Day 12 – Belgian Carrots and Communist Snacks
It’s 10 pm and we’re sitting here in our living room, in 23-degree weather (Celsius, that’s about 73 in Fahrenheit), eating carrots from Belgium (which taste unexplainably good) and Pufeleţi, almost the only snack the Communists made in Romania for years. Pufeleţi are amazing. They look like those fat cheese puffs you can buy everywhere in America, but there’s no cheese on them, just a little bit of salt, and they’re airier and not at all greasy. When you pop one in your mouth, it just melts and dissolves. They’re really cheap (a huge bag is about $0.40), which is good, because they’re also really addictive.
I took Illiana to the grocery store today to pick up some water. Having to go out every day to get water is a little annoying, but that’s what everyone does in this city. Well, unless they install a water filter, or if they just don’t care. Since everyone we’ve met here buys bottled water, we figured we’d do the same too. The tap water is technically safe, but the levels of Chlorine and metal deposits from decaying pipes are at high enough levels that the government officially recommends only using it for washing. We’re not quite that radical about it – we use it for everything but drinking. Anyway, I got tired of walking to the store to buy water every day, so I decided to stock up today and get as much as I could carry back to our place. They were out of our favorite brand, Bucovina, which tastes amazing – almost sweet, really crisp and clear – so we had to pay a little extra ($1.25 for 5 liters) and get a different brand. It doesn’t taste as good, but I tell myself it must be better because we paid so much for it.
Oh, did I mention our washing machine now works? It wasn’t really broken – you just gotta know how to work it. You gotta squeeze something just so, spin it just like that, push these buttons in this order, and wait a bit, and then it works. So we did a ton of laundry today, all our stuff from the past 12 days I guess. Washing takes a while with these machines (they’re smaller and a lot slower, but gentler on clothes), and people don’t have dryers. The climate is pretty dry here, so everyone just hangs stuff on drying racks, clothes lines, balcony walls, and window sills. It works way better than I expected it to.
This stuff sounds really boring, and it is, but it’s kind of fun to figure it all out because it’s all different and requires us to think like Romanians a little bit more, which is all part of understanding the culture so we can see it transformed into the image of Jesus. We don’t want to come in as the high-and-mighty Americans here to tell the Romanians how to live and do things “right,” because obviously America hasn’t figured that one out yet. We want to come as brothers, understanding the culture, buying bottled water with everyone else, drying clothes like everyone else, riding the subway, living in an apartment Bloc, walking instead of driving, etc. You may think it’s a waste of time, but we’re planning on being here a while, not just blowing in and out like a short-term trip or an evangelistic ministry. We want to be a part of this city, know how it operates, understand the people, love them like Jesus, and bring the light of the Gospel. We’re not here to be an evangelistic ministry – we came to make disciples and plant a church. That takes time.
I hadn’t planned on going here, but I am anyway. One of the things I’ve been mulling over in my mind is the problem of raising a godly family in this city. The more I look at the cost of living here and the average salaries people make, I don’t know how it can be done. Biblically speaking, I think the best thing to do for a family is to have a husband who works (but not so much that he never sees his kids) and a wife who stays home to raise the kids, run the house, and do homeschooling. Here in Bucharest, most people work way too much for way too little. Things are expensive in this city, so most households are dual-income. The only way people have been able to survive is if both parents work and work a lot. Usually they leave early in the morning and don’t get home until 6 or 7 at night. How would it even be possible for a family to survive here the way we’ve been living in the States? There’s obviously an answer, but I don’t know it yet.
My point in bringing all this up is that we want to build something here that will change a nation, not just win a few people to the Lord. We’re not going to find answers to problems like the above if we never understand how a family lives in this city. And that’s just one issue going through my mind. I haven’t even brought up the challenges students and young people face, the abortion epidemic, street kids, prostitution, human trafficking, immorality, racism toward Gypsies, hatred of gays… I know the easy answer is to preach the Gospel and see people saved, because then God changes everything, and I believe that 100%, but Jesus didn’t just say to preach the Gospel to all creation but to disciple the nations. That takes time, building deep, getting to know the nation, and working out how the Kingdom of God looks in actuality, not just in theory.
