Thursday, June 26, 2008

Julio: In Concert

As I was riding the bus the other day I thought I saw a poster advertising a concert with Julio Iglesias. We were traveling to quickly for me to be sure. However, I mentioned the poster to my friends (none of which knew who he is...given either their respective ages or nationality). However, later in the evening while we were walking (instead of going home to hot apartments) I saw more posters! And, indeed, Julio is coming to Romania! He'll be in concert later in July, but not in Galati (we were all wondering why Julio would come to Galati...)
Bela had his camera phone, so we snapped a couple pictures that I am posting here mainly for the benefit of my family. You see, when I was 11 I liked's true. It was short lived, but it's one of those crushes that follow you through life and I am frequently reminded of it by my sisters.
He is handsome...

Friday, June 20, 2008


Our neighbors at the drop-in center are a family of Roma...actually, it's several families. Roma (I think I'm spelling that correctly) are gypsies. A couple of the kids in those families come to the drop-in center, so we're well acquinted with them. As I was walking into the center on Wednesday I saw that these families and all their belongings were on the sidewalk. Not knowing what was going on I suddenly had this horrible feeling in my gut. I went into the center and tried asking the cooks, in my broken Romanian, what was going on, but I didn't understand their response. When I was able to find someone who could tell me I realized I knew this much to be true: these families were now living on the street.
I guess this family had lived on the property in make-shift housing since communist times. The government back then had placed most of the poor in the section of town where we have the drop- in center, the valley, and these families were included in that move. So, they lived on government owned land until it was privatized and purchased. Most housing was owned by the government in communist times and this housing mostly consisted of these giant apartment buildings called blocs. When the governemnt changed the families who were living in these apartments were given their apartment. But, this was not so for the Roma. They were not given their housing and so the land was sold.
This new owner gave them a couple years to find something different. And they didn't. Which means that now they're on the street waiting for something else, waiting for the government to put them somewhere else. More than anything I hurt for these kids. The first night they were on the street there was a horrible thunder and ligthening storm with lots of rain...something that doesn't usually happen in Galati.
I've had a variety of emotions about this whole thing. I don't understand how people couldn't be working in order to save and provide for their families. I ache for these kids...
And, I have no idea what it's like to live under hundreds of years of oppression. I don't know what it's like to walk down the street and be held in disdain because of the color of my skin, to be treated poorly when I do get work because I'm different from everyone else. I don't know what it's like to want to drink away my earnings because all I really know is despair.
It is easy for me to think of ways to be a good white Christian in America, to save money, to work hard. It's easy for me to pass judgement on my neighbors. "I wish we'd all been ready..." comes to mind as I shake my head thinking that they had plenty of opportunities to make better choices but refused. And the truth is, they did have lots of time and they weren't ready.

The same morning that these families were first on the street our children came to the center ready for the program to begin. They streamed in and past the Roma with all their belongings. One little guy, who've I mentioned before, with the thick glasses and who is so tiny, came inside to shower. He got together the things he would need and went into the shower, but came back out to get his soap. I was in the hall, opening lockers, when he came to me and in a soft, concerned voice said:
"April, afara?"
Afara means outside, and so I said, "Tu?" asking him if he wanted to go outside.
He shook his head no and said, "Ana..."
Ana is one of the girls who live next door and is now living on the street.
My heart fell to the ground and in my own soft voice I said, "Da." Yes.
We stood silent for a second. I knew he was trying to put together why they were outside with all their things. I was trying not to cry for the compassion I'd heard in his voice, a kind concern for his friends who no longer had a home. Realizing that this little one who showed such concern also had so of his own at home and is regularly met with violence by his parents.

I'm not excusing irresponsibility or saying that we should not be careful or plan for tomorrow. I'm asking God for such compassion as this little guy had, for a heart that sees a friend on the street and could care less whether they were prepared to move or not, who doesn't shake my head at "those gypsies." I'm asking for a tender heart first. I'm asking for a kindness that sees only the fact that my friend is now sleeping on the street. I'm asking to remember Him who didn't have a place to lay His head at night and laid down His life with such kindness, such compassion, such love. Who became human, truly the greatest degradation for God to become, the essence of poverty being humanity. And yet He, who in that extreme poverty, gave so generously.
As I write it is raining again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

At the Center

Today the sky is Italian blue.
The blue of sapphires and Mediterranean seas,
the kind of blue that seems almost too good to be true.
The kind that makes clouds pristinely white,
the kind that causes you to gaze in wonder at the place you find yourself.

