Sunday, November 29, 2015

We had to be ready to leave by 5 am from Jibou, so that meant we were up about 3:30 to get ready. We didn't have any breakfast there, even though Cami volunteered to do so.  We got a breakfast on the plane from Cluj to Vienna.  The plane was delayed almost 2 hours which meant that Scott had to call ahead and make arrangements for a later pickup from the airport in Vienna.  Our breakfast consisted of almost the same thing as lunch on the plane from Vienna to Cluj:  a hard roll, several slices of cheese, salami, some slices of ham, a couple pieces of dried fruit, a red pepper slice, and a cookie bar.  When we got to Vienna we had to pack up all of us in two vans along with all our luggage.  The drivers weren't too happy.  When we got to the hotel we got checked in and went up to our rooms for a few minutes.  Scott had us all come down and gave us a brief orientation.

We walked to the Karlsplatz station and everyone went their own way to get a quick lunch.  I went with several to a place that had sandwiches and pastries.  I got a flatbread with cheese and bacon on it.  I looked at the pastries, but decided to wait until later--guess I should have gotten something then as I didn't have a chance later.  Scott had purchased 24-hour passes that were good on all the subways, trains, busses, etc.  We went out to the Schonbrunn Palace and toured it.  Some of them went inside, but I opted to go out into the area behind the palace.  Wende and I even hiked all the way up to the Glorietta which is a monument at the top of the grounds.  The grounds were beautiful, and I bought a series of postcards showing the inside.  It reminds me a lot of Versailles in Paris.  

We went back to the hotel and had a little break and then met together to go out to a restaurant for supper.  Scott thought he had reservations, but for some reason they hadn't made them.  We had to wait a little, but finally got in to two different tables.  Most everybody got the Wienersnitzel, but I chose the Cordon Bleu instead, along with a salad.

It was a very good meal.  Afterwards we walked through one of the main shopping districts in Vienna.  It is where all the big. expensive stores are located.  We also walked by the opera house.  By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone was ready for bed.  It had been a long day.

In the morning after showering, we went down to breakfast.  The hotel has a big breakfast buffet.  We had a big selection of breads, yogurt, cheeses, fruits, cereals, and beverages.

Then Scott took us on a walking tour of Vienna in the morning.  We started with a visit to Karls Kirche.  They are doing an extensive renovation on the building, so even though the scaffolding on the outside took away from it, the elevator inside was worth it.  

We got to take it up inside the dome.  Then there were steps up all the way to the very peak of the dome.  This allowed us to get some very close views of the paintings in the dome that we wouldn't have been able to see otherwise.  I was very impressed with it.  

I think I liked it even better than St. Stephen's Cathedral which we saw next.  I teased one of the men in our group, Dr. David Bush, of writing his name, but purposely misspelling it so he wouldn't be caught.  

These are some views of St. Stephansdom Cathedral.

We had walked by it the night before and seen it lit up at night, which was impressive.  But I don't think the inside was as beautiful as Karls Kirche.  I will say that the stained glass windows were prettier.  The vaulted ceilings were beautiful, but made it seem colder than those in Karls Kirche.  The outside reminds me more of the great cathedrals in Paris.

We walked by the Judenplatz where there is a memorial to the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed during WWII.  Later in the day I went back with several of the group who wanted to go to the museum.  It was interesting, but not as impressive as just looking at the memorial outside in the plaza.

Then we continued down Graben, which has some of the top names in stores.  On the way we stopped at a bakery and some people bought pastries.  I looked at the prices, and decided to wait until we went back where we had lunch the day before--again a mistake, as I never got back there.  Oh, well, I can make some myself I guess.  Then we went to where the Hofburg palace is located.  There are a lot of beautiful buildings there around a central plaza.  A lot of the government buildings are located there also.  That is also where the Lippenzauer stallions are located.  We got to see some of them in their stalls.  And even saw some walk through the hallway from outside to their stalls.  None of the pictures I got were good enough to share--they were too blurry.  

These are a few scenes of the city as we walked quickly through it that morning.

We ended our tour with Scott by taking a ride on the trolley which circles the city where the walls of the city had been located.  He went back to the hotel to catch up on some of his paperwork for the trip and left us on our own.  I decided to go with some of them to the outskirts of the city where one of the men wanted to look at nativity figures.  He found one, but they were all too expensive for me.  I did get a small one in a slice of wood, kind of like an ornament.  

We stopped at a small restaurant and had lunch.  I ordered the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fried onion strips.  It was good, but had the consistency of Vienna sausages--kind of pasty-smooth.  I got one and a half down, but couldn't manage the other half slice.

