Thursday, March 22, 2012

heyo! ski!

Just now realizing I never got around to posting about ski. Sorry about that. So instead, a pictures summary! The first week:

(moments before a most epic snow battle)

(moments after a most epic snow battle)

(what i'm told is our second real injury in about ten years. other than this she was okay.)

(rasnov, romania. wait till you see it when there's sunshine.)

This next one pretty much sums up the second week. I have no memory of this photo being taken. We can only assume I was too close to the edge of death at this point.

Unfortunately there aren't many pictures of actual skiing, at least not on my computer. If I get a hold of them, I'll be sure to post them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


My poor little neglected blog. It feels like it's been months since I've written anything more than filler. Life feels like all these little pieces and I've got them held in my hands but I'm not sure how they fit together. Is that true? I wonder even as I write it.


The other night, walking home from the sediu, someone passing me on the sidewalk grabbed my arm, holding it for less than a second, the way you'd escort someone. I can still feel his hand. He didn't stop--I turned to look at him, hands to my bag even before my mind made it around to the possibility of having been pick-pocketed. I thought, maybe I knew him, maybe he knew me, but it was too dark and neither of us stopped, just the quiet, a head full of questions.


In Albania, the sea. It's the first time I've seen any body of water bigger than the 'lake' at Herastrau in Bucuresti since I left the States thirteen months ago. I told the people I drove with that I'd probably cry when we got close enough to smell the salt in the air. I didn't, but standing next to the water, listening to sound of it moving, I was afraid for a few seconds. It's not even the sea there, it's a bay, the water lapping against the rocks like bathwater. But it sounded so big.

Growing up around the ocean you take for granted how powerful and vast it is. One of my earliest memories is being tossed inside a breaker when I was around three. I've swum in the ocean at night, stood at the edge of it and listened to a hurricane coming in. But standing there two weeks ago listening to the gentle sloshing, hearing that sound for the first time in over a year, I was reminded of just how mighty it is, how it could swallow me up in a second. I am grateful for this, for the things that help me understand the fear of the Lord.


Hymns, lately. Like this one. And an album called "Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])" with songs like this, this and this. That last one, walking down the hill I live on, Spring in the sky and whispering in the air, I will come, I am coming. "Hosanna we are found!" Face turned up, blue swath of sky and the branches of a tree still waiting to bloom reaching upward anyway. We are found! And it is good. Thankful to be alive and singing it out.


There's a old man who begs outside of my bloc. His right eye is the faded blue something turns after being bleached by the sun. The left one has a cataract, milky white. I think about him a lot, wonder if I'll ever have the courage to sit down next to him and ask him about his life. Both his legs are amputated nearly at the hip, and once after giving him a leu or two, my roommate told me not to, that someone else was probably making him sit out there and beg and taking the money from him afterward. And then a few days later I saw an old lady wheeling him away across the street in a wheelchair. What's his name? I wonder. Does he have kids? Did he ever run with them in the front yard, in a park, toss them into the air? Or maybe he was an alcoholic. Maybe the old woman was his wife and they never had any. What would he say if someone listened to him--or would he say anything?


Two weeks ago I listened to someone playing the harmonica standing next to the Bay of Vlore. The sun was going down so it was too dark to see who it was, but it was someone from our group. Earlier that day I got asked what the desire of my life is, and then a week later in a stuffy hot room on a stuffy couch someone else asked me the same question. I think of that music, a harmonica bringing me back home, drinking tea in the cold and wandering among the people there, wondering about the answer. Praying for it, and hoping, too. Something I want so much, something God has been showing me pieces of these last thirteen months. It's so different than anything I ever saw growing up, really seeing it for the first time here. Good and hard and giving testimony to him in every bit of it.

But even if I only ever end up hoping, watching, in this moment there's this, seeing the pieces start to fit:

My cup, it can't contain all of your glory, your glory
Hosanna we are found after all you are
Holy, oh holy
Holy, holy, holy

Monday, March 12, 2012


"'Listen to me: life's not about principles; it's about happiness.'

'But if you don't have any principles, and if you don't have faith, you can't be happy at all,' said Kadife.

'That's true. But in a brutal country like ours, where human life is "cheap", it's stupid to destroy yourself for the sake of your beliefs. Beliefs? High ideals? Only people in rich countries can enjoy such luxuries.'"

