Stomach Bugged

Well, as I previously made allowance for, my trip to villages with Paul is postponed due to me being bed-bound with some kind of stomach bug. Very uncomfortable! It’s noon right now on Wed and I’m feeling a bit better than in the past 18 hours but this is a nasty feel. I’m being doctored by Luma and Ady but I feel like such a slob. Anyway, I’m focused on my bed, chair, and the bathroom. Instead of being out, I’m watching Maria take care of her lovely garden below. I hope this passes in another 12-24 hours. And sorry about the AIDS trip. Maybe later.

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Km. 0

We visited Ground Zero, or Km. 0, in Bucharest. This location in University Square was “ground zero” for the student protests that began in Dec 1989 and ultimately led to the fall of Romanian communist leader Ceausescu. The marker is in a public space that continues to be a location in Bucharest used by cultural, arts, and free-speech groups to inform and communicate with the citizenry.

The figure next to the marker is a noted protest singer and leader (who has since died) who played a critical role in the early protests. (He sounds like an Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, or Richie Havens for their generation.) Like places in the U.S. where protests that led to significant social change literally began, this place seemed to me to be a place that needs to be remembered, considered, and honored.

Just across the street and in the center of University Square are crosses representing those who died during the revolution. Despite the traffic and hum-hum of city, this is, in many ways, a place of special meaning to the people of Romania – whether they agree or disagree with the final result.

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AIDS Trip

I don’t like to write ahead about things I plan to do because plans change, but in this case, I will risk it. I will be off the grid for a bit so, at least, you will know where I am.

On Wed, I will be traveling with Paul on one of his sojourns around through a bunch of villages checking on AIDS babies and children. Paul is the rep in Romania for Everyone’s Child in Romania. You can visit the website at www.everyoneschild.org.uk.

I’m not sure what I will see and where we will be going. All Paul will tell me is that the roads are unpaved, the villages are true, Romanian villages, and the day will be a long, long day. Paul does this on a regular and frequent basis to follow up on young kids that he and his organization has helped learn to cope with AIDS.

You can read more below. I’ll talk more when I get back.

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Village Museum

While in Bucharest, Daniel needed to finish some homework by visiting the National Village Museum, or the Dimitrie Gusti Muziel National al Satului. Daniel was working on a project, with other cohorts, that required some pictures of some of the various architectural styles incorporated in the village huts from over the last few centuries at the museum.

Gusti, who envisioned and initially created the walk-about, outdoor museum, was a noted Romanian folklorist and sociologist in the early 1900s. The museum was opened to the public in 1936 and is now one of the most popular places to visit in Bucharest. Almost 275 huts and homes have been transported to the museum from various locations all over Romania to be rebuilt and put on display for visitors and researchers to consider peasant living conditions and arrangements from previous times. The park is almost 37 acres large – the largest outdoor museum park in Europe.

Not only does the museum display huts but it also displays artifacts, paintings, icons, and other historic items from villages and homes from years gone by.

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Easter Dinner

Oh my! I could not have imagined the company and meal that was about to happen on Easter. After our morning Easter assembly, we met with perhaps 20 friends and family at the home of Nick and Maria. It was pure and unadulterated Romanian. The four course meal took an amazing five hours.

Before eating, we bumped our Easter eggs to see which person had the egg which would last longest (mine broke first bump!). Then and first, we shared traditional appetizers – cheese, bread, tomatoes, fish roe, and so forth topped off with various types of water and a variety of homemade and commercial Easter wines. Next, we enjoyed incredibly fresh salad with pork and beef grape leaf wraps on the side. Then the lamb and other items were served. We finished everything off with Romanian Easter desserts (including honey-drenched Turkish Delight and various types of sweet breads) and coffee. And, again, this took five hours!

Nick mentioned several times to me – these are real Romanian families and friends enjoying not just the bounty of their land, but the fellowship of people who talk loud, laugh, use their hands and arms to speak, and generally have a wondrous time.

As the “American,” I sat at the right hand off the head of the table and was gifted with a Romanian, traditionally-painted egg. I also had a place setting that was a small Easter egg, a rose, and my name written on a rose leaf. The few who could speak English made a valiant effort to keep me up with the many conversations going on but I will admit, it was quite overwhelming to listen to the many Romanian conversations and watch the many expressions going on for so long. It was a very special period of time.

These are hard-working, well-meaning, beautiful (a young daughter, a bride-to-be, and a few married many years) and thankful people who enjoy spending a few special times a year together like this Easter dinner in fellowship, conversation, expression, and happiness.

I feel humbled, thankful, and overwhelmed to be associated with these kind people.

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Paschal Midnight

Christ has risen! Indeed he has!

We walked about three blocks to a small Orthodox Church nearby in the neighborhood. Probably 100 individuals came out for the midnight service at this church as many others went to their churches all over Romania this Sunday midnight. It was cool and cloudy but a nice evening to be out walking. We walked with neighbors and friends from around the neighborhood. Low, quiet conversation was happy and congenial. We each carried with us unlit candles down the fairly dark streets.

