Rocks from the beach...and an adult coloring book from the airport in Turkey.
I started this post quite a long time ago and saved it. Care to know what I typed in the text box in order to save it? "Turkey Turkey Turkey Baklava Turkey". So if that tells you anything about what I did while in Turkey...just kidding, kind of. As usual, my posts regarding particular events are delayed. I'm sure you're all used to this by now. Nonetheless, thank you for your patience.
Neither of these photos are very good, but I wanted to show the flags.
They were on almost every building we passed on the way to the resort.
One of the two (terrible) photos I took of the actual conference.
Breathtaking, to say the least.
I spent the first week of November in Turkey for the Nazarene Eurasia Regional Conference. This conference takes place every four years and gathers missionaries, volunteers, and other various folks from the Eurasia region. This region spans from Portugal to India, which makes it incredibly diverse. We had worship services together twice a day, as well as workshops on various topics. You can read more about the conference here. This description is better than anything I could attempt to write, in regards to the basic details.
The view from the balcony of my hotel room.
There were about 640 people in attendance. An introvert's worst nightmare. I'll be totally honest...I was nervous about attending. As a nerd, I greatly enjoy conferences, hearing from others, and gaining new information. However, with conferences come social interactions, and I'm not the world's biggest fan of those most of the time. Thankfully, I roomed with someone I know, Roberta (who has been serving in Romania for 18 years), in a very nice room. The hotel resort was insanely beautiful. The staff were so friendly, and definitely had an eye for detail. The food options were endless and delicious. I actually ate a pomegranate for the first time...ever. Apparently I'm sheltered, but I don't even care. Now I know about the deliciousness of pomegranates and I'll never go back. I ate one almost every day for breakfast while I was there. I also ate a lot of baklava, as previously mentioned. They had a dessert area with many options, and there was always a little section with various types of baklava. I mean, I had to find my favorite, which I did, so I tried them all. Okay, enough about the food. I feel like I just wrote a review for this place...oops.
Not bad, not bad at all.
This changed every day...
We arrived the day before the conference began which was quite nice. The weather was fabulous...warm during the day for sitting at the beach and reading a book, but cool enough in the evening to wear a cardigan while sitting on the balcony and drinking a cup of tea. Perfection. I spent a lot of time reading, journaling, reflecting, etc. during my time in Turkey. It was a introvert's dream. Once the conference began, we had worship services twice a day with a time for workshops, small groups, and free time in between. I found the schedule to be quite nice. Enough time for conference-y things, but also enough time to enjoy being in Turkey! And now I'll overload you with a bunch of pictures of the beach and Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Not sorry.
If you look closely, you can see mountains in the distance.
The beach...full of beautiful rocks and stones, rather than sand.
"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well." -George R. R. Martin
No words. Just look at it.
So aside being stunned by the beauty of Turkey, I did actually learn a thing or two from the conference. The theme was Reconciliation, and we read from II Corinthians 5:14-21 at the beginning of every service. One thing that I loved about the services was that a different field was highlighted in one way or another during each service. There were videos for every field, and sometimes someone from that field would pray during the service, sing a special, preach, etc. It was nice to see and hear from so many different people...all doing incredible things in their field. The fields include: C.I.S. (Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova), Central Europe (my field!), Eastern Mediterranean, India, Northern Europe, South Asia, and Western Mediterranean.
I used to be obsessed with these in high school, always photographing them when I saw one.
Apparently, the obsession continues. I was also obsessed with telephone poles...another fun fact you probably didn't know.
As I've already mentioned, there were various workshops offered during the conference. The ones I attended were all very good, and very different. The first one was focused on human trafficking where we heard from three ladies who are working to fight trafficking (both through prevention and aftercare) in their fields. As the topic tends to be heavy, it was a difficult workshop, but also very good. We learned/reviewed facts about trafficking, but like I said, got to hear about what's being done within our region. There is an aftercare center in Bucharest, which I have yet to visit, but I loved hearing the stories from the work happening there. Click here to find out more about this ministry.
The second workshop I attended was related to personnel development on the field. It was informational and enjoyable. It got me thinking about different goals that I want to set for myself and my time in Romania. The third workshop I attended was called, "NCM: Holistic Development", which is something I feel very strongly about. As a social worker, I am a firm believer in empowering and educating people, and holistic development is one of the best ways to do that...Seeing the whole person and meeting them where they are at. Anyways, the man who presented in this workshop is from Bangladesh, which is where the holistic ministry is currently the most successful. He started by reading from Matthew 4:23 where it says that Jesus was preaching, teaching and healing a.k.a. holistic ministry. I could go on and on, but I won't. He talked about the Child Development Center (CDC) model, which focuses on education, nutrition, health, sports, spiritual needs. One of the things I wrote in my notes at the end of the workshop was, "what skills do I have?", which is something that I've really been thinking about. I know that God has brought me here for a reason, and I've been able to offer some of my skills during my time here, but I want to expand on this. I want to be used fully...using all of my skills and abilities to better serve others.
This has nothing to do with anything. Just a Turkish can of Sprite.
