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.