The next morning was another early one, but I was glad for the cool morning breeze to waft into my ovenlike room. Stepping toward the window to check out the rain that had been pouring all night, I catch a glimpse of these four happily munching away at the mountain grass:
The foal was in a bit of a tough place – old enough to eat grass but much preferring his mother’s milk! His mom kept knocking him away and forcing him to graze, though.
I watched the four of them interact for about twenty minutes (this is why you get up early!) before we had to leave for breakfast. To my immense relief, we did not have bread and meat and cheese for breakfast for the umpteenth time. This time, it was bread and a sunny-side-up egg and a sausage with a skin so thick that I couldn’t even get my fork through. I had a bite of it then gave up and flopped the egg onto my bread. It decided to flop itself back off and splatter yolk all over my plate. Made me look like I don’t know how to eat food like a civilized person.
Anyway, the rain persisted through breakfast in spurts, sometimes hard, sometimes just a mist. Our hike into the mountains depended on the amount of rain, so we were all watching closely. Dana came to breakfast to meet us and, in an indirect way that most of us missed anyway, informed us that the hike (and the ropes course at the top) were too dangerous to do considering the amount of rain, so we did a smaller hike up the front of the mountain, running into some nice views and some even nicer puppies along the way.
When we reached a level point on the hill, we discovered this icon tunnel full of Christian images – one for every day of the year. A church attendant (a young boy we later met on several different occasions) moves the candle each day so that the hall is used as a calendar.
On our way through, we stopped to sing a few church songs to show off the wonderful acoustics of the tunnel. It was really quite enjoyable. (http://youtu.be/AtIWf-ghaWU)
Then, after we’d passed through the tunnel, we came into the courtyard of a mountain church attended by a single monk. The church courtyard, back when it was just a normal hillside, was the site of many bloody battles in Romanian history in which the dead were not properly buried, and so many believe that the mountain is haunted. This happens to be the very mountain on which we were staying. The monk believed that he received several signs to sanctify the hillside, and he began by building this cross at the top of the hill.
Then, he built the wooden church, which was beautiful inside and out.
Finally, only about four years ago as of 2012, he built the icon tunnel that we had passed through. Unfortunately, after much fasting and staying in the frigid climate of Romania, he became very sick and had to leave. However, the church is now attended by very careful and kind priests and bishops.
We spent some time inside the church discussing the iconography within and the training one must complete in order to be an iconographer. Once we’d had our fill of the holy place, we passed back through the icon tunnel and continued our muddy hike up the mountain. At last, we reached the top where the cross is planted.
The views of the famous Transylvanian pine mountains were indeed impressive.
However, I was even more impressed when considering the march that Dana had told us about in the church. Take a look out at this picture above; in the very far distance is a town.
Now, look at this cross inside the wooden church.
Each year on Good Friday, about five thousand people carry that huge cross from inside the city up the mountain and to the church. I suppose there’s no better way to recreate the concept of how one must carry his own cross, no? Anyway, the hike is about 15 kilometers. And they do this every year. Impressive!
Anyway, we had a lot of time to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. We could have gone higher, but the rain made the going tough and dangerous, so we stopped at about 5400 feet. Unfortunately, no matter what kinds of panoramics or widescreen photos I took, I just couldn’t capture the feeling. You’d think I’d learn by now that pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words, but I still have to try! I’m stubborn that way.
Being unable to finish the dangerous hike or do the ropes course (actually the only ropes course in all of Romania, built by Dana and his IMPACT organization), we headed back down the mountain with a few faithful dog friends following along. Eventually, the horses from that morning joined as well. Although the dogs in the town are strays, some are particularly friendly and stayed at our sides constantly whenever we were on the mountain. Once we were back in the small town, we went downhill into the woods to discover a heavily barred cage containing Baloo, a rescue bear that I will talk more about later, when we get to the art exhibition. With all the wires in the way it was difficult to get a good picture, but I did my best! Most of the people in the group were afraid to be near him, but I suppose that comes from not ever seeing them in real life, right? I mean walking around your yard and whatnot. Anyway, it was quite entertaining to watch him take one giant paw and swipe away all ten pounds of his food just to find the one plum on the bottom. He loved those plums!
On our way to Baloo, we also passed this interesting piece of wood and horsehide artwork. I was glad to see some personal expression in the stoic village of Lupeni!
