Sunday, August 24, 2008

Carry on my Wayward Son
The contents of this website are mine personally as usual do not have anything to do with the US government, the Peace Corps, or Romania, and therefore do not reflect any official position thereof.

Having strayed far from my "comfort zone" into completely alien territories of faith by studying and attending church with Missionary Group #2, my mind has recoiled at the utter lack of balance in my life. Reeling and grasping for me to put something "normal" within sight; some indication or reminder of who I am and where I came from; which as I recall is "just another freak in the freak kingdom."

In response I decided to become obsessed with Supernatural, a show to which I was briefly dedicated in January and February of 2007 before I left for Romania.

Supernatural is a good reminder to me that I do have a lot of faith and a capacity to believe incredible things. It also makes me feel more sorted out to have "treatment" of Sam and Dean every evening with an episode (or three). Because when you distill the relationship between the Winchester brothers down through all the duty, and demon-induced pain and grief, what you have is basically one hot guy telling another hot guy "I can't live without you" - just not in so many words.

And Heaven knows I will lap that up. I will eat up with a spoon. I will drink it with straw.

However, I have opportunities to challenge my firmly held beliefs and find contention here too. While surfing the abundance of Winchester brother videos on Youtube (I really make it sound like I don't do any work at all, don't I?) I came across a video someone made for Jensen Ackles about his character's pet peeves; one of which is when people assume that because Dean and Sam are always together, they are ...uh, together. Now I can't demand a gay-positive attitude from all my fave fictional characters (see Leo McGary from the West Wing). I sometimes do know when I'm asking too much of the world. Besides what person in their right mind, what gay person, wouldn't be offended if someone suggested they were gay ...with their brother?

However I was shocked and disappointed when in the video, typed across one of the stills is, the quote "When I find out who invented Wincest I'm going to burn that bitch." The quote is not attributed to Ackels and I dearly hope it is not his. The maker of the video sourced their material from an Ackels fan site, which I scoured (by which I mean glanced at to not find the quote or the attribution on the home page, so I left).

I sincerely hope he didn't say that. I would fall to my knees and howl in lamentation if he did. I would be gravely disappointed. Possibly to the point of tears and rending my garments. Not because I'm a fan of Wincest. It's not my cup of tea. But I understand those who might go for it. I sincerely doubt the majority of Wincest fans are in it because of the brothers. (Ew). I think it's just an excuse to get two hot guys together in a fan fiction story. It's not my thing, so I personally leave it alone. It may not be you're thing either, but really is it hurting anyone? It's a bunch of made-up stories, probably terribly written stories - about fictional characters. Probably horribly written. (Shudder).

So in the meantime I wring my hands and wonder why all the condemnation in the world? Sigh. At least I have my sweet sweet show to cling to - until I watch all of season 3, which only has 16 episodes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

You're not the boss of me!
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

I was probably the only person in North America (when I was in North America) who anxiously awaiting the day a proud Muslim person would come knock on my door and ask it I'd like to learn more about the Prophet Mohammad. I would love to learn more!

Because I have a sincere interest in other people's faiths, and I think it can never hurt us to learn more about faith and what our brothers and sisters believe, I have entered into study-relationships with two different sets of missionaries. I have been doing Bible study for about eight months now with a Romanian girl who speaks English that I met because she knocked on my door, and I recently engaged another group of American missionaries that are in town. I'm interested to know more.

It probably doesn't help that all of my Peace Corps friends went on vacation at the same time and I am working from home on the internet so that doesn't leave me anyone to talk to. And its amazing how much you have in common with other Americans you have nothing in common with once you're in Romania together.

I was enjoying weekly talks with both sets of missionaries. It was nice to have someone in my life to remind me that spiritual pursuits require time and energy which should be dedicated to study, prayer and self examination. Fine. But now both groups are making greater demands on my time. One group wants to see me three times a week including church on Sunday, and my other friend whom I've known longer - who's never invited me anywhere not even on Easter - has finally invited me to church this Sunday. When I told the other missionaries this, they seemed offended. They weren't outright mean, but they definitely put pressure on me to come to their church. I thought I could just go to one church this week and another one next week and then I realized: they both want me to come to church with them every week.