We took a chance and rode the trolley and bus back, even though our passes had already expired.  If we’d been checked, I think there would have been a fine.  Then we looked for and found a shop we’d passed earlier in the day where I bought a Christmas ornament with Vienna and a scene painted on it.  It will be my reminder of my trip to Vienna.  

We walked back to the hotel and past to the NightMarket, which ironically is open only until dark.  I did buy a scarf for Ann there, and some candy that we’d tried as we walked through.  By the time I got back to the hotel, I decided to stay in for the night.  This was my side of the room in the hotel.  I shared it with Scott.  

My legs were all covered with a rash that I learned later was caused by the amount of walking I’d done.  Next time—and this year in Alaska—I’ll wear some support stockings.  When I went to the Doctor when I got home, he reminded me that I’m not getting any younger!  All in all, it was a great trip.  One that I would like to repeat, but probably won't be able to do.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Howard's Romania Trip

My trip to Romania started out by telling Ann goodbye at the Nashville Airport.  She had dropped me off before going to church around 8 am.  If we had known, she could have taken me later--the plane to Toronto was delayed about 3 hours.  At least the airline did give me a coupon for a lunch!

When I finally made it to Toronto, I had to go through passport control and then through customs before I could look for my gate.  As usual, I think the two gates were as far from each other as they could be!  I met Wende Flowers who was coming from Atlanta, and we flew on the same plane to Vienna.  We did have about an hour before time to board, but I had not been sure, because I didn't think my phone time had changed, and I was thinking I almost missed the connection.

On the flight to Vienna, I had a bulkhead seat, so couldn't stretch out my legs.  That made for a very long night, sitting straight up for the most part.  When we made it to Vienna, it was time for another check with Passport and Customs.  Then we picked up our luggage because it could not be checked through to Cluj Napoca in Romania.  After collecting luggage, we went out of the secured area and met Scott.  We had to wait a while for the rest of the team.  They had flown from Dulles in D.C.  We then went to TAROM airlines and checked our luggage for the flight into Romania.  All the airports have big areas of Duty-Free shops that you walk through.  When we  boarded the plane for Cluj, I thought I saw the baggage handlers talking about having too much luggage.  Sure enough when we got into Romania 17 of our bags did not make it.

In his itinerary, Scott had said it would be about an 1 hour and 15 minute ride from Cluj to Jibou.  That was the longest hour and fifteen minutes I've ever experienced!  We got to Jibou and went up to our rooms.  We stayed on the third floor of the house where the Pastor and his family live.

The steps up to the 3rd floor are cement, and very poorly made.  The last flight up slopes downward, and since there are no handrails, I can be tricky.  It was especially hard the next night when I had to bring my suitcase up after it had been delivered about 11 pm.

When we got settled, we went down to supper.  The Pastor's wife, Cami, fixed our meals--and they were excellent.

The table was long and narrow, with benches on either side.  Once seated, you didn't move until time for you to get up after the meal.  Every meal included bread of some kind, and the drink was either Coca Cola or bottled water.  You could use the tap water to brush your teeth, as long as you didn't swallow, but you did not drink it.  It was also okay to cook with.

After breakfast in the mornings, we met at the church for a short meeting.  Then we split up into teams for various things.  Martin Jones, Michael Watkins, Wende Flowers, and I were all new so the Pastor put the 4 of us together on a team.  Most of the others had been there and were familiar with how the program worked.  This was also the time we met our interpreter who would be going with us most of the time.

To the left is the house where we stayed on the third floor.  Note the balcony--with no railing up there!!!

Below is the church, just down at the end of the street where the house is located.  That is where we had our meetings in the basement and our Sunday services.

This picture below shows the basement of the church where we met every morning before going out to the villages.  The drivers and translators met us there.

This is a picture of most of the members of the entire team that Scott brought over for this year.  It also has several of the translators.  The fellow to the left and the girl in the green jacket and pink pants are brother and sister.

Diana (Dee Anna) in the middle above was our translator.  She is only 16, but has the poise and sophistication of someone much older.  This picture was taken at the house church in Turbuta which came later in the week.  But it is the only picture I can find of her.

Daniel (pronounced Dan yell) on the left, and Peter were our drivers.  For the first two days we went out to some villages and visited at homes.  The first village we went to was Somes Odorhei (So mish O door hay).  We talked to a man whose wife is not a believer, in fact is actively trying to get him to recant and go back to the Orthodox Church.  Sometimes after we visit a home, the Orthodox Priest will come and try to persuade them to have nothing to do with us.  We did go back a second time and prayed with his wife.  She was taking care of carrots from their garden for the winter.

