May 4, 2008 (Sunday)
So today was our first Sunday in Iasi! We woke up bright and early and walked to church which is a couple blocks away. We had a couple of random dogs follow us on the way. Dogs are seriously everywhere here! At least the majority of them are nice (I only say that because I haven’t been bitten by one yet).Church starts at 10:00 so it’s not too early to get up. When we got to the branch it was small but quaint. We were all expecting two missionaries and we were greeted by six of them – two girls and four boys. There were practically more missionaries than there were members. Definitely different than a BYU single’s ward. The church is composed of one floor that has like three rooms. Very different than what I was used to. In sacrament meeting the elders sat around us in order to translate for us. It’s amazing how much you take communication for granted. I would try so hard to understand what everyone was saying when they bore their testimonies – but it was kind of useless. They speak so fast! I wonder if we do too?
When we first walked in a bunch of the Relief Society sisters greeted us. They were very warm and friendly. I look forward to getting to know them….too bad I can’t understand them real well yet. The branch president also friendly greeted us– apparently he wants the BYU girls to be the branch choir, plan church activities and have callings on top of that. It’s going to be interesting trying to juggle everything I have to do here. We were told before we came that we make up most of the branch and that they expect a lot of us – it’s definitely true.
I loved being at church today– it was quite refreshing and I felt at home. My testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the LDS church was once again reiterated to me throughout the meetings. It’s amazing how the same spirit I feel when I go to church in Utah is the same spirit I felt in a small branch in Romania. The Lord loves his people so much – no matter their circumstances, where they are or what they do. I can’t wait for all the experiences I am going to get to go through while I’m here.
After sacrament meeting we went to several of our other meetings. In Relief Society I bore my testimony and one of the sisters translated. I feel so good being in Romania. I feel like the Lord has an intense reason for me being here. I think both to help the children here and to make myself grow and become a better person. I hope this experience will change my life forever – I’m pretty sure that will be easily accomplished. I’ve only been here a few days and I’m already changing my perspective very fast and I haven’t even worked with the children yet.
On our way home from church it started pouring rain when we were a couple blocks away from the apartment – and when I say pouring I mean pouring. At first we all tried putting sweaters over our head to keep from getting wet – then when we were drenched from head to foot we decided to embrace the rain. We all just laughed and walked through the rain like it was no big deal. Then I almost fell in a HUGE puddle – that seems to be my downfall here. I step in every puddle possible. Oh well…it has rained three of the four days we have been here so I’m going to assume that it rains a lot. I’m going to have to get used to stepping in puddles…hopefully that will be the least of my worries. We weren’t excited about being drenched, but it allowed some good Kodak moments. I had a ton of water in my shoes that I dumped out…very nice….
After church we dried off and hung our clothes around our apartment to dry. It’s kind of a pain not having a dryer. It takes forever for our clothes to dry! Another luxury we have in the U.S. that they don’t here. Then the girls and I looked through all the pictures and videos we have taken. So much fun! We already have a ton of memories…I’m really grateful I was put with these girls. So far we all get along marvelously and have an absolute blast being around each other.
The other apartment of girls came over so we had to make dinner. We decided to make lasagna and we weren’t sure how it would taste because all the ingredients we needed besides noodles and sauce Romania doesn’t have – including cottage cheese, normal cheese and normal beef. We got some random cheese to make up for the cottage cheese and grabbed meat at the market that looked like it was beef – we still don’t know what it was after we ate it…but all us girls were pretty sure it wasn’t beef. When we cooked it it never turned brown – it stayed pink…it was kind of weird. We decided we would keep it a secret from the other girls until after they ate it. We’re going to try and find out what it was from Maria….then again maybe it’s better that we don’t know.
The girls from the other apartment came over and we all had fun chatting and eating for a couple of hours. We are going to go to Brashov and Transylvania tomorrow night and are going to stay overnight. I’m excited to see Dracula’s castle! After making fun plans we all went around and talked about the most awkward/creepy/scary dates we have ever been on…there were some good ones. I have decided there are some STRANGE/CREEPY boys at BYU…I don’t understand how they don’t get social cues. Poor boys…however I must admit it is nice to have a break from boys. I’m so tired of dating guys – too many of them make a bunch of promises they can’t keep. I wish they’d just keep their mouth shut sometimes instead of saying a bunch of things they say they mean but they don’t. (P.S. Not all guys are like this - not all guys I've dated are like this - I can see this comment coming back to haunt me – I’m not trying to stereotype).
During our chat Elisa provided an excellent spiritual thought for our group meeting – I really liked the idea she gave and have decided to try and implement it in my life. She talked about how all of her friends that have fallen away from the church fell away because they had lost their relationship with the Lord. Then she said that the greatest contribution to the lost relationship was because they stopped saying meaningful prayers to the Lord. She said she used to have a roommate who would always take forever to say her prayers at night and she always wondered what she said…I mean after all most of our prayers are maybe what - a minute at night? It’s sad, but I bet everyone’s guilty of this – including myself. Elisa said after that she decided to start saying prayers like she was really talking to someone and she decided to make them longer. I tried that tonight. It’s amazing how much you have to talk with the Lord about when you put some effort forth. I think too many of us wonder why we don’t always feel close to the Lord – it’s probably our own fault. I’ve realized if I honestly want a relationship with the Lord I need to put forth the effort just like I would with anyone. Otherwise it will die….and I definitely don’t want that. It’s amazing how small things can be so simple but so profound. I mean, I’ve been taught the concept of prayer ever since I was little but something clicked tonight. It’s a nice feeling.