Upon arrival at the small church (this is a new church – it’s been in the neighborhood less than a year so this was it’s first Easter service), people were gathering in front of the building. At midnight, two priests came out front on a porch and began to sing, chant, pray, and walk among the people with incense. Everyone said the Lord’s Prayer together. After a few minutes, the priests began lighting the candles of those in front who in turn lighted the candles of those behind them. This continued until the otherwise dark crowd was now lit with new candlelight of the paschal day that began at midnight.

More songs and blessings and, after perhaps twenty minutes, the service was over. Some went inside to partake of the paschal bread. Others spoke to each other outside until family and friends left for their homes. Returning home, however, was different. Each had a glowing candle to take with them. Whereas we walked to church in the dark, we returned home each with lit candles.

Such a nice and meaningful experience.

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Mamaia Beach

Mamaia is considered to be one of the best and most visited beach resorts in Romania. Hardly anyone actually lives in Mamaia – it’s just made up of hotels, clubs, and visitor attractions. Being on the Black Sea, tourists show up in Mamaia in June and stay until Sept. The beach we were on today will literally be filled with tourists in the summer. It was a warm 60 degrees out today though, as you can see and hear, quite breezy. A very pleasant, sunny, and nice day to walk a bit of the long, Black Sea beach.

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Easter Preparation

It’s such a blessing and gift to watch the skilled hands of Luma and Ady prepare and share their preparation time with their family in anticipation of the Easter meal. The chicken is continuing to bake, the eggs have been colored, and the sweet bread is rising. There is much more left to do but the day so far seems to be about conversation, being together, being thankful, and feeling blessed with such bounty. It’s a busy and happy time here in the house this Sat afternoon.

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Dinamo Steaua

If I don’t get this right, Ady will jump in and help. (I hope!)

On Thurs night (last night) Ady, Daniel, David, and I went to an FC Dinamo vs. FC Steaua football game in Bucharest at the National Areana. This was the second leg of a derby between these two teams – their final meeting this season. These teams and fans are rampant, 50-year adversaries here in Romania. Steaua had won the first game of the derby – who would win the second? Well, about 40,000 of us were about to find out.

Ady secured us VIP seats two rows up from the field. After some hot dogs, popcorn, and water, we made our way from the snack area to our seats down front. Stepping out into the loud, crazy, colorful, and highly partisan crowds was unlike anything I had every experienced in professional sports. Amazing is all I can say!

To make the video mean a bit more, here are a few pointers:

1. Dinamo is represented by big, mean-looking red dogs. Fifty years ago in Bucharest, four brothers – all red-headed – put the earliest Dinamo team together. Most of the earliest players and fans were associated with law enforcement. And they all fought like ferocious, never-give-up dogs! Get it? (Dinamo is Ady’s team!) The team’s nickname is the Red Dogs.

2. Steaua is the best team in Romania this season and, according to many, is the most hated because of their success and bullying, rough playing tactics. They are represented by a big, yellow star. Fifty years ago a bunch of military guys – thus, the big star – put the team together. These guys (team and fans) are dressed in black. They remind me of possibly being the Darth Vader of football – all bad boys. And the fans on the Steaua end would not let us forget it!

3. The size and production of the opening programs by both teams last night only happens now and then – maybe three or four times a year. This game was one of them. Good for us.

4. PCH is kind of hard to explain. Dinamo uses the acronym to represent themselves at games like this. The “P” roughly represents the religious, crazy fans that sit and play together at the end of the field each game. The letter is from a Romanian word that is used to call these people whatever it is they call themselves. The “C” and “H” are the initials of a hard-playing Dinamo player from years ago who went out on the field to play and instantly died of a heart attack. Very sad. Anyway, PCH is a proud moniker which Dinamo has assigned themselves. The FCD, of course, is Football Club Dinamo.

5. Dinamo played Bolero by Ravel because – this is kind of hard to explain – it is a powerful piece and the music’s depiction above the Dinamo section suggests that Dinamo is not just a participant or fan of Romanian football – like, it is being suggested, Steaua is – but Dinamo is, in fact, the composer, the author, the creator of football. It is better, see, to be the creator and master of the game instead of simply a participant? (Phew!)

6. The haze and fog is just that – smoke from the flash-bangs going off everywhere. Illegal, of course, and not supposed to be brought in to the stadium but what would a European football match be without flash-bangs. Also, the haze comes from fans’ green, white, and red flares from all over the stadium. Again, illegal but…

This was mind-warping. So enjoyable.

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Soccer Match

Going to the match last evening was one of the most interesting experiences attending a professional sports event ever! We had VIP tickets to see the final leg of play between Steaua vs. Dinamo at Bucharest Arena. The two teams are ferocious, cross-town rivals. And the fans never let us forget!

The hard-core, dressed, chanting, committed fans sat at each end of the field in the designated and police-cordoned areas. Flares, flash bombs, songs, posters, drums, and amazingly huge banners were displayed all evening. It was something to see.

Oh, and there was an excellent 1-1 match, too.

And we were right in the middle of it! So cool.

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