Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I am really quite poor at posting on here, but hey - I'm good for one every four months or so. Usually, like letters and poetry, it becomes glaringly apparent my need to write.

Today, this need to write made itself known after a visit from a friend and colleague. She called to bring me many homemade cakes, a can of beer, a pot of soup, and some fruit. For some minutes we went over how I should heat the soup, let it cool on the balcony, and tomorrow eat it. Did I mention she brought me a homemade cozonac? (fruitcake)

This came tonight after an overnight in Cluj. My friends' friend put us up. Dana and Adina are old childhood friends. Adina like Dana has a young child. Raluca is in kindergarden and is slightly older then Andy who is still in preschool. Raluca was very excited to have an American visiting. She asked if we Americans were responsible for the financial crisis.

We had a great evening dancing to Christmas tunes with the kids, eating dinner and cakes. It is really a beautiful thing to see parents so in love with their children.

Today we went to the mall. The kids got to go on a carousel, play in the kiddie gym where are ball pits, mats, and such. Afterwards, a lunch at McDonald's with Happy Meal.

We left Adina's returning home. At Dana's she heated me some vegetarian sarmale (stuffed cabbage leaves) that was left over from our Christmas dinner to take home.

I am just so humbled by the warmth and generosity of my Romanian friends. Romanians are so giving it's incredible. If you want homemade food, copious amounts of it, homemade brandy and wine pushed on you, warmth and cheer, come to Romania.

I love Romania.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

Great pirate talk to impress your friends!
An excerpt from Moby Dick: Stubbs exhorations to the crew as they pursue a whale in their first lowering in the long boats. Stubbs is my favourite character. Something about walking that fine line between insanity and joy...

Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone --devils are good fellows enough. So, so; there you are now; that's the stroke for a thousand pounds; that's the stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the gold cup of sperm oil, my heroes! Three cheers, men --all hearts alive! Easy, easy; don't be in a hurry --don't be in a hurry. Why don't you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so, so, then; --softly, softly! That's it -- that's it! long and strong. Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin rapscallions; ye are all asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull, can't ye? pull, won't ye? Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger-cakes don't ye pull? --pull and break something! pull, and start your eyes out! Here! whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle; every mother's son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth.
That's it --that's it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her --start her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!
Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and especially in inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must not suppose from this specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew into downright passions with his congregation. Not at all; and therein consisted his chief peculiarity. He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing. Besides he all the time looked so easy and indolent himself, so loungingly managed his steering-oar, and so broadly gaped --open-mouthed at times --that the mere sight of such a yawning commander, by sheer force of contrast, acted like a charm upon the crew. Then again, Stubb was one of those odd sort of humorists, whose jollity is sometimes so curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their guard in the matter of obeying them.
Sing out and say something, my hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts! Beach me, beach me on their black backs, boys; only do that for me, and I'll sign over to you my Martha's Vineyard plantation, boys; including wife and children, boys. Lay me on --lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad: See! see that white water! And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his head, and stamped up and down on it; then picking it up, flirted it far off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and plunging in the boat's stern like a crazed colt from the prairie. Look at that chap now, philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his unlighted short pipe, mechanically retained between his teeth, at a short distance, followed after -- He's got fits, that Flask has. Fits? yes, give him fits --that's the very word -- pitch fits into 'em. Merrily, merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you know; --merry's the word. Pull, babes --pull, sucklings -- pull, all. But what the devil are you hurrying about? Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only pull, and keep pulling; nothing more. Crack all your backbones, and bite your knives in two -- that's all. Take it easy --why don't ye take it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and lungs!

I love it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Religion as Math

Hello. Reading up on old blogs, I noticed how much I wander in my postings. Really, mine is not an easy blog to follow. I am very long winded, and those of you who slog through and follow me as my thoughts meander, I appreciate your patience. I admit, I don't think this blog will get any sexier. Any shorter. I love too much to chase my own thoughts and wonderings to tie them to a tighter form.