Elisa also talked to us about being careful around the men in Europe and Romania. Apparently they grope girls randomly and it can be quite tramatizing - it's not just butt, but crotch and chest areas. Elisa got groped like three times. She told the three of us that are blonde to be especially careful because we stand out even more...great...
May 2, 2008 (Friday)
Today has been a nice, fun, rainy and relaxing day. I woke up about 8:30 and did TaeBo – it felt amazing to workout - and then all us girls got ready. My stomach didn’t feel real well from the potatoes we made the other day so that was fun – I had to keep running to the restroom but eventually I felt better. Then we went over to the other girls’ apartment to do a few things on the internet. My mom said she called United Airlines but it could take up to 10 days for them to call her back to tell her if it was found. I’m praying it will be found so I don’t have to waste my money on another camera– but everything will work out. I have to remind myself not to stress about things I have little or no control over. There’s not a lot I can do so I shouldn’t worry about it.
Even though I’ve only been here a few days I already feel like I’m starting to heal. The past couple of months I have been torn so many different ways with relationships and school that I have become broken. I felt exhausted and unable to give anymore to anything that was going on in my life. It’s nice to have a change at least for the time being. I don’t have the distractions around me that I left behind – including a car, phone, friends, boys, family, etc. I’m sure I’ll get pretty sick of it soon though. I need time to get back on track and get my life in order. I need to be reminded of the important things in life and to become more grateful for the things I already have. I’m already appreciating the many luxuries the States provides due to the sharp contrast in Romanian living. By the end of this experience I’m sure I will be extremely grateful for everything. Although it’s a new environment I feel at peace being here – like it’s the right thing for me to be doing. I’m grateful for the experience and am going to continue to be grateful for the experiences no matter how bad and disgusting the living conditions may be.
While we were at the girls’ apartment our apartment decided that we wanted to go try a gogosi. We heard they were amazingly tasty so we decided to go get one. We did – I got a chocolate one. A gogosi is like an inverted donut. It had chocolate cream inside and it was delicious. Then we went to the piata – it’s like a market where people sell their individual fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese. It was so much fun! No one spoke English which made it even more fun trying to communicate. Everyone we tried talking to just laughed at us, but it was okay. Some of the girls in the group got gypped – but we all quickly learned our lesson. Apparently if you don’t understand the money system or the language very well they will try and take advantage and we didn’t understand either. We ended up paying 5 lei for 6 tulips and Annie ended up paying 6 lei for two oranges and an apple when it was only 3 lei for us to buy six oranges. We just laughed about it afterward. I’ve decided if we don’t laugh about our stupidity we will have a miserable time.
When we walked up from the piata we were all sitting there with our groceries and a gypsy girl came up to us with an adorable baby (probably her little brother) who was only a few months old. The girl asked for a banana for the baby. I quickly nodded to her to come over to us. MacKenzie then handed her one of our bananas. The girl quickly started feeding it to the baby. Both the girl and the baby were filthy – you couldn’t help but feel bad for them. However, maybe that was a bad mood because immediately after another gypsy came up to us asking for food – then we had to say no. She followed us as we walked to our apartment – however, eventually she quit following us. The gypsies and street beggars definitely don’t like taking “no” for an answer. They are very persistent.
After the piata we went back to our apartment to put our groceries away and then we all decided to go look at handkerchiefs. We went and looked at a couple of little stores that had a variety of colors. I got a green/yellow headband scarf for my head. It was very beautiful. The rest of the girls got some as well. Then we all decided to run to the mall to pick up a few things we needed like a straightener and toaster. Everywhere we go everyone stares at us. I’ve decided that they can probably tell we aren’t Romanian by the way we dress – among other things –all the Romanian girls wear pants that are extremely tight and their pants cling to their ankle. Our pants are flared – I think our clothes give us away before we even speak.
After that the two groups separated and MacKenzie, Annie, Mary and I decided to walk around Iasi a bit. While walking along the street a street boy was playing his recorder with a cup sitting in front of him that held a couple of coins people had thrown in. He had a little dog sitting next to him that had a pink bonnet on. The dog did not seem to be happy about sitting there, but he remained devotedly in his position beside the boy. The boy had a blank expression on his face – even when we put money in his cup his body language didn’t exhibit any sort of recognition or awareness of us. His eyes never stopped staring into an imaginary blank world. It was kind of weird. Then we walked around a couple of old buildings in Iasi that were beautiful. The Cultural Hall in Iasi is huge and gorgeous. We took some pictures in front of it, and I stepped in about 5 puddles along the way to our different activities of adventure. It rained again today.
