Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Cold Little Princess

Think she's spoiled? Nah!

Sent from my G1 phone

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I haven't posted in a while since I've updated my blog from my trip. But not much to update on this end. I got home and got right back into the groove of things. We had a small group the night I got home, Single Mom's Oil Change the day after that, and then back into daily lessons, tutoring, piano, school, church, etc.

And to top it off, my camera is still broken, so I have no pictures to report anyway! But, we had a good thanksgiving. I went to pick Kenzie up on Wednesday, so she spent the weekend with us, and it was good to have her here. We went to Pam and Dave's with David's whole family and had fried turkey, sweet potato casserole, sausage stuffed stuffing balls, pumpkin pies, toffee butter bars, mashed potatoes, brussell sprouts, ham, and prime rib. Yum. Then we just hung out around the house and watched movies and enjoyed being lazy. Exciting, I know.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bran and Brasov

Bran and Brasov

Our last full day in Romania was spent driving and sightseeing. We woke up early (too early for hot water, so no shower for me, yuck!) and packed up the cars and headed towards Brasov. We stopped a lot along the way to see the sights, it was one of the most beautiful drive's in Europe so I'm told. It was majestic. We drove over mountains and saw some of the most beautiful countryside. The houses built on the sides of hills, tall mountains with whole little towns nestled into the valleys, shepherds watching their flocks of sheep along the sides of the road, and occasionally having to swerve to miss a couple of cows making their way around town.

We stopped at a roadside stand (they are everywhere there) and the guy was so nice, he showed us around, he had deer and peacocks and other strange animals in his pen in the back of his house. He took us to his storage cellar and it was so nice, and organized! He had tons of cheeses lined up, and herbs hanging upside down, it was very rustic and very charming. He even let me use his toilet so I felt obligated to buy something from him. I bought something pink in a jar that he called "sherbet" but I knew it wasn't the same thing we call "sherbet" (we cracked it open to try it that night at Ana's and I left it there for her to enjoy! blech)

Then we stopped at another stand to get breakfast and this little old lady was happily giving us samples of what I thought was her beef jerky and sheep cheese. We bought several links of sausage and a chunk of cheese and ate on the road. It was actually BEAR sausage and BUFFALO cheese! That was so awesome! We were eating bear for breakfast. I can now actually say I was so hungry I ate the hind end of a running grizzly bear :)

After a few more scenery stops, and a quick run up a hill, we arrived in Bran. This is home of Dracula's castle. Or, Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler. I hit the market and bought presents for the family. I got the kids a wooden carved flute, Regan a set of nesting dolls, a scarf for myself, and a cool coffee mug for Riley that's clear and has Vlad Tepes and the castle on it. We got this circle bread too that is roasted on this stick and rolled in nuts and caramel and just melts in your mouth it was so good.

We kept going to Brasov, which is a ski resort town, and so quaint, exactly what I pictured most of Europe to look like. Cobble stone streets, a plaza with pigeons and musicians. It was picturesque. We ate a quick lunch at McDonald's and then walked around the town. Kevin and I were competing for how many pictures we could take it seemed! We finally made it down to the end of the main road and took a tour of the Black Church, one of the more famous churches in Europe. It was beautiful inside. We weren't supposed to take pictures, but we took a couple secretly anyway. I couldn't help it, it was very nice inside!

Bought a few more gifts in Brasov, and then headed back to the car for the long ride back to Bucharest. We made it in just in time for a meeting with some local area pastors. They had a ton of questions about our church, and ministry, and it was a good several hours spent with them helping them with their questions. I slipped out for a bit and logged online to chat with David and the kids, a week without email access and cell service, we were missing each other big time!

We went back to Ana's for our last night, and it was a little like coming home. We had really fallen in love with Ana and it was so good to see her, and everyone at Campus Crusades! We had her give us her presentation and talked about what she needs to be in ministry full time now. I just love her and plan on supporting her in her ministry. She took very good care of us! She also gave us all presents for our kids, and made our last night in Bucharest the best.

We got up bright and early (well, not bright, it was still dark at 6am) and headed to the airport. It was much easier going home, we combined a lot of suitcases so I only had 2 to deal with instead of 4. But the flight home seemed so much longer. We were trying to stay awake so we would be on the right schedule when we got home, but it didn't work very well. David picked us up at the airport in Houston at 9pm and we still had to drive back to Austin, drop off the church van, and drive to Pam and Dave's to get the kids! It was a very late night, but I was up bright and early at 5am, ready to go!

