Friday, September 26, 2008

Hey Everyone!
Andrew here with a quick update on the Retezat trip!
We get out of our van and strap on our packs. Looking around you can see a beautiful blue sky with high bluffs filling the horizon. The sun is just past its zenith and everyone has an excited look about them. The sound of a river is audible as we start our short hike to our first campsite. We trek down a short path right over the rushing water. After a log bridge we hike up the other side of the hill and find ourselves in a wide open campsite!

There is a lot that happened during our trip, but ultimately this first campsite ended up being our second and third. The weather didn’t really cooperate with us, so we ended up staying at our first campsite the whole trip.

There were negative things about this, like not being able to make it to our 8232 foot destination, Peleaga (the highest point in the Retezat); however the positive side was that we could go on a bunch of day hikes without taking our heavy packs.

It was an amazing experience and our leaders did incredible jobs! I can say that we all had a great time.

I hope you all enjoy the pictures!
In God We Trust,


Us, minutes before our first hike with our packs.

The amazing bridge we had to cross over before our first camp sight!

An amazing view from our first day hike! (If you look closely you can see us :)

Us on our second day hike. You’ve got to love blue skies!

Our fearless leaders (minus Daniel).

Me and my cook group, the Afina’s, on our last day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Excerpts from "KINGDOM WORK"

In conjunction with his theatre internship in Bucureşti, Northwestern senior Kailen Fleck has set up his blog KINGDOM WORK to keep his friends, family, and advisor up-to-date on his activities. The following excerpts are from his September 22 entry entitled "Experiential Education." KINGDOM WORK can be found at the following link, where you'll be able to read more about Kailen's work in the city.

Dear Friend,

Dave Nonnemacher, Northwestern's service learning guru, arrived in Lupeni sometime last week Sunday. As I mentioned in my previous entries, he went with us to the Retezat and made comments about us being a part of the 0.0001% of Americans who had the opportunity to hike in the mountains of Romania. He reminded us of this often. Anyway, he took us out for pizza tonight.

...remember Pizza Planet, the pizza joint we went to a couple of times when we first arrived? That’s where we had pizza with Dave. He wanted to give us some time to vent to him if we had to. We really didn't have to. It also gave him another chance to express how truly passionate he is about this opportunity we each have. I tease Dave about this, but I truly share his passion for the Romania Study Abroad program. The opportunities we have to learn here are invaluable.

Dave spoke a lot about experiential education and how important he feels it is within the context of Northwestern. Let me put my plug in here: if education can be had through experience (isn’t that what most of life is?) then I’m all for it. For crying out loud, Jesus didn’t always teach in a classroom (Sermon on the Mount.) Also, Northwestern continuing their relationship with New Horizons should be obvious. There are opportunities here that you can’t get anywhere else that can benefit everyone involved. I value very much the education I get in the classroom back home, the discussions had with my peers and professors, but experiential education offers something new and different that can still be applied to everyday life. I’m trying to work off of what Dave said, which he says so much better.

Experiential education, adventure education, the Romanian semester, it’s all something Northwestern needs to keep looking into. The work being done here in Lupeni is monumental, and it’s spreading. I’ll be doing very similar work in Bucureşti, work promoting social capital and community, things Northwestern is a large supporter of. This all needs to continue.

I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ll present all this to Northwestern when I return. Part of the internship will be to present my findings, my experiences, wrap it up in a package, and let people know what’s going on. At least, that’s what I want to do when I get back. I have a lot to wrap up. September isn’t over yet, I’ll be in the city, starting my work before the end of the week. Another adventure begins. What will I learn? What will I experience?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Romanian Hospitality

(This is me with two of my brothers; Emma & Aunie)

After our week of Viata we came down from Straja into the town of Lupeni with feelings of accomplishment, awe and nervousness. I, in particular, was especially nervous about my homestay. I was so afraid that my family would not like me and had been praying ferverently every day for my family to accept me.

Arriving at the New Horizons Building in Lupeni was nerve wracking and I continually checked my watch as 6:00 pm slowly creeped closer and closer. My host family was one of the first to arrive. My sister Persida, (one of eight siblings that I have in my family) came up to me and gently linked her arm through mine and told me that she hoped we would become close throughout the semester and that we would have a good friendship. This amount of love shown to me right away blew me out of the water.

(This is Emma, Nachis, Tata (Dad), & Aunie)

Once we arrived at her father's they served me dinner and I was engaged in conversation about what kinds of food I liked. I quickly explained that I liked of the only Romanian words that I knew at the time. Suddenly Tata (father in romanian) got up from the table and disappeared outside. A couple of minutes later he came back in the house with a plate that had two enormous blocks of cheese on it and sat it right in front of me! I must have looked shocked because he burst out laughing and soon I joined in.