The man showed us his pigs and his garden, even giving us something like green onions or leeks to take back to the church with us.

When we went back the second day, he had just gotten a load of wood and was splitting it.  Martin and Michael each took a turn chopping and did very well.

Below is a picture of another home visit that we made.  It was at this house that they insisted we stay and have refreshments.  They had loaves of bread and a type of dessert that was coated with powdered sugar.  Then he brought out some of his homemade sausage and insisted that we try it.  I took only a small piece and had a hard time keeping it down because of the consistency.  It was very soft and squishy.

The man in the middle was one we had visited at his own house also.  He brought us down here to make this visit.  This was where we sang and sang, and then had the sausage.

One night I was the speaker at the village of Surduc (Sir Duke).  Benjamin, or Beni, was my driver and interpreter that night as the rest of my team went back to Somes Odorhei.  Beni was to do the children's work, and I was to speak to the adults when they came later.  Beni spent most of the time just talking to one of the older boys.  There were about 12-15 altogether.  He did try a game where he or someone else hid his car keys and then they had to find them.  When they got close, I figured they were saying, "You're getting warmer."  I had told Beni on the way out to the village that I had candy to give them, so when he finished the game, he asked me if I had something for them.  I was thinking he meant for me to speak to them, so I spent time telling about my growing up, our trips to the desert, cooking our turkey underground, and even digging for tarantulas.  It was only later that I realized he meant for me to give them the candy then.  After the adult service, I left the bag with him to give to them later.

Another night we went to the village of Inau (In now).  Most of the home churches had benches to sit on, but this particular church had something like pews.  There was a bench with a back and a kneeling bench with a rack above it for a song book or Bible in front of you.  No way could you sit leaning back!  It was straight up, or even leaning forward a little.  Some of the other villages that teams went to were:  Cuceu (Ku cho), Racas (Rock ish), Narradea (Nare odd e ah), Tranis (Tran ish), Cristolt (Kris tolt), Caeud (K ude, Domnin (Dom neet), Var, Turbuta (Tur but sa), and Chechis (Keck kish).

The night we went to Turbuta we had a very interesting experience.  Pastor Teo had taken Martin, Michael, and me to see the house they are building for themselves.  The church owns the one where we stayed.  Their house is still under construction, but they have a greenhouse in the badkyard where they can grow various vegetables.  They still had some tomatoes on the vines, although the vines themselves had been frostbitten.  They will pick the green tomatoes and put them inside somewhere to ripen so they can have ripe tomatoes later in the year.

The Pastor then took us to a place on the road near the village.  He parked alongside the road, and we walked down to a suspension bridge across the Somes River.  It is quite a wide river, so the bridge is long.  It is suspended by cables and the floor is made of metal plates that shift as you walk across them.

There is a ferry that can take cars or tractors and wagons across also.  We watched them take a load across while we were walking across the bridge.  Once across the bridge we had to walk about a mile and a half to the church on a dirt road that is shared with cattle and horses.  As it was beginning to get dark, we needed to watch our steps very carefully.  At least it was dry for the most part.  It would have been a muddy mess if there had been rain.  It was a cold night and I had worn only my suit coat, thinking that was what I needed for a church service.  The Pastor insisted I take his heavy jacket, and I was very thankful for it  By the time we got to church, however, we were all fairly warmed up.  They had a fire going in a wood stove, and it was too hot!  After the service which involved quite a bit of singing, Wende's and my testimonies, and a sermon by Martin, they had cinnamon or chocolate swirl bread and some juice to drink.  Before the long walk back, I needed to use the bathroom--which was outside, of course.  I forgot to take my phone/flashlight, so fumbled around in the dark.

This was a view of the church in Turbutsa, both on the outside and the inside.  It was really a nice little church.

 My day usually started at 5:40 am.  I wanted to be up in time to get my shower before everyone else needed to use the bathrooms.  At least we had 2 upstairs on the third floor.  Part of the time, however, one shower was plugged and didn't drain well.  The other one spashed outside the doors onto the tile floor.  Jeff had to keep sweeping the water towards a drain while his wife showered one morning.  Then that shower developed a crack in the faucet and we had to turn the water off entirely unless someone needed to flush a toilet.  By the end of the week both showers were working fine.

After getting dressed, I usually spent the time before breakfast writing an e-mail to Ann.  We went down to breakfast at 8, and then back up those 5 flights of steps to brush our teeth.

Meals were much later that I am accustomed to having them.  Lunches were at 2 in the afternoon, and supper wasn't until we all got back from the meetings at night.  So that meant that we didn't eat until about 9 or a couple times until almost 10.  Then it was time for bed!