Upon returning from Turkey, those of us from the Sighisoara Nazarene church were asked to speak about our time at the conference. Not my favorite pastime, as you know. I struggled to find something to share because I had SO MANY THINGS that I wanted to share. Seriously, what has happened to me? Most of my life, I've been at a loss for words, but since coming here it's been the opposite. Verbally, still a struggle, but sit me down in front of my journal or the computer and I could go on and on forever. I'm not complaining, just continuing to adjust. Annnnnyways, back to the point. I'll end this post with the two things that impacted me the most.
1. At the closing ceremony of the conference, we sang "Sing Alleluia to the Lord" in all of our various languages. I wish I could tell you how many languages were represented at the conference, but I do not know. Regardless, it was so incredible. So powerful. I feel like I got a tiny preview of what Heaven will be like. So many different people, languages, cultures, experiences, etc. coming together for worship. I had the goosebumps and spent most of the song just listening because it was just so magnificent. On the third day of the conference, we also sang "How Great Is Our God", which is a song that I greatly enjoy. We sang it in English, Russian, Italian, Arabic, German and French. Another incredible experience.
2. Just. Walk. Across. The. Room. For the first sermon, to introduce the topic of reconciliation, the speaker told the story of the Prodigal Son. He used the phrase "just walk across the room" to illustrate part of the message, specifically in Luke 15:20. The verse reads, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." The point is, Jesus does this. He reconciles...while we are "still a long way off". He comes to us, meets us where we are, and embraces us.
At first, I didn't know why this message was sticking with me throughout the week of the conference. But after reflecting on it a bit, it started to make more sense. The thought of being a "missionary" kind of freaks me out. It's hard for me to even use that word to describe myself and what I do in Romania. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like I'm not doing enough in my current position, but the thought of doing and being more...freaks me out. BUT! I can just walk across the room. I can reach out to people I know and show Jesus to them in our friendship. I can walk across the room to acquaintances and build better relationships to show them Jesus. I can approach people I don't know and meet them where they're at to show them Jesus. I can just walk across the room. It doesn't take much. It's a small step. And yeah, it might become a bigger step later, but I can start the process by just walking across the room. I can do this, missionary or not. (And so can you.)
In another service, a man who works with youth said the following, "Accept young people for who they are, not who we want them to be...and let God do the work". This hit me too. Related to walking across the room, and in other ways. I think it's very true for young people, but I also think it applies to everyone. To make the connection for you...I might walk across the room (to someone I know or someone new), show someone Jesus, and then realize that I can't be what this person needs (materially, health related, emotional, spiritual, etc). But that's the point, I'm not the person that he/she needs. I don't need to do the work...God will do the work. Maybe God will provide me with what they need (materially or otherwise), but initially, it doesn't need to concern me. I need to follow the promptings that I feel whether that be to smile at someone, start a conversation, volunteer to help at an event, learn a new skill to better serve others, etc. I need to listen, follow where I'm lead, and let God do the rest/work.
And before I go, here are two more photos for your viewing pleasure.
Apparently, this is how you spell my Turkish name. Airport coffee for the win!
This was not taken in Turkey. This is what I did as soon as I returned home to a much chillier Sighisoara.
The morning of Christmas Eve...drinking coffee and re-reading an incredible book
Reading: I just started re-reading Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption after my visit to two orphanages last week. Much like Jen Hatmaker's books, I have been underlining line after line. It's so interesting for me to be reading this book again after being in Romania. Although Katie's story is very different from mine, there are so many things that I can relate to. To very, very briefly summarize, Katie traveled to Uganda in December 2006 when she was 18 years old for a few weeks, and returned in the summer of 2007. She continues to live there (she's 26 now) with her 13 adopted daughters and helps to run a nonprofit organization, Amazima Ministries, that she started in 2008. For more details about her story and Amazima, I would strongly encourage you to click HERE.
In re-reading the book, here are a few parts that have really struck me. Lucky for you, I'm only a few chapters in to re-reading...
"Sometimes working in a Third World country makes me feel like I am emptying the ocean with an eyedropper...I have learned to be okay with this feeling because I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person."
"Through the frustrations, God taught me to laugh at myself, my ways of doing things, and what used to be important to me. He taught me that when doing my best was still not enough, that was when He took over; and because of His great grace and love, even in the frustrating moments I was filled with an inexplicable happiness and peace, my daily proof that I was living my purpose."
"The contradiction comes when I realize that all these experiences and emotions were real. The happiness that gave me chill bumps was as deep as my loneliness. My sense of certainty about being exactly where God wanted me was solid, but just as firm was the fact that I wondered at times what on earth I was doing here. The frustration that threatened to overtake me on some occasions was just as deep and true as the unbounded joy I felt at other times. I loved my new life; I truly loved it. But compared to the life I have been living, it was hard...Despite the obstacles, I felt a surprising level of comfort living in Uganda most of the time. I felt I was born to be there, and in many ways, living there seemed more natural than living in my native country. I had the unexplainable feeling, a settled knowing, that I was where I was made to be. I knew deep in my soul that I was home."