I'll use the blog though on some talking points that I've worked out at times in discussions. Here is one of late, mixed in with more recent thoughts.

Religion. I believe that religions are as Yogonanda states - like different languages. What is poison to one is honey to another. Why would a black man who has never seen a white man, hold one as his God? Why would a island culture worship a Polar Bear? They would worship a fish. The one God reveals him/her/itself to us in a way that we can best understand. Through symbols, music, ideas, and values that are dear to us. To some that is music, others science, and still others literature. To some it is Jesus, Krishna, Mohammad, Moses.

All true religions are based on Love.

I view religion like math. On different continents and in different times, the mysteries of math were deduced from star observation. Math will always be discovered - again and again. God is like that. We intuit what is right and moral. I can learn more about all religions, but I intuit that if a religion is to appeal to a mass amount of people, it has to be based on simple precepts of basic decency. And those precepts be they 10 commandments or what have you, all boil down to the edict: 'Don't be an asshole.'

I first realized this in my training at Borders Books and Music. They give you all kinds of instruction on how to deliever excellent customer service: greet the customer. walk them to the book. don't argue with them. help them with other solutions if you cannot resolve their immediate problem. It boils down to - be attentive. Don't be a jerk. Don't blow off the customer, be abrubt, oblivious, condescending, or impatient.

And really, religion is like that too. Treat others as you would be treated. How would society stand if we didn't keep our word? If we all lied to one another? How would society stand if we killed others whenever our tempers rose? Or if we were forever stealing from each other.

No, these truths will come out time and again, by the grace of God. And each time it will be Holy, the expression of love, of His Love, even though we may not call it the same name or describe it as from the same source.

I grew up where it was not cool to be religious. And yet I find myself here amongst the very pious - and some of them Americans. Their customs are strange. Really - like families, all religions have something that is just wierd about them. Some belief or style that to outsiders seems just nutty. But, can anyone really understand from the outside? Such idiosyncricies - of style and personality (as any church with people as its leaders will naturally develop) will strike some as odd. And yet, their praise is sincere. Their praise humbles them. I don't care if your praise is with a saxaphone playing the 'devil's music,' with a pen scratching rhymes, what matters is if you're burning, burning, with the fire of inspiration and LOVE. You can feel if there is love in something. And that to me is the litmus test. Otherwise, it's just base prejudice or show.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Boy. Sometimes the blessings come down to my eyes. It's like I look at a table, it's bare, and the next moment, set with finery and a piping meal.

The music is perfect. My dinner filling. I spoke with my mother for the first time since she's arrived in L.A. to be with Jame and Cristy and Jesse. Little Jesse.

I give thanks for much. That Jesse was born healthy. That Jame and Cristy will be good parents to him. I am healthy. I have another year in Peace Corps. I have the wealth of housing and food, heat. I have friends who like me for who I am despite my faults.

Sometimes I feel like I was born under a good sign.

I still must fight to make this all worthwhile.

I must remember that the soul's natural state is joy.

I am human. I go through the rollercoaster of emotions like everyone else. I have highs and lows in the day, the week, the month, the years.

I know that nothing is permanent. There are no promises. Calm and happy times are periods to rest. It is in times of strife that we grow. I must use all at my hands to ensure I am strong for life's trials.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If I had a daughter, this is what I'd tell her


Today you told me you wanted to go on a diet. I hear from others this is what girls often talk about together. If you want to really shock them, the next time diets come up in conversation, and everyone describes what they don't like about their bodies, how they want to lose 5 lbs, say: 'I love my body.' And go on to list all the things you like about yours.

It seems uncool to not be critical of your body. Will your comments get some stares? Absolutely. Smile widely and then change the subject. It takes guts to act, think and speak differently. But that's how you can be true to yourself and to your friends.

Because beauty comes from inside out.