At first I was kind of shy and embarrassed. I tried to think of something placating to say. I wondered how I could get out of going to church with the other person. I felt like I owed them. They made me feel like I had broken a promise. Like I was disappointing them. Then, later I got angry. I don't deserve to be stressed out about this. It isn't a competition. Both of these Christian denominations should just be glad I'm going to church at all and not trying to convince me that theirs in the one true church.

This I think is representative of everything I find frustrating about Christianity. And while desperately trying to remain a Christian, increase my knowledge and my faith, this kind of thing really makes me want to chuck the whole thing and stay home and watch cartoons in Romanian.
Although I don't exactly feel justified since the missionaries weren't outright mean about it. They just made me feel kind of bad.

They said it was an opportunity for me to ask God to reveal to me which house I was supposed to be in on Sunday. So I did. Though, unhappy that they were putting me in this position I asked God "If it's important to You which church I go to on Sunday please indicate to me where you would like me to go."

We'll see what happens, but until then I'm shaking off this pressure by reminding myself that this is only One Sunday of my life and really, which church I worship in is so not important. They're both going to be in Romanian anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Pitch...
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

At last the time is right to inform everyone about this incredible project I've been working on, which I know I have not mentioned or explained thus far. Read on to find out about this extra special project and how you can be part of it!

In cooperation with the management of Castleul Corvinilor (the Corvin’s Castle) in Hunedoara, Romania my friend Micah and I are organizing a Christmas fair for local children involving nonprofit organizations which benefit children at the often-pictured-on-this-blog castle December 12-14th.

Organizations such as local orphanages, associations which benefit street children, groups for parents of disabled children, Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity will come together for a weekend long fair, and offer an activity or craft for children for a small amount of money. We intend this event as an opportunity for nonprofits to solicit donations, recruit volunteers, and promote their mission and services. There will be a chance for each organization to invite its child beneficiaries to decorate a Christmas tree for display.

As a centerpiece to the event, we will create and display a model of Castelul Corvinilor created out of gingerbread. The gingerbread castle will be a project of Peace Corps volunteers and will be donated to the event as a media showcase, and will remain on display at the castle along with the decorated Christmas trees for the rest of the season.

Communication and cooperation between Romanian nonprofits often fails in an atmosphere of competition and tension. Past-dependence on foreign donors has made the work of many nonprofits insular; their work often left unacknowledged and unassisted by their communities which may not even be aware people are working toward solutions to local problems. The objectives of our event are to raise the profile of Romanian nonprofits benefiting children and families, while providing them a networking and local fund raising opportunity. A secondary benefit is the media attention to Hunedoara, an underprivileged community, as a tourist point of interest.

The castle administration is eager to work with us and has agreed to donate use of the castle for the three-day event and to make admission free to all who wish to attend. We will also be inviting local dancers and musicians to perform and food and drink vendors. There will be a coloring contest with a prize for the winner and other special events throughout the duration of the Christmas fair. Maybe even an appearance by Santa Claus himself!

We invite you to help us fund this this event through the Peace Corps Partnership Program so that we can provide organizations that would not otherwise be able to participate the cost of materials for their activity at the fair. In addition to supporting our nonprofit partners who ask for assistance, our main expenses with this project are printing and advertising the event and the cost of creating the gingerbread castle. We are additionally seeking in-kind donations to support the project although the culture is not on where businesses are usually involved in the community.

If interested, click here to go to the Peace Corps Partnership Program web site and make your tax-deductible donation online with your credit card. It's that easy and you can donate any amount!

I look forward to continuing to update you on the progress of this project. In fact if my camera hadn't broken last weekend I would have some pictures of our "practice gingerbread castle" which we constructed and of "days of the castle" a medieval celebration in Hunedoara.

Laundry Day!
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

Today is laundry day and I am thrilled! Why am I thrilled? Because somewhere around the second week of June my last washing machine broke. It was very old but I think I overloaded it and it started to smoke. Sadly when I informed the landlord of this over the phone I initially said correctly in Romanian, "Smoke from the washing machine" and then I went on to say "I am smoking the washing machine."

Sometime in early July the landlord actually showed up to fix it. It was not entirely his fault it took so long. We had problems coordinating our schedules and I've been making frequent trips to Bucharest and since its summer there are various festivals going on which take me out of town on the weekends. The weekend before last weekend was one that I was home, however.

