Today was a pretty mellow day. I (Jessie) got caught up on some home schooling in the morning with Naomi and Mae, made a giant stack of clătite (Romanian panckakes, similar to crepes) for lunch so we could use up some căpșune (strawberries) we got at the market last week, and headed out to the market with Naomi in the afternoon.
I love going to the market here. It is one of my weekly highlights, because I really like using the tramvei (tram), I love wandering through the aisles of fruits, veggies, flowers, honey, cheese, and meat, and it is my best opportunity to practice hearing and speaking Romanian. So that I can start to get to know some people, practice my Romanian with them, and eventually progress in conversation beyond, “I’d like two kilograms of potatoes,” and “Thank you,” I have been trying to go to the same vendors each week (if their prices are good). Because of my blonde hair or my slow, pitiful Romanian–or more likely because of the cute blonde-haired children I bring along–I easily stand out and am remembered.
Today, I was asked by three different people which country I was from, even though I didn’t speak in English, haha! But, I was excited, because I actually knew what they were asking me, even though they asked in Romanian. Even better, I could answer back in Romanian! As usual, I got, “Wow” and “Whoa!” But the most encouraging part was when the women who sold me the strawberries asked if there were strawberries in America also. I answered, “Da, dar aici–foarte bun!” They laughed! That means, “Yes, but here, very good!” I tend to forget verbs, but at least I’m making some sense.
Having Naomi along was fun, as it was a good time to get mama-daughter time in with her, and now that she’s getting a little older, I think that’s really important for her to hang out with mom, ask questions, chat, and learn how to do grown-up things. She loved it, but she was thrilled when an older lady came up behind us, saying, “Domnișoară, Domnișoară! Doamnă!” which means, “Miss, miss! Ma’am!” As we turned to her, she handed Naomi a generous bag of strawberries, and started speaking to us with a big smile and fast Romanian. I explained that my Romanian was not very good and that I couldn’t understand her (in Romanian), but she just kept smiling and talking about Naomi. I asked, “Pentru?” and pointed at Naomi, meaning “for Naomi?” She nodded and smiled and walked away. Naomi was so pleased and carried it all the way home herself.
I realized later that Friday is Children’s Day here in Romania, and one of our friends here, Cristiana, had explained to us that strawberries are a popular treat for children on that day, so I’m thinking that was her Children’s Day gift to Naomi. I emphatically told the woman, “Mulțumesc, foarte mult!” I feel like we will soon be more a part of this beautiful culture, and I cannot wait until I can speak even more Romanian!
To market, to market to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
I don’t think we’ve shared this story here, so I wanted to give a quick testimony of something cool God did for us a few months ago. We’d been working hard trying to learn Romanian, but it was a slow and grueling process because the resources aren’t as abundant as for the big languages like Spanish, French, German, etc. Even Chinese and Russian have more resources out there. With only 20 million speakers and no real worldwide influence (yet), Romanian isn’t much sought-after as a language.
So we bought all the books we could find, some audio lessons, movies, and found some free software online (byki), and we were slowly but surely working our way through everything. It was frustrating though, because we weren’t quite sure how our pronunciation was, and it was difficult to decipher some of the more complex aspects of the grammar.
We looked for classes, more software, anything that would work better than what we had, and nothing was turning up.
While doing a support-raising meeting, the person I met with told me, “Hey, you should give Vin and Jess a call. They just got back from Moldova, where they speak Romanian, and Vin and Jess got extremely fluent in the language. And I think they live a couple blocks from you guys.”
Turns out they did live just a couple blocks from us, so I tried calling them right away. No one answered. I tried a few days later and still no one. I tried at least once a week for a month, leaving voicemails every time, and never spoke with a person. So I just gave up and we went back to learning on our own.
One night, as I was calling people to schedule support meetings, I thought, “You know what? I’ll give Vin and Jess another call. It’s been a while, maybe I’ll reach them tonight.”
I grabbed the phone, dialed, and waited to hear the usual answering machine message. Instead I got a very rushed, “Hello?”
“Hi,” I said, taken off-guard that I was speaking to an actual human, “are Vin or Jess home.”
“No, you’ve got the wrong number.”
Then, rather than just saying the normal, “Oh, OK, sorry for bothering you,” I asked the mysterious rushed voice, “What’s the right number?”
“Hold on, I’ll be right back.” A minute or two of holding the phone and waiting in silence. “OK, here it is…” and then she gave me a new number to call.
I called the number, talked to Vin, and the next morning he walked over to our house to give us our first real, live Romanian lesson.
I love how God works. We needed a tutor, so he had one come back from Moldova for us, had him live a couple blocks from our house, gave us a wrong number to reach him, and then brought him right to our door. Praise God!
This is probably not a good way to begin a blog about our missionary journey to Romania, but I gotta vent a little bit. I’m mad at the Romanian language right now.
You know when you’re supposed to be doing something but you don’t do it, and then you wait even longer and longer before doing it, so eventually you feel really guilty for not doing it, and then you get mad at the thing itself for even existing because if it didn’t exist you wouldn’t have to feel guilty for not doing it? Well that’s how I feel about the Romanian language right now.
We were doing very good about studying Romanian on a regular basis, systematically working through lessons, listening to music and audiobooks, watching movies in Romanian, and then I just got really busy about 2 weeks ago and haven’t even looked at Romanian since. Now it’s been a while since I’ve studied it, and I can hear its mocking voice tormenting me for being a slacker, and I despise the language itself for not having the decency to just magically learn itself.
Just to show the language how much I despise it for its rudeness, I’m refusing to learn it. How dare a language mock me and make me feel guilty for not spending time with it. I will teach it a lesson by giving it the silent treatment. See how you feel about that, Romanian. Let’s see who misses who when you’re all alone and there’s no one studying you.
English doesn’t make me feel guilty. English never mocks me or calls me a slacker. English treats me good…
Welcome to the emotional ups and downs of preparing to leave for overseas work.