--Orhan Pamuk, Snow

Reminded me of a conversation I had with someone once about Ayn Rand and Communism, and how it can make people. The idea was that it’s easy to be selfless when you have salvation, when you know your Father will take care of you and you have hope for eternal life with him. It would make sense that someone like Ayn Rand would live a life based on the philosophy of selfishness, and how can we be so quick to judge? Because with them, if they don’t do things based on themselves, and for themselves, they’ll starve or go crazy, while we know that in the end God has us, and nothing can take that away. Thought it was interesting.

Friday, March 9, 2012


When I went down to the store this morning I saw that a car had crashed into a power pole near the corner of my bloc. There was a whole crowd of people around just looking. The front end of the car was gone, practically, and I'm still not sure how the driver managed it. It happened in sort of an awkward part of the street with a sort-of intersection, one where you can't really build up much speed.

For all that people say about driving here, driving in cities in this part of Europe (or South America, New York City, lots of other places), I actually feel way safer here. People drive crazier, maybe more risky, sure, but most of the time it seems to me they're more in control, are more aware of what their car can do and where it is in relation to other cars. Even if that means there's a foot between you and the next one versus a car's length.

This past weekend I spent a grand total of about forty hours in the car and actually that's probably a conservative estimate. I love car trips, though, and for me they're rarely dull. So I thought I'd share some of the more interesting things that happened, like hitchhiking and bootlegging the car back together.

--First, we didn't think they were going to let me into Bulgaria (leaving Romania). I think I have a suspicious face or something because it's not uncommon for me to get stopped when I go through security at the airports (not interrogated or anything), but never anything like this. The guy stared for ten minutes at me and my passport (after he'd given back the other two) and asked a bunch of weird questions. The worst part is that when I get nervous about something like that I start to laugh--not haha laugh, more like snickering, so I seem even more suspicious. Anyway, in the end he let us through.

--Got to cross the blue Danube on a ferry! Warning: the fun of this is canceled out by the fact that you will spend your life savings to do it.

--Nearly flipped the car after going over some, for lack of better word, waves in the road at something like 120 km/h. We couldn't see them before we were right on top of them and you can imagine, backseat with no seat belt, went bouncing/flying all over the backseat, car starts fishtailing and somehow in the end we end up straight, still on the road, mostly in one piece. Something started dragging behind the front wheel though so our innovative general secretary pulled pliers and wire out of the trunk and rigged the whole thing back together.

--Somewhere along the way what was supposed to have been an eleven hour trip turned into twenty hours, and the engine also started overheating. Actually I'm not sure what was happening, at first they thought it was the radiator but it wasn't, and we had to stop every twenty minutes or so to add water. Think: lots of conversations in usually at least three languages at once. Communication and its various forms blow my mind. So cool.

--When we finally got to Albania we made a wrong turn and went north instead of south and finally stopped to ask for directions. We talked to some police and what I remember is the man pointing to a map, waving around saying 'you: here! Vlore: here! One four zero kilometer!'

--Lots of the same with the overheating on the way back. But we made it in once piece after lots of praying and lots of water.

--We dropped one of our people off in Bucuresti and after that picked up two hitchhikers hanging out near Pacii. Have never done that before and always wanted to. This one's worth its own post altogether.

--And last but not least. I drove between Bucuresti and Pitesti! It should be said that before then, I hadn't driven in more than a year (since I was last in the States). And that I'd only driven a stick once about eight years ago. So I knew in theory how to do it, sort of, but it wasn't reflex yet, still required lots of thinking. Also, I should say that we think it's legal that I drove. My license is still valid in the States and... anyway, we think it's legal. But I drove! Well! On a stick shift!

And hey, still alive.

Oh! And just for fun, nothing to do with driving but it happened over that weekend, I sat square in the middle of this, after one person tastes the raki/tuica pulled out of someone's bookbag:

"It's Albanian water! Do you want to taste it?"
"Is that like Turkish viagra, then?"
First dude starts hyperventilating.
Second dude continues, "Lokum, that's what they call it."
A lot of sputtering and laughing and shenanigans.
First dude says with a wink, "You know, it is like the Bible says: test everything."

Once again, with the assurance that this was a g-rated and Christian conference, still alive :)