Eating: Clementines and oranges. I cannot get enough. Clementines are the best because they're little and easy to eat as a quick snack. However, I've started eating more oranges than I probably ever have. I always forget how much I love them. The messiness of oranges has always deterred me from eating them regularly. OCD alert ;)
Also, I have been eating cozonac, which is a traditional Romanian sweet bread. Everyone here makes it for Christmas, as well as some other holidays. It is delicious! At the Veritas Kids' Club Christmas program, each of the families were given a loaf of cozonac and there were extras so I got to take one home! I was thinking about buying some at the store the other day, but I decided not to. I guess that was why! Anyways, I do not have a photo of cozonac so I got this one from Google...sorry!
Thinking about: What is in store for the new year. I can hardly believe that it's almost January 2016! I'm not one to make these grand New Year's resolutions, but I do like the idea of a fresh start (kind of like the beginning of a school year). I am going to try to set a few small goals, but nothing major...goals like trying to cook more often, possibly learning to play the piano, and making more time for reading and art journaling. I've also been thinking about how crazy it is that I'm almost halfway through this second round of #CBtakesRomania. While on FaceTime yesterday, my mom asked if it's harder being here longer this time, and it's really not. I had a small rough patch a few weeks ago, but things are going well. I continue to feel at home here in Sighisoara. I've made some incredible friends, LOVE the kids and teens I work with, and enjoy the other miscellaneous tasks I've picked up along the way.
Listening: Christmas music! Spotify has some amazing Christmas playlists! I've been stuck on Folksy Christmas, A Classic Christmas, and even Christmas Pop...for the classics like "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah and "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by NSYNC.
Aside from Christmas music, I've been listening to Adele's 25 pretty consistently, as well as One Direction's new album, Made in the A.M. Yes, I am still a teenage girl sometimes. Take me or leave me! Spotify also has a Discover Weekly playlist, which updates every Monday morning. This playlist is based on what I have been listening too, as well as what similar fans are listening to. It's pretty amazing. My first playlist wasn't the greatest, but it's been improving. It's a fun way to discover new music, which I always love.
Watching: As always, Gilmore Girls, but also, Christmas movies! I've decided to watch one Christmas movie every day this week. So far, I've watched The Holiday, The Family Stone, and Love, Actually. I watched Elf a few weeks ago. Some others on the list include Stepmom (a depressing Christmas movie, but one of my favs!), Home Alone, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, This Christmas, and a few others. We'll see what I have time for!
Loving: Thinking about the future...as crazy as that may sound. I feel like God might be working on something for me, and I'm anxious and excited to see what happens with it. We shall see!
Merry Christmas! Crăciun fericit!
I first saw the "Currently" feature on Sometimes Sweet, which is one my absolute favorite blogs. Just giving credit where credit is due.
One of my absolute favorite photos from her trip...Perfectly describes our friendship.
This is so delayed, but I’m excited to finally share it with you. Jessica came to visit me…in October. Very delayed, but I still open my planner to July because that’s where my mind is in regards to time…if that tells you anything. Also, how is it already December?! How?! Anyways, this will most likely be a long and photo heavy post so don’t say I didn’t warn you! Jessica and I get a little photo crazy when we're together...one of my favorite things about our friendship.
Top left: one of our first photos together; Top middle: Halloween 2009; Top right: Olivet graduation; Bottom left: New Year's Eve 2011; Bottom middle: Chicago trip 2013; Bottom left: Denver trip 2013
Before I begin, let me virtually introduce you to Jessica. She has been one of my closest friends since 2007. We went to Olivet together, but didn’t become friends until our sophomore year. 8 years ago…again, time!!! Jessica was a social work major, but we actually met in our Christian Scriptures class. I have the worst memory, but basically, she came into that class and chose to sit by me...and the rest is history. We actually became much closer after college, which I think is pretty awesome. We had to make more of an effort since we didn't live across campus anymore, and I think that made (and continues to make) our friendship grow by leaps and bounds.
We’ve had some pretty memorable adventures. Since we haven’t lived in the same state since graduating from Olivet, there have been many trips between Illinois and Indiana. Sometimes we would meet in the middle and reunite at our social work professor’s house in Bourbonnais. It’s always fun to be back at Olivet together, our old stomping ground. (Side note, we’re old. Young people don’t say things like that.) We’re also birthday month buddies so we always try to get together in February to celebrate together. We’ve traveled to Chicago, Madison, Denver, etc…I’m telling you, we’ve had some awesome adventures. She even took the time to come visit me when I was home for six weeks this summer, which was such a blast. I am so insanely grateful for her friendship...I'll stop gushing now and get on to her visit!
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, it was my/our social work professor at Olivet who introduced me to the work being done in Romania. Therefore, Jessica has been familiar with Romania for as long as I have, which made her visit even more special (I assume). She has heard about Sighișoara and Veritas for years, especially from me in recent months. Jessica and I communicate almost daily in one form or another (texting, Instagram, Snapchat, etc). It’s pretty fabulous.