OK, I don’t know if any of that made sense, but I needed to say it. I’ve got a lot going through my head right now. If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, comment and I’ll clarify.
Just a few more notes before I wrap up tonight’s blog post. We took the girls to a playground today and got a chance to talk to a few people. Not all of them knew English, and our Romanian is still very poor, but it felt good to attempt to communicate anyway. One woman I was talking to noticed I was having trouble getting Isaac into a baby swing (all the playground equipment is different here), so she came over and helped me. Then when I wanted him out, I was having problems again, so without a word she just leaned over, scooped him up, and handed him to me. In America, people seem really nervous to help other people out. So far, in Romania, it seems opposite. People just offer help whether you asked for it or not. I love it. We’ve had a lot of random people just grab our kids, tell us which button to push to open the subway door, or force us to take the elevator instead of the stairs because we had so many kids.
Speaking of having so man kids, statistically speaking, most people in this city have only 1 kid. We’ve seen a few families with 2 kids, met one family with 3, but no one with more than that. So when we walk around as a family, we get a lot of attention. In case the curly blonde hair, the smiles, and the lighter skin don’t tip people off that we’re not from around here, the fact that we have 4 kids orbiting around us at all times helps. I don’t know where I was going with that… something really deep and insightful no doubt.
We ate dinner at the same roadside kiosk. We fed our entire family for about $11. And the food, again, was amazing. The same guys were working there again, so we got to talk to them a little bit more. We’re planning on going back as often as we can, to get to know the workers a little and then share the Gospel. The food is cheap and we really like it, so I think we can make that happen.
While walking around, I couldn’t help but notice that there are college-aged people everywhere. They’re hanging out by the metro, sitting in the grass, eating ice cream, walking through the park, shopping, drinking, eating, riding paddle boats… There’s tons of people in this city, but there really are packs of teens and twenty-somethings all over the place. We wanna see a move of God in this city among the college students and twenty-somethings. We wanna see a mass movement of students running to God and then rising up to bring the Gospel to the dark areas of this city and out into the rest of this nation and the world. Amen. It’s coming.
For those who decide to visit Bucharest, you’ll notice a lot of wild dogs all over the place. They’re mostly pretty lazy, but they’re everywhere, and they’re covered in fleas and diseases, so it’s not like you wanna run up to them and cuddle, you know? Each year, according to Filip, who sounds convincing, whether or not he’s right, 460,000 wild dogs are born and 390,000 die in Bucharest. That’s a lot of wild dogs making a whole lot more wild dogs. So there’s dogs everywhere, and usually they just leave you alone, but sometimes they get a little annoying – sometimes they kill people, but we haven’t experienced that yet, so I’m not going there.
We had two dog incidents today. Dog incident number one: while we were eating our dinner, a big stray dog started wandering closer and closer and then plopped itself right next to Jessie, Mae, and Isaac. It wouldn’t leave. I shooed it away but it just looked at me. I tried leading it away by offering food, but it wouldn’t have anything of it. So we gave in, let him have our spot, and got on the subway. Not too dangerous really, but Mae, who hates all dogs but the kind you stick on a bun with ketchup, was pretty freaked out.
Dog incident number two: while we were walking home, across the road, a pack of about 15 dogs formed up, all barking and biting each other, sounding real vicious. They were following a woman, who was looking really nervous, but then they switched tactics and ganged up on a guy, who picked up stones and threw them at the pack. Unfortunately for the woman, the dogs went back to their first tactic then and followed her. Apparently she didn’t have any stones to throw.
Well, I didn’t want to write so much today, but it’s hard for me to stop once I start…
P.S. I finally got our GPS fixed today, which means no more getting lost! Today was one of the first days in a while that we didn’t wander around lost and confused. Yeah! Victory! This will make prayer walking and evangelism much easier, so we can wander without worrying about never finding our way home again. I know we’d be able to ask directions well enough, but I’m just not so sure anyone would be able to tell us how to find our apartment. 🙂