Breezes blow and grape vines shift,
their giant leaves casting shadows,
framed by that Italian blue.
And in their wandering waving
I find my own wavering,
no matter how blue a sky.

The hill steeply climbs
graded into plots, gardened into life.
In late afternoon it sits in shade,
this part of the yard catches morning sun.
The sky above it, though, is still Italian blue.
And as I sit watching vegetables and children grow,
I see my reflection in a yellow building’s window.
I am older than I remember,
more tired; weary with wrestling.

When I was young
I knew how to pray.
And in my prayers life was framed in Italian blue,
because I believed,
and so it would be.
And that blue made clouds white,
caused earth to catch morning sun,
and afternoon shade.

Today the sky is Italian blue,
and I beneath it can only groan
and ache, uncertain of words and
undiminishing desires, lost in a maze of yellow buildings,
reaching for a cloud, smiling at a child;
knowing her ache, though young, is old for one so young.
Still, I smile and I reach, now a little afraid of a sky so blue, too blue.
I gaze in wonder
I groan
I wrestle
I waver
I believe.

Sour Cherry jam

Last Saturday Monica invited me over to her house to make sour cherry jam. I was excited for the opportunity to not only spend time with Monica, but also to learn how to can. It was quite a process, but so fun. First, we washed and sorted the cherries and pulled off the stems. Then, we pitted the cherries by hand. This took awhile and was also a bit comical. While we tried to be careful, it was inevitable that cherry juice would squirt when popping the pit out of the fruit. At the end of the day there was cherry juice on the windows, my toes, and across the kitchen floor. Monica said it was a good excuse to clean her windows. Anyway, after popping pits, we mixed this powder with a bit of sugar that would cause the cherry juice to jell. Then, we brought the cherries to a boil and once boiling, we poured in a bunch of sugar. This too came to a boil whereupon it was ready to be canned. And wa-lah! We have sour cherry jam. So yummy…Here are a few pictures of the process.
Monica also decided to cut Simeon’s hair that day. Thought I’d share a couple cute pictures…as you can tell, he was not too excited, but he did great. And, as a side note, I have to share this cute thing Simeon said at our staff birthday party yesterday. Every couple months we celebrate those people who had birthdays in those months, one of those individuals being myself. Different people share something nice about those who are being celebrated. Lenutsa was asked to say something about me and when she was about to begin Simeon said: I want to say something about April! He was allowed and said: I like when you show me things, like today when I got here you showed me the snail.
It was so sweet…you, too, can be shown the snails at the center should you choose to visit. They’re something to see.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

a few pictures at the center

I took some photos of the center the other day. unfortunately, but also fortunately, I'm unable to post pictures of the kids...for their safety and protection. But here are a few of the grounds so you can see how lovely it is...Also a few of some jars that were sitting outside the cellar to be given away. We have a garden that the kids take care of, so you'll see pictures of that, and posts individuating each of their plots. Joel was 'drumming' with some of the boys (2 of my favorites, I've written about them before) so I am posting a picture of that. And finally, I let one of the 'favorites' use my camers to take few pics...which explains the funny phots of me. He was telling me how he wanted me to pose, although the worried look is purely me. And I was wondering if anyone had any freckles they could spare because I don't seem to have enough on my face...

Open for Business

It’s all stretched out,
this giving:
the open hands,
the empty palms,
arms raised in surrender.
I don’t give once, walk away
and say:
Now I have given and
It is finished.
The open is stationary
a 24 hour mini-mart,
remaining fixed in time
but perhaps never fixed in space.
And so I wear a sign:
We never close.
A reminder that even if there are
locks on the door,
open for business all day, every day,
means all day, every day.

And was His giving the same?
It remains, transfixed, once and for all,
but is it as if even this day He must say:
Not my will?
Are His eternal, always and forever hours of business posted
with the slogan:
Still emptying Myself,
and, after all these years,
still taking on the form of a servant.
Is His giving
stretched out like His body?
True Love self-donated:
open hands,
empty palms,
arms raised in surrender.
Because this is a love that cannot close
Whose giving does not end,
Laying down my life for my friends.

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