Bucharest: Seeing the sights, eating the food, taking the naps...
Jessica arrived in Bucharest on Saturday, October 18th. Sighișoara is in the middle of Romania, and many people fly into Bucharest which is about 5 hours south. After taking a bus to the Bucharest airport, I not-so-patiently waited in the arrivals area for her to walk through the doors…it was kind of surreal to see someone that I know from home walk through there. Surreal and completely awesome. We decided to stay in Bucharest for the night in order to see some of the sights. We checked out a famous bookstore, saw the palace, enjoyed traditional Romanian and Hungarian food for dinner, and so much more. It was a great start to #jkvisitsromania.
Enjoying the view in Sighișoara
Seeing the citadel!
She's so classy...I'm soooo not.
On Sunday afternoon, we returned to Sighisoara. I cannot tell you how excited I was to show Jessica around my new home! She tagged along throughout the week as I went about my normal routine at Veritas, Monday Night Supper, etc. It was great to bring her along and introduce her to everyone. We made time for her to really see Sighișoara and all that is has to offer. After a week in Sighișoara, we headed off on an adventure to see another part of Romania...Constanța!
Our first trip down to the beach of the Black Sea...
I had never been to Constanța, but I have a two friends who lived there for 3 1/2 years and another friend who's very familiar with the area. It was soooo fabulous to have them as our unofficial guides in planning the adventure. We were able to stay at the YWAM base there thanks to those connections, which was such a huge blessing. We met so many cool people during our stay there, and it was nice to see what God is doing in other parts of Romania. A brief history of Constanța...it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania founded in 600 B.C. The Port of Constanța is the largest port on the Black Sea and one of the largest ports in Europe. Constanța has an interesting demographic with Tatars and Turkish, along with Romanians. It's a beautiful and culturally diverse area.
The whole trip was so laid back and full of peace and relaxation...it was refreshing. Jessica is a huge fan of the water...and I quickly jumped on board. I like water, but this trip increased that liking times a million. We went to the beach every day and a spent a good amount of time just sitting and enjoying the view. I found a quote after this trip that really describes how I feel about the water...
"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well."
- George R. R. Martin
Jessica and I were able to spend time in deep conversations, getting up at the crack of down to see the sunrise over the Black Sea, walking around town, laughing til we cry, dancing on the beach at sunset, and so much more. I'm about to drop a ton of photos because it was too hard to narrow it down...
Black Sea; Casino along the Black Sea; The old city viewed from the minaret of a mosque.
Just being ourselves and enjoying the simple things like coffee, tea, and cute plates.
Couldn't get enough of that casino; Found some street art full of poppies; She's a ray of sunshine
How Jessica felt about getting up for the sunrise...and how I felt.
Mirror selfies and tiramisu!
Our last, and EPIC, night on the beach...complete with a dance party in the dark.
On our way back to Sighișoara from Constanța, we stopped in Brașov for one night. I've been to Brașov a handful of times and I really, really love it there. I couldn't wait to show the cute little city to Jessica. Again, many photos were taken and encouraging conversations were had...I love our adventures! Here come the photos...
"Angels". She pulls it off better than I ever could...
Love love love having tea time with Jessica...especially at cute places like this.
SUCH. GOOD. COFFEE.
Our last moments in Brașov
Upon returning from Brașov, we had one night left to spend back in Sighișoara. We had a final meal of traditional Romanian food and did our packing. She was going to head back to America and I was off to Turkey for a conference. It was nice to be able to travel to the airport together and reflect on our incredible Romanian adventure together. There was laughing and crying and getting stuck in an elevator, a day to remember.
Our "stuck in the elevator" photo is pretty darn great.
Until next time, my friend. JK-Roy...you're one of my favorite people to ever walk the planet. I am forever grateful for the time spent with you here. Come back soon. And for everyone else, I'll leave you with this photo of my acting a fool.
Cutest handmade mug EVER. Found at Pebs in Brasov.
As I write this, I am sitting in my apartment...in the chair right next to the heater...with the coziest slippers on. I'm patiently (or maybe not-so-patiently) waiting for my teapot to whistle so I can make a nice cup of tea. Side note: I have been quite obsessed with tea lately. I'm about to enjoy a cup of peach and mint tea (in the mug pictured above) while listening to Adele's new album on a Sunday afternoon. Hence the title...which has nothing to do with the rest of the post.
I have about five blog post ideas floating around in my mind, and yet this post is not one of those ideas. I am going to work on getting those posts out, but I thought I'd take some time to write about my week. As the weeks go by, I continue to feel more comfortable, and settled, into my roles here. From the beginning, I've felt comfortable, but I'm pretty amazed at how that has continued over time. Anyways, on to the week in review...
Monday: I actually stayed home on Monday morning due to not feeling the greatest. While in Bucharest over the weekend, I woke up feeling dizzy in the mornings. This continued on Monday morning so I decided to have a slow and quiet morning at home. I made my way to Veritas at noon in order to have lunch with everyone. Then, it was time for Kids Club.
