Monday, July 31, 2006

Friday Night in Transylvania

As you know, for the last two weeks I had the joy of being accompanied on my vacation by my sister Beverly and niece Jenni. They came all the way from Canada to visit me in Chisinau and then to travel with me to Vienna, a city none of us had previously visited. We planned to leave Friday morning and hoped to get 2/3 of the way across Romania by nightfall. The drive through Romania was quite lovely. On first crossing the border (a fairly complicated process with the first inkling of the challenge various currencies would be!) we headed north to Iasi (pronounced yash). We passed through small villages where Bev and Jenni got some sense of the simplicity of life in the country that seems from another era altogether: wagons and horses, grass-cutting with scythes, people carrying buckets of water from the local well.
Iasi is more advanced, though – a nice city/university town where we stopped for lunch. Then in my trusty little Ford Sierra, we began our trek through the Carpathian Mountains. We stopped to see one of the Romanian monasteries, Humorului, which was a lovely oasis of peace with well-tended garden, ancient frescoes on the walls of the chapel inside and out and a sense of constancy in a changing world. Outside its walls, though, we were swarmed by vendors at the first indication of interest in any of the lovely handcrafts and goods displayed for sale to the tourists who come to see the monastery.
As we proceeded through the mountains we managed to maintain our schedule in spite of the incredible amount of construction underway. In some places there were lights (sometimes ignored!, but not by us)to regulate long single-lane stretches of construction, but sometimes there wasn’t even a flag-person! The driving was definitely a challenge.
As night began to fall we decided to make the push to get to Bratitsa to stay overnight. Then suddenly in the dusk on the crest of a hill before us we saw ‘Dracula’s Castle Hotel’. Jenni and I had seen this on the internet and thought it would be a neat place to stay. How pleased we were to see it there! We booked into an apartment/room with a view of the mountains that was awesome. Throughout the trip we had nothing but sunshine before and after, but that night in Transylvania we could watch a spectacular lightning storm over the mountains from our ‘castle’ windows. Even so, that Friday night nothing (and nobody!) disturbed our sleep in Transylvania.

Back to Reality, again

Hello, all! I'm back... back to my own apartment, my own computer, my own bed...and in the morning I'll be back to work. The last few weeks have been a wonderful adventure and I've already written something about some of it, which I will start posting tomorrow along with appropriate photos. For now, here's a pic of my sister Beverly, my niece Jenni, and me at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna - just to prove we really were there. Thanks, Bev & Jenni, for a great time - and Happy Birthday, Jenni!!! Love you lots!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Somewhere in eastern Europe...

Greetings, friends!
No photos this time as I am just grabbing some moments on a friend's computer to let you all know that I am still alive and well, despite a paucity of prose on my blog. I have had a vacation with my sister Beverly and niece Jenni that took us through the mountains of Romania, the highways of Hungary and the awesomeness of Austria. We had two lovely days in Budapest followed by several touristy castle-crawling, museum-meandering days in Vienna - with Sacher torte at either end of course. After they flew home to Canada I continued my journey up to Poland, where I am currently visiting my Rogaczewski friends - and having a wonderful time, of course. I will be home this weekend and will fill you in with more details and photos at that time. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel home alone in my trusty little car.
God bless!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

European Birthday Bash

Greetings and salutations, dear readers! I am now officially on vacation and my sister and niece have safely arrived from Canada. We are having a great time!! Before my official vacation started, though, Beverly and Jenni came and presented a puppet workshop at our OM base, which was enjoyed by all the participants. Bev and Jenni are really wonderful teachers (like mother, like daughter) and they make a great team.
They not only taught how to use puppets and present puppet shows for ministry purposes but after lunch they taught people how to make puppets. There were more puppet arms and heads lying around than I’d ever seen before. I was also pleased that Bev and Jenni had a chance to meet and interact with the people who are so near and dear to my heart.
For the last two days I have been giving them a wee taste of my life here in Chisinau. We went downtown to the Artists’ Square and to the central market, which is bright and alive with fresh fruits and vegetables now that the growing season has begun. Jenni and Bev really enjoyed the experience but we were very glad to take some time to relax at a sidewalk cafĂ© after our afternoon adventure. I should mention that prior to going to the market, we all went to the bank. B & J had to cash some travellers’ cheques and hence they had their first experience of service and public relations in Moldova. It took much longer than they expected and the need to stand in line three consecutive times to accomplish one transaction didn’t seem to make sense to them. In Moldova, it is normal.
Also – of course – for the first time this week there was no hot water in my apartment. I was hoping it was temporary but when my landlady came by she said that we needed to plug in the electric hot water heater because there is no hot water – not just in my apartment but anywhere in Chisinau! I asked for how long and she said it was indefinite. I asked why – she smiled and shrugged her shoulders and said – ‘This is Moldova!’
Before I came to Moldova more than one person had told me about the underground wine caverns here that you can drive through in your car. I have been wanting to see them ever since I came and this morning we did indeed drive through underground streets lined with thousands of bottles of wine and huge barrels of wine. Milestii Mici was an amazing and extremely enjoyable experience to share with my visitors, even though driving in the narrow caverns was somewhat stressful. The caverns were originally limestone mines but now are used to store the most valuable commodity Moldovans have to sell – wine.
Tomorrow, Jenni, Beverly and I will be leaving on a road trip through Romania to Hungary and then eventually to Vienna in Austria. As I write, Jenni is researching our route tomorrow and we are planning to be driving through ‘Dracula’ country in Romania, as well as seeing some very interesting monasteries. A couple days in Romania, a couple in Budapest and then almost a week in Vienna and Bev and Jenni will be returning home with wonderful memories and lots of interesting stories. I will carry on a bit north to Poland to visit friends there before I head alone across country back to Moldova. It will be a great time and I thank you in advance for praying for our safety as we travel.
Oh – I forgot to mention the basis of our visit together this summer is a big birthday party. Each one of us – Bev (October), Barb(November), and Jenni (July) – will observe a birthday this year that ends in a ‘0’ digit. I’ll leave you to guess which digit is the first for each of us but of course the first digit in Bev’s age is greater than mine! So this memorable trip is our celebration of birthdays for which we will not actually be together. The party is here and now! Life is good.