Monday, December 13, 2010
My last connection is more of my own personal one. As the story progresses two of the characters happen upon a sealed metal hatch in the woods and to prevent panic do not share their find till the life of one of them is in jeopardy. His last words lead to the discovery of the hatch and before the secret gets out, the two people go back day after day obsessed in opening it. When I arrived in Romania I was filled with some hard questions that I had been pondering for a while, hoping that a few would be answered in Romania. Every day as we woke up in a different country I became obsessed throwing everything I had at it like Locke and going back over and over asking God if anything would ever be revealed. I did open the hatch like Locke and like him all I found was more questions. But in opening that hatch I learned a valuable lesson as well that though I may question God he will never turn away or get irritated that I am pestering him because he is a patient God who will in his own time answer me. When I think about the other lesson I learned I am reminded of the time when in one of the episodes Locke keeps asking Jack to believe and trust that he was brought there for a reason. Because in the same way I have to accept that God led me to Romania for a reason and though I do not know what is going to come next I believe that God knows and has it under his control.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
A Beacon article that (dear old) Barracuda considered spam...So it shall appear here, instead. (a couple days late)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
We have 5ish days till we are back in the states. As I look back at what this semester has been I am both pleasantly surprised as well as disappointed. This semester is not what I thought it was going to be. It was not an easy semester, I couldn't go wherever I wanted on the weekends, I was not invisible among the Romanian crowd. In some cases I was viewed as the ignorant American, in other cases I was seen as that lucky, awesome American, neither of which I liked at all. I didn't make relationships the way I wanted to. I didn't leave Father Ciocan's house feeling good about myself in regards that I made my stay pleasant for them. I have regrets and I can't change that. I don't know if it's possible to have an experience like this and not leave without regrets.
However, in spite of all the things that I regret, there is so much more good that happened. Yes, it was a hard semester, but an excellent semester. I learned more than I could have dreamed of. Many time I ask myself, "What is a computer science major doing on a semester like this?" Well the answer is a simple answer, I just plain ole wanted to travel abroad, I love traveling and I wanted to see the world. This semester offered that to me. But even though I'm a computer science major I still had a wonderful time learning about the issues in our classes. Obviously since were in Romania, I had a Romanian Culture and History class, and I definitely enjoyed it. Since the Romania is mostly Orthodox Christian we had an Eastern Orthodoxy class, and since I am Christian Reformed I had many beneficial struggles and eye openers in this class. Since we are studying under an organization that deals with development we had a class call Sustainable and Human development, many of the things I learned in this class I had never heard of before, and I loved it, even though it was insanely hard and confusing at times. And since this organization uses experiential education to teach kids about how to be active in their communities I had a class called Experiential Education. This class I probably struggled the most with, since I'm not good with short term relationships that I had to make with the kids. But I still learned a ton from it, I learned what New Horizons is all about and what experiential education can do for kids and their country.
But this semester was great for more than just the classes. We had amazing awesome trips around Romania which showed us beautiful sights and taught us a little more about Romania's history. Our group of students was able to bond and not tear at each others throats by the end. I found this fascinating, not that I wanted to tear at each others throats but I just thought that a group this small would get sick of each other quite fast under the circumstances that put us together all the time. But the opposite happened to my delight and I can honestly say that we are good friends. There are many, many, many (I probably need more manys on this one) more reasons why this semester was fantastic, there just isn't enough room in this blog to tell them all. So it's the end now, we have a week till we're back in the states. With that being said, I would like to thank everyone who prayed for me and kept me in their thoughts. And I would like to thank our semester leaders who put up with us and enjoyed some good times with us (hopefully). Thank you all, the end is nigh.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Today, Monday November 29th is significant for many reasons:
It is the birthday of our dear, wonderful program administrator, Kadie. It is a week before we leave for the United States. And it marks the beginning of finals week. And this is the first time in my college career that I have finished any of my final papers by the time finals week proper rolls around.
|(Granted, we didn’t have a fire…or even warm tiger tummies, but this is the feeling.)|
Hiking up to the Straja Cross and then through snowy pine woods down a darling little trail. All accompanied by a massive, extensive snowball fight. (Photos stolen from Kelly Larsen – Thanks Kelly!)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
There are things that we can't do ourselves. Have you ever tried to move a couch into a building by yourself? If so then you know what I'm talking about about. We need each other. No one man (or woman) stands alone in this world. We are designed to be in relation with one another and if you deny that then you have it dead wrong. I'm sorry friend but if you don't believe me then just try doing the task that was mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. So how does this concept play into our lives? Not just our everyday life but our life as a whole because another truth about humanity is that we fail. As much as a person would like help another person all the time they won't be able to, all the time. There are things that the former person won't understand about the latter. We can't know exactly what is going through the head of the person we want to help. So where does that leave us? Will we just have a gap that won't be filled? A spot that no one else will fully understand? No, it doesn't have to be that way. Because there is a being who wants to help you and They (or He/She) know exactly what you are going through. They know what you want, what is going on in your mind, and what you truly need. They are the Trinity.