Such a sweet, sweet boy.
I was just talking to a friend about how I've gotten so much joy out of Kids Club lately. It continues to present it's challenges, but I still love it. Each of the kids in Kids Club have a special place in my heart. I know I talked about them in the last post, but I really, really love them. I feel like I'm finally building relationships with them, and even somewhat of close relationships with a handful of them. Obviously, the more I learn the language, the better and easier this is. I can actually have conversations with them now, and understand when they need something, which makes a huge difference. Just this week, I received a hug from a little boy (not the one pictured above, by the way) who I've never seen hug anyone. He's been opening up to me (and others) more and more, but the hug really blew me away. I almost didn't know what to do because I was in such shock. It was a lovely moment that I will not soon forget.
After Kids Club, I went up into the citadel for Monday Night Supper. I usually arrive early since I just go right after Kids Club. I got to spend time with a friend's baby while dinner was being prepared for the group. Then, I enjoyed the company of the other ex-patriots (Americans, Canadians, a German, a Brit...the cast of characters change from time to time) while eating a delicious meal of salad and tortellini, followed by a slice of southern hospitality pie (yes, that was the name of it). And to finish the meal, we enjoyed a lovely hot cup of apple cider. I always forget to take photos at Monday Night Supper...one of these days.
Tuesday: I always start Tuesday mornings with Romanian class with Adela. Our classes usually end up being a combination of learning a new topic, random questions of language things that I've come across during the week, and review of past topics. Then, I was off to Veritas for lunch with the staff. I think I've mentioned this in other posts, but the Veritas staff eats lunch together every day. It's quite nice...and the food is delicious. Then it was time for Kids Club again. We've started to practice for the Christmas program, which I'm excited for!
After Kids Club, I walked home with Brittany (Romanian Studies Program student) and Jenny (volunteer from Germany). Brittany and I have supervision each week, and this week it fell on Tuesday. As a supervisor with the Romanian Studies Program, I meet each week with the student(s) to review the week, see if they need anything (information, resources, etc), and basically do a check-in regarding their internship. Following supervision, we had a Skype meeting with Brittany's professor, which was nice. After they left, I made dinner, my famous one-pot pasta, and worked on planning and preparation for the rest of the week.
These boys were ready to party!
Wednesday: I headed down to Veritas in the morning to help prepare everything for the massive birthday party we were having in Kids Club. We had a fall birthday party to celebrate all of the kids' birthdays that took place from September to December. It was quite the event as we had 15 birthdays to celebrate!
Most of the birthday kids! Some were absent :(
We decorated the room, prepared small gifts for each of the kids with a birthday, set out activities (games, puzzles, coloring, etc), and made sure the cake was ready. The lovely ladies who work in the kitchen made a delicious cake for all of us to enjoy. Kinga (one of the social workers) has friends who put on puppet shows so we also made sure the space was ready for their presentation! After lunch, I went outside to play with the kids. School gets out at 12:00 pm for the elementary kids so they usually arrive between 12-1 pm. The kids ate lunch at 1:00 pm, and then we let them play outside for a bit while the puppeteers were getting prepared. The kids really enjoyed the puppet show, as did I! After the puppet show, the kids were free to enjoy the activities such as playing musical chairs, doing puzzles, coloring, running around, etc. Basically, they just got to be kids for a bit.
Puppet show time!
Kinga presenting the cake!
Then, it was time for the CAKE! Everyone (kids, volunteers, staff) thoroughly enjoyed the cake. Such a treat! The kids were able to play a bit more before it was time to go. We sent them home with smiles on their faces, which always brings a smile to my face as well. The kids with birthdays were pleasantly surprised to receive their small gift. And of course, then it was time to clean. The volunteers (high schoolers) were a huge help, and we ended up having a great time by listening to music and chatting while we cleaned.
Coziest slippers ever made.
When the cleaning was finished, I was on my way to do some shopping with my pal, Timi. She's one of the high school volunteers who helps at Kids Club, but she also goes to the Nazarene church. Oh and she's in the It Takes Courage program that I co-lead on Thursdays...so we spend a lot of time together. She's fun. Anyways, we went shopping because I needed some slippers! The ones I ended up with (pictured above) are so insanely comfortable. After making that amazing purchase, we went to Kaufland (the large grocery store in town) to grab a few things. Then, it was time to head home. I made dinner (leftover pasta), worked on my Romanian homework, did some planning, and went to bed.
We always begin ITC with a FUN game.
Thursday: Like Tuesday, I started my day with Romanian class. I spend the majority of my Thursdays at House on the Rock, up in the citadel. After Romanian class, Adela and I plan and prepare everything for It Takes Courage, which takes place in the afternoon. We head down to Veritas for lunch, and then back up into the citadel for It Takes Courage. We have a group of 17 high school students who come, which is a large group! We hang out for a bit, and then we always get things started with some type of game.