We had a little time to relax and eat lunch (originally intended for the mountain hike) at the cabana, where I had two more leftover pieces of pizza from the day before. Which reminds me that I didn’t count those in my original “how many pieces of pizza did I eat in Romania” number. So make that 20, not 18.
After lunch, it was back to the IMPACT building to actually participate in an IMPACT club and go through the same steps that they do in order to really get a feel for how things work and why they work. As we were walking down to meet the bus, I looked at the muddy road torn up by construction vehicles ripping into it all day in the downpour and said to Kelly, “I hope the bus has a different place to park tonight, because it’s not going to make it up that.” Not two seconds later, the bus backs down the hill, takes a long hard slide, and plunges with a loud crack into the mud. Okay, maybe it won’t be tonight that it gets stuck. It’ll be right now.
Benci smoked up his tires trying to get out, and mud splattered all over the road. But, I believe in Benci and Zoli, his faithful traffic director. I’ve seen them get out of tighter spots (literally. Remember Sarajevo?).
At long last, the bus was able to get some footing and pulled just far enough forward that it could take the corner a little tighter and avoid the mud pit. As Benci drove by us, a frustrated scowl on his face, we shouted, “Nagyon jol!” (“Really good!”) and he couldn’t help but smile.
After a bit of a drive, we arrived at the IMPACT building once again. The room was packed – there were probably fifty people there, made up almost exclusively of the students and youths participating in currently operating IMPACT programs. We followed the same order that all IMPACT meetings use. First, we started with some games. The first one was simply to step forward and say our name followed by a positive characteristic about ourselves that starts with the same letter. So, for example, I said that my name is Carrie and that I am creative. After that, we did the game that was most definitely my favorite of the day – “boom chicka boom.”
Boom Chicka Boom is a game we play in America too, but playing with Romanians in a foreign language was all the more entertaining. It’s the game where everyone has to imitate one person, and that one person says, “I say a boom chicka boom” while doing different motions. I hope you know that game, because if you don’t, you’ve been deprived of a milestone of life! So here’s how our game went:
Leader: “Ready? I say a boom chicka boom.” He swings his arms forward. “I say a boom chicka boom.” Again. “I say a boom a chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom.” He adds a couple more motions. “Hey ey? Yeah yeah? One more time? Robot style.”
He does the same thing again, only with more robotic motions. “One more time? Mafia style. I say a Mhmm chicka mhmmm,” he says, scratching his beard like a mafia leader. “One more time?” He told us what style it’d be in, but it was Romanian and we didn’t know what it was! So we went through that one, then we did a volcano style (I say a boom a chickaruption chickaruption chicka boom) and a Barbie style (I say a boom a chicka BARBIE chicka BARBIE chicka boom).
Anyway, after that game, we got to sit down and watch a film – the second part of IMPACT meetings. It was a short film, only about 15 minutes, but its purpose is to promote conversation and get students thinking about a moral or ethical issue and discussing it. The video was called Validarea, but it was in English with Romanian subtitles, so you guys will have no problem watching it! I rather enjoyed it, myself. Here it is: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-DxDnK6tMA)
After that, we had a discussion that included aspects like how the word “validation” is a play on words in English, how often people see the glass as half empty, and how one does not have to help a person directly in order to actually help that person. It was a good conversation. After we discussed the film for a while, we got up to do another game related to the film. We stood in two concentric circles, and the inner ring rotated and gave compliments to the people on the outside. It seems like a cheesy game, but it did bring up good issues, such as, “How often do you lie in order to give a compliment?” and “How did it feel to receive compliments without being allowed to give any back?” This spawned some interesting discussion as well.
After that, as in all IMPACT clubs, comes the actual service-learning (or “community service”) aspect. Instead of planning a project, however, we Calvin students were shown some past projects as presented by the student leaders of the IMPACT groups. Each group only does three or four projects a year because they are often quite large and require a lot of work. The projects that we heard about included a program to improve the play environment for mentally disabled children by getting the club to go and play with them, actively engaging the minds of the elderly, making Christmas cards for the community in order to raise funds for the residential center for disabled people, and much more. The project which really stood out to me, though, was the recovery of a library – Lupeni’s only library, in fact. It is so worn down that no one uses it, and the books are not available for checkout because they are so old and uncared for. The IMPACT group has been working for months on cataloguing all of the books, cleaning the building, dusting the shelves and the books, and preparing them for being checked out. Since they began their project, they have successfully catalogued about 10,000 books by hand, and those are now available to the community.