Over these past few weeks I have been able to see the power of the living God alive in my life. Just like there are tasks that other people help me complete, there are tasks that God helps me complete. There is no way that I would be at peace right now if it hadn't been for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost's intervention. Two and a half weeks ago I was about ready to throw in the towel, give up, and go back to the states. But through God I was able to find a peace that filled me so much that I have found a new yearning for Romania. So much so that this weekend I gave up one of my passions, traveling, to stay behind and hang out with some Romanian youth a little this weekend.
Another example of God helping me complete a task is, as many know, when we were in Italy driving about, trying to find hostels and other various attractions, we probably would have died if it hadn't been for the supernatural calm that was over us (it's crazy that within chaos there is tranquility).
“But,” you might say, “if God is watching over us, granting us what we need, then why don't we always have peace?” Well, there's a catch, you have to ask, and even then it is granted in His time. But this is where other people can help too, they can ask for things for you. This is called praying. Talking to God. Affirming love for Him and your fellow man/woman. You see before we would drive anywhere in Italy we would pray, we would pray for safety and peace, and they were granted. Before the week begins I pray for peace, and not only do I pray but also my team back home, who remembers me daily. I truly believe that without my team of prayer warriors back home I would be freaking out right now and likely missing out on all the great things that are happening here.
All this is to say that we are not alone, we have someone who cares for us and wants us to care for Them and each other. And there is no little power in prayer, no instead there is great power and we should use it to further The Kingdom.
Dedicated to those that have prayed for me while I am in Romania.
To those that prayed regularly, prayed once, or even just thought about me, Thank You.
Bryent TAD Slagter
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Another day trip has come and gone and though it felt like we were in the car for a good majority of it we all had a fantastic time. On our list of places to see was the Densus Church, Corvinilor Castle (also known as Hunedoara Castle the town where it is located), and the Prislop Monastery, all of which were beautiful. The church is famous for being the oldest church that still holds services and has a background of being a pagan temple for the Dacians and then the Romans when they invaded and built on it for their god Mars. The church is unique in its paintings because it depicts Jesus in traditional Romanian clothes and has a picture of the Trinity in which God is visualized as an old man, Jesus as a baby and the Holy Spirit as a dove. The odd thing about this is that normally paintings in the Orthodox Church do not depict God at all but in the Densus church God is portrayed as a bearded timeworn man. What I found immensely amusing was that on the back of the church roof is a statue of two lions both of which were at one time connected by their tails. When I saw this I guessed it to be a sign of fertility which can be connected to the pagan traditions though when I researched it I didn’t find anything specifically related to lions tails. While we were visiting, a whole bus of kids arrived and ran wild over the church grounds after seeing a bit of the church and hearing about it from the priest. Once we felt we had combed the place fairly well, concerning information, we hopped back into the van and headed in the direction of the castle.
Post by Julie, not Marit!
Sunday, November 7, 2010
A sheep’s-milk cheese with an exceptionally strong flavor, fresh brânzȃ can be found in the piața, the grocery stores, and the fridges of all of our host families. A single block of brânzȃ has been known to inspire The Hungry Thing (name has been changed to protect Zach Hankel’s privacy) to skip breakfast entirely.
The flavor is not all we dread, though-- the smell is perhaps worse yet. I’m certain that I can now pick it out subconsciously from 100 yards, and it is this new sixth sense that I blame for my periodic desire to take the back way to the Impact Building. “Aha!” says my subconscious to itself (because to tell my conscious self would be to inspire panic of the worst variety), “Brânzȃ ahead.” And it begins to sneakily hint (…be subtle…look casual…act natural! Don’t make her suspicious…) to my stream of consciousness that perhaps I would like to walk along the river-path, today. “Oh, no particular reason,” I think…
You suspect that I exaggerate the matter? But while it is potentially true that many people enjoy brânzȃ (I am not convinced), this category does not include either myself or my fellow study-abroad-ers. We’ve all got one another’s backs on this one, too; if anyone has inside information about impending brânzȃ-doom, they will immediately divulge it. The word is often an expression of extreme frustration. If brânzȃ were ever used as practical joke fodder, the joker would certainly be stoned upon discovery. Possibly drawn and quartered, as well.