As I've mentioned before, ITC is a program that I co-lead with Adela, which focuses on building character in high school students. And it's all done in English. These kids are pretty cool, and I love spending my Thursday afternoons with them. We've been talking about empathy over the last two weeks, and it's been really good. We've had some good discussions, and used various games and activities to help develop empathy. We also watched a really good video, which I posted above because I think it's a good reminder for all. After ITC, I headed home, I think...I can't remember. Oops.
Friday: Every Friday morning, I make my way to Veritas for staff devotions at 8:00 am. This is always an enjoyable time for me. Obviously, we have devotions as a staff and spend time talking about how the week went in each of the programs (kids, teens, special needs, elderly, etc). We end devotions by praying together for praises and needs related to our programs, but also related to our personal lives.
Usually, I would go from devotions to meeting with the Kids Club staff in order to do some planning, but not this week. A lady came in to speak about essential oils, which I know a little bit about, but it was still nice to sit in on. I learned some new Romanian words for different plants and fruits so I can definitely say it was educational. After that meeting, I was supposed to have a meeting with Brittany (RSP student) and the Veritas social workers, but we rescheduled it for next Friday.
After lunch, Brittany, another Veritas volunteer and I headed up to Roberta's house to watch a movie. Along with supervising Brittany, I have also been leading her seminar (weekly course) while Dorothy has been away. During seminar, we discuss various social work topics, as well as covering cultural topics. This week, we watched a film called "The Way I Spent the End of the World" or "Cum mi-am petrecut sfarsitul lumii", which is about a Romanian family during the revolution in December 1989. I watched this film when I was here before, when the other student watched it for her seminar class. It's an interesting film, and I would highly suggest it. After the movie, I headed to House on the Rock for Ceai and Chat. Again, I know I've mentioned this before, but Adela and I host a Ceai and Chat event once or twice a month. Basically, it's just a time and place for local teens to hang out on Friday nights. Sometimes we have a theme for the evening, host a movie night, or just hang out. This time, we watched Back to the Future II. They had watched the first one a few weeks ago due to the date of the future being near. Once the movie was over, we all hung out for a bit and then headed home.
Well, that about covers it. Hope you enjoyed this week in review. Stay tuned for posts on my adventures with Jessica during her visit, my time in Turkey, an updated Currently post, and some other things :)
You want to take a wild guess as to what I've been telling myself every single day since September 14th..."Casey! You NEED to update your blog!". I constantly think, "oh this is something I should blog about…my family and friends would enjoy hearing about this…I’m taking this picture for the sole purpose of putting it on my blog” and then…crickets. I might have mentioned this before, and many of you know this about me, but I'm a fairly private person. I have always had a small circle of people who I share almost everything with, but outside of those people, there wasn’t much sharing…in person, on the phone, via social media, etc. So obviously, this whole blogging thing (and even posting on Facebook) is a huge adjustment. I don’t want this to be an excuse, but I want to be honest with you. The silence has absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to share with you all. If anything, I have SO much that I do want to share with you that it becomes overwhelming. I’m still trying to figure out a way to break things down and share smaller segments. Anyways….enough about that. Let’s dive right in.
Recently, someone who thought I was in college (typical…and actually, college is a compliment since people usually think I’m 18), asked what I see myself doing once I finish college. I explained that I received my undergrad degree 5.5 years ago (yikes!)…and received my graduate degree after that. I shared my brief experience as a foster care case manager, as well as my 2.5 years as a school social worker. Then, I paused.
I went on to say that I’m doing what I think I always wanted to do…without really knowing it was what I wanted to do. Everything kind of makes sense now. (Cue the tears as I write this…ugh.) I truly love Romania and Veritas and the kids I work with and the culture and so many other things. Sorry for that run-on sentence, but it was necessary. A college friend just left yesterday after visiting for two weeks, which was incredible…and something that will get it’s own blog post very soon. During the first week she was here, she tagged along to my “normal” week. She was able to see the ins and outs of Veritas, which I was beyond proud to share with her. The second week, we traveled to Southern Romania to see the Black Sea…again, more on that later. The point of telling you this is that while I was gone during those few days, I so deeply missed the kids that I work with. I also missed my coworkers and my routine at Veritas, but the kids…I really, really missed the kids.
Kids Club, the program that I work with the most, has gone through some major transitions as it started up this fall. The social worker, who had been there for 12 years (I think), left to start something new in a nearby village. The social assistant, who had worked with the program for about a year, also left. Thankfully, a new social worker, Alina, started right away in September, and she’s done a great job of dealing with the transition! However, Kids Club is the type of program that really needs two workers…who speak fluent Romanian. Without trying to sound prideful, it was great that I returned when I did and was able to help guide Kids Club along at the beginning. Ironically enough, I had the most experience at that time…craziness! But we really needed a second person to partner with Alina. We prayed that God would send the right person to join Kids Club (and the Veritas team)…and I can definitely say that He answered. A few weeks into September, Kinga joined us…and she is fabulous.
