else, let me just say that I'd rather be no other place than I am right now. I don't mean Pitesti--I mean where being in Pitesti has brought me with God. This is it, and these last months I can't seem to get enough of it. So, a story:

Last Wednesday evening, a handful of students and liceeni got together to discuss the previous week's talk about criza familiei, crisis of the family. It was mostly hard stuff like emotionally absent and alcoholic dads--how familiar this is, the absent father, even if not physically, though it's that too. So surprising. But there were also good things like going home and having their moms cook and take care of them. There was so much I wanted to say, thinking, well I'm an expert in family junk, right? But in a group I'm much quieter than one on one, and looking back I think it was so much better to have just listened. One girl reminded me so much of myself a few years ago in the way she was reacting to everything with her family. Cool thing though: we're meeting together now and studying 1 John.

It was sort of a melancholy night, though, and by the end of it I was so far away in my head I decided to walk home, space to think and pray. It was a good forty-minute walk, cool spring air, right as it was getting dark. One thing I remember was about the Lord making me content here (Pitesti, that is--Romania was never a problem). And not just saying or feeling it but being that way. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel differently--if this blog is a testament to anything it is that I've got a tendency toward being mercurial, but that the God who is unchanging has rooted me firmly in the center of himself. I hope it's more of a testament to the second. And so there it is: content. Nothing less than a gift.

The funny thing about that is that time spent being just the opposite, eyes shut tight, well, he opened them to look better at him and in seeing him more clearly, trusting him more, suddenly I see the things he is doing. These high school students. I think I resented it for a while, thinking, well if I'd wanted to work with high schoolers, I would have been a youth group leader, joined Young Life (what was that about humility, again?) There's nothing to romanticize about. It's small and it's uncertain, and only God knows what will happen, but the more I'm praying for them, investing in them, knowing them, the more it feels like this is my ministry here. Who would have thought?

So as I walked home, on the street on the hill behind my bloc, I could see across Pitesti, lit up, the little spider lights floating in a periwinkle bowl, the hazy twilight color of a valley. This city looked beautiful. It's not about aesthetics--it never was. I don't know the words to give it, but that walk home, the brisk night, gave me words to praise God, found me working through the questions and frustrations and arriving at the word content. Thank you, Father.