You'll be surprised to find that the world's most beautiful people oftentimes are some of the most miserable. Marliyn Monroe battled with depression all her life and had to fight to be taken seriously. Maybe she thought that her looks were all she had. Or that's all others saw. Either way, it didn't compensate for her life's troubles, her difficult upbringing as a child.

Models who are in magazines oftentimes starve themselves on diets of coffee, cigarettes, and gum to maintain a competitive edge in the market. At one time, 'herion chic,' the look of someone recovering from heroin, became a 'classic' look in magazines and culture.

Don't try to be skinny. Think instead of being healthy.

Thin people are usually thin because of their metabolism. Medium sized people are usually medium sized because of their metabolism. Fat people the same. Weight is a cause for concern when it appears or disappears suddenly and without reason. It is an indicator of sickness or stress or sometimes both.

Otherwise, all people have a standard weight that after you are 16 or 17 will not change much from month to month and year to year. You do not have much influence over your metabolism. Either it is a fast one or a slow one. Neither are good or bad. But worrying about it and fighting what is natural will make your life an unpleasent one.

There are people who are always on a diet. They follow the new diet fad. And there is always a new fad. Making people insecure about their body is a way for other people to make money, sell books, beauty products, magazines, and exercise equipment. All of it which usually amounts to nothing but a lighter wallet and dissapointment that - shoot! I still have the same metabolism! Nothing about me has changed.

But here's what you can change. And it's what counts most towards making other people see your beauty. You must change from the inside out firstly. You must be able to look in the mirror and see the things you like about your face first. You must find the way that you most enjoy your smile. You must learn to share your smile. That is the first step. This is what people will always notice about you first, is if you smile. It shows people that you are friendly and it puts them at ease, it makes you easier to approach. Learn to have a genuine, confident smile. If, when you look first at what you don't like about your face, when you meet someone, you will instinctively try to hide it. People do this by avoiding eye contact, looking down, wearing sunglasses, wearing hair over their face, or slouching their shoulders in. People will not notice you and will not see the good parts that yours, like every face has. And in the end: what is more beautiful: a pretty face with an emptyness behind it? Or a smile that communicates all the love and confidence you have and want to share. I know the first thing I look for in a person is if they have a nice smile.

Your body. The same rules apply. Find out which are your best features, which you like the most. The parts that you don't like - try to find something about them that's unique, and remember that every part of you serves a function. And, that no body nor any face is completely beautiful. Learn to draw attention to the parts of your body that you like best. Find out what kind of clothes or things you can do to your body that make you feel beautiful. Develop your own taste in clothes and your own style. The way you carry yourself is more important then what you're wearing. You can be wearing the most expensive clothes, but if you feel unattractive, none of that will matter. Likewise, if you believe you look good wearing something, your confidence will transform whatever it is you're wearing. But, to do this, you have to develop tricks that inspire your confidence. Those tricks will become your style.

Alex Haley wrote a book about a family stolen from Africa and sold into slavery. In the opening chapter, he spoke of being sold onto a slave ship. There, there was a woman who was stripped naked. Despite her nudity, despite the shameful situation she had been put into, the narrator could tell this woman was a queen by the way she carried herself. This is what I want for you. To know within you lives a queen, evident by her grace, her humility, and carriage.

Learn to develop carriage and grace and no matter how you look, people will always notice you and find you beautiful, because your beauty will come from within.

I know that this is all hard to believe as you have changed so much in over your life, but believe me that your life and your body, and your sense of yourself will continue to grow and develop. As you grow older you will grow more confident in yourself, believe me. But for now, you are a young woman passing through a most beautiful stage. And it is but one of the first. Look on it as though from the outside. Observe how your body and your thoughts, feelings, and desires are changing. They will continue to change and really never stop. The best way to experience them is to allow them to happen and observe them with joy and acceptance. That is how we become the people we are meant to be.

So, it is not how others view us, though that is a very hard thing to remember, but it is very important how we view ourselves.

And if you can show your friends that you like who you are, love who you are, you might be the most woman of them all, to show them truly what it means to be beautiful. And everyone will benefit.