I have to hand it to my landlord. He really gave fixing that old washing machine the old college try. He made two different trips here to fix it, on the second trip he left with the machine, only to return it, instruct me to put the clothes in it and wash away. Then he tried to take it apart with my clothes in it before informing me that it was still broken and leaving with the machine - and me with a tub full of wet towels and jeans.

Now I have no right to complain about having no washing machine since most of my fellow volunteers have no washing machine and have been doing their laundry by hand for over a year. I've been doing my laundry by hand for only a little over a month. What I was upset about was the fact that I was long waiting for him to come and fix it so I could wash the jeans and towels I'd been saving for when I had a machine again. If he had said right away - too bad no machine, I could have washed those jeans and towels by hand much sooner. Truly, I ran out of towels at one point and when the point came when I needed to shower and still couldn't justify pulling a towel out of the laundry bag, I dried myself with what can only be described as a super-absorbent bathroom floor mat that a guest had left here.

I was also especially upset about the landlord leaving me with that pile of wet jeans and towels because he told me he would call me last Tuesday or Wednesday and bring over a new machine. Well he didn't and both of my buckets were already full. I had to leave last Thursday for Bucuresti for my last shot in the series of anti-rabies treatments, so I put the wet towels and jeans in the tub and filled it up thinking damp clothes can't mold if they're underwater. However, I forgot that my bathtub leaks so instead of damp laundry moldering on the bathroom floor, I had sopping wet laundry moldering in the bath tub.

But today the landlord brought over a new machine, Praise the Lord! It only took two cycles for each of two separate loads to get that aquarium smell out of my disturbingly slimy jeans. Soon I will be rich in clean dish towels - which I haven't seen since early June and my bathroom floor will be free of buckets of dirty filthy smelling water and soaking clothes. My balcony is already crowded with drying towels and pairs of pants. I am very excited and still unable to overlook my good fortune at having a washing machine!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Romania is not the United States >:<
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

For the first time I have been really annoyed that Romania is not the United States. It started around 4 am this morning when a car in my neighborhood's car alarm when off - and proceeded to blare for two hours until 6:05 this morning.

Usually it is screaming cats. bloody snarling dog fights and occasionally a rooster cockadoodling at 5 am which make up the annoying noises heard in my alley, and I've learned to live with it. This car alarm pissed me off though. I lay in the dark with a second pillow and my arm over my head trying to drown out the noise waiting for one of my neighbors to call the police. I imagine no one did.

I didn't call the police because a) I don't have a non-emergency number for the police department
b) I don't know if they would understand my Romanian, and because
c) I'm not sure if letting your car alarm blare for two hours in the early morning is illegal.

But it should be. It doesn't seem fair that one person's car alarm falsely going off should deprive people in three bloc buildings of a night of sleep - and for the record that's a lot of people. And I can tell how many people were up by how many lights went on in the apartments in the other building.
In fact, at one point I put my headphones in, flicked on the lights in the bedroom out of solidarity with the neighbors and to show the police should they ever show up just how many people were disturbed by this, and buried my head under the pillows and tried to sleep in the living room.

After breakfast this morning I sent an irritated email to our Safety and Security officer describing the situation and asking what I can do should it re-occur. I not so sensitively pointed out that this is illegal in the US, that playing sirens to deprive people of sleep is a torture technique, and told him I might call him at four in the morning next time it happens so that he can call the Deva police for me.

I signed off, Tired and Cranky, Laura.

Luckily as daylight broke the wailing siren stopped. I popped a couple of ibuprophen to help get rid of my screaming headache, put my eye pillow over my face to simulate darkness and turned off the alarm so I could sleep in till 10. Unfortunately at 9:30 I was awakened by someone in my hallway cutting metal with a chainsaw because they are making some renovations I don't understand to the building - but that is what I am used to.

Monday, August 04, 2008

One weekend, four musicals and these clips
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps, of which I am a proud volunteer.

A working weekend, but I managed to listen to Godspell, Mama Mia, Tommy, and watch Sweeney Todd (finally!) Also, discovered these priceless gems. Can't wait to get involved in Improv Everywhere when I'm back in the states!