Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sibiu-tiful

 I am in Romania, finally! I already feel like I've been here much longer than about five days. When I got past customs and quickly found my suitcase in the airport in Bucharest, I exited and soon met, for the first time in person, Joe, Kendra and Nadia. We went to a mall and ate in the food court, and Nadia bought a sim card for my phone. Then we went to a hotel, and the next day we began our drive to Sibiu.

There was a lot of traffic for some reason, on a Sunday, and we listened to my ipod as we made the three hour drive. We discovered, upon a little exploration after arriving in Sibiu, that our two little Airbnb rooms are about a minute walk away from the university where Kendra and I would do our Romanian language course. We started our class on Monday morning.

So here we are! The classes are challenging and getting harder. There are about 41 students total and we are broken up into a few different proficiency levels. I am in A1, the easiest class. But already we are getting into difficult grammar. Besides the morning classes, which start at 9:30 and end at 12:30, we had a walking tour of Sibiu, an immersion course (we have several of these), and last night we had a dinner party. Today we had a tour around the art museum. So we are finding that our days are very full, but I am not overwhelmed, for the most part.

There seem to be many instances in which I am discovering that things in Romania are going to go better than I had thought. These are often little things, but they are encouraging nonetheless. Such as, there are thrift stores in Romania after all! Also, even thought I forgot to get my new phone charger from Nadia, my old charger works with it perfectly. I don't have to be overly worried about being super modest, other than in church, since this is Europe, after all. The variety of foods is better than I imagined. The strawberry yogurt is even better than what I've had in the States, among other things. Women and girls often dress up for no reason, like just to go to the mall. Kendra and Joe like my music (okay, not a Romanian thing), especially Courtney Barnett. I could think of more. There are so many things to be grateful for.

I will cram this next part into this post, because it is important. I am feeling that tug of identity change that happens with travel. Maybe this seems a little soon to be talking about this type of thing, but for instance, I am thinking these words that I type semi-consciously in a Romanian accent. I can feel the rhythm of my speech being slightly altered. There's a guy named David* in my class who has lived in Spain for seven years, and he has a noticeable accent, even though he was raised in Missouri.


Also, I have been having a sort of shade lifted from my eyes as I realize how normal everything is. Looking at people just as they are, not as "weird" Romanians but as normal people, maybe sort of different to me, but the same core human qualities show through. Children are children, old women are old women. Things that are foreign become less so. Again, this is probably extremely early to be noticing all this, but that's what I've been experiencing. I was talking to a guy named Gabriel*, who has traveled extensively (and indeed, he is a language expert) and he was telling me just the sort of thought that I had already been thinking about. He lived in little town in the mountains in some country for a while, and over time he would wonder, "Why are those tourists taking pictures? What are they doing?" in the way that a local person would think. And he began to notice all the little details that he had not be aware of before. This is what true contextualization is. Not a "them" mentality about Romanians, but an "us" mentality about humans. Yes, the differences are there. But seeing the similarities is the key, and is not stressed enough, in my opinion.

Last of all, I am trying to see how my personality will continue to change (as it seems to be changing all the time over the years) after I have been in Romania a little while. Trying to "be myself" but also adapt to the culture is like juggling watermelons. Too much to handle, so I try not to think about it too much, at least not, say, while I'm talking to someone. There are people from all over Europe taking this class: Swedes, Germans, Brits, Americans, Austrians, Japanese. It's a massive wave of influences. This is a really wonderful opportunity.

So all that has been swimming in my head. Travel is a challenge. I hope you have enjoyed this post. Time for dinner!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

An Imminent Departure

This blog is about to get more interesting, as my time in Romania is drawing closer. I leave for Bucharest in T-minus 13 days! I started packing today. I know it's a little early, but the more prepared I am, the better. I've been brushing up on my Romanian. I'm trying to get the basics down and now at least I know some root words.

Since getting back to SoCal, it feels strange. It feels like I've been here ages instead of just returning a few weeks ago. My life in Raleigh feels impossibly far away. It's peculiar what a little time and a lot of distance can do.

Meanwhile, Romania lies ahead the way it always has, only now it's actually this month. I've known for ten years that Romania was sometime in my future, and with all of the waiting, hoping and praying, it seems that this big dream of mine is actually coming to fruition. I had a dream the other night, a weird one combining college and high school, and in my dream state I knew that I was going to be working for Next Generation Outreach, but I couldn't remember where they were located. South Korea? Thailand? A little later in my dream I remembered, Romania! My delight and relief at getting to go where I have wanted to go for so long made an initially confusing dream into a pleasant one. There is literally no other place on earth I want to go more.

There is no fear in my heart about leaving, just uncertainties. My challenges may grow in the future, but really, I would be more afraid of staying in California than leaving. I've already seen how much I can thrive on my own in a new place. But of course, in Romania I won't be entirely on my own. There is so much potential and hope that the scary stuff just seems insignificant.

When I've followed the rules and standard procedure for success, I've run into dead ends. Choosing the "smart" friend group in high school, going to college right after high school, living in the dorm, all those choices that most people would assume would be obviously beneficial have involved a lot of unexpected consequences. People don't talk about all the garbage that can result from making a "good" choice, but it happens. It's sort of out of our control which hand we're dealt in life. So I've decided to go after what God has put on my heart. Moving across the country to Raleigh is easily one of the best decisions I've ever made, even though some people most likely wondered what the heck I was doing. As I've said before, the people I met at church, at my jobs, and in my home made it all worth it. So now I've in a similar boat, but going a little farther, this time.

If it hasn't been clear, I'm not doing this to be a hero. This is just the path God has called me to. It doesn't take moving across the globe to live selflessly, to live courageously, to thrive. You have a place, too, and God can give you the map. I don't know exactly how it works. It sort of just happens.

A big part of faith, I think, is choosing not to unquestioningly follow conventional wisdom but choosing instead to listen to the little voice of the Holy Spirit inside. God created you to be an individual with discernment, not clone of anyone else, be they cool, smart, or virtuous. Imitate Christ and you will find you're becoming more yourself than you ever imagined.

Before I completely devolve into moralizing, I just wanted you all to know, I'm ready. I can't wait for Romania and what the Lord has in store. Also, I'm at least 96% funded, so thank you if you have donated!

If you would like to help cover the remaining 4%, please feel free to click here. Thanks!