Why did I just tell you all of that…because the beginning of Kids Club was HARD. Getting kids into (or even back into) a routine is hard, and we had to do it with two new staff members, new kids in the program (yay!), new schedule, etc. There were days when I had to leave the Kids Club area and go to the bathroom to shed a few tears because it was HARD. Are you getting the fact that it was hard?? Good, because it was. Part of the difficulty for me still revolves around the language. I can understand a good amount of Romanian, but I feel like a broken record in saying that speaking Romanian is still a challenge for me. Obviously, that can make some interactions with kids quite difficult. Discipline was a challenge because I wanted to explain to them why I was disciplining them (in a loving way), but I only knew how to say somewhat negative commands like “no…behave…etc”. Even giving positive encouragement was a challenge because I wanted to say more than “good job…you’re listening well…etc”. I wanted to elaborate.
Now why did I just tell you all of that…because even though it was HARD…I love those kids. Oh man, I love them. When they’re happy or excited or naughty or defiant, I love them. The sweet little faces that sometimes mask the difficult situations they deal with at home…or even don’t mask at all…I want to show Jesus to them. I want them to see that they have someone who will always be there for them in those difficult situations. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. Ugh the tears again…
Not being at Kids Club last week, and this week (more on that later), has been tough. It’s like another form of being homesick. I’m homesick for the sweet little smiles that greet me in the afternoons. I’m homesick for the little voices that say “Bună ziua…Ce faci Casey?”. I’m homesick for the little hands that grab mine as we walk to lunch. I’m homesick for the little eyes that look up at me with a question when we’re working on homework. I’m homesick for the same little eyes that beam with pride when they excitedly show me the craft they’re working on. I’m enjoying the present right now, but I’m also really looking forward to the future…and being reunited with my kids.
I've known for the last week that I've needed to prioritize writing a blog post, but I just couldn't do it. Sorry! I'm actually starting to write this ten minutes before I need to leave to be somewhere...how's that for procrastinating?! I'm a pro. (I'm now finishing this two days after I started it.) Anyways...I am back in Romania, and it still feels like home. A second home, but home nonetheless.
I think the reason I've put off writing this is because I don't want to tell all of you that my first night here was very hard. I'm still not entirely sure why it was SO hard, but it was. I know I was tired...and hungry...and whatever else, but I think the emotions would have been there despite those things. With all of the preparations to return to Romania, I don't think I allowed myself to process the length of time I would be here...and that's what hit me the hardest when I walked back in to my apartment. There were tears and worries, but also incredible words of encouragement from a few friends. I've said it before and I'll say it again...I have some of the BEST FRIENDS EVER.
All of that to say, the next day (Wednesday) was MUCH better. I slept in, had a very pleasant walk into the center of the city, and ate lunch at the Veritas Family Center. I was greeted by smiling, familiar faces of coworkers, lots of hugs, and delicious Romanian food. The Veritas employees are truly a family...and one that welcomed me (then and now) with open arms. I can honestly say that I've never experienced anything quite like Veritas, with it's employees and programs. I'm going to try to write a more specific post on Veritas in the near (ish) future.
And all of that to say...I'm settling back in quite nicely and it feels good. Now, if I could just get to bed at a decent time...that'd be fabulous. It was 3am...then 2am...I'm aiming for 1am tonight! We shall see. I'll be sure to keep you posted. Stay tuned...riveting information to come.
Reading: No surprise here, but I am reading Jen Hatmaker's newest book. It is called For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards...and it is fabulous. I'm only like two chapters in, but the things that woman has to say...just so good. She always makes me think about things differently and gives me another perspective. Here's a quick blurb that really struck me... "There is a biblical benchmark I now use. We will refer to this
criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of
our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will”
or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite.
Here it is: If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in
Haiti, it isn’t true." Maybe that seems super basic and very "duh" worthy...but I think sometimes doctrine, theology, teachings, Bible studies, etc. can twist things. Just some food for thought. Also, go borrow this book from the library, buy it, read it...you get the point.
Eating: Also no surprise here, but I am eating American food. Surprisingly, my hometown has some must-stop restaurants and I've tried to visit some of them while I've been home. Just finished eating some leftover chicken fried rice from Imperial Palace...my hometown folks know how important Imperial is. On the downside, my stomach has hated me after EVERY SINGLE MEAL I've eaten while at home. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. I've had issues for awhile now, but Romania was truly good for the stomach. I'm pretty excited to eat some delicious Romanian food again...and not feel miserable after every meal.
Thinking about: Packing...since that's what I'm currently doing. Technically, I'm writing this blog post instead of packing, but there are folded/rolled clothes sitting all around me. Trust me, that is progress! Procrastinator for life. I'm also thinking about how hard it's going to be to say goodbye to Raegan and my family on Monday...yes, this coming Monday, September 7th. I'd like to think it'd be easier to leave her if she understood, but it would probably still be awful. One of the things that helps is thinking about telling her all about Romania when she's older...and hopefully traveling there with her at some point. I've been trying to teach her some of the Romanian language, but we haven't gotten very far. She is stuck on the thought that "buna" is a name. I try to explain to her that it means "hello", but her reply is always the same, "I'm not that name!"