When a new sign appeared in the window of our favorite pastry shop advertising the addition of a brânzȃ pastry to the menu, we sighed sadly…we will have to find a new favorite pastry shop, since the smell will undoubtedly contaminate the whole place.
It has been discovered in lingoși (a delightful fried-bread-like treat), a very unwelcome surprise. It is a frequent addition to mamaliga (an otherwise delicious cornmeal dish). It can even show up in cakes, I found to my dismay.
So far this semester, I have faced most of my worst fears. My fear of heights, by running across the high-ropes course catwalk, a log 20 feet in the air (its over sooner if you run, the logic goes!); my claustrophobic terror in a series of tiny, winding, scary caves. I have conquered my gag-reflex to eggs and, heck, I even gave up my vegetarianism of 5 years in order to experience the culture more fully, through its cuisine. But I’m fairly certain this one is beyond me. Brânzȃ -- the bane of my Romania semester – is a fear I intend always to flee.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The cemetery was beautiful. Ordinarily it’s relatively empty, but tonight it was hopping, filled with families gathered around graves, remembering the lives of their loved ones who had passed away. Tombs were covered in flickering red candles and huge piles of flowers; long, narrow candles from the Orthodox churches smoldered in the dirt, left behind as tokens of past prayers. We wandered through the cemetery, listening to the ebb and flow of Romanian conversations around us, watching as women passed around homemade cakes, smelling the beer, hearing the familiar pop-fizz of large soda bottles opening… it was bustling. To me, the atmosphere didn’t seem sad. It wasn’t vaudeville; it wasn’t spooky. It was simply, well, Romanian: this charming mix of solemnity and irreverence. We passed a grave where a man was sitting and staring, his lips moving silently; at another grave, one woman dropped a cup full of alcohol on the ground and burst out laughing. It’s a personal thing—a time of remembrance which can look however the deceased would have wanted it to—but also a public event. That’s what made it so beautiful to me: as we passed through the cemetery, we were offered food and drink. People call out to each other; they visit other families’ graves. In the States, grief is usually a very individual and somber thing. In the Ziua Morţilor, grief is anything but solitary.
The event reminded me of another occasion this semester: our visit to the Cimitirul Vesel (“Merry Cemetery”) in Săpânţa, a small village in the far north of Romania. The Cimitirul Vesel is world-famous for its beauty: each tomb is adorned with a hand-carved blue cross, painted with a scene from the deceased’s life and a poem—often ironic, sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny, always poignant. (For example, read the following!)
... Să vă mai spun una bună ...Now I will tell you a good one
Mi-o plăcut ţuica de prună I kind of liked the plum ţuica
Cu prietenii la birt With my friends at the pub
Uitam şi de ce-am venit! I used to forget what I came for!
In the Cimitirul Vesel, death is seen as an opportunity to celebrate the life that was lived, rather than a time of mourning and grief. Death is seen, in fact, as a joyful thing as we anticipate the better life to come. It’s a beautiful philosophy, and it’s reflected well in the cemetery. As we wandered through, I couldn’t help but smile. The stories captured in rhyme and paint seemed so alive, so real, that one couldn’t help but celebrate the great wealth of humanity represented there. What a beautiful thing.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
There are many, many differences in culture that I have found. However I think they mainly can be summed up into 3 groups. There's the language barrier, obviously. The food. And the behavior diff, which is a broader topic but, whatevs.
Ok, first off, the language barrier. I say barrier because that's exactly what it is. Not being able to be understood and even more so to understand is as hard as running through a brick wall, and I know exactly how hard that is (if your confused ask one of my friends or family). One cannot have a better example then the homestay example. Most of the students here have someone in their family who can speak some English, but not I. I live with Father Hammer and his wife Simona. They have 2 sons, Felix and Hoaria. The latter I met just once before he moved off to college and Felix followed a few weeks after. So, I was then left alone at home with no one that spoke English. By this time I could speak polite words (thank you, no thank you, etc) and I knew a few basic verbs but other than that I can't understand hardly anything. Without fail “conversation” will somehow end, rather quickly, in me saying “Nu intselect”, which means I don't understand. It's fascinating how every time I reach this point I literally cringe with a feeling of stupidity, embarrassment and above all guilt. To avoid these predicaments, sometimes it's easier just to flee to the comfort of a movie on the computer, or social networking, but then I start to feel guilty about not spending time with Father Hammer and I have to accept my fate and face the music once again. This cultural difference is obvious but I don't think one can actually appreciate how hard it is until they are in this position, don't believe the movies which portray foreign language as something that's easily picked up.
