Day 15 – Piaţă Sărat
Today, we spent a lot of time inside learning the language and researching the bus, tram, and trolley system of Bucharest, because it was cold and rainy most of the day. But before it got too cold and rainy, we visited a nearby market, Piaţă Sărat, with Simona, Adiel’s wife. Adiel is the senior pastor at Missio Dei church, in case you don’t remember. At Piaţă Sărat, which translates to “Salty Market,” we discovered how we’re going to be able to survive in Bucharest on a limited income. Food in the grocery stores is similar to the US, but quite a few things are way more expensive. At the market, we can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for really cheap prices. We walked away with bags filled with fresh produce, and all we spent was about $8. And as with all Romanian food we’ve had so far, the produce is phenomenal. No preservatives or chemical sprays or pesticides or hormones really make food taste better.
Jessie did most of the talking at the market. Since she’ll be the one heading over there most of the time, and since I’ve been doing most of the speaking practice everywhere we go, I refused to speak this time and told Jessie it was all up to her. She did awesome, perfecting such phrases as “Doi kilo, vă rog” and “Mulţumesc” – “Two kilograms please” and “Thank you.” Jessie was a little nervous at first. This is her first time ever outside America, and she hasn’t been in very many situations where she’s had to rely on grunting and miming to communicate. Being a guy, I’ve relied on grunting and miming to communicate most of my life.
At the market with our four blonde-haired kids, we got a lot of stares. We get stares wherever we go, especially when we’re out as a whole family. At first it was unnerving, but now I’m so used to it I don’t even really notice. We don’t know a lot of Romanian, but since Romanians tend to talk real loud and boisterously, we can pick up some comments they make about us – “I think they’re Americans,” “Did you see the big German family?,” “Those British people have 4 kids!”
We had so many people coming up to us at the market kissing our kids, saying we were a beautiful family, telling us the girls looked like angels, etc. Usually they speak so quick we can barely understand, their arms flailing about wildly, but once in a while they’d slow down when we made it clear we didn’t speak much Romanian. One woman asked if we liked Romania so I told her honestly, “Ne place foarte mult,” which means “We like it very much.” Her mouth dropped open and her face looked shocked and disgusted at the same time. Suddenly I got nervous that I had said something wrong. I asked Simona quickly, “Did I say that right? Is she mad?” She laughed, “No, no, you said it very well. She’s just surprised you like it.”
Many Romanians have a very negative view of themselves and their country. This is a really beautiful place that’s filled with beautiful people, but Romanians don’t tend to feel that way from what I’ve gathered. There are problems, to be sure, but we have fallen in love with this country and I think everyone else should too. I think years of oppression by Romans, Hungarians, Turks, Germans, Austrians, Russians, Communists, Ottomans – am I forgetting anyone? – has left a deep scar on Romania. Besides the harsh history of oppression, I think most Romanians are aware of the mostly negative image the world has of their nation from the outside – vampires, Dracula, Communism, orphanages, Gypsies, wild dogs, human trafficking, political scandals and corruption, computer hacking… At least they’ve got gymnastics, right?
The other day, I was talking to a guy in his twenties who spoke English pretty well. When I told him we loved it in Romania, he only told me, “You are still on honeymoon. Wait until honeymoon is over, then you will see how it really is here.”
Many Romanians have this rose-colored view of the world beyond Romania. They act like life must be perfect in the US. They think every other country has washing machines that never develop weird quirks, politicians who always fulfill their promises, clothing at dirt-cheap prices, and food that’s healthier, tastier, and easier to cook. A lot of Romanians think things are so bad here, and they’re ashamed of it. The reality is that some things are better, some things are worse, but a lot of things are really just the same.
After getting so many stares and so many people coming up to talk to us today, we were really frustrated that we couldn’t tell people what we’re doing here, so with Simona’s help we learned how to say, “Am venit să spunem pentru Iisus,” which means “We came to talk about Jesus.”
We didn’t come for the good food, the mountains, the friendly people, or the lovely packs of wild dogs – we came to talk about Jesus. Even though we haven’t had a lot of opportunities for that yet, we’ve had a few, and we’re laying a foundation now that we can build on once we know the language better and are more able to communicate with people clearly.
We came to talk about Jesus. Romanians may not think so highly of themselves, they may think life is better in the US or Italy or anywhere but Romania, but Jesus thinks really highly of Romanians, and I just want this country to know it.