Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Non-Formal Education

Let me begin by apologizing for the formatting near the bottom of this post...I can't seem to dispose of those ridiculous gaps. =/

If you had told me a month ago what this Romanian adventure would hold, I would never have believed you. But now, 27 days after landing in Bucharest, I am convinced that this will be the most memorable semester of my college career.
The Retezat Excursion! 
In the past four weeks, I have made myself at home in five locations, learned enough vocabulary to apologize and thank with some proficiency, struggled to conjugate Romanian verbs into a plethora of tenses, spent a week playing, working, learning and laughing with Romanian teenagers at Viata and backpacked the Retezat Mountains. 
These experiences have been shared with a wonderful group of people, some of whom you may know: Northwestern sophomores Zachary “Hank” Hankel, Bryent “Tad” “Scrappy” Slagter, Julie Adams and Calvin College junior Kelly Larsen.
My host home!
As I sit in my host family’s living room at 11:49 on a Sunday morning, typing, reading assignments for tomorrow’s classes and drinking a mug of steaming coffee, I can’t help but smile over the differences I have found between this place and good old Orange City, where the clocks read 3:49 AM and you should all be sleeping.
I live just minutes down the mountain from Kelly’s host family, and from our new homes we have a lovely little jaunt—45 minutes by foot—to and from the Impact building in Lupeni where most of our classes are held. I must admit that I find it somewhat more lovely on the “to” end, when the road leads down-hill, but the view, the company and the moments of silent contemplation I have been afforded while tromping in either direction have been beautiful. 
From my first month here, I have drawn out these gems of wisdom:
1. “No, thank you” is not often accepted as an actual refusal in Romania, and several more offers will inevitably ensue. Be prepared to stand firm in your refusal, or simply to accept.
2. Romania must be home to three-fourths of the world’s canine population; there are dogs everywhere! Feed them and they will follow you indefinitely, gazing up longingly with big, irresistible puppy eyes.

3. Ciorba (Romanian soup) is fantastic! Never miss a chance to eat homemade ciorba.
4. Microwaves are highly superfluous.
5. Gathering plums and apples from the orchard surrounding my host home is the perfect way to spend a sunny fall day.

6. The little orange café by the Lupeni post office (Cafe Mago) serves incredible pastries and espresso…and if I edit my standard route subtly enough, it could potentially be considered “on the way to class. 

7. There is nothing quite as satisfying as falling asleep in six layers of clothing, warming with aching muscles in a chilly tent on the rocky ground of the Retezat Mountains.

8. A simple grin, if used often, can create friendships through language barriers.

9. Verb conjugation can kick my butt in Romanian just as easily as it did in Spanish.

10. Washing the dishes can mean “I love you!” in any language.

11. Dogs like gummy-worms.  Bet you didn't know that! 

12. "Nu Parcati" seems to mean "No Parking"... it is never obeyed.

13. Dryers are not to be taken for granted!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home, Heart, and Here

Home is where the heart is. That is what they say, but what if your heart is in so many different places that you don't know which one to call home. This is the struggle that I have found in coming to Lupeni. I do believe this statement to be quite true but, for me, there are a lot of questions that go along with it.
First of all what do they mean by “heart”? I don't think that the original person who coined this phrase meant the actual, physical heart that we have in our bodies, although there is something special in knowing that your home is where your physical body is, I will touch on this a little later. But I think we can all agree that the person who first said this meant that your heart is what you love with. Which brings me to my next question.
What do they mean by “where the heart is”? Since we have come to the conclusion that your heart is what you love with the logical answer is “where” must be with what you love. You see love has the power to connect. Every person in the world loves, if a person doesn't then he/she is not human; every person has something they care for. But the problem is you can love many things. You can love certain people, certain animals, certain areas in the world, so people even say they love certain cars. So could your “home” be where a certain car is? Some may disagree with me, but I personally don't think that it can. Does your “home” move with where a certain person moves? If you take that question at the letter of the word, once again I don't think it does. No a home has to have many of the things that you love to be there in order for it to be home. But what happens if some things that you love are in one place and some more things that you love are in another place? Which one of those places are home? Both? Are you allowed to have two homes?
This is where I have found myself almost every day when walking down the streets of Lupeni. My heart has found many things to love in this place, some of them being the scenery, the simplicity, the shops, and most of all the people. But at the same time my heart has many things it loves about Orange City and the same goes for Minnesota (where I originate from). You want to know the tough part about it I love many of the same things in them all. So which one is my home?
Now I will give a shout-out to my brothers in Heemstra and say “Be here now!” What this means is that where-ever I am I should be fully there. Be fully engaged in what is happening in that place and be fully knowledgable in what is happening. So essentially it is saying where my physical heart is that is where my mind and love should be. This isn't that I can't love things from a different area but I should consider the area that I am in to be home.
So I am writing from my new-found home, Lupeni, Romania, to all of you in your prospective homes around the world. I hope that this makes sense and that you are able to get something out of it.

Bryent TAD Slagter

Home in Romania

Home in Orange City

Home in Minnesota