Listening: Music! I have a good pal who is constantly referring new music and I cannot get enough. My tastes are all over the place...as you'll hear in this playlist. I've included my current on-repeat playlist below. I tend to create a "favs" playlist, listen to it until I cannot stand to hear the songs anymore, create a new one, lather, rinse, repeat... Some of my top favorites right now include...everything James Bay has available, City and Colour's new stuff, The Weeknd's new album, Childish Gambino, Hillsong United's new Empires album, and so on. There's so much good music out there. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, but in the best way possible.
Watching: I feel like I should just take this category out because it's kind of embarrassing...I'm literally ALWAYS watching Gilmore Girls. Just finished season 2 again...JESS IS BACK! I can't handle it.
Loving: Spending so much good, quality time with my family and friends. Seriously, these last six weeks have FLOWN BY, but they've been so so so good. I cannot complain. I wish I had a little bit more time, but I'm also super excited to head back to my other home, Romania. This weekend has a lot of quality time in store, and I'm beyond thrilled. I first saw the "Currently" feature on Sometimes Sweet, which is one my absolute favorite blogs. Just giving credit where credit is due.
I've been home for 8 days. It feels like I've been home for weeks, which is good. As much as I am looking forward to going back to Romania, I also want my time at home to go slowly. So far I've had a lot of good, quality time with family and friends. The other night, Raegan and I fell asleep holding hands. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much better than that.
My journey back to the States was LONG. I took a bus at 8:30 pm from Sighisoara to Bucharest, arriving around 1:30 am at the Bucharest airport. Thankfully, I slept the entire bus ride. Then I waited in the airport until around 4:30 am when I could check-in for my flight. I slept a little bit in the airport...let's just say my neck was hurting by the time I woke up. I slept with my head resting on my two big suitcases. Not ideal, but I was so exhausted. I would have loved to watch myself...I know I looked like a zombie. Anyways, I checked in for my flight and flew from Bucharest to Berlin. This flight was only 2 hours and guess what...I slept! I didn't have a long layover in Berlin so I went straight to my gate and waited to board the plane. This was my least favorite part of the journey. 9 hours is waaaayyyy too long to be on a plane. On my way to Romania, I flew to London, which was only 7 hours I think. I can handle 7 hours. However, AirBerlin was pretty fabulous and I have no complaints about the flight other than the length. I watched 3 movies: Still Alice, Crazy Stupid Love, and Romeo & Juliet. I listened to music and slept as much as I could...but I was pretty well rested at that point. ANYWAYS, we finally landed. I went through customs and finally greeted my welcoming committee, which consisted of my mom, dad, sister and Raegan. Raegan had painted me a sign, and gave me a big hug. She kept staring at me, almost as if she didn't believe I was really standing in front of her. It was so cute. (Side note: I feel like I just completed a Gilmore Girls style rant about traveling and I'm 100% okay with that.)
Once we left the airport, we went to...Chipotle! No surprise for anyone who knows me at all. I LOVE CHIPOTLE. It was delicious, but I could barely finish it. My stomach is still on Romanian capacity and digestion. Does that make any sense? Oh well. One major realization that I've had is that my stomach prefers Romanian food, or rather fresh, non-processed food...everything I've eaten so far has made me sick. Thankfully it's not too severe, but I definitely don't feel good after I eat.
I missed this guy.
I haven't been walking as much as I did when I was in Romania. I've tried to make it a point to walk when I can because I actually really miss it. However, I have also missed driving. Such a simple thing, but I've always enjoyed driving. Whenever there's a road trip or adventure, I'm always willing to drive. The scenery, the tunes, the company of good pals...man, I love driving. Anyway...
I've been able to enjoy quite a few quiet mornings, which are one of my favorite things ever. Coffee. Reading. Music. The keys to a perfect morning. One thing I'm not fond of is the fact that my room is A MESS. I'm having a garage sale at the end of the month so I've been going through EVERYTHING I own. It's a disaster zone. The plan for the day/week is to organize a bit because I don't know how much longer I can live like this.
I went to the dentist on Tuesday. I was almost positive I had a cavity or two, but thankfully I passed with flying colors. No cavities for me! Anyways, my dental hygienist asked me a question that I haven't been asked in months..."So what do you do?" I stumbled as I started to answer..."Well I used to be a school social worker, but I quit my job and I've been doing mission work in Romania." Did those words really just come out of my mouth? Sometimes it's still hard to believe that this is my life and not someone else's. Yes, Casey, you did quit your stable, well-paying job and move to another country to work with people. Woah.
Overall, I don't have any complaints. As far as culture shock goes, I feel like things have been going very well. Of course, there have been a few things that I've had to adjust back to (driving, food, the overwhelmingness of shopping, etc), but all things I can handle. I feel like I was pretty aware of the re-entry process before I re-entered so that also helped.
I need to rewind a bit in the next blog post or two and share what I was doing in Romania before I left. The last month was a bit of a whirlwind with VBS (3 different ones), saying goodbyes, a weekend away with some teens, my INCREDIBLE roommate (Hi Beth!), the medieval festival, and more...I've got some writing to do.