Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Hey everyone! We have been having a "yellow-zone" experience here thus far. By "yellow-zone" I mean in between green (comfort) and red (panic), and are in the learning and experiencing zones. A couple of the experiences our group has had thus far to put us there is the traveling. A couple weekends ago Anne, Hollyann, and I traveled (by train...I felt like we were going to Narnia) to Timisoara. Timisoara is where the protests that began the downfall of Ceausescu began, and is an all around beautiful city. We called our weekend "The Weekend of Angels." There were many times when we received help from local Romanians to point us in the right direction to churches, the train station, great restaurants, and site-seeing places. The picture above is just one side of the beautiful square where the protests took place. On Sunday we attended the Othrodox Church in the center of town (to the right) which was also pretty beautiful.
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 excerpt is from his October 14 entry entitled "The Oppressed.." KINGDOM WORK can be found at the following link, where you'll be able to read more about Kailen's work in the city.
He carries an old twenty ounce pop bottle in his right hand and holds the squeegee in his left. Or is it the other way around. I can’t remember. All I remember is the limp in his step and the despair in his face. He was crying, crying about the licking he’s going to get for not making enough money, crying about the fact he can’t go and play like the other boys can, crying because he’s walking around in busy traffic, or crying because his leg hurts and he’s limping, I don’t know why and I don’t care. All that matters to me is that he’s crying, stifling his sobs so no one can notice. But I notice. I notice and my heart is rent from me so violently and savagely I can’t imagine what possibly could’ve done it.
I’ve come this way before, on my way home from the office, and I’ve seen many like him. He has to be no older than twelve, quite possibly younger. He reminds me of my brother when we adopted him from Bulgaria. He was only seven then. Is that how old this boy is? He’s one of many, I can imagine, all skinny and scrawny, either begging from car window to car window for some doggy bag feast or hoping the next idling vehicle they begin to wash will in turn produce a few bani with which they can purchase something to tide them over for twenty-four hours or more. He’s probably crying because this is what he did last night and the night before that and the night before that. He’s probably crying because he knows he’ll be doing this tomorrow night and the nights that follow. There’s no escape. This is his lot in life.
I sit at the tram stop, wishing I could take my eyes away, wishing like him that I could escape. In his face, in his very walk, in the state of his clothes and the age of the plastic bottle he carries, in his vulture-like hovering around cars in the four lanes of traffic behind me I can see the oppression. These are the losers of society, losers because they have truly had everything taken from them. It sits right in front of them, all fifty-plus of them, puffing exhaust into the already polluted air, purring and humming to their own individual tempo and tune because they have the choice to. They have the choice to be individuals. They have the choice to leave this place and they can choose where they go because where they go there will be security, there will be safety, there will be comfort. It may be small comfort, but it is comfort nonetheless. I realize now that maybe I’m also talking about myself.
What is oppression but one shalom being sacrificed for another? If shalom must be sacrificed, then there’s no possible way another can be created in its place, but people don’t realize that. Oppressors don’t believe that. In order to maintain their flourishing, their justice, and their delight, they must reap from that of another. They are vampires whose lust for blood drives them to the marrow of another’s shalom. But who are these oppressors? Can any of them be named? Can anyone truly point the finger, spin the dial until fate lands the arrow on the one responsible? Can the boy with the squeegee and old plastic bottle show me his oppressor? If so, would he point at me? How did I get here, an American in Romania? How can I ask the question, “Who is your oppressor?”
Many would say the boy chose this lifestyle, or his father chose it for him, and so on and so forth until the rationalization turns the boy into a thing. We’re not dealing with flesh and a soul, something like me, oh no. We’re dealing with a thing, a parasite of society, the dirty laundry that remains dirty no matter how many times you wash it. I’ve heard this argument before and have used it myself shamelessly in order to elevate my own self to a position of morality. I don’t give because I know it will be used for ill. Giving will only feed the dependency he has on the vice that he practices, making his circumstance that much more difficult to break away from. Yet I look in his face and think to myself how much I would want justice were I in his shoes, a justice I have no power to bring about. That’s why I would cry, because there is no justice. How can there be when I’m still in the mess I’ve been in for so long?
I am oppressed, too, though I, in a way, choose my oppression. Another much greater than I once, in a way, chose his oppression also, but he chose it because he knew full well the consequences of not choosing. The magnitude of not choosing seemed a much greater oppression to bear than the oppression he chose. And so, he died, taking with him all oppressions and thereby working once again towards a justice we all imagine, yet never gain, a shalom we all sense exists but never fully see. It is for this shalom that I choose my oppression, the oppression of empathy. It is an oppression that sadly, at this point, leaves me without action. I just sit and watch, wanting to find a solution but finding no easy ones. How then can action take place in the presence of such oppression? What is the difference that can be made by one American in a land not his own, for a people he doesn’t understand? Can the stage, possibly, be a place where such actions can be rehearsed, where oppression can be defeated and a difference made, a step forward to shalom? Or is it just rehearsal, just fiction, just a fantasy? Am I the only person that can answer that question? No. Who else must answer?
I hearken back to a time when I shared the same pitiful look as the boy with the squeegee and old plastic bottle, a time when I too felt such agony that no tears and no crying to possibly expel the feelings I had. In many of these cases, it wasn’t even in the face of my abusive father. As horrible as those times were, the times I hearken back to were times of utter loneliness. I didn’t make a noise when I cried, because there was no one there to hear me. Utter loneliness then morphed into utter hopelessness. That is what the boy with the squeegee and old plastic bottle felt as he limped through idle traffic, risking his life in front of a fickle red traffic light in order to feed his starving belly. That is what I felt also as I sat waiting for my tram, not because our situations were similar, but because I empathized. Empathy alone, without action: utter hopelessness.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Once again we are increasing our level of involvement in Romanian society, and this time it is with IMPACT. IMPACT is a means of combining experiential education with service learning in an effort to equip Romanian youth with the skills needed to be active citizens in this post-communist society.
Last Thursday I had the privilege of meeting my IMPACT club and it was very inspiring to see so many youth excited about making a difference in their community. We celebrated two birthdays, brainstormed some potential service-learning projects for the upcoming year, and upon their request, played a game that I taught them.
One boy, Billy, was so kind that he translated everything that was being said in Romanian. So although I do not speak the same language as many of the kids, the language barrier has not diminished my inclusion in the club. I left the club meeting arm in arm with two of the girls, and I think it is fair to say that that epitomises the all around feeling in the group toward one another.
So we are all very excited that we have begun our involvement in our respective IMPACT clubs, and feel very privileged that we will be a part of IMPACT for the duration of our time here in Romania.