When we got home we relaxed and decided to eat dinner. Mary made chicken and rice which was quite good and then our apartment just sat and chatted about life. It was a really nice chat – one of those chats that makes everyone involved leave feeling more bonded with one another. We all talked about boys, relationships, family problems and spiritual matters. It was really nice.
I’m gradually starting to get used to our apartment. Besides the fact that the facet never turns completely off, we can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet, the shower head is broken and the washer can only fit about 5 hand-sized towels – it’s good. Haha…we just laugh. Today we ran the washer for the first time and we put detergent in a compartment that looked like where the detergent was supposed to go. After we finished washing that one load – which took about 3 hours for a TINY load of laundry - we went to put another load in and realized the soap was still there. Apparently we put it in the wrong compartment. Nice huh? I guess we just learn by trial and error….hmm…
Yesterday I bought a phone card. I still can’t get it to work. So after calling the company three times to help me I decided to refund it. It’s quite frustrating when something that should be so simple is so incredibly frustrating…grr…I just want to make a phone call!
Before we went to bed we all read a conference talk by Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled “The Great Commandment.” It was very interesting. It talked about the quality that best defines us as Latter-day Saints is charity or the pure love of Christ that we have for others. It reminded me that when we die we will not be judged on the positions we hold in the church or other frivolous things but how we loved and served those around us. It made me analyze how much I focus on loving others instead of thinking about myself. I could definitely be better. It was a good reminder of my purpose here – to serve and love.
May 1, 2008 (Thursday)
Today I woke up at about 7:50. I felt a thousand times better because I had gotten some sleep. Taking a shower for the first time was quite interesting. The shower head doesn’t hold the shower spout so we have to hold it. At least we had warm water – that was nice. After me Mary got in the shower and we were all cracking up because we all heard a large procession of things falling in the bathroom all of a sudden. Apparently Mary slipped and did the splits after she got out of the shower and took everything down with her. The tubs are unusually deep here – not like they are in the states. We laughed – but she did too… Then we walked over to the other girls’ apartment for a meeting with Mario. I have to admit I’m glad we are living in the apartment we are – the other girls decided that even though there are two bedrooms they would all five sleep in the same room. That would not be fun for me. Plus they barely had any furniture. I’m glad I have my space at Scala – it’s nice. The only thing I’m jealous about is the fact that the other girls have the internet and we don’t.
The meeting with Mario was quick and short. Mario said we will probably get into the orphanage sometime next week which I’m excited for. Sometime this week we are going to go visit Dracula’s castle which should be fun and interesting. Mario seems really nice – I just have to make sure I take the time to get to know her. During the meeting she was nice enough to call Austrian airlines to see if my camera was on the 9 hour flight – no luck. Then we followed Mario to get flea spray for our apartment. Apparently it is supposed to be much more potent in Romania. We are going to take ALL necessary precautions to avoid fleas and roaches. Hopefully it works.
After Mario left we went back to the other girls’ apartment to try and call the first flight I was on to see if my camera was there. However, trying to figure out how to dial to the United States was ridiculous and frustrating.
After that we came back to our apartment and deep cleaned. We threw away clothes left from months and months and wiped down all the cupboards in the kitchen and threw away old food. There was so much clutter and crap in the apartment it was ridiculous – the girls before us must have been quite lazy. We also found a lovely dead roach upside down in our bathroom. Hopefully that won’t be a regular occurrence. We took all our trash to the dumpster. An old man was going through it. Apparently that is a regular thing to do here – go through the trash. Back home I don’t think I ever saw someone going through a dumpster. Oh and their dumpsters are smaller too….
We went to the grocery store again to get everything left we forgot to get yesterday because our brains couldn’t function. It’s interesting how much the states influences other countries around the world. The majority of music that plays in the grocery store and in the mall is actually American music. It makes me feel a little more at home…it’s nice since everything is completely unfamiliar. Once again the grocery trip that would normally be simple and fast was very difficult – we figure most things out by pictures. One thing I noticed is that they don’t have cheddar cheese. Only white cheese – I don’t know what that’s all about, but it’s going to make it hard for me to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Booh….
Evening hit quick enough and we all decided to take a nap. Talk about nice – but it was hard to wake up. My body desperately wanted to sleep, but I knew if I let it it would sleep for a long time. My roommate MacKenzie slept for like 4 hours this evening. She is definitely going to have a hard time sleeping tonight. After that we all attempted to make instant mashed potatoes. They tasted terrible and had no flavor. We tried to mix a bunch of stuff in like cheese and random spices to make it taste good but it still didn’t. For some reason we ate it anyways. Then to relax we watched Miss Congeniality on Annie’s computer. I laid on the lumpiest couch alive to watch it. Ha…it definitely didn’t feel like a couch. Then we read a conference talk and went to bed. We are going to try and read one every night. It brings the spirit in and adds a nice touch before we go to bed. Tonight we read about having a broken heart and contrite spirit. I’m going to think about what that means to me.
Oh and the last thing we did tonight was try and get waste down the toilet that doesn’t work. We kept trying to throw buckets of water down there to get it to go down the toilet. It happened a few days ago. The bathroom was starting to smell terrible. It was lovely…..I almost threw up. Smells have a powerful affect on me.