Even though I spent time in a couple villages over the week, I stayed in Carmen & Amber’s apartment with them in Calarasi (pronounced like cal-a-Rosh). The outside of the building and area may look a bit run down but the apartment was quite nice. The buildings surrounded a courtyard park where people sat on benches and the children ran around playing.
Carmen teaches one of the kindergarten classes at the Hope Center and tutors as well. She is Romanian, but speaks English as well. I learned quite a bit about her journey to working with OH and passion for teaching. She was a wealth of information for me as I asked questions about the ministry and the country. She graciously listened to me when I was tired and rambling on about nothing in particular. There was a simplicity and confidence about her that made me feel like I belonged there, even though we were strangers.
Amber was my coordinator-translator-driver for the week. On our way to Calarasi from the airport, I rambled on and on as she asked questions and I added whatever else popped into my head (I’m blaming it on being tired). Might not have been the best first impression. From what I got to know about Amber through the week is that she is sold out to Jesus. God had designed her for the role she was in and as she matures, He’ll continue to do more through her. This 21 year old is special, but there is a part of her she keeps protected. I’m praying that it will (insert the American ‘actually’ here, right Amber?) become a source of strength to continue climbing even higher.
Being there on my own didn’t give me anyone else to hide behind. While it was freeing on one hand it also brought out a lot of my insecurities. I had no control over anything, except my words and actions. Looking back, I think I talked too much and did too little, but perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on myself. Some moments I felt at ease as if I had always been there. Other times I still felt invisible and as if I were just another stranger passing through. I’m still processing and getting glimpses of God’s purpose from the experience.
Onto a few randomly memorable moments...
Why Is Traffic Stopped?
For the elephants to cross the road, of course!
We were stopped and traffic and trying to figure out why when we saw them. The circus was in town and 2 elephants were being led into the fairgrounds. Who knew I didn’t need to go to Africa to see elephants. I only needed to go to Romania!
One my biggest challenges in Romania, sadly was opening and closing doors. I had my own set of keys to the apartment I was staying at. The first time I had to use them, I could not get the door unlocked. There were 2 locks on the door. When we’d left earlier the top lock was turned twice. So I turned the lock twice, but it was still locked. I tried again. I tried the bottom lock. I felt stupid – surely opening a door couldn’t be this hard. I was just about to call Amber and ask her the secret when she showed up and came to my rescue. I still felt stupid. Later I was clued into the secret but never had the chance to redeem myself.
My second door issue was in Chisilet (pronounces Kee-si-let). I could not get the front door of the house I was staying at to stay closed. I tried pulling and pushing while turning the handle. I tried doing it softly and being more aggressive. Finally, the last time I walked out of the house I whined in frustration, “I can’t ever get this door to stay shut!” Amber replied, “Just push the handle up.” Convinced I’d already tried that I wasn’t hopeful when I did it one more time. Yeah…. Of course that time it worked.
It was a long shot, but there was a geocache listed in Calarasi. After explaining it, Carmen offered to take me to look for it on her day off. We parked and set off only to discover we weren’t very close to the cache at all. Off walking we went. It was neat to walk through what had formerly been the downtown hub, now mostly desolate.
Eventually we ended up in a park and found the area where the cache was to be hiding. As soon as we started looking around a large tree a security guard approached and asked what we were doing. (I assume that what’s he said). Carmen explained geocaching to him as we moved on to another nearby tree. This one had a large rotted out hole near the base of the trunk. A perfect spot for a cache, but I was hesitant to reach my hand in there without seeing what was in there. The security guard had become part of the search party as he turned on his flashlight app and shined it down into the hole for me.
Unfortunately, the only thing I pulled out was a live snail.
Carmen was disappointed that it wasn’t there as was I, but the adventure was still worth it.
While there, we had one day without water from midnight till about 7pm. Elephants and now no water… it was starting to feel like being Africa. I was told the shut down (of the whole city of 50,000+) is a fairly common occurrence. We were prepared, so despite some minor inconveniences going one day without water wasn’t too bad. But it did serve as a reminder to not take things, even clean running water for granted.
The Dogs are Anti-American
Amber and I drove out to Chisilet for the prayer meeting. I was excited to go out to people’s homes and pray with them. As the cultural custom, we removed our shoes prior to entering the home of a young couple. After a few minutes of sharing with them and finding out what needs we could pray for, we gathered around to pray and then took our leave.
Amber and I looked outside the door where we had left our shoes but they weren’t there. The shoes were quickly recovered in the yard as the dogs had taken them. They joked about the dogs only taking the American’s shoes. We all laughed.
Vali didn’t know the word in English, so he went and brought out the squash. He wanted to carve the squash. He cleaned it out and carved the face. I went in and finessed it. A bit harder to clean out than a pumpkin, but a lot less goop.