Alrighty then, second difference, food. I'm sure it's no shock that foods different in different places in the world, but the topic still qualifies for this post so I'm gonna talk about it anywho. There are 2 types of food in Romania, awesome food and nasty. I'm gonna attempt to make some kind of a list now so bear with me.
Ok, lets start with the good food.
1. Soup -Soup. Is. Amazing. There is no such thing as canned soup in Romania. Every last soup dish is made from scratch, and it's awesome. It's called ciorba here (pronounced chorba) and there are 2 kinds, sour soup and just plain ciorba. Sour soup usually has vinegar or something of the like in it, but it's still quite good. A Romanian classic soup is sour soup with pig intestine, yes I've had it and yes I like it. The other soup is just as good but doesn't really have any interesting feature to it.
2. Alcohol. I have no idea what the legal drinking age here is. What I do know is that I can legally drink. A good meal is not complete with out the usual shot o' tuika (pronounced suika), which is home made plumb brandy. There is also the occasional glass of wine but I've only had that once. However, drunkenness is looked down upon just as much as in the states. Father Hammer, my host father, has a saying which goes "One drink is from God, two drinks is from man and three drinks is from the devil". So drinking, at least with my family, happens in conservative moderation.
3. Natural food. This category pretty takes up the rest of the food list except for fast food. All the food here is natural, all the people here cook their own food and pretty much all of the ingredients they buy is natural, unprocessed food. It's considerably cheaper here than junk food is, in contrast to the States.
4. Fast food. There are fast food joints here but they too use, for the most part, natural ingredients. If you go to a Hamburger place, with the exception of McDonalds, you can bet that the food your eating came from local farmers.
Alright now for the food nasty
1. Brunza = Satan's cheese. Brunza is goat cheese. I've never had goat cheese before this semester and I never want to eat that awful stuff ever again. Even the smell of it set your insides against your own body.
2. Pate. Pate is a sort of liver mush that people use in place of mayo sometimes. ... ... Why on earth would you want to do that?
3. Sausage. Don't get me wrong, I love sausage and really the sausage here isn't all that nasty but I put it under this category for the sake of its fattyness. All the meat here is extremely fatty, which us Americans aren't used to, so for us it's more or less disgusting.
Ok, now for the last but not least category, behaviors. I'll also put this into a sort of list.
1. PDA = Ok. Got a girlfriend? Wanna make out in front of the whole world? Then come to Romania folks, people do it here all the time.
2. Modesty = less so than I'm used too. Personally I haven't had much contact with this, but apparently in the summer people go to the public pool and get naked. Also naked pictures are not uncommon in a newspaper or somethin.
3. Farming here is done in a sort of old fashioned way. There are not many tractors here and there are no combines. What your more likely to see is a horse drawn cart with hay or wood on it trotting down the streets of Lupeni (the town where we live). Seed is planted by hand (I think), and the harvest is done with either a small tractor or machine or a good old fashioned scythe.
4. Sportball (<- West Hall reference) The only sport here is Soccer, hardly any others.
5. Piracy. Romanians don't buy entertainment, they hack it from the internet. Games, movies, songs, apps all get snatched off the net and nobody cares. Kind of nice, I for one don't like paying money for songs especially.
6. Orthodoxy. They main religion is Christian Orthodoxy. Similar to the Catholic church but I'm not even used to that.
7. Utilities. Heating, water, etc are all very different here. There are hardly any gas furnaces here, pretty much everyone has a wood burning stove. There are hardly any microwaves. In order for your house to have hot water you must have a heating thingy which is usually located near the sink or bath tub or whatever it is.
8. Sickness. Romanians, from what I've experienced, are paranoid about getting sick. If you don't wear the correct clothing, you can be sure that you will be scolded and told that you're gonna get sick. If someone has a minor cold or an upset stomach they can be bedridden for days or become convinced that they need a doctor. And then there's the draft. Romanians think that a draft of air can cause one to become ill, so don't be surprised if your walkin down the street and you see a man with cotton in his ear.
Ok, so that's a basic summary about the differences between here and home. Hope this post wasn't too long.