A couple of weeks into my homestay I was able to celebrate my 20th birthday. All of my brothers and my sister chipped in and made me an amazing cake with all of my favorite fruit and even bought me my favorite type of white chocolate. Suprising me further they sang to me in Romanian and took the time to learn the english version of happy birthday.

I wish I could write more about the love that this family has shown me because there is so much more that they have done for me but I have probably already written too much. To wrap it up all I have to say is that this family has shown me what it means to love unconditionally with your whole heart and I am so thankful for their Romanian hospitality.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Pictures from the last post...

Hey! Some of you asked for pictures from Viata week and because I am new to this bloggin' business I had to make a new post. The picture on the left is HollyAnn and I on the "High Mohawk" and the picture to the right is a form of trust falls that our group is doing. The final picture is a beautiful picture of the Retazat Mountains from our cabana (I just needed to share that one :) Thank you for patiently waiting for some pictures. We were in the Retazat Mountains, but someone else will be sharing that story...until next time - HUGS AND HOPE.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Shortykiwzouy!

We have arrived in Romania, as many of you know! After eating at a truly Romanian resturant, seeing a bear, sight seeing the summer home of King Carol, and over 10 hours of travel (of course some pizza at Pizza Planet too) we arrived at our cabana in Straja. Let me please paint you a picture of Straja. In the Jui Valley there are 5 cities within close proximity (we are staying in Lupeni for the rest of the semester). When you walk (or if you are lucky get to ride in a maxi-taxi) up the side of the southern incline of the valley, you come to a small ski-resort town which has a mini market, a couple club/bars, a couple resturants, an Orthodox church, and multiple cabanas. Also there are many shepherd dogs, sheep, horses, and cows randomly running down the slope. We stayed in a cabana owned by New Horizons which is on the slope going up to a large cross which glows at night. We (as a collective student group from Northwestern + Solita from Calvin) decided we were going to hike up to the cross every morning for devotions to get ready for our week long hike in the Retazat mountains.

After a few days for getting over jet-lag, we were interduced to "Viata" - a summer long program where over 500 students, mostly in the highschool age range, from all over Romania come to learn what it means to work together as well as push themselves in ways they never would have dreamt, such as hiking up to Straja peak, rock climbing, high ropes courses, and trust falls. We were able to join in with the groups and experience team-building with them. HollyAnn and I joined "Grupa Doua" which we named "Happy Shortykiwzouy!" We spent two days working on the low ropes courses, a day on high ropes, half a day rock climbing and then the other half orienteering. We spent the final day learning about taking care of the environment and then hiking up to the top of Straja peak. From there we could see from all sides of the peak - basically AMAZING!!! The last morning we got together in groups and said what we were thankful for about each person and received a braclet made out of hiking rope. This was very emotional. I realized that while I thought I was going to be the one encouraging, these kids were the ones pushing and encouraging me. 1 Timothy 4:12 seems to come to mind. We said some tearful goodbyes and road down the chair lift to the city of Lupeni. We stepped into the next chapter of our experience in Romania.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Explaining the New Horizons logo


This is Dana Bates, Founder of New Horizons. I want to say a bit about our logo both the design and the text. The compass symbolizes the importance of values through the metaphor of orientation in that life is orientated and given direction through values. The social capital paradigm gives ample evidence that life flourishes on all levels--even economic--when strong social values (integrity, honesty, trust, compassion) persist. Thus life "flies high", symbolized through the eagle or bird as the compass needle, when social and interpersonal values are strong.

Thus the social capital reference points toward the relational, social and communal aspects of existence or human flourishing. But is this adequate? What about the individual? Is the individual merely a function of the group? This was the error of Communism and by losing the individual they eventually lost the community a well. The Capabilities Approach on the other hand gives stronger weight to individual development and flourishing, human agency and views communal forms of life in light of their ability to promote individual human flourishing.

Thus we are left with two ideas that are often viewed as incompatible, each with strengths and weaknesses: the fundamental importance of the individual and the fundamental importance of community. In most political philosophy and development theory, these are in tension and there is the permanent temptation to reduce one to the other. Yet our contention is that human development must be (inter)personal, giving full weight to both aspects of our existence.

Now, do these "values" or concerns connect with theology--and if so where and how? This will be a major question of this semester abroad program, linking and correlating development philosophy with Eastern Orthodox theology.

We are glad you are with us!

Monday, September 1, 2008


Hi there,

We are Janelle Vandergrift and Daniel Heffner - the program administrators here in Romania. As we write this, the group is up on Straja mountain participating and assisting in the Viata Summer Adventure Camp. I am sure there are many stories and thoughts that will fill this page this semester as experiences lend themselves to education and education to experience.

We look forward to sharing this 3 month adventure virutally with you.