April 26, 2015

Tabara: Big Brother Big Sister

1. Village of Roades where the camp is located; 2. Lesson on Integrity (theme for the week);
3. Decorating mugs to exchange between big/little brothers/sisters; 4. Playing Flying Dutchman; 5. Decorating camp shirts
I have been home from camp for one week, and I miss it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 
Camp (Tabara) was fun, amazing, incredible, and not something that I can sum up in a handful of adjectives. I think one of the best things about it was the fact that it wasn't "camp in Romania"...it was just camp. Meals together, group devotions, a treasure hunt, an obstacle course, silly games, songs, lessons, talent show, daily foosball, helping in the kitchen, late night chats, etc. Just camp.

1. Silly group photo after the obstacle course; 2. Games with visitors; 3. Camp bonding with red noses;
4. My favorite "little house"; 5. Obstacle course - build a house challenge
 As I shared in a previous post, I have been working with one of the social workers at Veritas on a Big Brother Big Sister project. This camp was for the kids and teen volunteers who are participating in the project. We had 7 kids and 7 (8 later in the week) volunteers. They got to spend a lot of quality time together, which was great. There were activities geared toward Big/Little Brother/Sister bonding, but also just for the kids and volunteers separately. 

1. Gorgeous scenery on our way to the obstacle course; 2. Nonverbals! The volunteers had to arrange themselves in order of their birthdays...without talking;
3. Steluta (Social Worker) and some of the kids and teens; 4. Foosball...every day, multiple times a day;
5. Charades; 6. Leap frog challenge during treasure hunt; 7. Morning exercises; 8. Helping in the kitchen with my pal, Lacramioara
I was in charge of the lessons/workshop time with the teens/Big Brothers and Sisters. We used a book called, "It Takes Courage", which includes chapters about creating a vision for life, communicating effectively, building healthy relationships, and making wise decisions. We focused on the chapter about Creating a Vision for Life. The activities required some self-reflection, and the teens seemed to take it very seriously. We had some fabulous times of sharing, and really bonded as a group. I'm thankful to have been able to start that discussion with them, and I look forward to working with them to continue creating vision for the lives. Those eight teens already hold a very special place in my heart. I was sad to leave camp and not be able to spend so much time with them. However, the building blocks of those relationships were being set up, and now it's fun to see the teens throughout the week when they come to volunteer at Veritas. I'm confident that the relationships will continue to grow during my time here...and beyond.

1. Again, the beauty never gets old; 2. On our final day; 3. Treasure hunt challenge; 4. Obstacle course photo op
Aside from lots of fun and relationship building, I was also able to practice my Romanian quite a bit while at camp. I can understand so much more now, and speak a TINY bit better. I'm just happy to be making progress! Almost all of the teens speak English very well so it was fun to chat with them in English, while also having them help me with my Romanian. 

Overall, camp was the best. Such a good summary, right? I don't think I mentioned this, but originally, I wasn't going to be able to attend the camp. I was just going to help plan it due to limited spots. However, God had a plan...and perfect timing. I'm so very thankful to have been able to spend a week with the leaders, kids, and teens. Definitely a week of my Romanian adventure that will forever be remembered. 

April 12, 2015

Currently: Romanian Edition Part I

This photo has nothing to do with this post. 

As you may or may not know, I LOVE BLOGS. Like a lot. I actually haven't been reading them nearly as much as I used to, but nothing beats a good blog or blog post. The "Currently" feature is one of my favorites. I first came across this feature on Sometimes Sweet, which is one my absolute favorite blogs. I thought it'd be fun to do a Romanian version (possibly the first of many) of Currently so here you go...

Reading: I am reading Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer, and it has been very helpful. I'm only a few chapters in, but it has already offered some valuable information. I feel like I do a fairly good job of being culturally aware and sensitive, but there's always more to learn. There's a quote at the beginning of the chapter I'm on right now, and I think it's worth sharing. "One of the greatest stumbling blocks to understanding other peoples within or without a particular culture is the tendency to judge others' behavior by our own standards." -James Downs

I'm also continuing to read Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I love love love her. I won't spend too much time gushing, but I long to be friends with that woman. And of course, I'm constantly reading all of the Romanian words that cross my path. Since I'm learning Romanian (and will probably forever be learning Romanian), I try to read every sign/word I see. 

Eating: The most amazing homemade bread made by my host mother. Seriously, I already know that this is one of the main things I'll miss when I'm living on my own or back in the USA. There always seems to a fresh loaf or two in the bread drawer. Romanians eat bread with every meal. It's a staple. And her bread is the most delicious addition to every meal! I could go on and on. So good. 

Also, eating a covrig (pretzel) every so often. Gigi's has the most FABULOUS (the word is back!) pretzels. They have pretzels in the shape of a circle filled with apple (my favorite so far), vanilla, chocolate, cherry, etc. I've only been to Gigi's three times...I'm practicing self-control! 

While we're talking food, I've had sarmale for lunch both last Sunday and today. Very tasty! I think everyone makes them a little differently, but the two times I've had them (made by different people), they were delicious. 