On Saturday night our team went to Chechis for the service.  Vasili and his wife how had been out to Turbuta with us where there also.  He played an accordion and another man played an oboe.  They usually sing all 8-12 verses of the songs; at least it seems like there are that many verses!  But i was great to listen to them even if I didn't know what they were singing.  Each time I gave my testimony it had to be interpreted by someone.  And the main preacher was the same.  Again they had refreshments.

Sunday was a very full day.  We had to be in church a few minutes after 9 in the morning, and the service was not over until about 12:15!  We went back to the house for dinner:  chicken soup with corn meal dumplings to begin with, followed by baked chicken, couscous, mixed vegetables, and of course bread.  I believe that day she had some type of layered bars for dessert.  Almost as soon as we were through eating, we had to load up and drive out to Chechis for the dedication of that house/church.  Someone from the village had donated his home, and one of the men on our team (Dr. David Bush) had provided the funds necessary to remodel or add to it so it could function as a church building.  The night before there had been only about 12 to 15 in the meeting.  The afternoon of the dedication there must have been 50 or more crowded into that house.

There was music again--a lot of it--and then Dr. Bush spoke for about an hour.  We finished, grabbed a slie of bread on our way out, so we wouldn't offend them by not staying and fellowshipping.  We had to head back for the evening service at the church in Jibou.  Dr. Bush spoke again, after many preliminaries, and again a lot of music.  All in all, we spent about 7 plus hours in church that day.  Then, of course, supper followed afterwards.  Cami had made a special dessert for us as it was our last meal with them.  Breakfast Monday morning was to be on the flight from Cluj back to Vienna.

This is Cami above in her little kitchen.  I think it must have been a closet off from the room that had been a kitchen, which they made into a dining room when it is just their family.  To the right is the dessert she made for Sunday night.  It was really yummy.

Our meals were exceptionally good.  One night it was cornmeal cooked in a form, topped with beef in a spicy gravy.  Another night we had sarmale which is a pork/rice mixture rolled up in cabbage leaves with a sauce over them.  Several times we had rice; one night I helped Cami cook chicken dredged in flour, egg, and panko crumbs.  Sometimes we had a salad of tomatoes, peppers, and onions with a dressing on; other times it was a lettuce salad.  Cami did ask me to cook an American meal one night, so I did a chicken potpie with Waldorf (apple) salad.  That night we had birthday cake that a friend had made for her birthday that day.  Another night I made a "Romanian" yogurt pie.  We could not get the graham cracker crust, so crushed up cookies and added a little sugar and butter.  There is no Cool Whip, so we bought a liquid topping that worked just as well when it was whipped.  No flavored jello, so we used gelatin with a bit of sugar added.

This was supper the night I helped fry the chicken.  We got ready to do it, and had to go to the store to get a different box of panko crumbs.  The one she had was wormy.  The red peppers and onions were left over from the first night's supper.

We spent one morning walking through what they call the market:  it was a whole series of tables loaded with second-hand clothing, shoes, etc.  There was a small section of produce.  We went to a couple stores in the downtown area too.  We had free time one afternoon so our team of four (Martin, Michael, Wende, and I) along with our interpreter Diana (Dee Anna) went to the botanical gardens in Jibou.

These were 4 pictures I took at the Botanical Gardens.
It was a very interesting place to visit.  We must have walked about 4-5 miles!
On the way back we stopped at a little bakery shop alongside the street and I got this pretzel.  It was really good.  The others got something like the pan-au-chocolat that we get in Paris.  It was circular in shape, but filled with a dark chocolate in the center.  I went back later that afternoon and got some.

It was interesting to me to note these houses as we drove from place to place.

To the left and below are some scenes of typical homes in and around Jibou.  Both of these are pictures that I took looking out the balcony of the house where we stayed on the third floor.  The balcony had no railing!  I would gather there are no building codes or inspections there.

We also passed many horse-drawn wagons on our trips to the villages--and some even downtown Jibou.

This was our means of transportation to and from the airport in Cluj Napoca, and also on the night we went out to Chechis for the dedication.  The other times we rode in cars that our drivers owned.  They took us out to the villages.  The villages were just groups of houses; there were no stores there.  Each house usually had a courtyard, some buildings besides the house, and a well.  There was also a garden plot and maybe pens for chickens and pigs and a corn crib.

We did visit a couple of orphanages, but were not allowed to take any pictures there.  The children were very excited to get bags of treats that the team had put together for them.

Ending 2017

It has been awhile since I have blogged, so I thought I would just do a catch up.  We had Thanksgiving at our house this year  Brett, Lauri...