It was a lot of fun to finally learn about some actual IMPACT projects rather than just hearing about the program in general. And it was even better that the youth leading the projects were the ones to present. So we got a chance to talk to all of the students after the meeting was over, and they were quite thrilled that we were jealous of the IMPACT program and how we wished it were in America. They were just happy to hear that, for once, Romania is ahead of someone else, especially the States.
After they all filtered out of the building gradually, we Calvin students (along with a couple Romanians who were left) crossed the street to see a temporary art exhibition about Baloo as drawn by an autistic artist. As it turns out, the artist is the older brother of one of the IMPACT kids we’d heard from, and his artwork about Baloo was really very unique. At first glance, it looks very simple, almost like it was made in Microsoft Paint. For example:
However, if you look closer, there is some impressive perspective/size scaling in some of the pictures. He’s got some talent, for sure!
Aside from that, looking at his hand-drawn work was great as well. You can tell from the perspective lines drawn on the page that he took each of his pieces seriously from the start.
All of his pictures were gathered into a slideshow which catalogues the life of Baloo, from when he was found injured as a cub and nursed back to life through his time living with humans in a house (and causing almost too-cute-to-be-true mischief) to his final location out in the woods where he is now. Afterwards, we were invited back in to meet the artist personally.
Then, it was back to dreaded Mamma Mia’s for yet another pizza. To be completely honest, about a week before we came to Romania, I googled “cheap pizza Budapest” because I was really craving some pizza.
I don’t ever want to hear the word “pizza” again. Ugh.
So, this time I ordered what Bekah had ordered last time – the pizza diavollo. The first time we got pizza there, I traded her two pieces of mine for two of hers, and I liked hers better than mine so I decided just to get it for myself this time around, along with the now-typical liter of orange lemonade. Boy was that a mistake. But there was no way I could have known.
One bite of that pizza was all it took to realize that a salt bomb had exploded in the kitchen while they were making it. It was way saltier than it had been before. I downed a lot of that lemonade trying to make it through that pizza, but after six pieces I just had to stop because my tongue hurt from all the salt. Rather unfortunate to waste food, but I just couldn’t do it.
After we left the restaurant, it was a short walk down the road to a Pentecostal church, where we attended a Romanian church service. The songs were sung in both Romanian and English, which was quite enjoyable, and the message was a good one, simple and yet thoughtful. It talked about what “knowing” God means, and how it relates to how we “know” the people around us and how we act towards them (and they toward us).
However, the most entertaining part of the service was actually a little girl, probably no older than two, scooting around on the floor under my feet. She laid under me and lifted up her legs, pushing my legs into the air with her feet. She was laughing her face off, and she then continued to grab/poke/prod/crawl/kick/whatever else at me to keep herself entertained. Honestly it was a little hard to focus on the service. 😉 But she was quite cute, and eventually her parents got hold of her and kept her busy.
Anyway, when we got back to the cabana after the service and bid a final farewell to Dana, I figured things would go pretty smoothly – get a good night’s sleep, listen to music and write this blog on the way back home on the bus, la dee da. Well, at least the blog-on-the-bus worked out.
My room was still incineratingly hot when I stepped in for the night, but I showed that radiator who was boss and shut it down entirely. I laid down for a little while and waited for everyone to head downstairs to the common room so I could get some sleep. Just about the time that the last few people were going, I started to feel awful. Nausea, shakiness, abdominal cramps, the whole bit. It felt like there was a rock in my stomach, sort of like what motion sickness feels like. I figured it was the pizza and didn’t think much of it. I had a hard time sleeping all night, though, and I tossed and turned for quite a while before I realized that lying on my right side was not a good idea. You know, vomiting is not something I particularly enjoy, and lying on my right side certainly made vomiting one of my options. So I spent most of the night on my left side or sitting up and sipping water.
For those of you who know me, you know that I have a pretty intense fear of vomiting. I will suffer for days if it means that I won’t throw up. So naturally, I didn’t barf my guts out, mostly just because I wouldn’t let myself. As I would discover the next day, however, others weren’t so lucky (or perhaps so mentally rigorous?). Stay tuned for tomorrow’s final chapter in the Romania chapter! It will be a sickeningly good time. Literally.