Thinking about: Many things...but mostly camp this week. I have been working with the social worker in the kids program on a Big Brother, Big Sister project. We are taking the bigs (high school volunteers) and littles (5th-8th graders) to camp this week since they have a break from school. I've been spending the last few days planning lessons for the high school volunteers, as well as some good ole camp games. I'm a little nervous, but also very excited to experience camp in Romania. I'll be gone from Tuesday through Sunday so if you don't hear from me...that's why. 

Listening: To the Romanian language. I'm an observer...always have been and always will be. I love to sit back and watch my surroundings, and I've been doing a lot of that. Sometimes I sit back and observe for too long, which isn't good. I'm trying not to do that while I'm here. I'm working on getting more and more involved as I get more comfortable with the culture and the language. Anyways, the Romanian language is so beautiful. I love listening and picking up more and more words as I continue with my Romanian classes. 

In regards to music, I have been obsessed with Damien Rice's newest album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. One of my pals raved about it awhile back, and then it was one of the listening options on my flight from London to Bucharest. I listened to the album on repeat until we landed. So addicting and beautiful. My favorite song is The Greatest Bastard. His voice is just too much. Also, this cover of Twilight by Elliott Smith. I love the original song as well, but I can't get enough of the cover. 

Watching: Let it be known that the answer to the question, "What are you/have you been watching?" will ALWAYS be Gilmore Girls. Like always. Lorelai and Rory...those two, I love them. I used to pick a random season when I was in the mood to watch, but I’ve preferred watching from start to finish over the last few years. If only I could tell you how many times I’ve watched the entire series. Honestly, I wish I knew the number. 

My host family doesn't have a television so I haven't been able to watch any Romanian tv shows. I'll keep you posted if that changes. 

Loving: The gorgeous scenery and historic buildings in Sighisoara. Every day, on my walk to work or wherever, I'm in awe of what I see. The citadel is literally one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I'm finding that I love history a lot more than I ever have before. I feel like it's bound to happen when you're surrounding by such rich history. I was in Bucharest earlier this week, where there is a ton of history. The buildings, monuments, memorials, palaces, etc. Such a fabulous experience. 

April 5, 2015

First Impressions

Clock Tower in the Citadel - Sighisoara, Romania

I've had this blog post open for about a week now. I have a lot to say, but I'm still getting the hang of this whole blogging thing. As many people know, sharing about my personal life is not one of my favorite things. I consider myself to be a pretty private person so updating a blog regularly is a new challenge for me. However, I hope to post at least once a week. We shall see...

Lindsey and I enjoying afternoon coffee at Dorothy and Roberta's home in the citadel.
I have been in Romania for a little over 2 weeks. To sum it up...So far so good! I was very tempted to end the blog post like that, but I'm not THAT mean! Things really have been going well though. My host family is fabulous. The family I'm staying with has 6 daughters! Only one still lives in the home so I kind of have a little sister here in Romania. I've been very blessed to overlap with an Olivet social work student (Lindsey) who is also staying with this host family. She has been a tremendous help during my transition into a new country, host family, language, etc! She actually leaves this week so it'll be another time of transition, but it'll be good.

Kids' Club...singing and dancing

Teen program...game time!

The organization I'm volunteering with, Veritas, is also fabulous. Apparently, I'm a fan of the word fabulous today. As you read in my support letter, among other places/conversations, Veritas offers social services, educational programs, and community outreach. I've been working mostly with the social services portion, which includes programs for preschool, kids, teens, special needs, elderly, and domestic violence. I've been spending the most time with the kids program, which is broken up into younger (Kind-4th) and older (5th-8th) kids. It's kind of like what we would consider an after school program with fun, games, homework help, food, and so much more. Aside from helping with the regular kids program, I've been working with the social worker on a big brother/big sister type of project. There's a group of high school students who volunteer with Veritas...some of them have been volunteering for awhile and others are new. They have each been paired with one of the older kids (5th-8th) as a mentor. It's been great getting to observe the bonding between the pairs, and working with the high school students on understanding the role of a mentor. I'm excited to continue with the project! I've spent a few days with the teen program as well, which has been great. They have lessons, social activities, English classes, etc. The two leaders of that group, like all of the Veritas staff, have amazing hearts and really love the teens in the program. It's always great to work alongside people who truly care for the ones they serve.

Language practice
I'm utilizing the educational programs, as I've been taking Romanian language classes. I'm slowly, but surely picking up some Romanian. I can count with confidence...everything else is a work in progress! There are also some programs for teens within the educational programs. One is called It Takes Courage, which teaches teens about the importance of having good character. There's also a Ceai & Chat program, which is a regularly scheduled social event full of fun! I've been able to participate in Ceai & Chat a little bit, and hopefully I'll become more involved with It Takes Courage over the next few weeks.

As far as the community outreach programs, I've utilized the International Cafe a few times...aka COFFEE. It's the cutest environment, and I foresee many afternoons spent reading and sitting both inside and outside. They also sell handmade crafts and offer tours in the summer months.

For more info on Veritas...click here.

I'll also be working with the church, of course, but I don't know my role in that area just yet. I'm still figuring out what my normal routine will be (even with Veritas), but I'll keep you posted! I anticipate upcoming blog posts about the beautiful scenery, Monday Night Suppers, etc!