Last Night in Bucharest

That sounds like a movie title. I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this trip has been. I am already planning to come back next year, and hopefully David can come too! When I get home and get more time, I will upload pictures and tell you about every last detail (I know you can't wait!!) but we have over 60 gigs of video and pictures to sort through so it might be a little while!! My camera broke right before we got to the Romanian orphanage, I was so bummed, but then I became the official church photographer, and their camera is nicer than mine, so I got over it real quick! The food here is amazing, the people are the nicest I have ever met in my life and the scenery is simply breathtaking. Today we left Cumpalung and went through Bran to see Dracula's castle, then to Brasov to walk through the town where the buildings were built in the 1300's! Then back here to Bucharest for our last night of meetings and then we leave bright and early in the morning. I miss my kids and can't wait to see them, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world! Thanks to all of you who helped get me here!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gypsy Village

Gypsy Village

I have to say it was one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip, visiting a Gypsy village. We started our day spending some time with Estera and finding out how we could help her. This woman, I can't tell you how amazing I think she is. Just one week of her life wore us out, and it was a slow week. She has stamina like you wouldn't believe, and such dedication to her calling. She and her husband Vio often split up to go to villages, but they only have one car, so one of them will hitchhike to a village to do a Bible club. She goes to the Gypsy village every Tuesday night, alone, and walks. And let me tell you from experience, it is dark on the way home. I mean, can't see your hand in front of your face dark. I don't know how she does it but by the grace of God. She is forever in my daily prayers for the work that she does there.

So we started off by helping her with crafts. She sees over 600 kids a week in different schools and villages. For 250 of them, she has a craft. Some places she either can't or isn't allowed to do crafts. So Shawn, Amanda and I sat down with her lesson book and planned out the next 13 weeks of crafts for her. We then had the boys come and cut, count and sort hundreds of beads, cotton balls, paper bags, paper plates and pom pom balls! It took the better part of the day to get it all done, and we sorted her cabinets and got her all set up for the next few months. I wish I could go back and do it for her every few months to lighten her load, but one thing I am hoping for is a chance to go back next year and plan out the entire year for her. I hope it helps her have more time to spend with her amazing family. She gets up in the mornings around 4:30am just to read her Bible and pray while the house is quiet and then goes back to bed for a bit. See? Complete dedication! I could go on and on about her, she's my new hero.

A little while into the counting, Scott, Kevin and I took a mental health break and went for a walk down the main road. A photographers dream, this place. I took pictures of cows, haystacks, blades of grass, apple trees, everything there is so lush and beautiful. Then it was time to hit the crafts again before church.

Finally, we got ready and headed up the road to the Gypsy village. The kids were amazing. Some of the girls are married at 12, and have babies! They were so beautiful, and so friendly. Just walking up the road we were surrounded by a throng of kids, wanting me to take their picture, and then wanting me to show them on the screen. If they didn't like it, they would make me take it again. It was hard to just keep walking, but the others didn't want to leave me behind and so I kept headed to the church, and they kept following me. I just could not take enough pictures. The kids were gorgeous!

The church is experiencing massive growth too! They recently doubled in size, they had around 20 people regularly, and Gigi (Estera's neighbor) walks to the village every night to preach the Gospel to them. They now have 43 people and had to add on to the church building! I had a bag of candy in my hands so I was like a pied piper and the kids followed me everywhere I went.

So when it was time for the kids church to start, Estera sang some songs with them, and did her Bible lesson, and asked me to teach them the "Who's the King of the Jungle" song, which they loved, and then we played games with them. We played hand slapping games, balloon bouncing games, and we gave out more Silly Bands, and we gave out the candy as they left to walk home. It was all over too soon for me.

These kids were a lot like the kids at home, much more free than some of the kids we saw in the villages. They were outgoing, not too shy, jumped around and laughed a lot. It was like being at Celebration Kids, without the English! Then we walked home in the dark and went back to our crafting and packing up to head back to Bucharest. It was a nice, relaxing day, and the Gypsies were just so much fun. A great way to end the week in Campulung.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tia's House

Tia's House

After the day camp, Scott started pouring the kid's leftovers into a big pot. And by leftovers, I mean any leftover soup, potatoes, hot dogs, bread crumbs, it all went into a giant pot. I thought it would be for pigs or something, but he said no, we were going to bring it to Tia's house. I was somewhat disturbed by that, thinking poor old lady. She is 78 and her husband is 98. No one knows his name so we started calling him Mr. Tia. Tia is the strongest, toughest lady you would ever meet! One morning we saw her hauling buckets and 90 pound bags of apples up the hill to her house and sent Chad out to help her (Chad was the muscle on our trip) and he came in sweating buckets and said Tia laughed at him for sweating! That is one tough broad.