Differences of Opinion

Conversations with friends who disagree are more interesting. With those of the same opinion, you don't learn anything. It breaks down to: 'I agree more!'

I consider myself an optimist. I tend to see the positive first in people and situations. It's not better or worse then pessimists or realist perspectives, it's just my personality and approach.

I love my Missionary friends here in Romania. I've never known Evangelicals in the U.S. I had to travel to Romania to meet them and to find how they differ from the stereotypes in news and television.

I love too, my Romanian friends who often have a critical outlook on minorities, specifically Gypsies, in Romania.

In the past week I've had a whole variety of experiences and coversations. Experiences that show me how much I share in common with these people. And, conversations that reveal our differences.

A group of 20 Americans a Scottish man, and a few Romanians who escaped (quite dangerously) from Romania in 1981, came for a week's visit here in Ocna Mures. In order to meet these people, I've accompanied them on their program. This has meant attending several Pentecostal services. It's also meant visiting two of the areas poorest (and mostly Gypsy) communities where they were distributing sandwiches, medicine, and leading children's programs, games, and of course sermons for the adults.

Silivas is the village outside of town that is the poorest of the two communities we visited. It is about 20 minutes on a dirt road outside of town. It has about 30 mainly Gypsy families living there. The situation there has and remains extremely grave. Caprice, (more on her later) tells me that the infant mortality rate there was in 92 when they began their ministering there, was very high. Perhaps each year more then 8 babies would die from various problems. Through the church's help, they have been able to bring that number down. But, that is to give an idea of what kind of a poverty this community lives in.

I'd like to tell more about Caprice and her husband and the Church as their work is extremely inspiring. However, that's somewhat outside the scope of this blog, so browse to see me addressing that and other desciptions of Romania and my town further on.

The children there were so endearing. I stayed with the children's program. It included a puppet show, parachute games, a magic trick, and games. But, the first part of the program (employing the puppet) concerned the message of Jesus and his presence in your life. They wished to communicate that even when the children are afraid, even when they feel alone, when they feel that no one loves them, that Jesus is there for them.

I have seen these same children in town and on my street, alone, dirty, shoeless, and digging through the dumpsters and begging for bread or money.

As with poverty everywhere, their lives are filled with difficulty. What characterizes their village and their families are true of poor communities everywhere: lack of education, alcholism, lack of hygiene, hunger, spousal abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc.

Such a community bereft of concern from their larger community, ashamed of their poverty, oblivious to their responsibilities as parents is in great need of Jesus and the bible. What else could rescue them from their current habits? This is not a community with many choices, and none so complete as Christianity.

More then for the adults, I am touched by how these missionaries have come from so far to tell these children that they are not alone, that they are loved. This is God inspired and I am inspired by their actions and their faith. Lord knows these children vitally need this message.

These people are warm, funny, intelligent, passionate. It is hard not to be taken by their message. I'll go into greater depth about the church and my missionary friends who I know better in another blog.

Well, maybe that's where I'll end it for now. I'll fill you in on the greater picture soon.

bumming cigarettes from missionaries


Blog #1: Bumming cigaretes from missionaries

Apologies to my mother. She does not want me bumming ciggerettes from anyone, even missionaries. Alas, Europeans - including my french missionary friends, do not see big tobacco as the enemy, as we do in the United States. In my trip to visit Haley in Portland, OR I was shocked to find how few of the people there smoke. It seems everyone in Portland under 35 is in a band. Smoking used to be inextricably linked to rock and roll and the music scene. Who'd have thought those two would ever be divorced?

The situation in Romania is quite different. I couldn't stand the smoke at first that assaulted me everywhere we went. My adaptation to country has not been in the this way wholly positive; I enjoy smoking socially. Don't worry Mom, a bummer is all I'll remain. And I still jog.

Well, thanks for visiting! I hope family and friends can keep better tabs on me through this blog. I'll post photos now and again. Feel free to subscribe for a once or twice a month blog.

Love to you all!