So we carried our big pot of nasty leftover soup to Tia. She was very excited to get the soup, and grabbed two buckets that had been sitting outside and looked very dirty. As Kevin said, it looked like she washed a boot in the bucket. She asked us to pour the soup in the dirty bucket. At this point I thought for sure the food would be for the pigs. She took us out back to see her pigs (they were cute) and then we noticed a bunch of kittens climbing into the soup bucket and eating their hearts out. I tried to shoo them away but Tia told Estera to let them be, the cats need to eat too. Then she carried the bucket inside so they could eat it for dinner. I almost gagged just thinking about it, until I saw the pot of food that they had been eating. It looked like it had been made with rain water. It was a soup of apple pieces and potato peels and muddy looking water. They have no teeth so they can only eat soup made with mushy things.

Then Tia took us inside to meet her husband and see her house (which was about the size of master closet, no joke). There was a twin sized bed for Mr. Tia, and at the foot of that, in an L shape was her twin size bed, and across from that was their "kitchen" which was a heater that they cook food on. The bathroom was out back. It was so tiny and musty. Mr. Tia asked us if we would shave him, his daughter normally does it, but she hadn't been around in a while, so he had a nice little beard going.

He got up and rummaged through a drawer to find his razor which was almost as old as he was, and very dull. Kevin was nominated for the job, and he went back to camp and grabbed his electric razor that he brought with him. He was afraid he would cut him with a regular razor. So he shaved him, and you could tell Mr. Tia was enjoying it! He was smiling ear to ear, and was so sweet. He was so happy and he gave me a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. Tia had been hitting the Tuica before we got there, so she was pretty happy to see us too, and Amanda got a full on slobber kiss, twice. Lucky.

Then Tia asked us if we could pick some of her harder to reach apples, so Estera, Amanda and Kevin climbed the apple tree and picked a basket full of apples and would toss them down to Scott while Tia talked my ear off (in Romanian, she didn't seem to care that I couldn't understand a word she said!) She showed Amanda and I some of her old pictures and I thought they were OLD pictures, they were black and white with scalloped edges, looked like some my grandma has of her as a kid, but then on the back of them, they say they were taken in 1988 and 1989!

Then we headed back down to camp, and had dinner (more leftover chicken soup) and then Kevin and Scott made Tiramisu and Estera made us the best hot tea ever, from plants around the area. It was so good and I wanted so bad to bring some home, but I was afraid it wouldn't make it through customs. But, it was a great day, very interesting, but watching Kevin shave Mr. Tia and his huge smile, it was one of my favorite memories of the trip.

Day Camp

Day Camp

On Monday, Estera hosted a field trip at the camp. We had a "Bible Club" day camp. We spent a few hours on Sunday night decorating the upstairs room and laughing mostly, singing songs and goofing around. Scott has been leading trips to Romania for 20 years now, but I don't know if he's ever led a more fun one! We were always laughing and having so much fun.

So we got the "upper room" ready and planned out our activities and then on Monday morning, the bus pulled up and out came 21 kids (we were expecting 16) and their teachers, moms, grandmas and one grandpa. We had a station set up downstairs for the adults to make cards, get their nails done, and have some "grown-up" time, while the kids were upstairs having "kid time"!

We played a few games with them, took them outside to let them run around, and then we went back upstairs, Estera taught them a Bible story while we helped them with their butterfly craft. Then it was lunch time, and they ate the infamous chicken soup, and a side of hot dogs (that were like sausages) and mashed potatoes that were the best ones I had ever had. And they were just plain mashed potatoes. Yum. Anyway, while the kids were eating, the grandpa told Estera he was embarrassed about his granddaughter eating her food so fast, but this was the first time in her life she had ever had a second course, they were very poor and she had never eaten so much food before. Broke our hearts.

Right after the kids ate, we gave out the colored bead bracelets while Shawn told the "Wordless Book" story. The beads on each bracelet represent a scripture, the first is black (sin) red (the blood of Jesus) white (He washes us white as snow) gold (when we go to Heaven to be with Him) and green (grow in the knowledge of God).

The kids loved the bracelets and the teacher stood up and thanked us for coming, and told the moms and kids that you could tell that the love of Jesus was real by the way we served them that day. That if the country of Romania would embrace God and serve it's people like we had served them, their country would be a better country in no time. She went on, but by that time, we were all in tears. One of the mom's even gave Amanda and I a lace butterfly that she handmade and told Estera that she wanted to know more about God!

Then the kids loaded back up in the van and left and we were all on cloud nine!